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Spreyton’s Ghosts

Spreyton's Ghosts

Although not officially in the Dartmoor Park the small village of Spreyton lies about 2 miles north of the moor. Back in the sixteen hundreds a series of ghostly events took place in the cold days of November.  One morning a young servant lad called Francis Fey was working in a field close to his masters house. Suddenly the figure of an old man appeared who very much resembled the deceased father of the lad’s master. The spectre was even carry a long staff as was the want of the departed man, when he was alive the old master carried a staff for the purpose of dispatching moles. A cold chill ran down Fey’s back as the ghostly apparition slowly approached. The old man told the boy not to be afraid as he meant him no harm. He explained that there were several legacies which he had noted in his will which had not been paid and that he wanted the lad to ensure his wishes were carried out. The ghost then named two people to which ten shillings had been bequeathed and as yet were outstanding. Fey replied that one of the men mention had himself recently died and therefore it would be impossible to pay him the money. The old man insisted that he was aware of the fact and that the money should be paid to the next living relative. He then told the lad that there was also a sum of twenty shillings due to his sister who was living at Totnes and that sum must also be settled. The grisly apparition then promised that as long as  these wishes were carried out the lad would come to no harm, if they weren’t obeyed then the ghoul vowed that the ghost of his evil wife would also come to haunt him. With that the spirit slowly vanished leaving the poor lad shaking and shivering.

That afternoon Fey took the two ten shilling legacies to the names mentioned in the will and then set off towards Totnes to settle the twenty shilling debt. When he explained to the woman why he had come she utterly refused to accept the money because in her words “the money had been sent by the Devil himself.” Frey was utterly dismayed, he had travelled over thirty miles and now he could not fulfil his promise. By this time it was early evening and the night was drawing in, luckily the woman had offered him a bed for the night which meant he didn’t have to travel back in the dark. No sooner had he gone to his room than the ghost of the old man appeared. Naturally Frey was somewhat alarmed and explained that as far as he was concerned he had kept his side of the bargain. Afterall it was hardly his fault that the woman wouldn’t except the money. The ghost was not convinced and ordered the lad to ride into town the following morning an buy a ring to the value of twenty shillings. This he assured Frey the woman would accept and that his promise would then be fulfilled. So the next morning the lad did as he had been ordered and purchased a ring which much to his relief the woman gladly excepted.

Having completed his mission Frey journeyed back to Spreyton safe in the knowledge that he would now be left in peace. However, no sooner had he entered the parish of Spreyton than he sensed another presence sat behind him on his horse. He looked down to see a pair of thin ghostly arms wrapped around his waist and could feel an icy breath panting down his back. On approaching his masters house Frey felt a sharp tug and found himself being thrown off his horse. As the lad hit the ground he saw the horse speeding off into the yard and then in pure fright leaping the twenty foot high courtyard wall. Fortunately Francis only suffered a few cuts and grazes and according to some villagers who witness the event, was very lucky to escape with his life.

Shortly after this the ghost of a woman appeared before Frey and other members of the household. This apparition was far more frightening than the old man for she would either appear and stalk along the passages of the house or more terrifyingly she would materialise and then change into a dog who belched fire or a large white horse. On one occasion, having turned into the horse, the ghost leapt clean through a closed window smashing a pane of glass and part of the iron lattice. Francis Frey was under no illusions as to who this ghost was, she was the spirit of the old masters evil wife. What he couldn’t understand was why the old master had broken his promise. But things got worse for the lad, one day when he was in his bedroom a pair of unseen hands grabbed his head and violently rammed into between the heavy iron bedstead and the wall. So viciously had he been forced into the gap that it took several people to release him. When they finally got him out it was clear that a doctor would be needed and so the local surgeon was sent for. After examining his patient the doctor decided that the lad would need bleeding and so ligatures were placed around Frey’s arm. No sooner had they been secured than they were ripped off and slung around his waist, then they were drawn so tight that the lad could hardly breath. In the end the doctor had to cut the ligatures with a knife as no moral hands could free them.

A few days later Frey was talking to a young maid when he felt a strange tugging at his shoe. He looked down and saw that his lace was being mysteriously unthreaded and then once free was slung across the room. Then the other shoe lace slowly unwound itself and started to crawl across the room to join it’s partner. The maid stooped down to pick it up and as she did so the lace coiled tightly around her wrist like a snake, again this had to be cut off with a knife.

The next day Frey was walking through the kitchen when much to his embarrassment all the clothes were forcibly ripped off his body leaving him standing in all his glory infront of the giggling maids. Their mirth soon vanished as a huge barrel of salt lifted itself off the floor and floated out of the room.

On Easter night the hapless Frey was returning from town when an unseen force grabbed him by the scruff of the neck and hoisted him kicking and screaming into the air.

A few hours later his master had become concerned as to why he had not returned and so he ordered a search to be carried out. The house and grounds were scoured but there was no sign of the lad and so the neighbouring fields and commons were searched. Eventually Frey was found waste deep in a mire, by all accounts he was just stood trance-like singing and whistling to himself. It took a great deal of effort to extract him from the vacuous depths of the bog but finally he was extricated and taken back to the house. On returning the party mysteriously found one of his shoes laid on the front doorstep, the other on the back step and his wig hanging high up in a tree. Again the doctor was called out and pronounced that he was suffering from extreme hypothermia caused by spending so long in the freezing bog. Despite spending a couple of days in bed his condition never improved and so Frey was moved to Crediton where he was to be bled. This time the blood letting went without ghostly interference and he was left to recover. A few hours later his fellows returned to see how he was only to discover the poor lad lying on the bed with a deep cut and bruising to his forehead. Frey explained how a big black bird with a stone in its beak had flown in through the window and beat him senseless. A search of the room was conducted but no stone was found, just a large brass weight lying beside his bed.

These accounts came from a letter sent by a “Person of Quality’ dated the 11th of May 1683 to a Gentleman in London. Later theories suggest that the hauntings were the result of a poltergeist attributed to the “mischievous and idle youth,” called Francis Frey. Now, would this story not be an excellent storyline for a film? 


About Tim Sandles

Tim Sandles is the founder of Legendary Dartmoor

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