The legend of Heswall’s Baffling Witch in White

There was a final salute of detonator blasts and whistles shrieked through the warm May air that Saturday in 1962 when the last steam goods train left West Kirby, bound for Hooton along the single track railway that ran parallel with the shores of the Dee.

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The passenger service along the condemned line – which had come into being in 1886 – had ceased five years before and now came the withdrawal of the line’s freight service for good.

The line had served numerous coal merchants, the Cadbury’s factory at Moreton and it had conveyed many parcels, and there had been mass protests from Wirral passengers but it all came to nothing and the line, branded “non-remunerative” by faceless bureaucrats, was closed down.

In 1967, there were proposals for the acquisition of the old West Kirby to Hooton track, and that track bed eventually became the Wirral Way.

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During the arduous uprooting of the dead line’s 30 miles of steel tracks and sleepers, some strange things – supernatural occurrences – were said to have been witnessed.

There was a rumour that the remains of a witch had been found; she had been buried face down with a stake through her back – which means she must have been a witch of some power – for only certain types of witches were buried with such gruesome ritualistic precautions after the hanging of the witch.

The son of one of the navvies who dug up the section of the railway track running parallel to Piper’s Lane, Heswall, was interviewed by myself on the radio some years ago, and he told of a terrifying incident related to him by his father, a religious man from Neston.

The man’s father had found human bones about four feet under the track, and it had been overcast and raining at the time. All of a sudden, there was a noise – it sounded like an explosion – and bones and rocks and a human skull burst from the ground and flew towards the workmen, who scattered in all directions.

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A femur bone repeatedly hit one worker repeatedly on his head and upper back as if something invisible was using it as a club.

And then the remains fell to the ground and many of the workers would not return to the excavated track until an Irish priest had solemnly blessed it.

At the site of this violent poltergeist attack, which is now part of the Wirral Circular Trail, there remains what can only be described as an atmosphere. Many cyclists traversing this part of the 37-miles-long trail have told me again and again how they sense the sudden change in atmosphere at the spot – and some have even encountered the witch.

In December 2021, a 19-year-old Heswall lad named David was cycling with his 62-year-old Uncle Richie, who hailed from West Kirby.

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Richie had been pestered into taking up cycling by his wife because he’d been a lifelong smoker who had only just quit cigarettes and was, by his own admission, a couch potato, utterly content to spend as many hours in front of the telly as possible.

He had come up with so many excuses not to go out today on this bleak December afternoon, but his nephew had badgered him into going.

Richie cycled almost two miles along the Wirral Circular Trail from David’s home until he told his nephew that he had a shooting pain in his right ankle.

By now it was already getting dark and as Richie said he thought they should turn around and go to David’s home, they both saw a light further down the dark track, where the bare gnarled branches of a tree were overhanging.

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Uncle and nephew then saw bolts of fizzing electricity shoot from the tree into the surrounding muddy ground – and then the figure of a woman in a long white dress appeared, and she had a head of thick white hair and looked about forty years of age.

The light show of electrical discharges and colourful coronas was mesmerising to David, but his uncle was scared stiff of the apparition.

The wind stirred up and howled around the woman in white and then she dashed towards David and Richie, and despite the latter’s claim to have an aching ankle, he rode off from the spot on his mountain bike like a bat out of hell, but David felt something knock him off his bike and felt the mild tingle of an electric shock, first in his feet and then his lower legs.

As the teenager lay stunned upon his back, the eerie woman stood over him and in an accent that seemed to have a trace of Welsh in it, she shouted: ‘By the spirits of the ancient woods and the blood of the earth, I cast upon thee a grievous curse – a curse upon thou and thy kind, perpetrators of ill against the daughters of nature!’

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David got up, took hold of the handlebars of his bike and ran alongside it. He could see the red rear light of his uncle’s bike further down the track, going into the distance.

David got on the bike but he felt hands dragging him back and he fell off the bicycle again.

The woman with the wild head of white hair was still ranting but now he couldn’t make out what she was saying, for it sounded as if she was speaking Welsh. The eyes of the lady had a fiery light in them.

David got up, picked up his bike and ran off with it until he was out of breath, and then he got on the bicycle and managed to ride off. He heard the woman – and she had struck him as being a witch – continuing her rant.

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When David caught up with his Uncle, he told him about the curse she had laid upon him and Richie apologised for cycling off but said the supernatural was the one thing that terrified him. Richie then seemed to use the terrifying encounter as an excuse to stop cycling each day.

Nothing bad happened to David, but he lived in mortal fear of the curse sending him to an early grave for weeks.

Richie’s wife said the so-called witch had been nothing more than someone who had dressed up to scare him and David, but that theory did not explain the bolts of electricity and the spectacular aura the two men saw around the woman.

Going back a little further in time to 2018, and again, this was in December, three women were walking along the Wirral Circular Path.

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This was a few days after Boxing Day and two of the women were attempting to burn off the calorific excesses of Christmas, and the third woman was walking her dog,

Zeus, a large Alsatian. As the women neared a tree that was overhanging the path, Zeus, who was usually a very quiet animal, started to bark furiously – at the tree.

All three women then saw the semi-transparent image of a woman in some white robe and long white hair, standing against the tree’s trunk with her hands covering her face.

She seemed to be crying, but as one of the women bravely asked the ghost what the matter was, it slowly vanished into thin air, although the Alsatian continued to bark at the tree.

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The lady in white remains an enigma; is she the ghost of the person who was buried face down with a stake through her midsection?

What did that unknown person do to be staked in such a horrific fashion? We may know more one day.

Author: Tom Slemen, who is a Liverpool writer, known foremostly as the author of the best-selling Haunted Liverpool series of books which document paranormal incidents and unsolved or unusual crimes. Check his Books on Amazon here.

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Tom Slemen

Tom Slemen is a Liverpool writer, known foremostly as the author of the best-selling Haunted Liverpool series of books which document paranormal incidents and unsolved or unusual crimes. Check his Books on Amazon here.

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