Friday, February 24, 2017

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The Beast of Croglin Grange


Among the great plagues of vampirism which spread across Eastern Europe during the seventeenth century, perhaps the most famous account is that of Arnold Paole, a Serbian soldier who became known as the Vampire of Meduegna.
The phantom of Croglin Grange is one of the best known vampire stories in Britain. It is as famous in the annals of vampire lore as Whitby and its Dracula associations. The actual story bears the marks of fiction and first appeared in a book called 'In My Solitary life' by Augustus Hare related to him by a certain Captain Fisher. What follows is an adapted and shortened version of his story.


Legend:


The area around Croglin in Cumbria has long been linked with strange beasts. Back in 1733, in the nearby village of Renwick, as workmen were pulling down the old church, they said they disturbed a sleeping Cockatrice (a medieval monster), which flew up and attacked them. Others laughed and said it was just a bat, and bats were harmless, weren't they! However, it was only a century later when another beast brought terror to Croglin Grange.


Croglin Grange is a low granite-brick farmhouse, standing on a hill overlooking a valley. Nearby is an ancient churchyard. In the 1800's the Fisher family, who owned the farmhouse, moved to a larger place and rented out Croglin Grange.

The house stood empty all winter who knows what ancient stirrings were aroused in its period of dereliction.As the winter passed into spring new tenants moved in. They were two brothers and a sister namely Edward, Michael and Amelia Cranswell; three young Australians who were visiting England and had fallen in love with the Cumbrian countryside and the isolated but beautiful house. The siblings were very friendly and soon became popular with the locals.On their part, the tenants were greatly delighted with their new residence. The arrangement of the house, which would have been a trial to many, was not so to them. In every respect Croglin Grange was exactly suited to them.

About a year later, one summer's night in 1875, feeling 'a little under the weather', after eating an early dinner and enjoying some fresh air on the veranda, the three siblings retired to their own rooms. Moonlight bathed Croglin Grange. It had been very hot. It was such a beautiful night that Amelia left open the shutters of her ground floor bedroom.

The old farm yard was filled with shadows. Among the shadows there seemed to be two flashing lights away near the churchyard. As they moved closer, Amelia could see they were eyes, but of what animal she could not make out. Making sure that the window was shut fast and the door locked, she went to bed to try and sleep.

An Artist's Depiction


Some moments later, she heard a rustling sound and looked up to see the eyes staring at her through the glass of the window. Around the eyes, the poor girl glimpsed a shrivelled brown face. Then she heard the horrid sound of nails scratching at the window pane. Amelia leapt from her bed and ran to the door, her heart thumping as she tugged at the handle. It would not open! Remembering she had locked the door, she groped for the key.


Her hands were shaking so badly that she fumbled and could not work the key. Another sound made her made her blood run cold. The creature was pulling away the lead strips which held the window panes in place. A pane rattled, then fell out. A bony arm came through the broken pane and began to open the window. Amelia desperately rattled the key.

Seconds later, she was aware of something in the room. She tried to scream but no sound would come. The hideous thing moved toward her. It twisted its long bony fingers in her hair. Finally, as it drags her across the bed and sinks its teeth into her neck, the paralysis is broken and she utters a piercing scream which both alerts her brothers to the danger and also seemingly drives the vampire away. Blood curdling screams brought the brothers running to her door. They forced it open with a poker and rushed in to see Amelia collapsed on the floor with blood oozing from bites in her neck.

Michael looked after his sister while Edward rushed to the window and could just make out a strange figure vanishing through the arch in the farmyard wall.Then he rejoined his brother by the sister's bedside. The doctor was called and he gave Amelia a sleeping draft. He would not believe that she could bear so terrible a shock so easily, and insisted that she should take a long holiday to get over the shock. As for the intruder, well, he could only think it was a madman or a monkey escaped from a travelling show.When she came to herself she said, 'What has happened is most extraordinary and I am very much hurt. It seems inexplicable, but of course, there is an explanation, and we must wait for it. It will turn out that a lunatic has escaped from some asylum and found his way here.' 

As soon as Amelia was a little better, they left for a holiday in the Swiss Mountains. But, such was Amelia's fondness for the old house, that at her insistence they returned to the grange the following year where all appears to be normal. The Swiss air had dimmed the horror to a misty memory.The sister occupied the same room, but it is unnecessary to say she always closed the shutters, which, however, as in many old houses, always left one top pane of the window uncovered. The brothers moved, and occupied a room together, exactly opposite that of their sister, and they always kept loaded pistols in their room.

While she was away there had been other reports in the area of girls being attacked by a strange bony creature. And a wave of sheep killings had also begun. Edward heard of these things and his worry grew.All was well through the autumn and winter. Then, one night in March 1876, Amelia again heard the same horrid sound of fingernails on the glass. The creature broke open the shutter and was trying to enter, when her cries brought the brothers to her room.The well-armed brothers charged out the front door, shooting at the creature as it ran away.Edward ran to the yard and in the wintry moonlight caught sight of a tall, cloaked, shadowy shape.He fired his pistol and the monster staggered and gave a howl before stumbling over the frosted fields towards the churchyard.

He returned to his brother and sister. The next day, at dawn, the brothers gathered together the Gamekeeper and some men from the village and went to the misty graveyard. At first nothing looked wrong,then they saw that the mossy top of the Fisher Family vault had been moved and lay partly out of place.

Inside, the tomb was in a terrible mess, except for one stone coffin. The villagers drew back, as the brothers tore off the lid of the coffin. Inside, lay a hideous brown and mummified figure.Features could still be seen on the wrinkled skin, now walnut coloured through age. In the thin, yellowed skin of one leg was a fresh shotgun wound!
One of the villagers stepped forward. He told the brothers he had seen this same creature of the night attacking and killing livestock. He said the only way to destroy it was with fire. The shocked villagers all agreed that the hideous corpse should be burnt immediately.
Sped on by terror, the men hurried away to find wood and, in the far corner of the graveyard, they built a huge bonfire. With trembling hands, they lifted the mummified creature from the coffin. Desperate to get rid of this horrible burden, they stumbled across the ground and cast it into the fire. As the sun rose the beast howled and crumbled to ashes in the flames. Since that day, the terror of Croglin Hall has never been seen again.
Croglin Low Hall
Nobody seemed to know where this strange creature came from, or why it had remained dormant in the centuries of peace when the Fishers lived in the property. One can only surmise that during the period of dereliction, an age-old horror was reawakened and would not return to rest after the house was reoccupied.
Hare’s account of the Croglin Grange story has been a victim by many critics who said that it was pure fantasy. Recent research by Lionel Fanthorpe suggests that the story is much older than reported. A chapel and vault closer to the house were demolished in Cromwell's day, and a second storey was added to the house after this date. So the description from the story matches much better in the 17th century.The spot where the story is said to take place is probably the very real Croglin Low Hall.


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