Wycoller Hall or Wyecoller Hall is said to be the scene for the regular twilight re-enactment of a real life tragedy. Every Christmas a headless cavalier known as the spectral headless horseman of Wyecoller Hall in seventeenth-century costume gallops wildly up the road to the hall.
He dismounts and enters, making his way with echoing footfall up the stairs. Fearful screams are heard, the tragedy is re-enacted and the horseman reappears to gallop frantically away over hill and dale as if the devil were at his heels.
It is believed to be a re-enactment of a murder which took place at the hall during the 17th century, when a Cunliffe killed his wife, but not before she correctly prophesied the downfall of the family. The horseman ghost is usually identified as Simon Cunliffe.
This ruined mansion was the seat of the Cunliffes de Billington, a family which became extinct in 1819, in fulfillment of a curse laid upon it by the murdered wife of one of its members. There are several version why the horseman killed his wife.
Those ‘in the know’ tell of how the master of the Hall (known as Cunliffe) returned home in a rage one evening having heard that his wife was having an affair with another man.
Showing no mercy, he murdered her and fled from the scene on horseback. Apparently, during ghostly re-enactments, bloodcurdling screams can be heard echoing around the village, there is a crack of a whip and the sound of a horse galloping off into the hillside – some have even seen the ghostly spectre.
The following account of one of the halls ghost stories was published in 1873 in John Harland & T T Wilkinson’s ‘Lancashire Legends’.
‘Wyecoller Hall, near Colne, was long the seat of the Cunlififes of Billington. They were noted persons in their day, and the names of successive members of the family are attached to documents relating to the property of the Abbots of Whalley.
But evil days came, and their ancestral estates passed out of their hands. In the days of the Commonwealth, their loyalty cost them dear; and ultimately they retired to Wyecoller with a remnant only of their once extensive estates. About 1819 the last of the family passed away, and the Hall is now a mass of ruins.
Little but the antique fireplace remains entire; and even the room alluded to in the following legend cannot now be identified. Tradition says that once every year a spectre horseman visits Wyecoller Hall.
He is attired in the costume of the early Stuart period, and the trappings of his horse are of a most uncouth description. On the evening of his visit the weather is always wild and tempestuous. There is no moon to light the lonely roads, and the residents of the district do not venture out of their cottages.
When the wind howls the loudest the horseman can be heard dashing up the road at full speed, and after crossing the narrow bridge, he suddenly stops at the door of the hall. The rider then dismounts and makes his way up the broad oaken stairs into one of the rooms of the house.
Dreadful screams, as from a woman, are then heard, which soon subside into groans. The horseman then makes his appearance at the door — at once mounts his steed — and gallops off the road he came.
His body can be seen through by those who may chance to be present; his horse appears to be wild with rage, and its nostrils stream with fire.
The tradition is that one of the Cunliffes murdered his wife in that room, and that the spectre horseman is the ghost of the murderer, who is doomed to pay an annual visit to the home of his victim. She is said to have predicted the extinction of the family, which has literally been fulfilled.
In another version, the death of his wife concerns a fox hunt. The fox fled into the Hall, up the stairs followed by the mounted Simon Cunliffe and his pack of hounds.
His wife was terrified with the situation she suddenly found herself in and started to scream and protest. Seeing his wife acting in, as far as he was concerned a cowardly fashion, angered Cunliffe and he raised his riding crop in preparation to strike her. This was the final straw and his wife suddenly died of fright.
The ghost of Lady Cunliffe is also thought to have been seen, described as wearing a black silk dress. She was apparently seen several times and is said to have foretold the fall of the Cunliffe family and she has not been seen since they left Wycoller Hall.
Source: Lancashire Magic & Mystery: Secrets of the Red Rose County By Kenneth Fields page 38
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