Tuesday, 8 December 2009


Abe Rogers was a bold peddler who was afraid of nothing. Selling pins, needles and other small household items, he travelled from door to door and made a meagre living from his endeavours. He was used to crossing the vast swathes of moorland to get from one village to another. Changes in the weather, treacherous boggy ground, inpenetrable fog and the like held no fears for Abe Rogers.

One day on the moor a figure approached that Abe recognised instantly from her haggard outline and malevolent appearance. It was Old Kathy, the Ruswarp witch. Much feared in the area, it was said that a mere glimpse of her countenance could render one bewitched. No one dare cross the threshold of her cottage, and when she went walking wise folk kept their distance.

For a long forgotten and unrecorded reason a fierce dispute arose between them. Tempers flared and vicious words were exchanged. The witch suddenly drew a sharp knife from the copious folds of her clothing and angrily lunged at Abe. By no means a young man, the peddler nevertheless put up a spirited resistance and managed to wrestle the dagger wielding crone to the ground.

Struggling on the ground with the peddler astride her trying to wrest the knife from her bony grip, the hag began feverishly reciting a spell in some ancient language lost to time, screaming half formed words of hellish provenence into the misty moorland air.

As Abe watched, the fog ominously congealed into an army of weird unearthly creatures surrounding the two antagonists completely. Encouraged by Kathy's hysterical screams, the legion of demons closed in on Abe. A lesser man would have fled to the nearest village hostelry and drunk away the memory, perhaps convincing himself it was all a fanciful illusion, but not Abe the peddler. He stood his ground as the fiends approached. Reaching into his pack, he took a pinch of some unknown substance and cast it into the air.

Immediately a whirlwind began flinging grit and sand at the prostrate Kathy and her hellborn battallion of wraiths. As his persecutors fought against the freakish tornado, Abe grabbed his pack and made his getaway across the moor until Kathy's terrible screams faded into the distance and the drifting mists.

Although the villagers of Ruswarp remained in mortal dread of Kathy, whenever he was in the vicinity Abe always called on the old woman, walking straight into her cottage as bold as brass. As far as the meeting on the moors goes, no one will ever know the truth of that day.

Old Kathy (sometimes called Kattie or Katy) lived from 1775 until 1823. She is the only witch from North Yorkshire to have her individual likeness preserved. The doll was made over a century ago and formed part of schoolmaster John Hall's collection of visual aids for giving local history lessons.

The doll is still on display in Whitby Museum, Pannett Park.

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