The Supper Club Murders is the third in the Smart woman’s mystery series and takes place on Dartmoor. I love the unique atmosphere of bleak beauty and isolation. It’s the perfect place for a murder mystery, set in a small, quaint village where festering resentments and long held grudges quickly surface.
In celebration of the book’s release I’m going to be looking at this magnificent landscape and the tales of spirits, foul play and hauntings it has given rise to. It will form a series of myths, legends and tales from Dartmoor.
This is one of my favourite places and the setting of my new book, The Supper Club Murders. I’d love to hear your stories too! Do you, like me, have a deep fascination with moorlands? It doesn’t have to be just from Dartmoor. As a young girl, I grew up near the Yorkshire Moors and loved Wuthering Heights.
Today, I’m standing at Hound Tor, the inspiration for The Hound of the Baskervilles by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. It’s said to take its name from the dog head shapes it forms and was originally recorded in the Doomsday book as Hundatora. An ancient, deserted medieval village stands nearby. The whole of Dartmoor is littered with burial mounds, stone rows, stone circles and ancient settlements such as this.
This tor in particular is surrounded by tales of ghosts and apparitions, from travelling Cavaliers to the infamous black dog. Aside from Sherlock’s legendary hound, my favourite tale of Dartmoor’s black dog is that of Lady Mary Howard. She is said to ride out across the western borders of Dartmoor in a carriage made of her husband’s bones. On each corner is the skull of each of her unfortunate husbands. She is often known as ‘the Devil on Dartmoor’ and in her carriage is the huge black hound with blazing red eyes. According to legend, if you see the coach, there is death. Sadly, in reality she was rather a more wronged woman who was ill-treated and married off to various unpleasant characters.
Hound Tor and Lady Mary’s legend both appear in my new book which is available to pre order here. https://geni.us/supperprefbt
Thank you for reading and be careful when you travel on the moor at night!
PART TWO – KITTY JAY’S GRAVE
As a celebration of Dartmoor and in anticipation of my new book’s release which is set there, I’m doing a little series of posts on legends and tales from this fabulous landscape. Following on from my previous piece on Hound Tor, this is Kitty Jay’s grave. Not far from Hound Tor, this strange site is by the side of the road running from Heatree Cross to Hound Tor. It is one of the most haunted places on Dartmoor with many supposed sightings of the girl’s ghost. A young woman, floats around this bleak, deserted spot, as does a hooded figure which bends over the grave. But like many of these legends, it has it’s roots in tragedy.
Kitty Jay, Ann or Mary as she was also known, was an orphan who took work at Manaton Ford Farmhouse (or Canna Farm). Soon, after taking employment there, however she hanged herself. The tale has been embroidered over the years to include her being attacked by a farm hand or even the farmer’s son and, as a result, becoming pregnant. Her shame leading her to take her own life.
Whatever the reason, she was buried at a crossroads which was a practice in those days as none of the local parishes would bury her in consecrated ground. Some tales even have the poor girl’s body also being skewered with a metal bar but perhaps that’s straying too far into more vampiric tales. However, what is true even now is that every day fresh flowers are set on the grave and nobody knows who put them there. The bouquets still appear even in the snow, when it’s said that no footprints lead to or from the grave. Small votives and offerings are placed there now too.
One of the people it is thought who did this was the author Beatrice Chase who was inspired to write about the legend. Many people have found inspiration in this sad tale and the people and places involved. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, of course. And also, one of my favourites, Seth Lakeman, who wrote the wonderful song about Kitty Jay.
The grave and it’s legend are featured in my new book The Supper Club Murders which is out this September. https://geni.us/supperprefbt