BARRY McCANN describes how a mysterious spirit may behind an Lancashire apprentice falling off his bike in 1947
We have all heard tales of motorists picking up ghostly hitch hikers, but knocking down a phantom road victim? Among the stories researched by Paranormal Investigations in Lancashire is a strange incident of the cyclist who collided with a pedestrian… who wasn’t there.
The Lancastrian town of Leyland was a place better known for its car manufacturing industry. It was during a rainy night in 1947 that Ken Swift hurriedly cycled to his night school class at Wellfield Senior School, as part of his apprenticeship. The journey was always a mad dash as he would not set off until the latest episode of Dick Barton – Special Agent finished on the radio, and then just make it for 7pm registration.
Despite battling the driving rain, Ken was in the town centre within minutes. He had passed the old Regent cinema and was approaching the final turn onto School Lane when, suddenly, a figure stepped out into the road and into his path. Braking at the last moment, he was certain of hitting the unfortunate pedestrian before tumbling over the handle bars and onto the pavement.
A relatively unscathed Ken got himself up, concerned the person he was certain of just colliding with. To his amazement, he was alone with nobody else there. Looking up and down the road, the only people visible was a small number gathered outside the cinema back down the road, but no one else within the vicinity. Thought the accident had happened within a split second, Ken was sure the figure was dark and hooded, which fostered his speculation as to whether it could have been a ghost.
Next day at work, he related his experience to a fellow apprentice called Jack. Instead of being met with scepticism, Jack informed him that particular section of Leyland was reputed to be haunted by the ghost of a lady. It was a tale known to older residents of the town, many of whom deliberately walked the opposite side of School Lane to avoid the area and its spectre.
Ken later related the incident to Paranormal Investigations, who undertook further research into the history of the area. They discovered an old narrow lane used to stand just north of where the incident took place. It was called Boggart Lane, so called as local legend spoke of it being haunted by the ghost of a headless woman.
Boggarts are mischievous spirits that haunt old country lanes and sometimes attack travellers, their name being derivative of the old English “bar-gheist” meaning “gate ghost.” And one of the popular Lancastrian folk tales concerning them is the boggart of Longridge who takes the form of a hooded woman, and then reveals to victims that the hood is disguising she has no head.
From Ken’s testimony, he clearly had no prior knowledge of Boggart Lane or its ghost which lends his story more credence.
The fact he thought the mysterious figure to be hooded is also intriguing given the area’s background, and the fact Leyland is not that far from Longridge. Was it simply a ghost? Or was the young apprentice the victim of a boggart? He can only be thankful at completing his night school course without being troubled by the figure a second time.

References: Strange Goings on in Lancashire by Stuart Leadbetter. Edited by Carol Anne Strange.
Barry McCann
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