Friday, January 13, 2017

The Horsingdon Transmissions No.13: The Witch in the Wall

What could be more ordinary than the service entrance to a local community centre? Yet this particular small corner of the Horsingden Triangle - near the intersection of Hallowmere Road and Eastcote Lane - has haunted the people of Northwich for decades. If one takes the time to review the local newspaper archives, a notable pattern of unresolved disappearances in this very specific part of Northwich emerges. The most recent was at the end of October 2008, when two council workmen assigned to carry out maintenance work at the community centre parked their van in the driveway. Two days later, the van was still there - but no sign of the now truant workers.

The lore which over the years attached itself to this nameless cobbled alley meant that, for a time back in the 1960s, it was a favourite place for children to dare each other to go. The idea was that you had to walk down the passageway until you came to the shadowed recess at its very end. This, in the popular imagination, had been cast as the habitation of yet another of the area's witches: Mother Rudge, the Witch in the Wall. That was until 1973, when a number of children also disappeared, having last been seen in the vicinity of the alleyway. The local kids have tended to avoid the area ever since.

Somewhere I have a faded colour photograph which shows a confusingly disordered pattern of lines - which look as if they are trying to formulate some impossible geometry - etched in red chalk across the inverse corner of the wall at the end of the alley. I recall that the diagram in the photograph resembled something I'd seen in a book - a book which as a child I had once borrowed from Boreham Park Library, and which had caused me nightmares.

The community centre also stands a short distance from the Witching Tree on Hallowmere Playing Fields. The fact that both have associations with the witchlore of the area seems significant; but I have yet to ascertain whether there is in fact any connection between the two.

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