On the western edge of Dartmoor was a small remote meadow which had a huge fairy ring at its centre inside which grew the greenest, lushest grass ever seen. The old folks of the parish tell a tale that on some nights a jet black hen and her chicks could be seen, usually about the time when the mantle of the night drew close over Dartmoor. Nobody knew where they came from or where they went or for what unearthly reason they appeared. Some that got close enough avowed that the hen had fierce blood red eyes and a long snake-like tongue. Others said that in the fairy ring the hen would peck out the grass and dine on worms the size of ‘longcripples’ (adders).
At the same time, the vicar of the parish was known to have an unhealthy interest in the black arts, it was said his library were full of dusty tomes covering every aspect of witchcraft, sorcery, and then occult. Needless to say, rumours of his nightly activities were rife and to say that his parishioners were slightly wary of him would be an understatement.
One Sunday whilst the vicar was at church one of his servants happened into his study and noticed a large, leather-bound book laid open on his desk. Clearly it was an ancient book and curiosity nearly killed the cat. The servant went over to the desk and slowly but deliberately started to read aloud the words. The more he read the darker the room got until it was hard to see the words, on looking out of the window the servant saw the sunny summer sky had turned to a sullen, black, cloudless pall. The wind began blowing off the moors and soon had whipped itself up to a violent storm which shook the very foundations of the house. Suddenly the study door flew open and a black hen and her chicks walked into the room. The servant at once knew this was the very black hen that was sometimes seen in the fairy ring. One would have thought things couldn’t get any worse what with the house shaking and the hen and her brood strutting ominously around the room, but they did. Before his very eyes the servant saw the hen and chicks slowly growing in size until the hen became as large as a bullock.
Meanwhile, over at the church the vicar was in full flow in his pulpit when he suddenly stopped his preaching and looked to the window. Without a word he closed his bible and slowly but purposely descended from his perch and strode towards the main door which he quickly opened and slammed behind him. On entering his study he was first greeted by the sight of an enormous hen whose head was touching the sealing, her chicks were the size of cart horses and there in the far corner he saw his petrified servant gibbering and wailing and praying to God for deliverance. The vicar walked over to a huge sack which was placed in the corner a took a handful of rice from it. This he scattered on the floor thus having the effect of distracting the hen and her chicks. As they eagerly pecked up the small grains the vicar was able to get to his desk and his book of ancient spells where reading from its pages he reversed the spell that the servant had inadvertently cast.