Each month, James Franklin, online and educational resources officer at Culture Vannin and co-author of ‘A Guide to the Folklore of the Isle of Man’, looks at a particular place in the island and gives a guide to some of its folklore.
An Onchan friend was very excited to meet me recently, because of some gruesome stories of ghosts and murder they had discovered.
They had been reading ‘A Guide to the Folklore of the Isle of Man’ and had been amazed by the stories connected to their regular weekend walk.
So, let’s take that walk today, from Onchan village out to Molly Quirk’s Glen…
The ‘Whipping Post’ is a great place to start. This large roadside stone built into the wall of the graveyard was reputedly where punishments were once carried out. Hence its wonderful name.
Equally wonderfully named was Grissel Quayle, wife of the vicar here in 1768.
When she heard that this stone was connected to ‘pagan fertility rites’ Grissel immediately had the stone pulled up and removed.
Soon after, however, she suffered a freak accident when a ball of lightning shot down her chimney and killed her in her bed.
The parishioners knew what had caused this, and the Whipping Post was hastily returned to where it still stands today.
Misfortune awaited the next vicar, Thomas Thwaites, too as he came under suspicion for causing the death of a farmer’s sheep merely by looking at them with his apparent Evil Eye.
The farmer retaliated by piling the carcasses of the sheep in the rectory porch.
The Church took a dim view of this and sentenced the unfortunate farmer to prison, followed by him having to sit on the ‘stool of correction’ at Douglas market.
Moving up to the main road through Onchan, a Death Coach sometimes rides through at night.
Some say it’s invisible and can only be heard.
For others though, the black coach drawn by headless horses is visible, but silent.
If anyone can advise us definitively either way, we would like to know.
Early versions of this tale say the sound of the coach was of the fairies out hunting, but a better-known version has it as the coach belonging to a man named Spurrier, who was murdered by the infamous Victorian poisoner, Dr Palmer.
Stories from Peel tell us that Spurrier’s coach can also be heard there at the end of his journey, where he drank with Palmer at the Marine Hotel.
It was after that that Spurrier fell ill and died, and the £1,000 he carried in his pocket was never seen again.
The house where Spurrier used to live was once a famous haunted house. But it was pulled down long ago, making way for the Co-op on the corner.
Moving out of the village now, to the White Bridge, we meet a favourite potential encounter with the supernatural. If you are on the hill on the Laxey side of the bridge late at night, you might hear the ghostly sounds of a murder which happened long ago.
Nothing is seen, but you may hear the blows of the attacker, the groans of the victim, and the murderer galloping away on a horse.
Up-stream from the White Bridge is Molly Quirk’s Glen, named after the woman whose ghost still haunts the area.
During her lifetime, Molly was successful in building up a store of money, until she was robbed and murdered one night in the glen. Her ghost can sometimes still be seen walking in her glen.
We are here just a stone’s throw away from a tarroo ushtey, an evil place and even more ghosts… but we will have to leave them for another time.