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Heswall Myths & Legends by Gavin Chappell
Heswall’s Buggens If local tradition is to be believed, ghosts were a common sight in many parts of Heswall, and these legends were either exploited or even concocted by smugglers to cover their unlawful operations. When there was to be a landing of contraband on Heswall Shore, it was said that “the ghost walks tonight,” the idea being that those who were not in the know would be frightened off. Other supposedly haunted areas included Barnston Common, (now Whitfield Common and its vicinity), where a headless dog was supposed to roam; the Beacons, which was haunted by a large black hound; the Dales, which was home to a green ghost; Cottage Lane and Well Lane, where the Devil drove his black hearse at night; and the Bloody Gutter on Heswall Shore, where the ghosts of two mariners, who had fought each other to the death over smuggled goods, haunted a path leading to the shore from Broad Lane where the Dungeon Brook reaches the beach. There are also traditions of smugglers’ ghosts in the gullies that run up the side of Thurstaston Common. Whitfield Common, the Beacons and the Dales remain wild, largely unspoilt areas in a sea of later development. In the eighteenth and early nineteenth century they were only part of the five hundred or more acres of heath that was Heswall Common, perfect country for smugglers to congregate and to store their goods before transporting them on to the purchaser. These were superstitious times. The stories of ghosts were no doubt told and retold in the inns and alehouses of the area, expanded and elaborated upon until the more fearful villager would never dare go near these locations after dark: even if anyone happened to pass that way when smugglers were abroad, sightings could easily be explained away as ghosts.