During the 19th and early 20th centuries, the legend of the Kidsgrove Boggart was one of the best-known ghost stories in Staffordshire.
Known locally as the “Kidcrew Buggett”, the ghost lived in one of the two canal tunnels which took the Trent and Mersey Canal through Harecastle Hill between Kidsgrove and Chatterley.
People who claimed to have seen the boggart said it was a headless woman who wore a blood-stained white dress.
Although the boggart rarely left the tunnels, Kidsgrove miners and their families believed that when it was seen in Boathorse Lane, The Avenue or on the pit heaps overlooking Kidsgrove Bank “a tragedy was pending” at one of the collieries in the district.
Whenever a sighting of the boggart was reported, Kidsgrove prepared for news of a mining disaster.
The Story’s Origins
Writing about the Kidcrew Buggett in the City Times during the 1930s, a person who called himself the “Old Man of Mow” gave an account of the origin of the ghost story.
In this edited extract from his article, “The Old Man of Mow” says the legend began when a woman passenger on a canal-boat was murdered by a boatman in one of the tunnels.
Murder in the Harecastle Tunnel
“A few years before the railway was built in the 1840s, a Kidsgrove woman who wanted to travel to another part of the country had too much luggage to go by stagecoach.
“She decided to make the first part of her journey by canal-boat from Harecastle. Her luggage was her undoing. As soon as the boat entered the tunnel, the covetous boatman murdered her, cut off her head and buried her body at Gilbert’s Wharf (Gilbert’s Hole) where coal and ironstone were loaded into boats.
“When the woman was reported missing, the police traced her to the canal-boat. The boatman was arrested, tried for murder and executed.”
Before he died, the boatman admitted to killing the woman and told the police where they could find her body.
The “Old Man of Mow” ended his account of the murder by saying local people believed that the woman’s spirit haunted the place where she was killed.
Note: The Kidsgrove Boggart is sometimes called the Kitcrew Bugget.
The photograph shows the Kidsgrove end of the Harecastle Tunnels as they were in the 1950s.