A previously unpublished ghost story from the Muker area of Swaledale launches a new section of the web site associated with this blog. It’s to do with folk lore. The awful story of Snapper John’s lost daughter was kindly given to me by Jocelyn Campbell, granddaughter of the man who collected it and wrote it down, Thomas Parsons Cooper (1863-1937), of York.
Records show that all kinds of ancient folk lore, superstition, ghost stories, or whatever term is preferred, existed in abundance in Swaledale up to about the end of the 1800s. By then it would appear that the establishment of new, more-evangelistic, independent churches combined with the growth of formal education through church schools promoted a more enlightened understanding. This finally overthrew a set of essentially pagan beliefs that had previously stubbornly survived for centuries in an otherwise Christian culture.
Folk lore is an important area of academic study, partly because some of the tales might give clues to actual events, but more usefully because of what they tell us about the beliefs of the people at particular times in history, and how this influenced their actions and their social and cultural development.
Evidence of folk-lore beliefs in Swaledale can be found in several of the field-names that were recorded in 1844. Spirit names such of Bogle, Nick, and Puck indicate pastures that were probably not used by the farmers but instead were set aside so that the spirits could dwell there and not trouble the rest of the farm.
In the case of Snapper John’s daughter, a house was abandoned to a ghostly presence, and has never been lived in since. To read this and other folk-lore stories, go to Folk Lore.