Middleland folklore – The Croglin Vampire and Billy Green Teeth

Greetings Connoisseurs of Chaos,

I hope you’ve had a great week and are looking forward to a zarjaz weekend. A special welcome to new subscribers. It’s cool that people are signing up to the ‘Writing in Starlight’ blog from as far afield as the US, Canada, Australia and the good old UK. With such a diverse mix I’m curious to know – what creepy folk tales exist in your neck of the woods?

Is there a terrifying beast that walks the waterfront of New Brunswick? Or a changeling that haunts the suburbs of Toronto? Folk tales are a rich source of inspiration for the likes of me and I’m sure there are some out there I’ve never heard before.

Where I live, up here in Middleland, Cumbria, we have a number of local tales to keep us awake at night. One which piqued my interest as a youngster was the legend of the Croglin Vampire.

Croglin is a small village not far from Hartside Pass, which is a great cycle route up into the Pennines. From the top you can see right across to the Lake District and the Solway, and buy the most humungous, delicious cakes and pastries at the cafe there – fuel for the round trip to Alston and back to Brampton.

Anyhow, I’ve oft times passed through Croglin on the reverse route – always in the daylight. Unconsciously, I find my pedal rate increasing, just to put some distance between me and this quaint but spooky locale.

The story goes that a couple of brothers by the surname Cranswell rented Croglin Grangeand settled in the house with their sister. One night the sister thought she saw two baleful lights in the graveyard at the foot of the Grange’s garden. She closed the window and then took to bed, hoping the thing was a figment of her imagination.

The following is an extract of the ensuing tale, taken from the excellent website, Mysterious Britain and Ireland.

‘After a short while she (Ms Cranswell) checked herself for her foolish superstition and slowly drifted to slumber. On the verge of sleep she was suddenly jolted awake by a low rustling from outside the window. She twisted in bed and sat bolt upright, outside the window burning like coals in the night were two points of light, which she now recognised as the demon eyes of some humanoid creature who was grasping at the window pane. She tried to scream but terror froze the sound in her throat.

The sound of rustling gave way to picking and she realised that the creatures brutish hands were unpicking the lead from the triangular panes. First one, then another of the small glass panels gave way and fell to the floor. A grey cadaver like hand reached in and pulled the latch. The window swung inwards in one slow motion and the figure climbed through the gap with a cat like ease. Miss Cranswell could now hardly breathe let alone scream for before her stood the towering figure of a man, pale, almost translucent with bright burning eyes and blood red lips. He stepped to the bed and in one movement grasped her hair with gnarled hands, and pulled her head back as if to deliver a kiss.

The brothers, sleeping in separate rooms were aroused by a loud high pitched scream that seemed to shake the very walls of the Grange. In a moment they were before their sisters door. The door was locked so they smashed through with a poker, eventually breaking through into a devastating scene. There was a stench of mouldy decay in the air and upon the bed lay their sister, blood pumping from arterial gashes in her neck. One of the brothers rushed to the open window and just caught sight of a shadow flitting across the bottom of the lawn near the churchyard. They managed to stop the blood flow and revive Miss Cranswell, the next few hours were spent in the attempt to save her life…’

Now that’s a tale to make you bar the windows at night and put a blunderbuss next to your bedchamber. All the more frightening as it’s so close to home. It’s bad enough that Dracula visited Whitby, a short hop away in Yorkshire, but to have a vampire legend only ten miles distant – that’s far too close for comfort!

Not as close, however, as Billy Green Teeth.

Now the only person to have ever told me about this entity is my Dad. Goodness knows where he got the idea from, but he introduced us to the character when we were primary age

The creature inhabited places like cellars and outhouses of old properties, waiting for the unwary to enter his domain. We were never told what he did to his victims, but the implications were very clear – don’t look in any dark closets or musty attics unless you are prepared to face this monster!

I can’t remember if my Dad drew Billy Green Teeth, or whether his description is was so vivid that it stuck in my mind, but the image etched in my memory is of an old, shaggy-haired man, with white hair, spindly limbs and a gigantic mouth filled with rotten, sickly-green gnashers.

This was hardly the incentive I needed when I was given the job of hauling in coal and coke for our two fires – often at night, in the howling wind and rain (we lived in the country.) I would have to open the coal-house door, hold it against the wind and shovel the black fuel into the scuttle. I dreaded each journey. The worst part was opening the door in the pitch black and shining the torch into the ceiling. Every time, I would expect to see this malevolent being, crouching in the rafters like a spider, ready to drop down and devour me.

I did a quick trawl of the internet and found some info. on a very similar creature:
Jenny Greenteeth is apparently a river hag, similar to Peg Powler or a Grindylow. The legend describes her pulling children or the elderly into the water and drowning them. She was often described as green-skinned, with long hair, and sharp teeth. She is called Jinny Greenteeth in Lancashire, but in Cheshire and Shropshire, Ginny Greenteeth, Jeannie Greenteeth, Wicked Jenny, or Peg o’ Nell are more common.

Could it be that my Dad had heard this folk tale and embellished it? I guess this is how legends and folk tales get morphed over time and across cultures.

So, how about telling me of your favourite/most fearful folk legends? Post your comments at the foot of this article or drop them in a comment on my facebook page. Who knows? One may end up in a story I write one day.




  1. Julie says:

    Love the new website!

    The Vampire of Croglin Grange was one of my favourite stories as a child. It scared the hell out of me and it was only fairly recently that I realised Croglin was a real place. Haven’t made it to the village on my two trips to Cumbria, but who knows – I’m there again next year and though I haven’t read the story for decades I think I, too, would be passing through the place at speed…

  2. Tim Adams says:

    I recall our Granny Atkinson, who passed away when you were nobbut 9 years old, threatening me with a visitation by Billy Greenteeth if I transgressed any of the hidden boundaries of acceptable Yorkshire behaviour. Billy Greenteeth was said to live in the coal cellar, down a flight of musty stairs behind a door in the living room at 101 Barnsley Road.

    But he was obviously unburdened by mere geographical shackles. And because of that, I was more than happy to pass over the late-night Boothby coke-scuttle duties to you in September 1973.

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