Wednesday, May 17, 2017
The Horsingdon Transmissions 137: The Witch of Scarle Lane.
The bungalow mentioned in yesterday's Transmission was once believed to be the haunt of a witch - at least in according to the playground lore of local children in the 1950s. Whilst he bungalow (located in Scarle Lane near the pathway that grants access to Hallowmere Playing Fields) was unoccupied during this period, it was the focus - especially around Hallowe'en - of a particular rite of passage in which chidren would dare one another to go and knock at it's door in hope of summoning forth the spectre of one 'Mrs Grimer', an old woman who had died in mysterious circumstances sometime in the 1940s, and who had apparently acquired a reputation for witchcraft. Rumour has it that, after her death, the bones of two small children - bound together with catgut - were found buried in her garden. There are, however, no records of this in the archives of the local newspapers (although some local residents maintain that the incident was covered up by Horsingdon Borough Council).
What is on record is the fact that, in 1957, two children who lived nearby did disappear mysteriously - and on the evening of October 31st of that year - never to be seen again. In the aftermath of this local tragedy, it seems that fearful parents in the area forbade their children from going anywhere near the bungalow, and did everything in their power to eradicate the childish tale of Mrs Grimer the Scarle Lane Witch from local memory. The efficacy of such erasures is always questionable, as the vestiges of local lore - the fearful frisson of witchlore in particular - has a habit of hiding in the crooked cracks and nooks and crannies of folk memory.
Indeed, an associate of mine told me that whispered playground tales regarding the Witch of Scarle Lane persisted at least into 1977, when he was dared to knock on the door of that wretched, squalid little bungalow on the night of October 31st: on receiving no immediate answer, and already fearful of who or what might respond, he walked away quickly. However, just my friend was passing the front of the bungalow, a slight movement caught his attention; on turning he noticed that one of the curtains had been drawn back, revealing what he believed could only be a Hallowe'en mask: the deeply creased and greying flesh of an incredibly aged woman, grinning with blackened teeth and possessed of a crooked and pointed nose - and with holes in the face where the eyes should have been.