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Myths and Oddities of Dorset

What do you do when you accidentally dig up a cadaver that, by some divine sin, hasn’t decomposed and has a rosy, somewhat jovial complexion?

You assert that it is, of course, a vampire and deal with it in traditional manner, as the proper doctrine of dealing with surprisingly healthy cadavers dictates! It was not the first time that poor William Doggett, vampire or not, disturbed in the midst of his eternal slumber and hastily staked and burned to make sure he does, in fact, stay dead, was likened to some kind of spiritual entity of the night.

He is Dorset’s very own Vampyr, Nosferatu, archfiend rascal and malignant spirit! Lacking a cape, he sported knee breeches with a fastened yellow ribbon – and is known to appear in both ghost, and material form. There are many characters of myth and legend in Dorset. From the giant Mer-Chicken of Portland to the Shapwick monster (literally just a crab that a fisherman accidentally left behind in a village), Dorset has her fair share of myths and oddities, we’ve prepared a few for you below!

The Mer-Chicken

Half chicken, half salacious bearded manwoman with legs ‘halfe a yard long’. The Mer-Chicken, giant poultry – possibly the imaginings of hungry, lonely sailors, is said by Raphael Holnshed, chronicler of England, Scotland, and Ireland to have risen from the seas of Portland, ‘Hauin a great crest vpon his head, and a great red beard, and legs halfe a yard long.’ The creature is said to have stood ON the water, crowed four times and then beckoned like a pheasant frantically bobbing its head at each point of the compass before retreating back into the sea. This story was met with skepticism. We cant imagine why.

Next time you’re crossing the road that borders the sea from Weymouth to Portland, you keep an eye out.

Location: Portland Coastline, Dorset

The Shapwick Monster (a crab)

In 1705 in the Parish of Shapwick a live crab being transported by a fishmonger from Poole to Bere Regis fell off of the cart and was found not far from East Farm. The villagers, upon finding the creature, and not having seen anything like it before deduced it was, in fact, Satan incarnate, and with the guidance of the village elder armed themselves with pitchforks to drive the beast away. Eventually the fishmonger realised he had lost a crab and returned to the village to find everything in a state of commotion. With great amusement he picked up the crustacean-satan and casually popped it back in his basket. From then on the word was spread that the villagers of Shapwick were a bit dim-witted.

Location: Shapwick, Dorset or your local Sainsburys.

The Moigne Down UFO

On a dark October night in 1967 two policemen in Dorset chased a huge, illuminate object that flew through the skies in the resemblance of a cross, they said that UFO was made ‘of a translucent material’ with shadows spread along the bottoms of the fuselages and center chamber. This encounter was itself the beginning of a huge range of sightings in the area, an event that would later be compared to the 1561 ‘celestial Nuremberg battle’. The official statement was that the initial sighting was just a ‘floater’ – those floaty things you see in the corner of your vision every now and then. When Brooks went to his optician who decidedly declared that such an idea was poppycock The London official, in quick riposte, stated that the floater and the recent UFO publicity simply triggered a ‘dream state’ while Brooks was asleep.

You were just dreaming, essentially.

Location: Moigne Downs, near Holworth

You might be familiar with the famous chalk visage lying on the a hill in Cerne Abbas, the giant measures a whopping 180 feet high, and carries a huge knobbled club, which measures 120 feet in length. Theories regarding the giant vary, from views that he is a representation of Hercules, to a prank on an Abbott by the name of Thomas Corton. Local folklore suggests that the figure is actually a representation of a great Danish giant leader, who raided the English coast before falling asleep on the hill. Local villagers immediately went to action and cut off his head, drawing a line in chalk to present where he was finally defeated. Legend has it that some nights he rises from the dead to quench his thirst in the local stream. Not in blood – just water. Quite a peaceful viking giant ghost.

Location: Cerne Abbas

William Doggett – The Ghost and the Vampire

William Doggett, before he had a stake hastily driven through his heart, was the steward of Eastbury House in Tarrant Gunville in 1786. The tales go that he took a great deal of the house apart after his master moved abroad, then sold the building materials and shot himself upon hearing that his master was returning to England – he really hated his master. Apparently the blood stain that remained could not be removed, and soon stories were whispered that a ghostly visage had begun to stalk the village – an entity with a blood-covered face at dark, who liked opening and closing doors. Repeatedly.

A man by the name of Charles Harper wrote in In 1907 that: “Generally at the stroke of midnight, a coach with headless coachman and headless horses drives out and picks up Doggett, down the road.”

“If you see an old-world figure at such a time, stepping into that horrid conveyance, you will recognise him as Doggett by his knee-breeches, tied with yellow silk ribbon. The headless coachman asks (out of his neck ?), “Where to, sir ?” and the ghost says, “Home”; whereupon the horses are whipped up, and they drive back to the house. The shade of Doggett, entering, proceeds to the panelled room where he shot himself a century and a half ago – and shoots himself again !”

Location: Eastbury House Park Gates, Tarrant Gunville

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