Nut Nans, Boggarts,Screaming Skulls and the Winnick Giants.

From Jenny Greenteeth, a terrifying fairy who supposedly drowned children, to Nut Nan, a red hot poker-wielding, pipe-smoking sprite who attacked kids who stole nuts from her tree, to Screaming Skulls and The Winnick Giants.

The Screaming Skull of Wardley Hall

In an ordinary NW community lies the small town of Wardley, sat between Swinton and Walkden if you blinked you would miss it, but it does have one infamous resident known as the screaming skull. This area is one I know well, the house containing the skull sits directly across from my family home. We grew up hearing stories of the wailing skull and how mishaps would happen if it was moved. We even had a few late night sneaks into the property as older kids but that usually ended in fright after four or five steps in. There are local reports of lights in the woodland that runs along side this house, wood knocks and quick running figures and one local burglar went straight after he was tripped as he was trying to enter the premises by something unseen.

The local story says the skull belonged to Father Ambrose Barlow, who was hung, drawn and quartered in 1641; his head was then put on display for all to see in Manchester before being entombed in the house of the Arch bishop of Salford. The skull was lost in history for a while and then rediscovered in the 18th century by the owner of the house. 

One day a servant found the skull and threw the grisly relic into the moat, whereupon there was a terrible storm that led the owner of the hall to believe the skull was venting its wrath at being removed. He had the moat drained and the skull was returned to its position. From traditional stories the skull seems to be indestructible as it has been buried, burned and smashed into pieces, always to be found outside the hall the next day, wearing its eternal grin.

Jenny Greenteeth

Jenny Greenteeth's are swamp dwelling water-loving fairy's who 'lurked at the bottom of watery pits, and with their long sinewy arms they dragged in and drowned local children when venturing too near'. Jenny also hunted after children who did not brush their teeth. She was reported living in Gorton, Droylsden and Stockport, where she sat in the trees and moaned, and in Manchester where she lived in a culvert under the aqueduct which carries the Manchester and Ashton-under-Lyne Canal over Store Street, near the London Road Station'."

Nut Nan

Another Gorton bogey was the Nut Nan, an old tree fairy who smoked a pipe and who lived in the hazel groves, where nut-bearing trees were a precious local commodity frequently raided by children. Woe betide any young Mancunian who went to pick the nuts, particularly before they were ripe to eat. The Gorton Nut Nan carried around a permanently hot poker and would burn any boy or girl foolish enough to take her nuts. There were several Manchester 'Nut Nans' in the 19th Century including a headless lady who lived in Boggart Hole Clough and who despite having no head, screeched, terrifying the local children."

South Clock House Boggart

Droylsden has a dozen different boggarts, the word can be used for any scary or supernatural being. One of the most interesting was the boggart of South Clock House. Covered in ghostly white clothes, he used to have the run of the property, ripping bed clothes off sleepers and terrifying anyone who woke up by swelling to an enormous size in candle-lit rooms. 

Neighbours also complained that the boggart used to perch in a high branch on a nearby yew tree terrifying passers-by. In the end matters in the neighbourhood got so bad a series of vicars and priests were called together to do supernatural battle with the poor boggart. They managed, using arcane ceremonies, to trap the boggart beneath that very yew where he had sat. The Boggart at Boggart Hole Clough chased entire families from their homes. With a recent case of stones being thrown by unseen forces in the clough itself.

Haunted House at Church Street, Lees

The most haunted road in the village of Lees was Church Street, formerly known by the suggestive name of Sorcery Lane. It was a short street but had two different and terrifying spirits. One of the old dwellings acquired the name of 'Boggart House', in consequence of it being haunted by a hobgoblin which had the appearance of a calf, some said with a cap on its head, and others a frill round its neck.’ A woman meanwhile, in the same street, had murdered two children in her cellar and the restless ghosts of these poor children flitted up and down the road for all to view."

The Screaming Skull called Dickey.

Dickey was the skull of a murdered man or woman depending on who you ask, that lives just over the border in a Derbyshire house and whenever Dickey's skull was moved from his home, Dickey would become furious and poltergeist activity would begin. Dickey became so angry at the building of a railway, that, so it was claimed, he repeatedly brought down the embankment to stop the modern world ruining his peace with steam whistles.

The Winnick Giant Skeletons.

St Oswald’s Church is a Grade I listed building dating from 1330. The building is thought to be on the site of an earlier church and there is a tradition that prior to this a pagan temple occupied the site. Three giant skeletons were discovered under the Chancel in 1828 which was thought to support this theory. Lee Hughes was very helpful with some local knowledge for me on the church. "In the early 1800's the church was extended and an ancient burial mound was disturbed, within the mound they discovered three 8 foot giant skeletons. This isnt a local myth or legend, it's a factually recorded account. I seem to remember reading that the skeletons were taken to be studied, possibly to Liverpool. But when I search for them, there was no explanation of what may have happened to the skeletons. There are numerous ancient burial sites and ancient wells in the area, in fact many of them run in lines across most of the NW. There is also an ancient holy well in the grounds of St Oswalds.

Someone who may have taken great interest in the Giant skeleton's is another of our local legends Auld Kanky, You'll have heard of Burke and Hare the Edinburgh grave-robbers turned murderers, but were you aware of Greater Manchester's very own 'resurrection-man?' In Middleton there is a passageway called “Kanky’s Ginnel” that runs from the River Irk to the churchyard at St Leonard’s. According to local legend it was used by a local grave-robber named Kanky to transport bodies down to the river and onwards into Manchester to sell.

It is unclear whether Kanky actually existed as no one has ever been able to find anything other than word of mouth evidence of his dark doings. According to some, Kanky, would watch as grieving relatives buried their dead and and even joined them at the wake, then by cover of darkness would dig up the body, rob any valuables and sell the body to the highest bidder.

The Haunting of Kersal Cell. 

One place I know well is Kersal, from the weird hairy creature reports that follow the Irwell's Route, to the ghostly sightings of monks at the Kersal cell. My own father had an experience with an apparition on the moor many moons ago when he was in his twenties. He worked as a steeple jack on the cooling towers at Agecroft pit. He said one night walking home he saw a woman holding her skirts running fast who vanished as he walked across Kersal moor.  One old gent said he saw the ghost of a grey lady on the moor on many occasions. One of the most haunted areas is the old priory called the Kersal Cell. One policeman had an unforgettable encounter here back in 1958. It was the regular job for the night dog patrolman to visit the premises each night after midnight.

As you may know the path in from Littleton Road close to the Irwell was made from some kind of cinder or gravel path. The PC had checked the premises and was just leaving the hall and walking back towards Littleton Road playing fields. Not wanting to give away his presence the officer never walked on the noisy path but kept to the side grass to keep as quite as possible. He heard footsteps on the gravel behind him and when he stopped and looked round there was nobody there. He continued walking and the footsteps started again. His dog was a big, well trained Alsatian and it stopped at the side of him and the officer felt it go rigid and all it’s hairs seemed to stiffen. The footsteps continued to approach and the dog let out a howl and ran off at top speed to Littleton Road. The officer stood still and the footsteps continued and clearly passed him a few feet away and continued towards Littleton Road. He found the dog later and apparently it took him some time to calm it down, and apparently himself.