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Buckfastleigh’s killer, ghost and vampire?


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« on: July 26, 2009, 01:45:10 pm »

Buckfastleigh’s killer, ghost and vampire?

Tales of hell-hounds hunting across the countryside are not uncommon in British folklore, and with the popularity of Conan Doyle’s The Hound of the Baskervilles the idea of giant beasts terrorising their prey has become part of our national consciousness. In Buckfastleigh in Devon one story – said to be the origin of that particular Sherlock Holmes narrative – is especially vivid, based on folk memories of that most delicious of villains, the wicked squire. So great is the legend surrounding him that he is even now thought of as a potential revenant – a vampire.

The squire in question is Richard Capel, or sometimes Cabell, a local landowner in the 17th century known for his evil ways. Above all he was famed for capturing and keeping girls in one of his several properties well away from the gaze of his wife. He was said to hunt the terrified creatures with his pack of hounds, great black beasts, just as it was said he hunted poor children to death on the moors for sport.

His wealth and his violent reputation made Squire Capel untouchable as far as the weak authorities in the area were concerned. He is even said by some to have hunted down his own wife when she fled with her faithful dog, beating her to death when he tracked her down.

But if the earthly authorities could not deal with him, the supernatural eventually did. As Capel lay on his death bed the hounds of hell were said to be baying, waiting for him to come to them. His ghost still tries to escape them every year on midsummer’s eve, racing across the ground ahead of the spectral pack.

When he did die the squire was buried beneath a giant stone altar on the south side of the church, the exit an iron gate facing Holy Trinity Church – the iron, the sunny side of the building, the giant stone slab, all precautions against his return. Children still it seems when feeling brave and foolish circle the altar 13 times to try to wake him, and dare to poke a finger through the iron gate to see if he will gnaw it. Obviously they have never seen one of those horror movies that begin with just such a dare...After all, if he can make it out of the grave to be the hunted, what is to say he cannot escape to be the hunter too?

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