Cauld Lad of Hilton

The Cauld Lad of Hilton was a helpful but mischievous spirit, half ghost and half brownie, who once haunted Hilton Castle in Northumbria. According to legend, he was a stable boy, named Roger Skelton, who was killed by Lord Robert Hilton in 1609 because he failed to fetch the lord's horse in time. The spirit appeared at night, singing sadly, and made clean what was dirty and made dirty what was clean. He moved the furniture, mixed the salt, sugar, and pepper, and upset the utensils and dishes. Eventually, the servants had enough of his pranks and resolved to banish him. Having caught an inkling of their intentions, he used to amuse himself in the dead of night with chanting, in a melancholy strain, the following consolatory lines:

"Wae's me ! Wae's me!
The acorn is not yet
Grown upon the tree
That's to grow the wood
That's to make the cradle
That's to rock the bairn
That's to grow a man
That's to lay me!"

The domestics, however, laid out a green cloak and hood before the kitchen fire, and when the Cauld Lad appeared at midnight, he surveyed the garments provided for him, then tried them one, and appeared delighted with his appearance. On hearing the first crow of the cock, twitching his mantle about him, he disappeared with the appropriate valediction of:

"Here's a cloak, and here's a hood,
The Cauld Lad o' Hilton will do na' mair good."

Guest who stayed in a certain room in Hilton Castle, known as the Cauld Lad's room, heard at midnight the unearthly wailings of the Cauld Lad of Hilton.



  • Cobham Brewer, E. (2001). The Dictionary of Phrase and Fable. Cassell reference.
  • Denham, M.A. (1892). The Denham Tracts. Vol. 1. Strand: David Nutt, pp. 55-57.
  • Guiley, Rosemary Ellen. (2007). The Encyclopedia of Ghosts and Spirits. New York: Facts On File, Inc.