The Demon of Spreyton

Spreyton

Modern-day picture of Spreyton, England

In November 1682, Francis Fey was a 20-year-old servant in the service of Philip Furze, a landowner who lived in the little English village of Spreyton. One day, while in a field near his employer’s house, Francis was puzzled to see Philip’s father outside. The elder Furze was walking with his staff, and like the many moles he’d once whacked, had long been dead.

Fortunately, Old Furze’s ghost had no intention of whacking Francis. Instead, Furze had returned from the dead to sort out some problems with his will. He explained that two beneficiaries were each owed ten shillings, and a sister in the near-by town of Totnes was owed twenty. So long as all three beneficiaries got their money, Furze promised not to haunt Francis.

Francis ran to the first two beneficiaries without any problems. Furze’s sister in Totnes was a bit more difficult; she refused to take her share, suspecting it’d been sent by the Devil. That night, Furze appeared to Francis again, telling him to buy a ring worth twenty shillings. Furze’s sister had no qualms with the ring, so Francis figured he was free and headed back home.

As part of their agreement, Furze should have left Francis alone. But as Francis rode into Spreyton, Furze materialized yet again. Unfortunately, this time, the ghost did have the intention of beating Francis. It appeared behind Francis as he rode his horse, clinging to his waist and then throwing him to the ground. The fun didn’t stop there either. Once Francis got back to Philip’s farm, his horse jumped and landed twenty-five feet away.
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A Haunting on Fuencarral Street

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Diego de Torres Villarroel

It would probably be easier to tell you what the 18th century Spanish writer Diego de Torres Villarroel didn’t do. According to his highly picaresque autobiography, Torres did all sorts of different jobs, including working as a bullfighter, dancer, soldier, lock picker, astrologer, and math professor. He was also said to be a prophet, although his apparent predictions of the death of the Spanish King Louis I and the French Revolution were more vague coincidences than actual prophecies.

In 1723, after moving to Madrid, a poverty-stricken Torres was forced to work as a smuggler to get by. One day, Torres’ fortunes changed when a messenger from Josepha de Figueroa, the Countess of Arcos, paid him a visit. The messenger looked pale and sick, and explained that the Countess wanted Torres to come stay at her house. For the past three nights, the Countess’ home had been knocked by loud, unexplained noises.

The Countess was afraid that her house, which was located on Fuencarral Street, was being haunted by a duende. In Spanish folklore, duendes are creatures similar to goblins, tricksters who come into people’s homes to harass them and drive them crazy with loud noises. (Our demented friends from The House of the Lions, the follets, are technically a Catalan variety of duende.)

Torres was skeptical about the story, but agreed to investigate the haunting. When he arrived at the Countess’ house, he found the servants pale and quiet, and the Countess terrified. That night, they all banded together and slept in the same bedroom, Torres included.

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A Skeptical Law Student

AntoniodeTorquemada

Antonio de Torquemada.

In the “Garden of Curious Flowers (1570),” a hodgepodge work of miscellanies that had the proud distinction of being banned by the Inquisition, the Spanish author Antonio de Torquemada recounted a bizarre story that many people in Italy and Spain could supposedly vouch for. The tale concerned a student named Juan Vázquez de Ayola, who with two of his friends went to Bologna to study law.

While searching for a place to stay, the Spaniards asked some local men in the street if they knew any places friendly to foreigners. One of the men, smiling, pointed to a boarded-up house. His friends told the Spaniards that this was meant to be a good old-fashioned Bolognese joke; the house had been unavailable the past twelve years because it was haunted. Ayola, playing the straight man, asked if he could have the keys.

The owner of the house did his best to turn the students away. He told them all about the horrible things people had seen there, but the Spaniards laughed them off. They were modern 16th century college boys, dammit, and they didn’t believe in anything as silly as ghosts. So the owner coughed up the keys and the Spaniards got themselves a haunted house.

After moving in, the Spaniards had a hard time finding servants for their new home. They were able to hire one woman as a cook, but she refused to do her job inside the house. A month passed, and much to the astonishment of the Bolognese, the Spaniards were still living in the house without having seen or heard anything strange.

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How Gnomes Drove an Artist to Kill Herself

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The Castle of La Boca, named after the neighborhood in Buenos Aires where it stands, is a big and beautiful representation of Catalan modernism. It’s also supposedly haunted, which is why many people call the building’s tower “The Ghost Tower.” The eponymous ghost of the tower is said to haunt the top floor, where people have heard anguished shouts and disembodied footsteps.

According to legend, the ghost is a painter named Clementina, a young art student who lived there a century ago. The story behind Clementina’s demise involves a nostalgic rancher, a noisy reporter, and a bunch of mischievous follets, a creature in Catalan folklore similar to gnomes.

The story begins with the estanciera (rancher) Maria Luisa Auvert Arnaud. Auvert owned a very profitable estancia, a rural estate like a ranch, making her one of the wealthiest people in Buenos Aires. In the early 20th century, Argentina was experiencing a great boom in immigration from Europe. Hoping to make some money off these new Argentinians, Auvert bought a plot of land in La Boca and planned to get into real estate.

Despite her French-sounding name, Auvert’s family had roots in Catalonia. On her new land, Auvert hired the Catalan architect Guillermo Alvarez to build a house that would remind her of her family’s homeland. To maximize the Catalan flavor, Auvert imported furniture and plants from the old country, including some mushrooms she put on the balconies.

When the construction was completed in 1908, Auvert was so happy with the final product that she dropped the idea of renting the building and took the house for herself. The Castle should have been her dream home, but Auvert quietly packed her bags after living there for only a year. Nobody knew why she moved so suddenly, though neighbors said they sometimes heard her and her servants yelling at something at night.

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A Warning Unheeded: A Victorian Account of Precognitive Dreams

unknown artist; Reverend Frederick George Lee (1832-1902)

Painting of Frederick George Lee.

Today’s article is an account from Frederick George Lee’s 1885 “Glimpses in the Twilight: Being Various Notes, Records, and Examples of the Supernatural.” Lee was an English priest who believed in ghosts and wrote several books about the supernatural. He recorded this story, verbatim,  from the member of a Buckinghamshire family called Hickman. Unfortunately, the narrator gives us no date, but I assume it happened in the earlier part of the century. 

My grandfather had a favourite daughter. She was his youngest child, had been born about ten years after the birth of his youngest son, and to her he was devotedly attached. The loss of his wife when his youngest daughter was about sixteen years of age, seemed to deepen and strengthen the affectionate attachment in question.

He himself is said to have been a very hard-headed, unromantic, anti-sentimental man, who had been largely influenced by the Scotch philosophers of the last century in rejecting the revealed religion of Christ; and during the latter part of his life, with a habit of sneering and cynicism, appears to have given up any belief in God, the soul, or immortality.

He was, however, reputed to have been a person of great integrity and good principles; living an upright life, respected by his friends, and a good friend as regards things temporal to his poorer neighbors.

The daughter in question, going with others to an outdoor party in one of the most beautiful parts of Buckinghamshire, not far from Wendover, rambling far from headquarters, was with several others overtaken by a storm, caught a severe cold, went home, took to her bed, and in less than ten days was buried in the village churchyard.

The young girl in question was very fair both in form and features; and friends who came to see her in her coffin said that she had never in all her life looked more beautiful. She was interred in the family vault amid the tears of her relations, and to the intense grief of her sorrowing parent.

Her father was inconsolable at his loss, the more so as he knew nothing of the consolations of religion, having long ago rejected them, and fretted much at what he looked upon as the stern decrees of Fate.

The night after the funeral he is said to have had a most vivid dream. He dreamt that his daughter was confined in a cold and narrow underground cell, and that two resolute jailers were slowly filling her mouth with small pieces of cotton wool, in order to forcibly suffocate her; but that in the greatest trouble and agony she continued to resist, and would not be suffocated.

The dream disturbed him considerably; but, on waking and thinking over it, he acknowledged that his recent loss had no doubt served to disorganize his stomach, to confuse his brain, and to give rise to such fantastic fancies of the night.

However, a similar dream was had on the following night, and a third to his great astonishment on the night succeeding. His mental anguish and stress became so great that, at sunrise on the third day he rose from his bed, and went off to the clergyman of the parish to narrate what had happened, and to ask his counsel.

The clergyman, who had not then risen, surprised at being roused so early, came downstairs, listened to the curious and affecting narrative, and at once advised the immediate opening of the vault. This was done at once, and the coffin examined.

Under further advice- that of a doctor from the country town, who was going his rounds to visit his patients- the coffin was opened, when, to the horror of all who witnessed what was then and there discovered, it seemed perfectly clear that the young girl had been buried alive.

It was obvious that she had been put into the coffin in a state of suspended animation or trance, and that since the burial (for the body was turned and twisted, the hands compressed, the nails being dug into their palms, and the face fearfully contorted), the poor creature had died of suffocation.

An inquiry which was held resulted in nothing that could either give consolation to the living or benefit to the dead. The bare and melancholy facts as here recorded were both undoubted and unquestioned. The father of the girl soon afterwards died of grief, wasted away from sorrowing; and, as some said, died of a broken heart.

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The Albino Ghost of Montebello Castle

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Azzurrina is the nickname of an albino ghost girl who’s said to haunt Italy’s Montebello Castle.

“Azzurrina”, an Italian word meaning “little blue”, is the nickname of a young girl who’s said to haunt the Castle of Montebello in Emilia-Romagna, Italy. According to legend, Azzurrina was born Guendalina Malatesta, the daughter of a 14th century nobleman. Unlike the rest of her dark-haired family, Guendalina was an albino who had white hair and pale skin. Since albinos were widely feared and hated during the time, Guendalina’s mother tried dyeing her daughter’s hair black. The herbs she used didn’t work very well, however, and instead gave Guendalina’s hair a bluish tint, hence her nickname Azzurrina.

Because of her condition, Azzurrina’s parents were very protective of her. They kept her in the castle at all times, where she was guarded by two men, Domenico and Ruggero. As the story goes, there was a big storm on June 21, 1375. That night, Azzurrina was playing with a rag ball in a room in the castle. While Domenico and Ruggero were standing off somewhere else, they suddenly heard Azzurrina let out a terrible scream. The two guards then rushed to her room, but found no trace of the girl or the ball. Although they searched all over the castle and its grounds, nobody ever found Azzurrina’s body. It was as though she had vanished into thin air.

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The area in Montebello Castle where Azzurrina disappeared.

 

One variant of the story says that Azzurrina had accidentally thrown her ball down into a open cellar where ice was stored. Another version claims that some invisible force grabbed the ball out of her hands and rolled it down into the cellar by itself. Regardless of what exactly happened, Azzurrina’s body and ball were never found. Her father, who was away in a battle during the time, had Domenico and Ruggero executed after he found out what happened. On the fifth anniversary of her disappearance, Azzurrina returned to the castle as a ghost. She has since re-appeared every five years.

Azzurrina’s bizarre story was passed down as an oral legend for more than 250 years before somebody decided to write it down. In 1620, it was recorded by a parish priest in a book about local legends and folklore. No copy of this book has survived to modern times, and some believe that the book might not exist at all. There is, in fact, no evidence that the story ever happened. Unless that priest’s book ever turns up, it wouldn’t be too far of a stretch to doubt that Azzurrina’s story originated as an authentic medieval legend either. Some have traced the appearance of the story only as far back as the 20th century.

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A picture of Montebello Castle.

Still, whatever its lack of authenticity, psychics and TV producers know a good ghost story when they hear one. On the anniversary of Azzurrina’s disappearance in 1990 and 1995, television crews allegedly captured the voice of a crying little girl  on their recording equipment. In 2000, the child’s voice was heard again, this time crying and possibly calling for her mamma. A 2005 recording captured a single voice saying the name “Alosio”, and a group of voices chanting an old Hebrew word for the devil, “belial”. Another investigation in 2010 apparently captured nothing.

I’m not sure whether anybody tried recording Azzurrina on June 21, 2015, but Rimini Today posted a pretty interesting article about the case the day before the anniversary that year. According to Leo Farinelli, a man who spent 20 years researching the story and contacting Azzurrina through psychics, Guendalina was actually born in 1375 to Uguccione Della Faggiola and Costanza Malatesta. She was not actually albino, but blonde-haired and Nordic-looking. This made Uguccione suspect that the girl wasn’t his. Although Costanza insisted that she never cheated on her husband, there was a blonde-haired French guard in the castle who resembled Azzurrina. At the age of 8, Azzurrina disappeared from the castle in December 1383.

If Farinelli’s research is correct, perhaps the story got twisted and spiced up a bit over the hundreds of years it was passed down. The albino element, which Farinelli claimed was added by the priest who allegedly wrote the story down in 1620, might have covered up the real cause of Azzurrina’s disappearance: murder. Some have suggested that the palace guard was Azzurrina’s real father, and Uguccione arranged for her to “disappear” to save himself embarrassment. For those curious enough to investigate the story themselves, Montebello Castle is open to visitors for a slight fee nearly all-year round.

 

The Massacre of the Albertis

The town of Pentedattilo. (Image source/credit here.)

The town of Pentedattilo. (Image source/credit here.)

Located in the southern Italian region of Calabria, Pentedattilo is a ghost town with a very interesting history. Its name, which means “five fingers”, refers to a mountain located around the town. Before an earthquake disfigured it in 1783, the mountain had five rock towers that resembled a human hand with fingers. Local legend held that the mountain, nicknamed the Devil’s Hand, would one day collapse and fall on mankind. This curse was said to have been cast by Lorenzo Alberti, one of the victims of an infamous historical incident known as The Massacre of the Albertis.

In 1686, Baron Bernardino Abenavoli fell in love with Antoinette Alberti, the daughter of the family that had owned the fiefdom of Pentedattilo since the late 16th century. The Abenavolis, the former lords of Pentedattilo, had been in a rivalry with the Alberti family ever since. Due to this feud, Antoinette had little interest in Bernardino. When it was announced in April that Antoinette would be marrying Don Petrillo Cortez, the son of the Viceroy of Naples, Bernardino was struck with rage.

Picture of Pentedattilo. (Image source/credit here.)

Picture of Pentedattilo. (Image source/credit here.)

On the night of April 21, Bernardino carried out a horrific plan for revenge. After bribing one of the Alberti family’s servants, Bernardino was let inside their castle with a group of his followers. Their first victim was Lorenzo, Antoinette’s brother and the head of the Albertis. As he was sleeping in his bedroom, Lorenzo was ambushed by Bernardino and then shot and stabbed to death. With the exception of Antoinette, the Alberti family and most of their guests were all massacred, including Antoinette’s 9-year-old brother Simone, who had his head bashed against a rock.

Don Petrillo Cortez and his family were spared as well, but they were taken by Bernardino as hostages. On April 19, Bernardino married Antoinette.  Word of the massacre spread quickly, however, and Cortez’s father sent a military expedition to capture Bernardino and his collaborators a few days later.  Although 7 of Bernardino’s men were captured and beheaded, including the servant who let them into the Alberti castle, Bernardino managed to escape to Malta. He later joined the Austrian army, and died on the battlefield in 1692. Antoinette, filled with grief that she was the cause of the massacre, spent the rest of her life as a nun.

Ruins of the Alberti castle. (Image source/ credit here.)

Ruins of the Alberti castle. (Image source/ credit here.)

Now even though Lorenzo Alberti died in his castle, the town’s folklore says that he was killed near the rock walls of the mountain. As he laid dying, Lorenzo pushed his bloody hand against the walls, leaving a permanent imprint that glowed red when the sun went down. On some nights, his screams can be heard coming from the mountain. On the anniversary of the massacre, shadows of the victims are said to appear all over the town, running from other shadows that chase them with knives.

Another legend related to the massacre and the mountain’s disfigurement involves a secret treasure allegedly left behind by Bernardino Abenavoli. One night, a ghost told a knight who was passing by the mountain that the five fingers would collapse and reveal the Abenavoli treasure if somebody would run around the mountain five times. Many people tried running around the mountain, but it never collapsed. A knight from Sicily heard about the challenge and decided to give it a try. Right as he was about to finish his fifth lap, one of the fingers suddenly fell off the mountain and crushed him.

Following an earthquake in 1783, a lot of the townspeople left Pentedattilo for the town of Melito Porto Salvo. Pentedattilo was completely abandoned by the 1960s, although today it hosts the site of an annual international film festival.