Monstrous May, Pagham-verse, werewolves

#MonstrousMay 2023: The Werewolf

Notes on the Village of Hangingstones, West Yorkshire


A strange happening (Extract from R. E. E. Stubbs, ‘Hangingstones and other Villages, a short history’ (1898):
Three days after they hanged Widow Harding at the hanging stones, there came upon the village nearby a terrible storm, so great the roof of the church fell in and the tower crumbled. Several of those huddled inside were killed, but those who escaped reported tales of a large black dog with deep red eyes like the burning pits of Hell who came amongst them and tore many limb from limb… Indeed, it was reported there that when the bodies were recovered from the church, they showed signs of tearing rather than crushing, as if they had been rent asunder by a wild, ferocious beast. Of the survivors of this terrible atrocity, it was said that they were never themselves after, and that on the nights of the full moon they could be seen on the tor capering around the stone circle there and shifting their shapes to roam the moors as beasts. There came a certain priest to that place to see if what was said was true, but he came away saying there was nothing to the tale but superstition and tragedy – but the priest himself was rumoured to have the power to shift his shape at will, a slur against his character levelled by the Protestants, and he was later burned at the stake for refusing to recant his Roman Catholicism. Nevertheless, the superstition has arisen that every hundred years or so (for these things are never terribly precise) the black dog with burning eyes is seen again, plaguing travellers and locals alike, sometimes to blame for the deaths of livestock and for spooking horses along the road, at other times driving people to madness, and still at others taking vengeance if called upon for this purpose.


A curious tale from Yorkshire (Extract from R. E. E. Stubbs, ‘Hangingstones and other Villages, a short history’ (1898):
While in Lancashire the Pendle Hill witch-trials were ongoing, in Hangingstones there was a coven who danced with the Devil on the tor, so they say, and they called upon the demon keeper of the hounds of Hell to release one of his creatures to protect them from the witchfinders. After their dark rites beneath the full moon, a howl rang out across the moors like the call of a mermaid or siren, irresistible and beautiful and terrifying. They followed the sound of the howl like ones possessed, leaping and dancing under the stars, and went straight into the gorge at Devil’s Drop and were never heard from again. But, that very night and for many nights afterwards, travellers spoke of a large black dog roaming the moors that spooked their horses, and farmers lost many livestock.

A gothick mystery (Extract from the published Journal of Dr L. Fairweather, vol. 2, Travels Through the North Countrie (1730-37):

28 August 1735
A certain curate’s daughter, Alice Thompson, vanished from her home on the night of Wednesday last, after receiving a note from a stranger to the village. The stranger stayed the night at The George Inn, but no trace of him has been heard or seen since his sudden departure in the night. No blame could ever be attached to such a pure young lady as Miss Thompson, and her frantic parents and friends suspect foul play. The circle of standing stones on the tor above the village, where in the past miscreants from the parish were hanged upon the gibbet set there, are a gruesome and sinister sight, and scraps of bloodied cloth were discovered therein upon the grass, which appeared to be part of a lady’s night-gown with a fine lace collar. Her mother has identified the lace as belonging to the missing lady. No body has yet been recovered, but a local farmer claimed that he saw a large black dog with blood-red eyes upon the road and that this was the very night that both Miss Thompson and the stranger vanished. Their connexion to each other is still quite unknown.

09 September 1735
…Regarding the tragic tale of Miss Alice Thompson that I recorded previously: the remains of a young man were later recovered from Devil’s Drop, mauled and savaged beyond recognition. In his pack, recovered from the grisly scene, there were pieces of Miss Thompson’s jewelry and an ivory fan. Miss Thompson’s fate remains a mystery.

A Tale of Terror (Local Newspaper Report)
A terrifying tale from Yorkshire has set the imaginations of our most sensible gentlemen of late, with several astonishing stories emerging from the survivors of Sir William Armitage’s hunting party. The party of experienced gamekeepers and less experienced gentlemen, became lost on the moors. Of the gamekeepers only Mr Daniel Haywood was left, staggering over the tor with Sir Thomas R———, whose leg was very badly wounded. They were with a young beater purported to be Mr Haywood’s son, Master Samuel Haywood, and Sir Charles L———. Neither of these eminent gentlemen are given to flights of fancy and are considered to be most sensible, redoubtable fellows, and yet the tale they told of ‘a great devil dog’ hunting them across the moor and devouring their hapless companions was fit for the most lurid of publications……

Murder on the Moors (Local Newspaper Report)
For some, the horrors of the Front are no mere memory. Lance Corporal Samuel Thackrey was shot dead last week in a tragic case of ‘shell shock’, a common affliction among the returning men. It is reported that Private Charles Bennett, who served in Thackrey’s regiment during the Great War, was ‘running wild’ on the moor in pursuit of the imagined enemy, and that the Lance Corporal was shot attempting to bring Bennett to his senses. For several days prior to the shooting, neighbours allege that Bennett had reported hearing howling on the moors and seeing ‘a girt black hound’ watching his cottage at night, and believed it to be a death omen of some kind. Bennett was seen limping after a dog-bite, apparently blaming the ‘black hound’. Bennett, who had grown increasingly disturbed since his return from France, became agitated after a small boy let off a firework on the village green, causing him to commence snarling, shouting, and threatening passers by. He accused Lance Corporal Thackrey, whom he did not appear to recognise, of being a German officer and many other fantastical things besides, before drawing his pistol and shooting the Lance Corporal in the head. The curious detail learned by this reporter is that Bennett shot Thackrey with a silver bullet, and no one can account for how he came by it.

The View from the Tor

It is no easy task, to take off one’s skin. 

First, because the skin you see is different to the skin you do not see, and it is much easier to peel something tangible from your body than it is to detach your very essence; second, because it hurts.


A field in the witching hour, once deserted, now crawling with stripped bodies.

Silver light gleams on a mass of undulating skin, writhing in the dark. The expanse of grass is now a lake of spines and cresting bodies, moving in waves and ripples of cracking, lengthening, shifting bones. Peach-white and gammon-pink meets and merges with earth tones and stone tones, golden, rich, mottled, grazed, stippled with psoriasis and acne, smooth and supple.

Among the neat stacks of clothes on the field’s edge, humanity has been put aside, folded carefully with shirts and skirts and jeans and shoes, the shape of each person carefully stowed between layers of polyester and cotton.

Upturned buttocks, reflecting the roundness of the orb above, undulate in various stages of painful eruption. A second hole opens above the anus, where there was a coin-shaped scar, now a coin-sized opening. The tailbone erupts through it, pushing to the surface and breaking the skin. Lengths of fur unfurl like fern-fronds, feeding through the broken holes where the skin is already raw from last month’s Turning. 

A forest of tails, curling and dark, some glinting with aged grey and some with youthful white, blossom upwards. Small ruby spots fleck the raised round cheeks, drips of claret leaving the curves tear-streaked. 

Ribs expand and crack. It is hard to breathe when the body knows it should not be this shape, this size. Reconfiguring contortions sweep the gathering, causing billowing humps of groaning flesh to surge and subside, slick with perspiration. 

One final push relieves them of their burdens, gives them full and final release. 

And now:

The pack shake damp fur and trot into the dark, leaving their human layers behind.

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