29 May 2013


First there are some updates on the Spring Heel Jack in Warrington story. First I have now deposited the original clippings with the local history library in Warrington Library, 1 Museum Street, Warrington, WA1 1JB. (See website for details of contacts and opening hours). Secondly, about a year before the SHJ story this ghost story was featured on page 7 of the Warrington Examiner for 17 July 1926.

Ghost Seen Carrying a Mackintosh and Lamp

Is there some perfectly natural explanation of the curious experience which befell three women in School Brow early on Thursday morning [15th], or, is the district the possessor of a hitherto unsuspected ghost.

Mrs Sarah Tatlock of 1 Eldon Street, one of the ladies, favours the first theory, but Mrs Margaret Heal of 1 Eldon-yard thinks she has seen some supernatural visitor from another world.

Both ladies and Mrs Heal’s adult daughter, who was with them, agree that what they saw was very mysterious and Mrs heal received a shock which, she asserted yesterday, still left her very much upset.

What actually appears to have happened is this. On account of the heat, the three ladies did not go to bed at their usual time on Wednesday evening. At about a quarter to one on Thursday morning they were sitting near the School Brow entry into Eldon-yard which runs off School Brow, when they saw walking past them what appeared to be a somewhat elderly lady who was dressed all in white. Mrs Tatlock, who was the first to notice the “lady” saw that she was exceptionally tall and that she stooped a little, that over one arm she appeared to have something like a blue mackintosh, and that in her hand she appeared to have something like a flash lamp. Mrs Tatlock remarked to her companions that it looked mysterious for a woman to be out like that at such a time, and they watched the “lady” who turned down Eldon Street, on the corner of which Mrs Tatlock carries on a mixed business. About twenty minutes later the “lady” returned round the corner into School Brow, crossed to the opposite side of the road and proceeded towards town. Mrs Tatlock and her companions were naturally observing her very closely and they were suddenly startled to see her suddenly completely disappear as if she had vanished into thin air.


“It was a most mysterious thing” said Mrs Tatlock to an Examiner reporter yesterday. “We could here no sound of any footfalls in the street as the “lady” walked past us and at times it seemed as if she were going to stop and ask to be directed somewhere”. “No, I did not think it was a ghost. I thought it was a proper person and probably someone in disguise” said Mrs Tatlock in reply to our representative.

Mrs Heald told the reporter the same story as Mrs Tatlock, adding that she thought what she had seen was a spirit. “I have never seen anything more like my mother who died many years ago” she added and also observed that it was a coincidence that her grandchild had been taken ill with pneumonia and measles and that she thought that what she had seen was a token of something which was to happen.

Mrs Heald further stated that the “lady” appeared be dressed in old- fashioned style and that as far as could be made out. Mrs Tatlock concurred in this statement.

The story of what the three ladies had seen spread quickly and in an exaggerated form and so on Thursday evening a large crowd gathered in School Brow to see if the apparition would vouchsafe another appearance but although many people waited until midnight and after, nothing untoward occurred.
There are a number of interesting motifs here, the “lady” has a lamp, like the following year’s SHJ, she is envisaged perhaps as a disease carrier, a symbol of the deadly measles. Also this experience took part at the height of massive heat wave, but that weekend the heat broke in colossal thunderstorms, bring floods to many places, including Warrington. Maybe the lady should be seen as a storm bringer then.

Or perhaps it was a traditional Warrington ghost, William Beamont, the town’s first mayor wrote in his old age an account of the Warrington of his youth, which included the tale of the White Lady of Vigo House, which seems to have been not unadjacent to this area. This is from William Beamont's  Walks about Warrington, published by the Warrington Guardian 1887, page 84:
At the beginning of this century another house on the opposite side of the street to the Swan was called Vigo House, and was said to be haunted by the ghost of a white lady, who if she were a real ghost had certainly chosen a pleasant habitation for her abode. The house, which stood high on the north side of the street (? Church Street, Mersey Street, Buttermarket Street), had a garden sloping down it to the street. A trailing vine covered the whole of its front, and from it at the season hung numerous clusters of grapes, which being covered by as many bell shaped glasses seemed to ripen almost as they had been in a hot house...No one had ever seen the Vigo White Lady”
Now entirely modernised, School Brow, was the ancient site of Warrington Grammar School, at this time it was a typical working class terraced house district, south of the Cheshire Lines railway, on the east side of town.

As John mentioned, the original entity cases from INTCAT are now on line (or most of them I have found a few that got missed), and I am now slowly adding in the rest, and updating the whole thing with the material in my collection and some one line sources. I hope to take the thing up to 1999, and back to perhaps 1750 to get a nice quarter of a millennium of stories. I will for at least some of the entries add evaluations and motif lists. I have no idea how long this will all take.

What is already apparent is just how diverse these stories are, and how they are so much not referring to some unitary 'UFO 'especially one interpreted as a 'structured craft of unknown origin'.

Something else that is clear is that many of the more dramatic early stories are the ones told decades later, and how these reflect very much the times in which they are narrated rather than the times in which they allegedly took place. One of the themes that Magonia has insisted upon for years now is how easily perception and memory can be changed by suggestion and time.

It is often thought that the sort of thing we look at here has no practical value, but debates about how time and circumstance affect memory, the reliability of eyewitness testimony, the debates about what constitutes evidence, and that between the 'bundle of sticks' and the 'links in the chain' views on the evaluation of evidence all have major practical consequences way beyond the paranormal, as witness the Operation Yewtree investigation of 'historic' (i.e. decades ago) sexual abuse by now ageing one-time celebrities. It would be interesting to see whether these stories would be so eagerly pursued if they related to retired chief constables, high court judges, senior politicians, business leaders, journalists, newspaper editors and many others who may or may not have done all sorts of things now considered pretty disgraceful in their wild youth.

It is always interesting to see which reviews get reactions, it sometimes gives you a clue as to who has a little coterie of disciples. One of these seems to be Rupert Sheldrake, so I should point out that I did not call him a crank because of his interest in the paranormal - some of his experiments actually look quite intriguing - but because of the ideas he proposes to account for supposed anomalies, and his wholesale rejection of virtually all the paradigms of contemporary biology, a rejection in favour of ideas that were once part of the mainstream but have generally long since been discarded. It is as if a physicist or chemist responded to anomalies in their subjects by reverting to the phlogiston theory of combustion.
Though that is modern and progressive compared with the Platonic theory of vision, which Sheldrake kind of endorses, with arguments that seem to involve bringing back notions of the evil eye, and menstruating women turning the milk sour with their glance and like superstitions. A globalised world in which there are places where children are murdered as witches is not one, like it or not, where than be anything but zero tolerance for superstition.



  1. I see that Peter talks about menstruating women turning the milk sour. He also mentions it in his recent review of Rosemarie Pilkington's Men and Women of Parapsychology. He seems to have a thing about menstruating women and sour milk. Did he have a bad experience as a child?

    1. The notion that menstruating women can damage or corrupt objects is a very old one and can be found in many different cultures. (Old Testament prohibitions for "unclean" women. Women in some African, Amazonian, and New Guinea tribes sent to live in separate houses during their periods.) Menstrual blood has been said to tarnish metal, sour milk, break hunting bows, and steal men's strength.

  2. I disagree with your refutation of Sheldrake's views on vision. I recommend you try an experiment if you disagree with me. Drive along the highway and stare intently at people and see how many people act as if your very act of observing them has been felt. This has been well documented even though skeptics like to dismiss this as an illusion. I practically experiment with this on a daily basis and always get a response. This is the sense of being stared at and is a very common occurrence. This to me makes the idea of an invisible 'field' around a person plausible. This bubble or commonly called the 'aura' is similar to the idea proposed by Shekrake which he calls a Morphic Field. If you have ever 'felt' the presence of someone close to you or someone whom is pushing past you in a rush or in a bad mood then you will see my point. I understand that these evidences are subtle but for me since this occurs all over the world by millions of people on a daily basis this to me is accumulative and huge.

  3. Rogerson perhaps can't resist baiting some of us with the remarks directed at Sheldrake. Sheldrake's work on the sense of being stared at has been subjected to multiple experimental trials (as in thousands) with several protocols, including people in different rooms using CCTVs. The cumulative results in this regard are statistically significant. Sheldrake's theoretical explanation for all this is something else and I think at this point in time, still speculative and problematic. However the anomalous cognition here appears real enough, whatever the mechanism/s may be. Oh My God the Implications.

    Rogerson reaches a nadir in his Sheldrake um criticisms with this:

    "...with the Platonic theory of vision, which Sheldrake kind of endorses, with arguments that seem to involve bringing back notions of the evil eye, and menstruating women turning the milk sour with their glance and like superstitions. A globalised world in which there are places where children are murdered as witches is not one, like it or not, where than be anything but zero tolerance for superstition."

    The guilt by association of Sheldrake via the evil eye to the murder of children is not remotely credible. I do not think that witch hunters from the Congo to Saudi Arabia are inspired by Sheldrake's 'New Science of Life' or his 'Sense of Being Stared At' and other writings/books, and don't see how they could be if they were even vaguely aware of Sheldrake and his ideas. Zero tolerance for superstition? Well who is to decide what is superstition or not? Who is to set himself up as the Guardian and Protector of Real Science and the True Way? And who is to watch the watchers?

    Rogerson pronounces/announces like a Pontiff here and doesn't appear to recognise the irony.

    There are harmful superstitions and there are harmless ones. And even mistaken scientific hypotheses (and that is itself up for debate) are not superstitions in the conventional sense of the term. Isaac Newton, Robert Boyle and John Dee all took alchemy seriously, all the fathers of astronomy also took astrology seriously, albeit to differing degrees. I'm sure Rogerson would class alchemy and astrology as superstitions. If they were stamped out at the get go, given a zero tolerance approach that is, where would astronomy, physics, chemistry be today? Nowhere, stillborn.

    And how would the Pelican be capable of reviewing with clear interest, scholarly books on the history of alchemy along with the whole John Dee admiration thing promulgated at this very blog by the by?

    Sheldrake clearly hits a nerve with Rogerson. What do ghost stories from Warrington way back when have to do with Sheldrake exactly? Maybe Peter you can follow the late Nature editor John Maddox's recommendations and burn Sheldrake's books and the other 'superstitious' writings of say Newton's and Dee's in the barbeque grill or perhaps a bonfire at the next Magonia pub meet. I mean it's for the sake of science and if it helps to prevent even one child being murdered as a witch then it can only be to the good. Zero tolerance remember?