The Onecote Murders

THE ONECOTE MURDERS
LEEK


THE ONECOTE MURDERS
LEEK
INITIAL REPORT

Title
Report Date
Compiled by
Author
Blake Meer Pool, Grindylow
February 3rd, 1882
Captain Randolph Dawson and Augustus Ackroyd
Captain Randolph Dawson

The Mermaid Inn, of which I confess I am in the habit of frequenting on occasion, is situated within the vicinity of Blake Meer Pool and is so named by virtue of a local legend [1] that states that during an attempt to reduce the water level of the lake a mermaid rose up from its depths and, either by warning or promise (it is not entirely clear which) apprised them of the likelihood that should they continue their labours the entire area of Leek and Leekfrith would be submerged.
    This singular tale aside, I have been unable to find any documented reference to the similar Pool dwelling apparition known as Jenny Greenteeth, although I can attest, having been resident in the area of Heath for some fifteen years now, that the knowledge of her existence, (and I assign a gender from no more than an undeniably misplaced idea of propriety), is as well known by the residents as the confusing nature of her narrative.
    As is the case with the reprimanding mermaid, Jenny Greenteeth is said to reside in Blake Meer Pool, a body of water no more than 180 feet in diameter but with a content of such a dark aspect that in legend it is said to be bottomless. It is also intoned, in no doubt hushed whispers [2], that the lake contains a subterranean passageway that links Blake Meer Pool to the nearby Doxey Pool approximately 2 miles to the west, a pool that is also rumoured to be inhabited by Jenny greenteeth, although this may be an apocryphal interrelation based on the legend of the connecting passageway. At present it is a mystery as to why authors such as Philip Lancaster Brocklehurst and Edward Bradbury, both of whom have recently written accounts of their visits to the region and Doxey Pool itself [3], saw fit to omit details of Jenny Greenteeth when they must surely haver been aware of her. I can only speculate that it was either through disbelief, disregard or fear. On the subject of Doxey Pool I discovered a ghost story that appears to be completely unrelated and constitutes sightings of an ethereal woman who sings.
    Returning to Blake Meer Pool, the belief in the infinite depth of the water has been suitably ridiculed by the naturalist Robert Plot as long ago as 1686 [4], at which time he also saw fit to expel the myths of cattle being reluctant to drink from the pool and birds refusing to fly over nor alight upon it. However, although he ascertained the depth of the lake at its deepest point to be no more than twelve feet he made no mention of the connecting tunnel, which leaves us to surmise that either he was unaware of the possibility of such a feature or that it is a myth, or perhaps discovery? made at a subsequent point in time.
    The Jenny Greenteeth stories frequently assume her to also be a mermaid, despite there being no apparent suggestion of the possession of a tail. However, it is implicit in the relating of anecdotes concerning Jenny Greenteeth that she is in no way connected to the original mermaid. Although the original sighting was not entirely cordial it did not, nor has there been any evidence that would suggest otherwise since, result in any deaths. [5] Disturbingly, this not true of the Jenny Greenteeth stories. To date there have been three instances of bodies being found in or near the pool, their deaths being attributed to an attack by a powerful creature and subsequent drowning.
    After some research I consider it more likely that she is what is known in English folklore as a Grindylow, a water dwelling creature of a most unpleasant disposition that drags unsuspecting victims into their abode and drowns them.
    She has also been referred to as the Blue Nymph, although the provenance of this designation I have so far been unable to ascertain, and it is possible that this is a surviving element of the original mermaid story which, in all probability, was no more than a fiction created by workmen lacking the necessary incentive for the amount of work involved in their allotted task.
    Although it appears to be unanimously assumed that the very same creature inhabiting Blake Meer Pool also inhabits Doxey Pool this has not prevented the acquisition of two completely separate tales to explain her existence. The Blake Meer Pool legend has it that a young woman was foolish enough to spurn the attentions of a man by the name of Joshua Linnet, who was such put out by this lack of reciprocation that he convinced the local residents of nearby Thorncliffe that the girl was a witch. Either as an attempt to gain confirmation [6] or as a deliberate act, the hapless girl was taken to Blake Meer Pool and drowned, although not before spitting a curse at the man responsible for this travesty. who was subsequently found floating dead in the Pool with deep scratches upon his face as though attacked by an animal with large claws.
    The Doxey Pool legend seems to favour the Grindylow aspect of its inhabitant and it is from here that the name Jenny Greenteeth appears to originate. As is so often the case with local lore it is not known exactly when and by whom this epitaph was assigned, but the name is not by any means unique to the Blake Meer legend and was once in common use, particularly in Lancashire, Cheshire and Shropshire and with regional variations in name; Jeannie Greenteeth, Wicked Jenny and Peg o’ Nell, different epithets but no alteration to the entity’s characteristics.

  1. Documented in W. B’ s article ‘The Black Meer of Morridge’ in The Reliquary, Quarterly Journal and Review Volume III, published by John Russell Smith, London, 1862.
  2. I myself was privy to just such a conversation three days hence.
  3. Philip Lancaster Brocklehurst, Swythamley and Its Neighbourhood, Past and Present, Desultory Fragments Collected From Various Authors, Robert Hardwicke, London, 1874, p 46–47 and Edward Bradbury, All About Derbyshire, Simpkin, Marshall And Co., London, 1884, pp 191–2.
  4. ‘The Natural History of Staffordshire, Oxford’ page 44. See appendix 1
  5. This could reasonably be attributed to the sensible response of the threatened workmen which was to make an extremely hasty exit from the scene and abandon their drainage plans.
  6. It was once common practice to verify the guilt or innocence of a person accused of witchcraft by throwing them in a body of water and observing whether they floated or sank. If the floated, they were guilty and were quite often hanged.

ONECOTE, a village, a township, and a chapelry, in Leek parish, Stafford. The village stands on the river Hamps, 4¾ miles E by S of Leek r. station. The township includes the village, and extends into the country. Real property, £4, 958. Pop., 463. Houses, 90. The chapelry contains also the township of Bradnop; and its post town is Leek. Real property, £9, 471. Pop., 917. Houses, 175. The property is all in one estate. Narrowdale here is a rocky vale so deep that sunshine does not reach its bottom even at midsummer. The Mixon copper mine is here; but ceased about 1820 to be worked. The living is a vicarage in the diocese of Lichfield. Value, £100.* Patron, the Vicar of Leek. The church is good, and has a tower. Charities, £11.
Extract from John Marius Wilson’s Imperial Gazetteer of England and Wales
1870-72



Figure 1
R. Wilkinson The British Isles: 1812

Figure 3
Map of Blake Meer showing position of Blake Meer Pool: 1879

Figure 2
Position of the Doxley, Blake Meer and Mermaids’ pools

Figure 4
Photograph of Onecoat street by H. Wardle of Leek.

Figure 5
Blake Meer Pool : author’s photograph

Figure 7
Blake Meer Pool : author’s photograph

Figure 6
Mermaid’s Pool : author’s photograph

Figure 8
Doxey Pool : author’s photograph

ASSIGNMENT

Title
Principal
Attendent
Date
Subject
Blake Meer Pool Grindylow
Captain Randolph Dawson
Augustus Ackroyd
February 6th, 1882
Blake Meer Pool Grindylow
Following your exemplary apprising of the legends involving the entity know as Jenny Greenteeth we would ask that you collate whatever further information you are able and keep us informed of any and all further developments.

THE ONECOTE MURDERS
JOURNAL
CAPTAIN RANDOLPH DAWSON
Date:
February 12th, 1882
It is with due gravity that I must report that what began as a commission to increase our knowledge concerning the Grindylow known as Jenny Greenteeth has escalated into a potential crime scenario with the discovery yesterday of a dead body in Blake Meer Pool.

The victim was a woman named Harriet Shaw, who had apparently taken regular walks along that area of the moor since she was a girl. An examination of the body revealed the presence of deep lacerations on her face and legs and scratch marks upon her back consistent with her being dragged. A further, somewhat gruesome detail is that a large portion of her scalp had been removed.


THE ONECOTE MURDERS
JOURNAL
CAPTAIN RANDOLPH DAWSON
Date:
February 13th, 1882
There has been another murder. This time the victim is a man named Herbert Wright, who had expressed an interest in going to the Pool to his wife by way of some amateur sleuthing following the death of Harriet Shaw. Despite his wife’s attempt to appeal for a more common sense approach (which was to go nowhere near the place) Herbert duly set off at about 3pm and was not seen alive again.

THE ONECOTE MURDERS
JOURNAL
CAPTAIN RANDOLPH DAWSON
Date:
February 14th, 1882

A further body has been found. Alarmingly this was not in the vicinity of the Blake Meer Lake but in a field bordering the grounds of Westbrook Farm, some three quarters of a mile east of Thorncliffe and one and a half miles from Blake Meer Pool.

As with the previous victims, Alfred Greenwood suffered wounds to his face and was lacking his scalp.


THE ONECOTE MURDERS
JOURNAL
CAPTAIN RANDOLPH DAWSON
Date:
February 15th, 1882
While discussing with Augustus the startling develops in this case at the Mermaid Inn, which proffers not only a welcome indulgence to steady increasingly ragged nerves but also presents an opportunity to gather information from local residents, I have been witness to a most curious consequence of those very events of which I allude.

There is an incongruous attraction to the Inn which, despite it’s proximity to Blake Meer Pool has not, as one would have thought, suffered a loss of trade but rather is experiencing somewhat of a boom period. Part, in truth, the consequence of an influx of interested parties such as journalists and similar documenters of such tragic events, but also an apparent bonding of the community in adversity.

Whilst in congress with my colleague we were violently interrupted by the entry into the Inn of a local man by the name of Hugh Thompson, who was screaming and thrashing about in a manner that suggested a most singular and terrifying experience.

I should make it know at this juncture that Hugh Thompson is an acquaintance of mine and I can therefore state with some degree of first hand knowledge that he is an idiot. This admittedly less than charitable opinion of the hapless gentleman is born of first hand testament and personal experience that I am entirely confident would lead no conversely intelligent person to any other conclusion. He is a man to whom the term ‘village idiot’ would be an undoubted insult to even the most uneducated inhabitant of any hamlet I would care to think upon. As such, it came as little surprise that his distressed state was a direct consequence of an unaccompanied visit to Blake Meer Pool, where he took it upon himself to shout abuse at the creature now responsible for the viscous murder of five people and, upon its appearance, assault it. Equally unsurprising, given that he chose to undertake this foolhardy quest unarmed, are the number of injuries he sustained as a result. The sole element of this sorry sequence of events that cannot but help invite incredulity is that he survived.


THE ONECOTE MURDERS
JOURNAL
CAPTAIN RANDOLPH DAWSON
Date:
Morning of February 17th, 1882
I am aware of the directive that instructs caution in dealing with the events of that which we are tasked to document but, if I may be frank, an opportunity has presented itself in such a manner that I consider it an obligation to disregard such a stipulation. Furthermore, having served in her majesty’s army for ten years I would feel somewhat inadequate at ignoring such an opportunity when the result will undoubtedly result in the saving of lives.

It is now common knowledge that the recent elevation in the number of deaths, not just within the area of Blake Meer Pool but also around Doxey Pool and, most recently, even within the village of Thorncliffe itself, can be attributed to the loathsome creature known as Jenny Greenteeth. Although the body of Herbert Wright had never materialised the remaining four victims all possessed identical lacerations about their faces and all had portions of their scalps removed.

What has prompted such a malevolent attitude towards the residents of this area I cannot say. What I can attest to is a greatly heightened fear and vigilance amongst the inhabitants of the Morridge region that is entirely justified.

A study of the documented times of death identified a consistency that we feel confident that we can take advantage of. Augustus and myself are to visit Blake Meer Pool at sun down this day when it is our considered opinion that the creature is most likely to appear. We had noticed in our hour long vigil two nights hence that there was an area of indentation at a particular spot on the edge of the pool that appeared to be made from a person’s feet. In addition, although the immediate area around Blake Meer Pool is almost completely devoid of tress, undergrowth, rocks or any other object that might afford a suitable place to conceal two men, there is a hollow adjacent to this depressed area and it is there that we believe the creature habitually enters and exits the lake. Covered with a prepared blanket of suitable colour and markings so as to provide additional concealment it is our intention to wait within this hollow until such a time as the creature has emerged and moved just beyond where we will be lying. At this juncture, we will emerge with due alacrity and, with the aid of the blanket, subdue the creature and despatch it with a hunting knife.


THE ONECOTE MURDERS
JOURNAL
CAPTAIN RANDOLPH DAWSON
Date:
Evening of February 17th, 1882
What a tale to tell!

Forgive my exuberance but the adrenaline from this evening’s experience has not quite dissipated, the consequence being an uncharacteristically light headed disposition. However, I must document the series of events whilst still fresh in the mind, however excitable that mind may be.

As had been planned, Augustus and myself set off for Blake Meer Pool suitably armed with the tools that we had deemed necessary for a successful outcome. That outcome being no less than the death of the creature responsible for the recent murders within the Heath area.

Arriving at the pool shortly after the sun had dipped below the horizon we were blessed with a near full moon with which to make out our intended hiding place. We had deliberately foregone the use of lanterns for fear that the creature, even when submerged, may be capable of detecting such a light and so this was an undoubted boon. As quietly as is humanly possible we lowered ourselves into the hollow that was adjacent the part of the pool that was our conjectured exit point for the creature and covered ourselves with the blanket. Our vantage point did not afford a view of the actual pool but the path she would take upon exit was just in front of our line of sight.

Having studied the timings of the murders it was also our supposition that she emerged from the pool at the same time on each occasion, and so all that was necessary was for us to hide in the same hollow each evening until such a time as her murderous inclination resulted in an opportunity to end her reign of terror.

We were not to be disappointed. Within ten minutes of lying in wait we heard the still waters of the pool moving. An ironically gentle swirling of the water that was almost hypnotic culminated in a silence that could only mean one thing; she had left the water and was now on the shore of the lake. Within seconds she would be within our line of sight, a few seconds more and she would have her back to us and we would strike.

The silence continued for what seemed an eternity with no sign of the creature. Could she just be standing beside the lake? If so, for what purpose? After a few moments of deliberation there was a scratching noise from above us, and then a pressure akin to a pair of hands pressing down. She knows we are here! Before I could act the blanket was removed with such force that I barely saw it move. We were exposed, and looming over us in the harsh light of the moon was the vilest looking being that I have ever had the misfortune to gaze upon. Her naked skin appeared green in colour and her countenance was of such a grotesque aspect that I became quite insensible.

Recovering my wits, I leapt up and dragged the equally as perturbed Augustus up with me. Whatever her visage she was still one female against two men, even without the advantage of surprise we would still prevail. As we were about to move towards the creature we were halted in our stride by a voice; a woman’s voice singing. The beauty of her voice seemed accompanied by some otherworldly choir and the distant melody of an orchestra. Augustus and I were transfixed, suddenly not caring for a thing other than the source of this wondrous music.

Although bewitched, it is apparent that I saw and registered the reaction of the creature, for thinking back I can clearly see her expression of fear and also the awareness of her rapid disappearance. Augustus and I turned and bore witness to a heavenly apparition; the most beautiful woman one could imagine, clothed in a flowing white gown and moving with the grace of an angel. Still singing, she moved towards us, emitting a glow that lit the entire surrounding area and created sparkles on the surface of the pool. She stopped only when she was close enough that I could feel the warmth of her breath upon my cheek. I was incapable of moving and whatever intentions she had towards us at that moment we were powerless to prevent. After a few moments she smiled and raised her hand towards my face, brushing the side of it with her fingers before grasping my neck with such force that I choked and almost immediately began to black out. Augustus remained immobile beside me, his destiny as assuredly fatal as mine. On the verge of losing consciousness I was just able too make out a sudden change in the expression of my nemesis; her features altered from one of sublime beauty to that of unadulterated shock. Her grip around my throat loosened and I regained my breath along with my composure. Her singing had stopped and her beauty fell away for the glamour that it was. As she fell to the ground the figure behind her was exposed and I was starring at Jenny Greenteeth, a strange dagger held in her hand and a look of concern on her unnatural face. If her fear was that I might still attempt to execute her it was unfounded. Looking down at the now lifeless body of the woman who had so successfully beguiled myself and my companion I realised to my horror that with the cloak of bewitchment now gone I could plainly see the scalps of the five victims tied around her waist.

I raised my hands, palms forward in a gesture of amity that I could only hope that Jenny Greenteeth would understand. Her expression relaxed and I took that to mean that she had. It became evident that she was unable to speak but that she was determined to pass on some piece of information. Stepping back into the area that we had been so keen to observe earlier she smoothed away her footprints with her hand and began writing in the soft earth with the point of her blood stained dagger. Plainly struggling with the concept of writing she managed to scrawl one, short word; Bess.

Upon reading the name I looked down upon the body of the woman before me and was startled to see her for what she really was. In contrast to Jenny Greenteeth her body was covered in scales of an azure blue and her jet black hair partially covered a face that bore far more resemblance to an eel than it did a woman. As I looked at the creature it began to dissolve in front of me and within seconds had become nothing more tan a pool of water.

I looked back at Jenny Greenteeth who turned and dove into the waters of Blake Meer Pool, disappearing into it’s darkness in an instant.


THE ONECOTE MURDERS
JOURNAL
NOTES

Title
Report Date:
Principal
Attendent
Blake Meer Pool Grindylow
February 23rd, 1882
Captain Randolph Dawson
Augustus Ackroyd

Aside from the error of making assumptions whilst lacking proper evidence I have also learned that these creatures are not merely the manifestations of local fear and gossip, though that in itself would be remarkable, but that there seems to be a purpose to their existence that I cannot begin to comprehend.

I appreciate that the club’s existence owes itself to this fact but I confess that the magnitude of this factor had hitherto been unappreciated.

That it was an entity we now know as the Singing Woman of the Roaches that was responsible for the deaths and not Jenny Greenteeth is palpable, what is less straightforward is the motivation for the murders and exactly what manner of creature she was,

Following up on the name Bess, I discovered that the sightings of an additional female entity at Doxey Pool seem to be related to the former inhabitants of a cave adjacent to the lake known as the Bowyer family. A husband, wife and daughter took up residence in the Rock Cave in the 17th Century after the husband became a notorious highwayman [1].

The wife, who was named Bess, was known to assist smugglers and brigands in their escapes from soldiers and was clearly remarkably successful as she is said to have lived to be a hundred. Shortly after her death the entity began to appear and was heard to sing in a manner that is most captivating, which provides a link to the Bowyer family, whose daughter is said to have had a wonderful voice and could often be heard singing in an unrecognisable tongue. It transpired that the daughter was kidnapped and never heard from again, an event that left her mother broken hearted.

The Singing Woman of the Roaches is said to be the spirit of Bess’s daughter, unable to move on from the home that bore so much of her mother’s grief.

The only reference I have found thus far in folklore that bears even the most tenuous connection to the act of scalping is a creature known as Jack-in-Irons, only ever reported on the more desolate roads of Yorkshire at night, the hapless witnesses are confronted by a seven foot tall entity armed with a spiked club and covered with chains ornamented with the heads of his previous victims. Given that there are witnesses we must assume that at least a small percentage of those that are unfortunate enough to come across this creature do actually live to tell the tale.




Date : February 20th, 1882
Subject : Blake Meer Pool Grindylow

Dear Captain Dawson,

Please accept our sincere gratitude for what we consider to be a most appropriate and successful response to the escalation of events in Onecote. Your bravery has been duly recorded and we trust that you are recovered from what can only have been a most unsettling experience,

You are indubitably correct in your assertion of our primary objective and it is with the assistance of highly proficient members such as yourself that we will be triumphant in our goal.

I remain, Sir, your faithful and obedient servant,


George A. Westow