Friday, 31 October 2014

Nan Tuck, A Georgian Ghost

It would simply not be right to let Halloween pass unmarked and just as my grandfather once terrified me with an entirely fictional tale of Lord Byron's ghost, so too did he like to tell a scary tale come 31st October. I considered crime, mused or monsters and finally settled on spirits and so it is my pleasure to share with you the strange tale of Nan Tuck's ghost. 

As the 18th century turned into the 19th, Nan Tuck lived in obscurity in Buxted, Sussex and was, to all intents and purposes, not a person who seemed destined to stand out. With her husband she went about her quiet business in a cottage on the edge of the woods and life rolled past with the years until, quite out of nowhere, Mr Tuck dropped down dead. Legend tells us that Mrs Tuck was responsible for her husband's death and had fed him a most deadly poison though whether this was true or not, it mattered little to the local populace. 

Nan Tuck's Lane
Nan Tuck's Lane

With the death of Mr Tuck husband the locals began to chatter. Wasn't Nan a little unusual? A little old, ugly and eccentric? Could she possibly be... a witch?

Of course, it was not long before villagers pointed the finger at the widow and she fled her home, not much fancying a run in with the law on charges of witchcraft or murder. With her pursuers hot on her trail, Nan decided that the only sure place of refuge was in the dark woods that surrounded her home in Buxted. Perhaps, once the search party had passed, she might continue her escape or even make a run for the sanctuary of the church but if she were to be caught, the scaffold surely awaited the fugitive.

In fact, the pursuing officials caught sight of the escaping woman and took off after her, her capture inevitable now. Crashing through the trees and into the woods they found... nothing. Nan Tuck had vanished clean off the face of the earth and left behind no trace, never to be seen again. All that marked the spot of her disappearance was a patch of utterly dead foliage and even now, it is said that nothing grows on the spot. Indeed, Mrs Tuck still puts in the occasional appearance, terrifying unsuspecting wanderers in the woods and on the lane that now bears her name.

Truth be told, there are half a dozen legends attached to the place known as Nan Tuck's Lane in Buxted. Was Nan an elderly lady or a young maid, did her unfortunately fate befall her in the 18th century or the very early 19th and did she disappear of her own, was she hanged or did she fall victim to a miscreant? We can never know for sure, but I hope my tale today whetted your appetite for a most ghostly Halloween!


  1. Great story, Madame! In fact, someday when I write the prequel to The Welsh Healer, I MUST incorporate a version of this legend. Hmm ... and the wheels turn ...