It is Christmas Eve in a small town in Lincolnshire, England. Two young children excited at the thought of Santa paying them a visit, refuse to settle and go to sleep.
Eventually their tired mother exasperated and at the end of her tether, issues a threat. The children are immediately silenced and snuggle down under the covers of their warm beds.
Santa is quickly forgotten and the children are suddenly keen to seek the refuge of sleep. What magic spell has this mother cast upon her children?
The answer is she hasn’t, she has merely uttered the words ‘If you don’t behave, the Black Lady of Bradley Woods will come and get you’.
Strange Lights and Grey Mists Drive by Bradley Woods, on a winter’s evening and you may spot an eerie light hovering in the distance.
As you approach, the light may become brighter and brighter until you are so dazzled you fail to see the young woman standing in the road until the very last moment.
Slamming on the brakes and hastily climbing from your car you will be shocked and relieved to discover it was just your imagination.
Or was it?
For many decades now, drivers in the area have reported the same story over and over. Known as the Black Lady of Bradley Woods, this sad spectre seems to be searching for something along the roadway.
Young and beautiful, witnesses have described the cloaked woman as tear stained and anguished. Disturbingly, the Black Lady also reportedly materialises as a grey mist which tempts children to follow her.
Those who do, find themselves at the ancient Norman church of St. George, where the sad lady materialises fully before disappearing into the church.
Rumored to be a kindly and benign spirit, does she think she is leading the children to safety? Who is the Black Lady?
Who is The Black Lady?
There are many different theories as to the identity of the Black Lady. Most locals agree that she is the ghost of a young woman who lived in Bradley Woods during the middle ages.
The young woman was married to a woodsman and they lived with their new born child in relative peace and isolation. Indeed, the remains of an old tumbledown cottage can still be found deep in the woods.
Whether it was her home or not, we will never know.
During the wars of the roses, the woodsman like most serfs, was obliged to take up arms for the local nobility. Leaving his wife and baby behind in their secluded cottage, the young man went to fight for the Earl of Yarborough.
Pining for her husband and desperately lonely in her isolated home, the new mother took her baby each day to the road at the edge of the woods.
There she would wait for hours on end, hoping to catch a glimpse of her returning husband on the horizon. Sadly, he never appeared.
One terrible midwinter day as she left her cottage to perform her daily pilgrimage, she was set upon by a group of men.
Whether they knew the beautiful young woman was alone in the cottage, or they just happened upon her, we can’t know.
Rumored to be cavalrymen fresh from battle, they attacked and raped the defenceless woman. Sadly, her futile cries went unheard in the isolated woods.
Not content with violating the poor woman, the laughing soldiers stole her baby and rode off into the woods, never to be seen again.
Heartbroken and bereft, the woman continued to wait for the return of her husband and child. When neither happened she faded away before dying of a broken heart.
The spirit of the young woman now haunts Bradley Woods and the nearby road. Searching desperately for both her husband and her stolen baby, she stands for hours waiting and watching.
Occasionally, she will stand in front of an approaching car. Does she think there is a baby, her baby, inside? Destined to haunt the woods forever the beautiful lady cannot understand that she will never see her husband or child on this earth again.
She remains a desperate and lonely spirit searching fruitlessly for something she will never find.
The legend of the Black Lady of Bradley Woods is now ingrained in Lincolnshire folklore. Indeed, her ghost is so famous that she is used as a warning to naughty children that they need to behave or she will come and get them.
This seems a little harsh as the poor young mother is tied to this earth because of the love she had for her own child. Young and beautiful she had everything to live for, before it was cruelly snatched away.
For those who don’t believe that such a ghost exists, drive slowly past Bradley Woods on a winter’s evening and you may catch a glimpse of a pale grey mist or a strange hovering light in the corner of your eye.
Better still, take up the local challenge and venture into the woods on Christmas Eve and shout out ‘Black lady, black lady, we have your baby’. You may just get the fright of your life.