Croglin is a tiny settlement in the wilds of Cumbria, nestling in the beautiful Eden Valley some fifteen miles north of Penrith. This remote village is the site of Britain's most famous vampire legend which took place at Croglin Grange, or Croglin Low Hall as it’s now called.
I first came across the story when I was around ten years old and it absolutely scared the shit out of me. It featured in Weekend, a UK magazine of the 1970s which always contained at least one supernatural story in every issue. I visited the village again recently to take photographs.
Augustus Hare first told of the Croglin vampire in his autobiography, the Story of My Life, and portrayed it as completely true. Hare claimed that someone named Captain Fisher had told him a “really extraordinary story connected with his own family.”
Hare's story goes…
The Fisher family had had a longstanding presence of several hundred years in Cumberland at a place called Croglin Grange. The family eventually grew out of their house. Thus, they decided to relocate to the south. But instead of leaving their property vacant, they chose to lease it out to paying tenants. The Cranswell siblings – two brothers and a sister – took up residency in the single-story farmhouse.
Winter came and went without incident. The following summer was a muggy one. On one oppressively hot night, the tenants took the opportunity to watch the moon before finally turning in. The sister, Amelia, lay on her bed on top of the covers and closed the bedroom window. The shutters remained unlocked, though.
Unable to settle down to sleep in the heat, Amelia gazed out of her window. A church, complete with its own graveyard, stood beyond a line of trees. Her eyes caught a glimpse of something concealed in the twilight. Two flickering lights seemed to be moving among the copse of trees visible from her window. She was intrigued at first, but the longer she watched, the more nervous she began to feel. In a moment, both lights started to emerge from the treeline and into view. It looked as though the lights were a small part of a more substantial form – a human form.
As the figure approached the grange, the startled and terrified young lady suddenly found the compulsion to act. Amelia raced to the door, arriving just in time to unlock it. It seems as though this was not a moment too soon. As she fumbled at the lock, Amelia could hear a scratching sound coming from her bedroom window. Despite her growing terror, she dared one look backward. Standing outside the window, almost filling it, was a hideous face that had fierce glaring eyes. Bony fingers made efforts to open the window for a couple of seconds before stopping.
A new noise made Amelia freeze with even more fear. Whatever was outside was now picking at the lead seals of the window. No sooner had this sound rendered her immobile, then another made her blood run cold. The window pane fell out, and one arm levered in to open the window from the inside. Unable to move or even raise an alarm, the thing moved quickly and was beside her in moments, teeth nestling into her exposed neck. Now she felt able to scream.
Her shrieking alerted both of her brothers who came to investigate. After breaking down her door, the invader fled back the way it had come. Amelia’s brother took up the pursuit, but he was no match for the giant strides of the creature. It disappeared beyond the wall of the churchyard. Amelia was bleeding quite heavily but passed off her attacker as an escaped convict from a lunatic asylum.
Given her ordeal and the fact that she regarded herself as a girl with very little superstition, it was perhaps an understandable conclusion. Amelia did recover from her wounds but needed to recuperate. The three of them went to Switzerland so that she could completely recover. While there, Amelia yearned to return to Croglin Grange. Despite the events that took place, she and her brothers still liked the area, and they were popular among the other residents. The decision was Amelia’s, and she decided to return, insisting that lunatics do not escape every day of the week.
When they returned home, they spent another placid winter in Croglin. It was during the following March that Amelia began to hear the unmistakable scratching at her window once more. This time, she acted promptly and decisively, screaming for help before the same creature from before managed to gain access to her room. Both of her brothers responded quickly, only this time they were armed. Her screams also forced the creature to flee, and it was heading back the way it had come when one brother took aim and fired. Despite being hit in its leg, the monster still made an escape. Only this time, the brothers were able to track it. The beast had taken refuge inside a crypt that belonged to a family from the area.
The brothers decided against entering the crypt at the time. Instead, they would gather a posse and investigate at daybreak. When they opened the tomb the following morning, they discovered several coffins. Only one of them was intact, but the lid was ajar and laying loosely on top of it. Inside was a corpse with a fresh bullet wound in one leg. They removed the body, brought it outside the crypt, and lit it on fire.
So ends the tale of the Croglin Vampire.
The weirdly eccentric Montague Summers fully believed in vampires, werewolves witches and Satanists – the sort of wealthy Satanists found in Dennis Wheatley novels, not the teenage nutters who desecrate graveyards. He knew the undead were everywhere and included the Croglin story in his 1929 reference book, the Vampire in Europe. By the way, Wheatley knew Summers and based his Canon Copely-Syle character on him.
Not convinced with the story, writer Charles Harper travelled to Cumberland and discovered, although there was no such place as Croglin Grange, there was a Croglin Low Hall. According to Harper in his 1907 book Haunted Houses, “Croglin Low Hall is probably the house indicated, but it is at least a mile distant from the church, which has been rebuilt. The churchyard contains no tomb which, by any stretch of the imagination, could be identified with that described by Mr. Hare.”
The story was challenged by another researcher, F. Clive Ross, in the 1930s. Ross interviewed the locals and decided that Croglin Low Hall was the Croglin Grange of the legend. The Grange did have a chapel on the grounds, which was built on the foundations of an earlier church. One of the locals that Ross interviewed was a Mrs. Parkin who had known a descendant of the Fisher family. Mrs. Parkin indicated that he was born in the 1860s and knew the vampire story from his grandparents. The lady also revealed that the deed to the property stated that until 1720, Croglin Low Hall was Croglin Grange. All the above photos are of this house.
Fortean journalist Lionel Fanthorpe conducted a more recent investigation into the authenticity of the Croglin Vampire. His results suggest that some events could be genuine. Fanthorpe believes that someone demolished a grange, or farmhouse, during the lifetime of Oliver Cromwell. If the story is true, then it is much more likely to have taken place sometime in the century before the deed was altered.
The village sign on the outskirts of Croglin. It's good to see that, since the supernatural attacks, the locals have seen fit to sort out protection in the form of a neighbourhood watch.
As I mentioned, this story scared me as a child, especially the part where the creature gained entry to the house by picking out the window lead with its long fingernails. Film director John Badham was obviously well aware of the Croglin legend and used it in his 1979 version of Dracula starring Frank Langella.
I’m told that the village pub, the Robin Hood, has framed pictures and a write-up about the vampire, but to be honest, I’ve never managed to find the place open on my visits. These visits have always taken place during daylight hours, so I'm sure it's a great spot to drink and socialise after sunset.
Walking behind the Robin Hood one cold afternoon, I came across a nervous local who was just beginning to give me some whispered information when THIS character in the flat cap appeared and angrily hissed at him: “That's enough. That's ENUFF.”