A Poltergeist in Herefordshire
A particular class of haunting is known these days as a poltergeist, German for ‘noisy ghost’. In years gone by these visitations were generally held to be due to a visiting member of the fairy race, or perhaps a junior demon - sometimes called a familiar. In 1670 such an event took place at Burton, as recorded in a contemporary letter written by a gentleman of Hereford to a friend.
“There is a farm in Burton, a village in the parish of Weobley, which Mr William Bridges, a linen draper of London, has in mortgage from one Thomas Tomkyns, a decayed yeoman. This farm was taken in lease of Mrs Elizabeth Bridges about Michaelmas 1669. Soon after this tenant was entered on the farm, some familiar began to act apish pranks by knocking boldly at the door in the dark of the evening, and the like early in the morning, but nobody to be seen. The stools and forms [wooden benches] were thrown into disorder, heaps of malt and vetches mingled, loaves of bread laid on a table carried into another room, or hid in tubs covered with cloths. Cabbage plants dug up and replanted in various patterns; a half roasted pig demolished except the bones; the milk turned sour with vinegar, some cattle died and among others a sow leaped and danced in strange postures and at last fell down dead; a mow of pulse and pease likewise.
“After these one John Jones, a valiant Welshman, undertook to keep watch with a sword, a mastiff dog and a lantern. He had not long lain on the bed when he heard a knocking at the door, and as he conceived many cats came into his chamber, broke the windows and made a hideous noise. The mastiff howled, the candle went out, the Welshman fell into a cold sweat, left the sword unused and with much ado found the door and ran half a mile without looking behind him, protesting next day he would not be another night in the house for a hundred pounds. These particulars I received from eye witnesses of unquestionable credit and you may no more doubt the truth of them than distrust the affection of
“Your humble servant
The haunting of the Burton farmhouse caused quite a sensation at the time. From the description it would undoubtedly be classed by modern ghosthunters as the activities of a poltergeist.
from "Haunted Herefordshire" by Rupert Matthews