Tuesday, May 31, 2011

A Buried Alive Woman and a Man From The Sea

The following two stories also come from Ord's 'The History and Antiquities of Cleveland.' One concerns a supposed Merman and the second is a slightly gruesome tale about live burial.

First, the Merman - in a section of the book about the village of Skinningrove.
"The description of this village by Camden argues an amount of credulity scarcely credible: "Upon the shore, Skengrave, a small village, thrives by the great variety of fish which it takes; where it is reported that, seventy years ago (1607), they caught a sea-man, who lived upon raw fish for some days, but at last, taking his opportunity, he made his escape into his own element."
"Of this sea-man we are further told in the Cottonian MS., that "insteade of voice he shreaked, and shewed himself courteous to such as flocked farre and near to visit him: fayre maidens were welcomest guests to his harbour, whome he woulde beholde with a very earnest countenaynce, as if his phlegmatic breast has been touched w[ith] the sparke of love.""
And then in a chapter about the parish of Hutton Rudby, this grisly tale about a woman being buried alive:
"An old gentleman in the village related a curious story of the ghoul-like deeds of a certain parish-clerk, who officiated also as sexton, some years ago. It would appear that a married woman of the village having been given up for dead, was at length removed to the usual place of interment. Whether from some implied wish on her part, or difficulty in releasing it, the wedding-ring was allowed to remain on the finger. This circumstance awakened the cupidity of the parish-clerk, who, at the lone hour of midnight, crept cautiously to the new-made grave. Having removed the earth, and unscrewed the coffin, he proceeded to take off the ring, but from the contracted state of the fingers was unable to effect his purpose. Accordingly with his pocket-knife he set about amputating the finger; but he had scarcely reached the bone, when, O horror! the corpse bolted nearly upright in its coffin, at the same time uttering a loud and dismal scream. The parish-clerk, who, by the by, was a tailor, immediately darted homeward with the utmost speed, his hair bristling on end. Meantime the poor woman, who had been unconsciously buried in a trance, alarmed at her strange and peculiar situation, directed her steps to her husband's residence, and knocked loudly at the door. What was her husband's amazement and consternation to behold his buried wife, in her shroud and grave-clothes, standing at the door, calling for admittance! His first alarm having somewhat abated, he proceeded to make further inquiry, and was at length convinced that his true wife, in flesh and blood, had in reality returned from the tomb. Afterwards, the injured finger and the state of the grave, pointed suspicion to the parish-clerk; but the husband, instead of punishing him for allowing his wife to return from her last resting-place, actually presented him annually with a web of the finest linen (he being a linen manufacturer)."
I really hope both these tales are true, but sadly they both sound rather apocryphal. Still, you never know.

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