As spooky season approaches, we thought we would lead you in gently by introducing you to some of Devon’s myths and legends. Like many places across the West Country, Devon is a haven for local folklore and supernatural stories that have been passed down through the generations. Read on to find out more, if you dare, and get ready for a season of spooks and scares in Devon!
The myth of Brentor Church
The king of hell, the devil himself, appears in this one. Brentor Church can be found on Dartmoor, perched on top of an extinct volcano. If that doesn’t set the atmosphere I don’t know what does! To uncover the story, we need to go back to the time of the pagans, according to the tales, the villagers were starting to embrace Christianity and built a church underneath the tor, however the devil wound out and removed the foundations, putting them on top of the tor instead. Apparently, he thought that the building being so exposed would stop people wanting to worship there and there was an impasse for a time, as the foundations were moved to and from the top of the tor. Eventually, the villagers decided to just built on the tor and when it was completed and ready for services, the devil actually turned up to confront the Bishop of Exeter. The Archangel Michael appeared and crushed the devil with a round boulder that you can still see today, it is on the path leading up to the church. Michael’s intervention inspired the name of the church itself.
The Devon Knocker
This little creature was known to torment miners across Devon and is said to have stolen tools, unattended lunches and to appear just before a mine collapsed. The Knocker got its name because of the knocking noise that you would hear before a mining disaster. Some miners talk of the creature as being a good omen – he does warn you of collapses after all, but others think that the accidents were his fault. Apparently, you can stay in his good books by leaving him pasties and food.
The hairy hands
This is probably one of the best known myths to come out of Dartmoor. The legend states that if you travel along the B3212 through Postbridge, you may find your car accosted by a pair of disembodied hands. Some claim that the hands are hairy, while others say they are invisible, but everyone reports the same feeling of the car being jerked to the side.
It is true that there have been a lot of accidents on this road, though whether that is because a pair of disembodied hands, perhaps belonging to a former victim of a car accident, causes them remains to be seen.
Did you know that the idea of pixies originated in the west country? They specifically come from Devon and Cornwall and are said to be very small and mostly harmless. There are several places across the county that have stories involving pixies, including Dartmoor where it is said they like to cause mischief for those who offend them while visiting the moor and particularly enjoy getting lost people even more lost. (The trick apparently is to turn your coat inside out!) Elsewhere in the county, there are stories of pixies in Ottery St Mary, where there is an annual pixie day and Tavistock, where it is claimed that pixies helped to shield a family from parliamentary forces during the civil war.
Want to learn more about Devon’s myths and legends ready for October and the Halloween season? Click below to discover more of the region’s folklore and stories.