Wolf Fell

Once again the Victorian detectives Inspector Meadowbank and Sergeant Huggins are drawn into a dark tale set in and around Preston and the Lancashire Fells.

Wolf Fell, one of the high fells bordering Lancashire and the West Riding of Yorkshire was part of the huge estate inherited by Ralph Blackhurst, 3rd Baron of Blackhurst. He had fulfilled his dream of creating a reserve on these bleak moorland slopes, a sanctuary for his pack of canis lupus after their extinction more than 500 years ago.

There was much local resentment towards the reintroduction of the wolves. The death of Allan Quartermain, the famous hunter and explorer, found with his throat ripped out, seemed the trigger for the bloodlust.

Was this savage attack really from a wolf as a post-mortem concluded?

In this latest tale, our intrepid heroes elicit the help of the famous private detective Sherlock Holmes; one which challenges their grasp of fact or fiction.

Wolf Fell


Chingle Hall is the destination for four coffins…

They’re back! The Victorian crime fighters, Inspector Meadowbank and Sergeant Huggins have barely had time to catch their breath after their encounter with Vena Demdike, The Last of the Lancashire Witches, when an even greater supernatural horror stalks the cobbled streets of Preston.

But who is hunting who? Find out in Chingle Hall.

Chingle Hall is the third stand alone novel in the ‘Inspector Meadowbank Investigates’ series, following on from Priest Town and Last of the Lancashire Witches, all available on Amazon as paperback or ebook editions.

A Christmas Ghost Story

Dunkenhalgh Hall.

The name Dunkenhalgh comes from Roger de Dunkenhalgh who built the manor house at the end of the 12th century. Much has happened to the Tudor house in its 700 year history and of course many people, good and bad have died there during that time.
Dunkenhalgh Hall is on the outskirts of Clayton le Moors and the River Hyndburn runs through the extensive grounds a few hundred yards away.

The Petre Family.

Lord Robert Edward Petre, 9th Baron, was a British peer and member of the English Catholic nobility. He inherited exceptional wealth and was one of the richest men in the Kingdom, with properties in Mayfair and large estates in Essex, Surrey and Lancashire.
The Lancashire estate was Dunkenhalgh Hall, passing into the Petre family in 1712 and remained with the family until 1947.

The Governess.

In the 1778 a young French woman named Lucette, became governess to the Petre’s children at Dunkenhalgh Hall.

A British Army captain from the light regiment named Starkie, was a guest of the family and took a shine to Lucette. He was aware that he was soon to be posted overseas to fight George Washington’s forces in the American War of Independence, but was determined to woo Lucette before his posting.

17th Light Dragoons Who Fought During The AmericanRevolution.

Captain Starkie and Lucette conducted a secret liaison at the hall. The young governess fell in love with the dashing dragoon captain, soon becoming pregnant. Captain Starkie, being an officer but not a gentleman, denounced Lucette and his unborn child, promptly leaving for America to join General Sir Henry Clinton’s forces.

Lucette was mortified. Unable to tell her strict Catholic employers that she had become pregnant outside wedlock and unable to return home to France, only to bring shame on her family, that Christmas Eve, the distraught Lucette threw herself off the bridge into the raging River Hyndburn below.
Her body was found in a reed bed the following morning and carried back to the house as the family were getting ready for the Christmas Day church service.

Dunkenhalgh Bridge (Photo attributed to Chris Heaton).

According to legend, Lucette’s brother swore revenge for her death and tracked down Captain Starkie, challenged him to duel, and showing no mercy fatally wounded the dragoon officer with his sword, to avenge his sister.

The Woman in White.

The ghost of Lucette still haunts the fifteen acres of grounds and the house to this day. A woman in a white shroud has been seen many times, especially at Christmas, moving through the grounds towards the bridge, where Lucette took her life and the life of her unborn child.

There have been numerous paranormal investigations, seances and television programmes to capture evidence and make contact with The Woman in White, some being more successful than others.  The ghost dressed in white has even appeared in wedding  photographs.

The Dunkenhalgh Hall and its 175 rooms, is now the luxury five star Mercure Dunkenhalgh Hotel and Spa. Many guests and staff have reported seeing the ghost of Lucette, some of guests have awoken to find the figure of a woman dressed in white sat on the edge of the bed, but most sightings are of a woman in white wandering through the grounds on Christmas Eve.

The hotel offers ghost weekends and promotes itself as one of the most haunted hotels in the United Kingdom. A travel website lists the Dunkenhalgh Hotel in the ‘top ten most haunted hotels in the world’.

If you are lucky enough to be staying at the five star Dunkenhalgh Hotel and Spa over Christmas, you may get more than you expected……………

Sources of reference: Lancashire Evening Telegraph, BBC web page – Haunted Houses, Simon Entwistle(paranormal investigator) and Wikipedia.

This post was first published on the horrorboundbooks blog in December 2018 and has been republished on the request of a reader for Christmas 2020.

All photos, apart from the one credited to Chris Heaton, courtesy of Google images.

Thanks for having a look at the horror bound books blog.

Have a peaceful Christmas and 2021.  

The Last of the Lancashire Witches

A horror bound novel.

In 1612, nine witches from the Forest of Pendle
where hung at Gallows Hill near Lancaster Castle.
The location of the nine unmarked graves remained a secret
and there the witches lay for century after century
like dormant seeds waiting to flourish.
A child of one of these sorceresses survived the witch-hunt,
and now the time is right for revenge, to put things right.

The Last of the Lancashire Witches, the latest novel by Steve Woods and published under the Horror Bound Books banner, is available as paperback or ebook edition direct from Amazon.

Five star reviews on Amazon.

‘There are only two ways to kill a witch: decapitation or incineration’.

There has been volumes written about The Lancashire Witches, and their legacy and folklore is still evident today, not just in the Pendle area.

Detective Inspector Meadowbank and Sergeant Huggins follow on from their success in tracking down Jack the Ripper in Priest Town.
Approaching All Hallows’ Eve in 1901, the two detectives face a far deadlier threat than the Whitechapel Murderer in The Last of the Lancashire Witches.

Copyright by Steve Woods.

Witch image courtesy of Google Images.

The Ghost Of An Unsolved Murder

Bashall Eaves March 1934.

Five miles north-west of Clitheroe stands the village of Bashall Eaves, traditionally associated with King Arthur, who is said to have fought a battle here. Beyond the village lies the ancient Forest of Bowland and the Bowland Fells, separating Lancashire from Yorkshire.

Edisford Bridge over the River Ribble.

Jim Dawson.

Jim Dawson lived at Bashall Hall Farm with his sister, Polly Pickles. The farmhouse was a short walk from The Edisford Bridge pub.

On a rain sodden Sunday evening on 18th March 1934, Jim Dawson, a 46 year old farmer and bachelor was walking home, along Back Lane after visiting his local, The Edisford Bridge. Back Lane was then and is still a narrow country lane with no street lighting.

At around 9pm, with his head down against the wind and rain he walked along the secluded lane towards the farmhouse, when headlights of two approaching cars briefly illuminated a man standing nearby. Jim Dawson had never seen this man before.

As both vehicles passed, Jim noticed his farmhand, Tommy Kenyon sat in the backseat of the first car with four friends. He did not recognise the occupants of the second vehicle. He then looked for the stranger he had seen lurking nearby, but he had disappeared.

Jim continued along the near pitch-black Back Lane when he heard a strange ‘click’ noise immediately followed by a sharp stinging pain to his right shoulder. He thought someone had thrown a stone at him, had another look around before he carried on his way, arriving home at 9.20pm. He had supper with his sister and went to bed a short time later.

During the night Jim’s shoulder became extremely painful and the bedsheets saturated with blood. The following morning he asked his sister to have a look at his injury. She was horrified at the wound and suspecting her brother had been shot, called for the local G.P. Doctor Cooper and the police to attend. Jim was taken to hospital by ambulance.

An x-ray revealed some kind of bullet, the size of a small birds egg had entered his back below his shoulder, lodging in muscle near his liver.  Fearful of surgery, Jim Dawson refused to have the object removed and his condition quickly worsened with blood poisoning. He gave a detailed statement of the incident, but was unable to explain his injury, though he was able to show the police where the attack took place. He eventually agreed to an operation and a homemade steel bullet, tapered at both ends and seemingly cut from a steel rod, was removed from his back.

On 22nd March, four days after being shot,  Jim died from septicaemia.

It was now a murder enquiry.

Murder Investigation.

Bashall Eaves was historically within the county boundary of the West Riding of Yorkshire (becoming part of Lancashire in 1974) and their senior detective Chief Superintendent Wilf Blacker led the investigation,  immediately meeting a wall of silence from local residents. He was certain someone in the village knew the identity of the murderer. All firearms in the area were seized for examination, workshops, garages and sheds searched for metal cutting equipment and the original steel rod. An extensive search of the scene and surrounding country side was made, but nothing was found.

An ominous twist to this tragedy was that a few days before the fatal shooting, Jim Dawson’s much loved dog, Shep was also shot and killed by person/persons unknown. It is not on public record what type of firearm was used to kill the dog.

Forensic Expert.

Robert Churchill, the country’s leading forensic ballistic expert was called to assist the murder investigation. He concluded the murder weapon was an airgun, such as a ‘Poacher’s Arm’ air cane, which is a single shot pneumatic gun that can fire many times on one charge of air.

Biography of Robert Churchill.

The Weapon.

The air cane  was a walking stick/cane with a firearm built into it and was common amongst wealthy Victorian gentlemen and ironically the criminal underworld.

The weapon consisted of two sections which came apart allowing air to be pumped and pressurised in the top half, where the trigger was situated and the shot/ammunition  was loaded into the barrel section. They are virtually silent apart from the click of the trigger and deadly at close range and accurate up to 100 feet.

Examples of air cane guns.

Means, Motive and Opportunity.

Means, motive and opportunity are the three key elements to every crime. Detective Chief Superintendent Blacker had the means: the firearm, the opportunity: the deserted lane at night time, but could not get the evidence to arrest a suspect for the motive.

The Suspects.

The police enquiry revealed that Jim Dawson had relationships with numerous local women including his neighbour, seventeen year old Nancy Simpson, who was more than half his age and lived with her parents. Tommy Kenyon, who also had feelings for young Nancy, resented Jim being passionately involved with her.

But Tommy Kenyon was convinced Jim Dawson had been murdered in a case of mistaken identity, believing the bullet was meant for him.
Nancy was pregnant and her father, Tommy Simpson was convinced Kenyon was the father and as a result, a few days before the shooting, the two men had grappled and exchanged punches. Bad feelings continued between the two men.

Ten days after Jim Dawson died, Tommy Simpson hanged himself in his barn.
His family stated he was suffering from depression due to financial worries.

The murder investigation looked at the women Jim Dawson was seeing, but was unable to prove any connection with a jealous husband or boyfriend.

The Inquest.

In June 1934 the coroners court jury came to ‘an open verdict’ on Jim Dawson’s death, not satisfied he had been shot by a firearm.

Wall of Silence:  The Peculiar Murder of Jim Dawson At Bashall Eaves.

This is the title of a book written by Jim Dawson’s great niece, Jennifer Lee Cobban published by Demdike Press in 2005 and available on Amazon.

In the Evening Telegraph on 21st October 2004, Jennifer Lee Cobban is quoted saying: “I do believe that some villagers knew who the murderer was and there are rumours of a deathbed confession by the killer. There are possibly some residents who today know who was responsible and some say Jim knew who had done it”.

To this day, over eighty-four years later, the murder of Jim Dawson remains unsolved.

The Ghost of Jim Dawson.

It is said Back Lane is still avoided at night, as many people have claimed to have seen the ghostly apparition of a figure, with a gaping wound to the back passing through a gate into the farmyard of Bashall Hall Farm.
Back Lane, as a haunted site is included in the itinerary of local and national ghost tours and referenced in many books relating to ghosts and hauntings in Lancashire.

Any ghost sighting has been dismissed by Jennifer Lee Cobban, but she has been quoted as saying, “… the ghost story has without doubt, helped to maintain this puzzling murder mystery”.

Reference Sources: Lancashire Magic & Mystery by Kenneth Fields; WolfieWiseGuy blog; lancashirefolk.com;  Lancashire’s Ghosts & Legends by Terence Whitaker & The Evening Telegraph.

All photos courtesy of Google Images,

The Ghosts of The Jigsaw Murders

Buck Ruxton.

Buck Ruxton was born Bukhtyar Rustomji Hakim in Bombay, India on the 21st March 1899. He qualified as a doctor before emigrating to Edinburgh in 1927, where he took a post graduate course in medicine and while in Edinburgh met Isabella Kerr. They moved in together and went on to have three children.

 Number 2, Dalton Square.

In 1930 he set up practice as a GP at 2, Dalton Square, Lancaster and changed his name by deed poll to Buck Ruxton. The couple employed a live in maid, 20 year old Mary Jane Rogerson.
Even though he was a popular local doctor he had a dark temper, was insanely jealous and his relationship with Isabella was prone to violence.
She had already made a complaint of assault to Lancaster police against her common-law-husband and had attempted suicide due to Ruxton’s paranoia.
Though the couple never married, Isabella adopted the surname of Ruxton.

No. 2, Dalton Square, Lancaster.

The Affair Accusation.

On Saturday 14th September 1935, Isabella, who was gregarious and fun-loving, arranged to meet her sisters at Blackpool and visit the illuminations. She did not return home until 11.30pm and the jealous Ruxton was waiting for her, accusing his common-law-wife of having an affair, which led to a violent argument, overheard by Mary Jane.

The Murders.

Ruxton stabbed and strangled Isabella in a fit of jealous rage, and to prevent Mary Jane Rogerson from talking he attacked her, strangling her to death.
With his medical knowledge and expertise, he used a scalpel and a surgical saw to skilfully dismember both bodies in the bathtub, and wrapping the many severed body parts in newspapers.

Isabella Kerr.

Mary Jane Rogerson.

The Journey To Scotland.

The doctor was familiar with the Scottish Borders, an area sparsely populated and that night he loaded his car with packages of the women’s severed corpses and drove to Gardenholme Linn, near Moffat. He knew of a remote ravine in the area, dropping down to a river and in driving wind and rain threw the parcels of his dismembered partner and maid into the gorge, then drove back to Lancaster.

The Journey Back to Lancaster.

As Ruxton was returning home through Kendal he collided with a cyclist, knocking him off his bike and failed to stop. The cyclist made a note of the registration number and reported the accident to the police. Later that night Ruxton was stopped by police in Milnthorpe. He was questioned about the accident, which he denied and told to produce his driving documents at Lancaster Police Station and allowed to continue his journey.

A Grim Discovery.

On the 29th September, fifteen days after Ruxton’s trip to Scotland, a hill walker found a package containing a decomposed human arm on the slopes of the gorge at Gardenholm and contacted the police. All together the police recovered 30 newspaper bundles containing seventy body parts, including two human heads, a torso, legs and internal organs. One of the newspapers Ruxton had used was a special edition of the Sunday Graphic and only sold in Lancaster/Morecambe.

It was the lead the Dumfriesshire Constabulary needed in their investigation.

Police search the crime scene.


The remains where taken to the University of Edinburgh and the bodies pieced together in an effort to reconstruct them. They had been mutilated to prevent identification. Fingertips had been cut off and teeth, eyes, ears, skin, lips had been surgically removed.

A senior police officer carrying one of the bundles of body parts.

Professor John Glaister, using pioneering anthropological methods and forensic entomology in studying the stages of growth of maggots found in the remains, established a time and date of death for both victims.

Ruxton is Questioned.

Mary Rogerson’s family reported her missing and Isabella’s sister’s, concerned with her disappearance, also reported Isabella missing to the police. Ruxton claimed his wife had left him for another man and Mary Jane, who he said was pregnant and had stolen £30 from his safe, had eloped with a local youth to have an abortion.
Abortions were illegal in England at the time.
Scotland Yard detectives where brought into assist the investigation.
Number 2, Dalton Square, Lancaster was searched and enormous traces of blood discovered throughout the house, especially the bathroom. Also the parents of Mary Jane had been asked to identify certain items of clothing found with the human remains and confirmed a blood stained blouse was their daughters.

Ruxton also denied taking a recent trip to Scotland and could not explain why his car registration number had been reported by the cyclist in Kendal or why someone driving his car would provide his own personal details to the police.

The Arrest, Trial.

On the 12th October Ruxton was arrested and charged with the murder of Mary Jane and on 5th November was also charged with the murder of Isabella. He denied both charges.

The trial opened on the 2nd March 1936 at Manchester High Court of Justice.

The trial lasted eleven days and Ruxton was the only witness for his defence. The jury retired and within an hour returned a verdict of ‘Guilty’.


On the 12th May 1936, Ruxton was hanged at HM Prison Manchester by Albert Pierrepoint.

Police Hold Back a Crowd Outside Strangeway’s Prison on Day of Execution.


The day after Ruxton’s execution, a Sunday newspaper published a handwritten confession by Ruxton, written the day after his arrest and only to be opened in the event of his execution.

The torso of Mary Jane was never found, despite an intensive police search.

The Hauntings.

Number 2, Dalton Square remained empty and dilapidated for nearly fifty years, with rumours of it being haunted and its tragic history keeping locals and potential buyers away.  As it was a 200 year old listed building, demolition was not an option and eventually Lancaster City Council purchased the property and after extensive renovations became their main planning office.

Present Day No. 2, Dalton Square(centre building).

The building has been a subject of various reports of supernatural phenomena while standing empty, including passersby hearing the screams of women coming from within the building. Many, including paranormal investigators believe the building is still haunted by the ghosts of Isabella Kerr and Mary Jane Rogerson.

The bath used by Ruxton to dismember his two victims was removed and produced as evidence at the trial. It is now used a horse trough by the mounted police at Lancashire Police Head Quarters, Hutton, Preston.

Television Drama.

This infamous double murder case which became known as ‘The Jigsaw Murders’, is to be turned into a television drama. The TV series will be based on author Jeremy Craddock’s book, The Jigsaw Murders: The True Story of the Ruxton Killings and the Birth of Modern Forensics, which is due to be published next year (2021).
It will be made by Tod Productions and STV Productions.

The bathtub at Lancshire Police Headquarters.

Elaine Collins, managing-director of Tod Productions, said: “Jeremy Craddock is a hugely talented writer, who is not only determined to excavate this brutal story and the consequent scientific breakthroughs that still influence today’s forensics, but to give an unprecedented voice to Buxton’s female victims.  I’m excited to develop this complex and multi-layered crime story for television, to give presence to the victims, and to dramatise the characteristically brilliant scientists at work in 1930s Scotland.”

Reference sources: wikipedia; article by Simon Entwistle for bbc lancashire history, murderpedia, LancsLive and the Daily Record (Dailyrecord.co.uk).

All photos courtesy of Google Images.

The Last of the Lancashire Witches


‘There are only two ways to kill a witch: decapitation or incineration’.

There has been volumes written about The Lancashire Witches, and their legacy and folklore is still evident today, not just in the Pendle area.

Detective Inspector Meadowbank and Sergeant Huggins follow on from their success in tracking down Jack the Ripper in Priest Town. They now face a far deadlier threat than the Whitechapel Murderer in The Last of the Lancashire Witches.

In 1612, nine witches from the Forest of Pendle
were hung
at Gallows Hill near Lancaster Castle.
The location of the nine unmarked graves remained a secret
and there the witches lay for century after century,
like dormant seeds waiting to flourish.
A child of one of these sorceresses survived the witch hunt,
and now the time is right for revenge, to put things right.

The Last of the Lancashire Witches, the latest novel from Preston author Steve Woods and published under the Horror Bound Books banner, is available as a paperback edition or ebook direct from Amazon or through the link at top of this page.

Haunting of Heskin Hall

Heskin Hall, a Tudor manor house, built in 1545  near to the village of Eccleston in the borough of Chorley in Lancashire, is a Grade 1 listed building of exceptional historic interest.

The Ghosts.

There are numerous reported hauntings throughout the house, but two apparitions in particular wander the three floors of the hall, their presence dating back nearly four hundred years to the English Civil War.

Heskin Hall was a Royalist and Catholic stronghold during the war, where Holy Mass was held in secret and priests given sanctuary.  One fateful day Cromwell’s forces arrived at the hall and conducted a random search, eventually discovering the family priest secreted in one of the many hides.  He begged for his life, renouncing his faith and swearing new found devotion to the Church of England.

The troop commander, Colonel Rigby, ordered the priest prove his allegiance by hanging the youngest daughter of John Molyneux, the owner of the hall.

A rope was thrown over a beam and the priest put the noose over the  girls head, her hands and feet already bound, he then heaved on the rope, lifting the girl’s feet off the floor.  Once satisfied she was dead, the priest lowered the girls body to the floorboards, then looked to Colonel Rigby.
As the roundheads mission was the persecution of royalists, priests and their sympathisers, it was no surprise that the colonel ordered that the priest be lynched as well.  He was left hanging over the body of John Molyneux’s daughter.

Since these murders at the top floor of the house, there have been numerous sightings of a ghostly priest and young girl wandering the rooms, and when the house is silent, the eerie sound of the wooden beam creaking, as if under strain, has been heard.

The last owners to live at the hall were Lord and Lady Lilford, who resided there until 1969.  Lady Lilford has gone on record to describe the paranormal activity she, her husband and guests have experienced and witnessed.  On one occasion her guests fled the house terrified.

The ancient beam is still in place and bizarrely, it became customary for visitors to reach up and touch it for good luck.

The hall and grounds (eight acres) are open to the public all year round with a licensed cafe and garden terrace accompanying the antique and fine art shopping venue.

Popular ghost tours and overnight paranormal events are held throughout the year.

There is a collection of vintage dolls and a malevolent looking clown marionette in one of the rooms, and it is recommended that anyone suffering from ‘pediophobia’ (fear of dolls) or ‘coulrophobia’ (fear of clowns)  avoid this exhibition.

(The above are not representative of the collection).

Since Lord and Lady Lilford left Heskin Hall, the building has been used as commercial and local council offices.

Heskin Hall is now a premier wedding venue and has recently been named as one of Lancashire’s Best and Most Romantic Wedding Venues by LancsLive.

Horrorboundbooks has no affiliation with Heskin Hall Wedding Venue or Haunted Happening Ghost Tours.

Reference sources: North Country Ghosts & Legends by Terence W.  Whitaker published by Grafton Books;  HH Spooky Nights Ltd and Wikipedia.

All photographs courtesy of Bing Images.

Tragedy on A59

Tony Wiseman and Kenneth Dwyer, both firefighters in the North Yorkshire town of Skipton, were lifelong friends. They went to the same primary and secondary schools, grew up together, played football together and eventually they both joined North Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Service.

They were ‘best man’ at one another’s wedding and went on to holiday together with their wives and families.

These two best friends had made a promise to each other that in the event of either of them losing their life, during the course of their duty, the other would make sure that their children were looked after.

Skipton High Street

On a sunny Sunday morning in 2009, Ken decided to take his Kawasaki motor bike for a spin, kissed his wife Jenny, telling her he will be back by lunchtime.

He travelled along the A59 (a major trunk road across the Pennines) towards Harrogate, passing the ancient village of Blubberhouses. Further along the road, a lorry carrying scaffolding poles had shed four of the long metal poles, unknown to the driver, and they lay stretched across the carriageway. Ken came round the preceding corner, hit the scaffolding poles and was thrown off his bike, fatally breaking his neck.

A Stretch of the A59 near Blubberhouses.

A few hours later, Jenny rang Tony and told him Ken had died. He immediately rushed to their house. There was a police car outside and a WPC was comforting Jenny and her daughter. Tony asked where Robert was, Ken and Jenny’s six year old son. She said he was in his bedroom and did not know his father had been killed.
Jenny, sobbing said, “Could you tell him please Tony?”

He made his way upstairs and found Robert happily sat on his bed with his Play Station, humming to himself. Tony sat next to him, “Robert, I am so sorry, I have some very sad news to tell you”.  He put his arm around Robert and took a deep breath. “Robert, your daddy has been involved in a terrible accident, I am so sorry, he has passed away”.

To Tony’s surprise, little Robert turned round and looked straight at him, smiling.
“It’s okay Uncle Tony, my dad has just been here a few minutes ago and told me all about it. He says I have to be brave and look after mum’.


This story, originally titled Ghostly Tales from the Road, is taken from Ghostly Tales of the Unexpected by Simon Entwistle. Published 2014 and available on Amazon.

All photographs courtesy of Bing images.

A Christmas Ghost Story

How It Began.

In September 1939 the Clitheroe Territorials had received orders to join their battalion, the East Lancashire Regiment in northern France.  Nineteen year old Lance Corporal Billy Lakin and his mates were excited to be leaving their jobs in the cotton mills to reinforce the Maginot Line.

In May the following year, Germany invaded France, forcing the allied positions to retreat to the Dunkirk beaches for evacuation.  Lance Corporal Billy Lakin and his regiment,  walked across France  pursued by the Nazi advance, only to find themselves trapped on the beaches of Dunkirk. Eventually,  Billy and the survivors of the East Lancashire Regiment were evacuated to England. 

Map Showing the Allies Defensive Maginot Line, Named After French Minister of War, Andre Maginot.

On returning to Clitheroe, Billy, at the age of nineteen, was promoted to full corporal at the same time his good mate, John Grimes, seventeen years old, joined the regiment.
Billy promised John’s parents that he would look after their son and in 1941 the East Lancashire Regiment was posted to Crete.

 German Paratroopers Landing on Crete.

On the 20th May 1941 the German invasion of Crete began.

Corporal Lakin and Private Grimes were manning a Bren gun position when advancing German troops approached the allied defences.

British Soldiers In a Defensive Position With a Bren Machine Gun WW11.

The unit,  dug in shallow trenches came under mortar fire, and then heard a sound every soldier feared, the ‘whoosh’ of a flame flower. Billy told John to take cover behind a truck and as he dashed across open ground, John was hit by sniper fire. His mate rushed to his aide and saw he had been shot in the forehead.
John was dead.

The rest of the unit were captured and transported to Poland as prisoners of war.  Billy, wracked with guilt, blamed himself for John’s death.

In 1945 Billy finally returned to Clitheroe, having survived six years of unimaginable horror, four years of them in a P.O.W. camp.  While a prisoner and through the Red Cross, he had sent a number of letters to John’s parents, asking for their forgiveness.
He met John’s parents to tell them how their son had died, but could not look Mr. and Mrs. Grimes in the face. They bore no malice whatsoever towards Billy.

Christmas Eve 1968.

Every day since 1941, he had thought of his mates death, still blaming himself, unable to shake off the guilt he had carried for over twenty seven years.

On Christmas Eve in 1968, Billy made his way to his old T. A. hall to watch the Clitheroe amateur operatic societies festive play.

Clitheroe Town and Castle.

He was the last to leave, lingering, smoking a cigarette, looking at the front of the building and thinking of those happy days in the Clitheroe Territorials so long ago.  As he turned to walk down ‘Paradise Lane’, an alleyway leading to York Road, he heard a whisper, “Billy, Billy”.

He turned and standing a few feet behind him was a young man in a British Army uniform. It was John Grimes.
John was smiling and said,  “Billy, don’t worry about me mate. I am fine. Don’t worry”
Billy froze as he realised he was looking at the ghost of John Grimes. His legs buckled, and dropping to his knees on the damp cobblestones, he sobbed uncontrollably, releasing decades of remorse.
The apparition raised an arm and repeated,  ” Billy, I am fine. Please don’t worry about me”.
The ghost of John Grimes gave another smile at his old mate, waved a final goodbye and blended into the night.

Billy slowly got to his feet, tears streaming down his face. Too traumatised by what he had just experienced, he ignored the happy revellers wishing him a Merry Christmas. On arriving at home, he went straight to bed and fell into a deep sleep, the sort of sleep he had not had for years.

Christmas Morning.

Early Christmas Day morning, Billy was awoken by the bells of Saint James’, Saint Mary’s and Saint Peter’s churches, joyously announcing that the special day of the year had arrived.  He got out of bed and strangely felt at peace. He looked at his reflection in the bathroom mirror and for the first time since 1941, smiled at himself.
A great weight had been lifted from him.
Billy could start to love life once again.

“Thank you John, and happy Christmas, wherever you are”.

This story, originally titled ‘Ghost Soldier’ was taken from ‘Ghostly Tales of the Unexpected’ by Simon Entwistle 2014 and is available on Amazon.

Merry Christmas, and hoping Santa brings everything you wished for!

Thanks for looking at Horrorboundbooks and see you in 2020!
For additional Lancashire stories of mystery and the supernatural, there are many more on this blog.

Photographs courtesy of Google Images.