After my ghost tram story, one or two ‘older locals’ started telling me a few tales, and one was about remembered news back in December 1936, when the Blackpool Evening Gazette carried an article which began excitedly; 'Carleton Ghost? A Layton taxi-driver claims he has seen a ghost with a green face, near the gates of Carleton Crematorium....'
Although this story appeared nearly seventy years ago, the media's treatment of it was no different than it would be today. Concentrating on the sensational rather than the factual, the article meaningfully pointed out that five years previously a lonely widow had been battered to death in nearby Robins Lane – a quiet area near to Carleton - and perhaps the green face had been this poor woman's ghost? In fact, there was probably no link at all between the two.
When I found and read this old news-clipping, I was intrigued because I know of a Robins Lane in Bispham, where I now live; beginning partway down a way named Kincraig Road and wandering through fields and farmland to Bispham Road. But this Robins Lane is nowhere near Carleton. Only when I looked closely at a map did it become clear that Robins Lane extends for several miles, from Bispham to Skippool in one direction, and in the other direction meandering to Carleton, and beyond the Blackpool Crematorium, into Poulton-le-Fylde, a lovely little town, where Chris and I go shopping frequently. Only in Carleton is the lane actually lined with houses; the rest is no more than a path winding through beautiful Fylde countryside. As I looked at the map, suddenly the age of the lane became apparent - dotted along the miles of 'lane' are several old farms - clearly the lane was an ancient track linking all the local farms with the agricultural market which used to be held at Carleton in the early seventeenth century.
I have now found that researching ghost stories unleashes peoples ‘true’ memories and encourages a plethora of coincidences, and this tale of the green-faced ghost was no exception. A neighbour friend of mine who has lived here from childhood, hearing that I had looked at this Robins Lane saga, quite innocently told me that nothing would induce her to take the same route - as a child, she and all her friends had believed that in one of the many ponds which lie along the path there lurked a malevolent 'red hand'... Quite what the significance was, she didn't know, but the tale had frightened the children enough to keep them well away from the farmers' land. Perhaps the farmer himself had made the story up for just that effect?
Suspecting that there was a more prosaic explanation, I asked a local expert on folklore and history, if she knew anything about it. She informed me that many farms had a 'hand' insignia over their doorways, carved in red stone. This dated back to serious fears of foot and mouth disease in the late eighteen hundreds, when superstition still reigned high in rural areas. The Red Hand was both a warning and a guard against transfer of animals, and stopped movements between farms. Quite possibly one of these artefacts had found it's way into a local pond - and had found it's way into legend when it was discovered by a child explorer. So much for that story - satisfactorily explained.
But my run of coincidences wasn't over yet. One old retired school history teacher at our Bispham local, The Squirrel told me that his then teenage son and a group of friends had a strange encounter, walking home to a friend's house along part of Robins Lane. It was late, and dark, and one of the boys had been standing atop a small hillock near one of the many ponds, when 'something white' had appeared out of nowhere, and 'brushed against him' before disappearing. None of the other boys had seen anything, and this man's son has lived with him long enough to know that most strange events have a natural explanation, but his friend refused to accept his reassurances. Finally, two hours later, with his white-faced friend still looking as if he had seen a ghost, his son rang him at one a.m. to ask him what he should do?
He had no idea, but he made sure they didn’t tell the local paper!