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31 Days of Hallowe’en Tales: Day 19 – The Skull House, Appley Bridge

On the 19th day of our 31 days of Halloween Tales, inspired by Lancashire folklore, we hear of a house shrouded in mystery and with conflicting explanations for a human skull that rests there.

Today’s tale concerns the eponymously named Skull House. A place that Terence W Whitaker, in his Lancashire’s Ghosts and Legends, sets the scene for beautifully.

“At Appley Bridge, near Wigan, there stands a rather strange house, known as ‘Skull House’, riddled with mysterious cupboards, leaded windows decorated with skulls, very low ceilings with thick, skull-cracking beams, boarded-up cellars and various old nooks and crannies, including a priests’ hide.

“A beam in the living room rests a discoloured human skull, which is said to bring bad luck and unwelcome screams and other disturbances, if it is taken out of the house.”

To this day, Skull House is still shrouded in mystery. The skull itself has many claims to its origins.

Others say the skull belonged to an Arthurian knight who was slain on the banks of the River Douglas.

Some say it is the skull of a papist, either a Catholic monk or a priest, and accounts vary. Whoever he was, it is said he fled persecution and hid up the chimney. His enemies lit a fire beneath him to smoke him out. It achieved its purpose, and he gave himself up. On climbing out of the chimney, he was promptly beheaded by his foe. His head was hidden in the house, and his body buried elsewhere. Possibly as a desecration of Catholic burial rituals and to obstruct resurrection during the rapture.

Others say the skull belonged to an Arthurian knight who was slain on the banks of the River Douglas in the days of chivalric glory. During a great battle, now lost to the ages, the knight fell, and his body sank into the soft mud of the riverbed. The skull was unearthed years later by the owner of the present day, Skull House, and kept as a momento mori.

Neither of these legends lend themselves to any discernible fact. In some recent accounts, it states that the cottage itself is no longer there. That Skull House, on the aptly named Skull House Lane, no longer exists. However, some sleuthing suggests that these accounts are incorrect.

Skull House was never situated on Skull House Lane itself, but was further down an opposite lane, on Beacon View. A vintage print of Skull House shows a unique gothic pointed front door, something I have found on a photo of Skull House in Wrightington. This photo is taken from the Historic England site and relates to the official listing of the property as one of historical significance. It would seem some of the ghost hunters have been searching in the wrong location!

Read our previous Hallowe’en Tales

Day 1 – The Curse of Carleton Crematorium.
Day 2 – The Witch Ducking Stools of Poulton-Le-Fylde.
Day 3 – The Ghost-Seer of Weeton.
Day 4 – Smuggling, Drowned Nuns and Fallen Acrobats at Raikes Hall

Day 5 – The Hauntings at the Old Coach House
Day 6 – Old Scrat
Day 7 – A Goblin Funeral at Extwistle Hall
Day 8 – The Ghost of Lady Macbeth
Day 9 – The Mermaid & The Sea Serpent of Marton Mere
Day 10 – The Banshee of Poulton
Day 11 – The Possession of the Lancashire Seven
Day 12 – Lady Fleetwood of old Ross Hall
Day 13 – Tales of Boggart House Farm
Day 14 – Miss Bamber of Marton and her Charms
Day 15 – A Severed Head at Mowbreck Hall
Day 16 – Burnley’s Satanic Pigs and the Clogging of Owd Nick
Day 17 – Three Pilling Boggarts
Day 18 – Hall i’ th’Wood

Take a look at Zowie Swan’s debut novel, Chingle Hall here.

Main image: Historic England

Reclaim Blackpool - Mapping Sexual Harrasment
  • Zowie Swan is a local writer of fiction and folklaw. Her debut novel, Chingle Hall, is out now with Safety Pin Publishing. She's also bassist for Blackpool band Dischord.

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