Another interesting find from British Folk Tales:

Anne Jefferies (1626-1698) was the daughter of a poor Cornish labourer, who entered the service of the Pitt family at the age of 19. A fascination with the wee folk, the account goes, led to her abduction to “a most beautiful place” where she witnessed fairies revelling and eventually took a fairy lover. (This is apparently attested by a contemporary account by Moses Pitt, Jr, the householder’s son.)

She was abruptly returned to our world, but was thereafter attended by fairies, and subsisted on fairy-food alone between harvest-time and Christmas. She became a famous prophetess and healer; however, these along with her Nonconformist and Royalist sympathies, led to her imprisonment and trial for witchcraft in 1646 by one John Tregeagle.

This is not only interesting for the precise dates given for Jefferies’ birth, death and trial, but because Lore of the Land cites a body of legends surrounding John Tregeagle himself.

Tregeagle (also rendered Jan Tregagle) was chief steward and foster-brother to the second Lord Robartes of Lanhydrock. Aside from his Bluebeardesque avocation of murdering successive wives, this infamous lawyer took bribes, indulged in forgery and perjury, and generally perverted the course of justice for his own monetary benefit. It’s even said that Tregeagle bribed the parson of St Breock’s church before his death in 1655, that he may be buried in consecrated ground. His wickedness reputedly continued beyond his death, however; Tregeagle became Cornwall’s most feared and notorious apparition.

Shortly before he died, Tregeagle witnessed the payment of a loan; with Tregeagle dead, though, the debtor claimed that he’d not received any money from the lender. When the case went before the assize at Bodmin, the debtor made the error of wishing to God that Tregeagle were there to testify in his favour.

And so Tregeagle appeared, but to confirm the lender’s side of the story. Although the debtor was forced to repay the loan, Tregeagle’s ghost harried him incessantly. The debtor brought in various priests and cunning men to exorcise Tregeagle’s spirit, but the wrathful spectre managed to complete a series of impossible tasks that were given him, and returned to torment the poor debtor.

Finally, Tregeagle was bound. During his postmortem reign of terror, it’s said, he silted up the harbour at Porthcurno, moved whole dunes from Bareppa to Porthleven and created the sandbar across the Loe River.

An 1894 account states: “The howls of the great spirit Tregeagle are among the weirdest sounds of the Cornish hills and moors.” His terrible roar reportedly still haunts the hillfort of Castle-an-Dinas in central Cornwall, although other legends say his spirit was imprisoned at Land’s End or at the natural arch which bears his name, Tregagle’s Hole, near Carne Beacon.

Clearly a man not to be trifled with—the Devil and Matthew Hopkins in one neat package.

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