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A Spirit in a Bottle: Inspiration for Murder Under Moonlight

Photo by Manuel Meurisse on Unsplash

I love finding inspiration from local legends. The seeds were set for my upcoming novel, Murder Under Moonlight, when I read about one of Shropshire's legendary ghosts, Madam Pigott. 

From the book, Shropshire Folk Tales 

by Amy Douglas


A story for all ages...

I was in a primary school in Newport, sharing folklore and history of the area.

When I mentioned Madam Pigott, the class exploded in uproar.

'There's an empty house people say she haunts, nobody likes to go there after dark,' said one.

'My brother dared his mate to tap at the window and he did, and the door opened and they ran away,' another interjected.

At lunchtime, the teachers began to swap tales they had heard of Madam Pigott: how the lane along Cheney Hill is still haunted by her and everyone knows it as an accident blackspot.

In the beginning...

People say it all started with Squire Pigott. 

He was not the type to enjoy being a country squire and spent most of his time in London. But, he needed a wife; a well-bred girl to manage Chetwynd Hall and to bear him an heir. 

Bride found, as far as he was concerned, the marriage was a business arrangement. But sadly for his wife, she fell in love with him. 

Once pregnant, the squire visited her less and less as she pined and grew sickly. 

When it all went wrong...

With the birth of his heir imminent, the squire returned. He paced up and down outside the chamber until the door opened and the doctor emerged. He shook his head.

'There is a chance I might save one or the other, but I cannot save them both.'

'One must lop the root to save the branch,' was the squire's reply. Madam Pigott heard her husband. He did not ask to see her.

Neither mother nor child survived.

A local haunting...

For the next three nights Squire Pigott was woken by the sound of sobbing and a baby crying. He was drawn to the window. On the moonlit lawn was the form of his wife clutching her baby close. 

Squire Pigott went to London and finally moved abroad. Chetwynd Hall was sold. But Madam Pigott stayed.

Her spirit walked through the grounds of the house and along the dark, high-banked lane that went up Cheney Hill. She would sit near the top of the hill and rock back and forth on the twisted roots of an old tree. 

If a rider were to come past, she would jump up in the saddle behind him and clasp her hands around his waist, trying to pull him down.

To the rescue...

At last, twelve churchmen assembled to lay the ghost to rest by reading psalms, but Madam Pigott's spirit was strong. The sweat beaded on their foreheads. One by one, the voices of the clergymen petered into silence.

One lone voice continued. The curate gradually mastered the spirit as it lashed against him. She shrank smaller and smaller, until there was just a glowing ball of mist the size of a mouse which the curate scooped up into a bottle. 

The bottle was thrown into Chetwynd Pool.

Not the end yet...

The townspeople had an interlude of peace until one hard winter a skater broke the ice on the pool and cracked the bottle. 

Once freed, Madam Pigott was more active than ever. The light of her presence was seen each night on top of Cheney Hill, and few were brave enough to venture out after dark. 

Once again, clergymen assembled. As the twelve voices combined in the Lord's Prayer, the spirit shrank and was pulled down into the mouth of the bottle.

Where is she now?

No one knows quite what happened to the bottle. Some say it was thrown in the Red Sea, others that it was buried deep in Newport Cemetary. 

But maybe it has been broken again: it seems her spirit refuses to be trapped, for to this day, stories abound of her bitterness and thirst for vengeance. 



Get my book, Murder Under Moonlight, here. 

About the author

Delphine Woods

Delphine Woods

Delphine Woods is an author who loves to write historical mysteries and thrillers. 

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