Haunted Places, Normal Spaces #2: Bradley Woods, Bradley (nr Grimsby)

‘Black lady, black lady, I’ve stolen your baby’. Bradley Woods itself is several hundred years old, the oak trees having been planted and harvested for use in shipbuilding during the era of the Nap oleonic Wars, and stories of the Black Lady of Bradley Woods have been passed down through generations. Seen either on the road outside the woods or in the woods themselves, she is said to wear a black cloak with the hood drawn over her face. Three legends are associated with this apparition: the first suggests that she is the ghost of a nun, presumably with some association with the site of the old nunnery at Nuns Corner in Grimsby. In the second legend, the apparition is the ghost of a witch who lived in or near the woods. The third legend suggests that she is the ghost of a young woman whose husband left her to fight in either the Civil War, the War of the Roses or the Napoleonic Wars (depending on which version of the story one encounters) and, during his absence, a group of soldiers killed her infant child and raped her – either killing her or leaving her for dead. In the latter interpretation of the myth, following her encounter with the soldiers the young woman would wander the area in a black cloak, crying out for her murdered child. Say the phrase, ‘Black lady, black lady, I’ve stolen your baby’, and the Black Lady of Bradley Woods shall appear to you…

It’s likely that, like many such stories passed down through generations, this legend was concocted to keep people away from Bradley Woods – perhaps by people using the area for illicit activities who had good reason for frightening away unwanted visitors. However, ask anyone who has roots in the area, and chances are they know someone who has encountered the Black Lady of Bradley Woods in one form or another. Many of these encounters take place outside Bradley Woods itself, on the road nearby, where drivers of passing cars often report having hit something… or someone; but when they stop their vehicles and exit them, with the intention of giving aid to the person their car has struck, they find absolutely nothing. Many similarly described sightings were reported in the local newspaper during the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s, and the local police station was reputedly so bombarded with such calls that they would tell distressed motorists that they must have encountered the well-known ghost associated with the area.

My personal experiences with Bradley Woods have been the opposite of what one might expect. As a very small child, I used to walk to the woods with my mother – no small journey, the walk from my parents’ home being several miles in length. It was a pleasant place, well away from the hubbub of the town. As an older child, myself and my father helped build the fences and kissing gates at the rear of Bradley Woods, as part of a community project initiated by the Humber Wildfowlers, to which my father belonged; those structures are still present but now dilapidated and uncared-for – much like Bradley Woods itself, which in recent years has been cited as a hotspot for drug dealers and ‘dogging’. Recent visits to Bradley Woods with my own family have revealed the evidence of occult practices there – presumably by young people drawn to the woods by its association with the story of the Black Lady of Bradley Woods – including a large pentagram etched into the tarmac pathway just off the car park.

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