Monday, October 5, 2009

The bull-beggar in Virginia

In Ghost Stories From the American South, W.K. McNeil recounts a folktale gathered from a man by the name of Mart Rankin:
I was batchin' then, up there in Virginia. Been out on my horse, and my little dog had followed me. When I got to the lane -- guess I was about two hundred yards from the end of it -- I spied two men. They was walkin' together purty fast, keepin' step. I watched 'em. They had four times as far to go as I did. I kept on watchin' them an' never took my eye off of 'em till they got to the lane. Then the little old dog jumped a rabbit, and I turned to look.

That quick they disappeared or turned into somethin', one. They was a black thing about the size of a sheep thrashed around an' took up through the field, tearin' up brush heaps where there wasn't no brush heaps an' makin' a lot of noise. It didn't look like nothin' I'd ever seen. Don't know what it was, but they had turned into it..
Another book of folktales, Virginia Folk Legends, recounts a tale gathered from Mrs. R.V. Brayhill:
My grandfather Pernell had a large farm and in those days the farms all had to be fenced and the cattle run outside [the fence]. And between his farm and the Crysel farm was a haunted woods. The road was a narrow wagon road going through a thick pine forest between the two farms, and often people had seen and heard things as they pass[ed] through this pine thicket. My mother and my Aunt Bittish said that often as they went over this road at night that they would hear the most pitiful cry, as if someone were in distress, and then an animal that resembled a big black bear would brush by them and then it would suddenly vanish.

And one time the fence around the farm caught fire about three o'clock in the morning. And Aunt Bitty saw the fence burning and she come running over to my father's to get him and my brothers to go help put the fire out. And as she was coming through the pine forest there was something that looked like two men came running behind her, and as they passed her they suddenly disappeared. Bitty said she was scared almost to death, but it was closer to my father's than it was back home, and she was through the haunted woods. So she came running to my father's for help. The family left the haunted farm and went to another community.
A last bit of information regarding this is contained in An Encyclopedia of Fairies by Katherine Briggs:
Its meaning is unspecified, but it did not perish with the 16th century, for there is still a Bullbeggar Lane in Surrey, which once contained a barn haunted by a bullbeggar, and traditions of a bullbeggar who haunted Creech Hill near Bruton in Somerset were recollected by Ruth Tongue from oral tradition in 1906 and published by her in County Folk-Lore (vol. VIII, pp. 121-2). In the 1880s two crossed bodies were dug up in quarrying operations, and crumbled to dust when they were exposed to the air. For some unexplained reason they were supposed to have been a Saxon and a Norman, and after this finding, Creech Hill had a bad name and was supposed to be haunted by following footsteps and a black uncanny shape. A farmer coming home late one night saw a figure lying on the road and went to its help. It suddenly shot up to an uncanny height and chased him to his own threshold. His family ran to his rescue and saw it bounding away with wild laughter. Another night traveller was attacked on Creech Hill and held his own from midnight to cock-crow with the help of an ashen staff. This bullbeggar was considered a bogy or bogey-beast rather than a ghost because two bodies were found.
While I'm not certain where in the state these stories were gathered, in Accomack County there is a Bullbegger Creek. This is on the peninsula of Virginia on the eastern shores of the lower Chesapeake Bay. Sightings of Bigfoot and so-called "devils" have surfaced from the adjacent regions of Maryland's Eastern Shore.

Not Pennsylvania or Maryland, but close enough to be irresistible. Just by virtue of the name, I'll be needing to keep my eyes open as to things at Bullbegger Creek.

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