Alnwick, Northumberland, is haunted by the dark legend of a vengeful vampire whose reign of terror was ended by two brothers. ROB KIRKUP, of How Haunted Podcast, tells us about it
Alnwick, in Northumberland, is a town steeped in history with the impressive 11th century castle, narrow, mediaeval back streets, the cobbled roads, and the huge 15th century tower gate which gives entrance to the main street.
Despite the idyllic setting in the tranquil of the Northumbrian countryside, Alnwick isn’t without its own dark legend, for Alnwick once was home to its very own vampire.
This ‘tale’ was first recorded by William of Newburgh Priory in the 12th century, in his Historia Rerum Anglicarum, a chronicle of English history from 1066 until 1098, the year of his death. This work actually predates the existence of the word ‘vampire’ by over 500 years, instead the creature being referred to by the Latin word ‘sanguisua’ meaning ‘bloodsucker’.
The terror of the Alnwick vampire
Legend has it that a Yorkshire man, who had lived a dishonest life and wishing to distance himself from both his enemies and the law, headed north and found himself in Alnwick, where he secured himself a job serving the lord of the castle.
He suspected his wife, a local girl, of having an affair. So, he laid a trap to find out if it was true. He told her that he was going on a journey which would take him away for several days, but returned to the castle after dark, and hid on a beam in the chamber he shared with his wife, overlooking their marriage bed.
He was horrified to see a young man from the town climb into bed alongside her. Seeing his wife in the throes of passion with another man, caused him to lose concentration and he fell from the beam, landing heavily on the ground next to where they were lay.
The man fled, but his wife helped her husband to his feet, acting as nothing had happened. When he came to, he demanded her to explain her adultery. However, she retorted “Explain yourself, my lord” and told him that he was talking nonsense, which was attributed to a sickness that had caused him to act so irrationally, accuse her of something that he’d simply imagined, and ultimately fall.
He called for the local priest, demanding her husband confess his sins and receive the Christian Eucharist, so he would no longer have such wicked thoughts. He refused.
Shaken by the fall, he retired to bed to rest so he could deal with the situation the following day. However, for him the following day would never come as he died that very night.
He was laid to rest with a Christian burial.
But he was far from at rest, as in the nights that followed he was actually seen walking around the town causing a foul stench wherever we went. He would attack anyone who should have the misfortune to cross his path, and dogs throughout the town would howl all night long.
Livestock would be found dead nightly, appearing to have been ripped apart by some kind of beast.
In the weeks that followed every house in Alnwick was filled with disease and death, as a plague spread through the town, and there was no doubt as to the cause, it was the man rising from his grave every night.
Before long the town of Alnwick, which had once been heavily populated, was almost like a ghost town as most who had escaped death had gathered their belongings and fled to another part of the country.
Brothers decide to rid Alnwick of its vampire
On the first Palm Sunday following the death of the man, and the reign of terror that had followed, two brothers who had lost their father to the plague decided to rid Alnwick of this monster once and for all. Knowing the priest was busy hosting a feast; they headed to the cemetery, each clutching a spade, and found the grave of the dead man.
They discovered the soil had recently been disturbed and it didn’t take them long to find the coffin. Opening the lid, the man didn’t look like he had been there for months, he hadn’t even begun to decay, and he had blood all around his mouth. One of the brothers struck the body with his spade with great force, and as the blade pierced his flesh, blood spurted out in all directions.
The brother’s lifted the carcass from the grave and dragged it outside of the town boundary, where they constructed a funeral pyre, to burn this monster once and for all. One of the brothers claimed that the body would not burn if the heart wasn’t removed.
They both started striking the body repeatedly with savage blows from their spades, and one reached inside the mangled body and pulled out the heart, throwing it into the fire, this was followed by the body that crackled and hissed as the flame consumed it.
By now some of the villagers had arrived and were horrified by what greeted them. The brothers calmed the crowd, explaining that this is the only way to rid the town of the curse that had beset it.
It appeared the brothers were right, as from that day as the nightly horrors stopped, the stench that had hung over the town faded, and life returned to normal.
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Rob Kirkup is a ghost hunter, author and podcaster from the north-east of England. His most recent titles include Illustrated Tales of Northumberland and Paranormal Northumberland. His popular weekly podcast “How Haunted?” is available at all of the usual places and he has a big Halloween spooktacular lined up. Check him out at www.how-haunted.com