For some of us, a trip to the beautiful Yorkshire countryside would not be complete without a traditional roast dinner and a pint of real ale.
For the many tourists who pass by each year, there are few places better to stop than the quaint little inn that stands at the crossroads of the small village of Sandhutton.
Warm and welcoming, this Olde Worlde pub with its pristine whitewashed walls and baskets of tumbling flowers, tempts the passing traveler with the promise of genuine Yorkshire puddings and the finest beer in the county.
Look a little closer though and all is not as it seems…
Is that really a noose hanging above the door and what is the meaning of the unremarkable chair painted on the tin sign that swings silently in the wind?
The answer is that this is no ordinary English pub with a token ghost and a twisted past. This picturesque little tavern is the home of the most cursed chair in England, the Thomas Busby chair.
The Curse of Thomas Busby
The story of the cursed chair begins with a career criminal, Thomas Busby, in 1699. Sometime earlier in the seventeenth century, one Thomas Awety moved to the nearby area of Kirby Wiske and bought himself a farm, which he renamed Dannoty Hall.
Not content with farming, Awety continued his old occupations of coin clipping and forgery. When his daughter married, he brought his son in law, Thomas Busby, into the family business.
A foul-mouthed drunken reprobate, Busby enjoyed more than a tipple at the local inn and was notorious for being a violent and nasty drinker.
Sometime in 1699, a row began when Awety sat in the favorite chair of Thomas Busby in the aforementioned hostelry.
Busby, drunk and unreasonable, flew into a blind rage with his father in law and vowed he would take his revenge.
Later that night he sneaked onto Awety’s farm on the isolated Yorkshire moors and bludgeoned the older man to death with an iron bar.
After burying his father in law in nearby woodland, he no doubt thought he had got away with his crime. Fortunately, the body was soon discovered and Busby was dragged from his home to stand trial at York assizes.
In 1702, Busby was convicted of murder. Condemned to be dipped in tar before being hung, he was to die outside the inn where his crime began.
As the time of his death approached a large crowd gathered at the crossroads, no doubt keen to witness the gruesome spectacle that was to take place.
Bitter and angry to the end, Busby was dragged to the gallows not pleading for mercy and forgiveness but cursing the crowd around him.
Focusing his bile on the inn opposite he cursed anyone who had the audacity to sit in his favorite chair after his demise, promising that if they did, death would surely follow.
The event made such an impression on those who witnessed the hanging that after his death the pub was renamed the Busby Stoop Inn.
With the curse of Thomas Busby ringing in their ears the chair remained undisturbed and unoccupied for many years, the regulars too frightened or too sensible to tempt fate.
The Chair of Death
The story may well have ended there if it were not for an unfortunate chimney sweep who inadvertently sat in the chair in 1894.
Unaware of the curse he continued drinking with a friend until the pub closed. Tired and drunk, the unfortunate chimney sweep decided that he could not venture home until he had slept off a little of his over indulgence.
Lying down on the grass verge opposite the inn he settled to sleep. The following morning he was found hanged from a gatepost next to the old hanging gibbet where Busby’s body had been left to rot.
Murder, suicide or the curse of Thomas Busby, we will never know.
In recent times the curse of the Busby chair has gathered pace as either accidentally or filled with false bravado, people visiting the pub have sat in the chair.
Perhaps knowing that their life expectancy was short anyway, the young men in the RAF camp nearby tempted fate during the Second World War by daring each other to occupy the seat.
It wasn’t until they noticed that those that did so were less likely to return from bombing missions, that the daring temporarily ceased.
In 1967 two RAF men once again dared each other to sit in the chair. Young and foolhardy they were convinced that the curse was just a local superstition and they were safe from harm.
On the short journey home from the pub to their camp, the two young men crashed their car into a tree and were killed instantly.
Some years later a group of men were working nearby repairing a roof. Teasing the youngest member of their group, an apprentice, they dared him to sit in the chair.
The young man obliged and later fell to his death the same day.
The landlord was so shaken that he took the chair and locked it in the pub’s cellar determined that no one else was going to fall victim to the curse.
Unfortunately, the chair of death continued to wield its strange powers. Whilst cleaning the cellar a female employee stumbled and briefly sat in the chair as she tried to save herself from falling. Later developing a terrible headache, the poor lady died of a brain tumor.
In 1978 the chair was to claim its last victim. Delivering barrels of beer to the inn, a local drayman interested in antiques spotted the chair in the corner of the dark cellar.
Clearly unaware of the curse placed on the chair, he sat in it admiring its comfort and elegance before leaving the pub and continuing his rounds.
Later that same day his vehicle left the road for no obvious reason and he was killed instantly.
At his wit’s end but loathe to destroy the historic object, the landlord of the pub decided it was time for drastic action and appealed for someone to remove the chair and keep it in a safe place.
The nearby Thirsk Museum eventually took the chair and placed it on display. It remains on display to this day but following the wishes of the pub landlord, it is fixed high upon a wall so that nobody is tempted to take a seat.
Despite this the museum receives requests and cash offers each year from visitors who want to sit in the chair.
A Japanese film crew went so far as appealing to the local council when their request to examine and sit in the chair was declined.
It seems absurd that a petty argument over a chair in a small village inn could cause so much death and destruction but it is undeniable that the fate has been sealed for many who have come into contact with this mysterious chair.
The question is, is the chair truly cursed or is there a sense of self- fulfilling prophesy?
If we are to believe the stories, some of the chair’s victims knew nothing of its macabre history before inadvertently taking a seat and dying soon after.
For now the cursed object is safe in a local museum. Despite constant requests by the brave, foolhardy or just plain mad, it is never taken down from the wall where it is displayed.
The owners of the museum are keen not to tempt fate any further. As long as it remains in their hands they have forbidden anybody from taking a seat on the Thomas Busby chair, ever again.