About the commencement of the 19th century, the quiet village of Black Heddon, near Stamfordham, in Northumberland, was greatly disturbed by a supernatural being, popularly called Silky, from the nature of her robes. She was remarkable for the suddenness with which she would appear to benighted travelers, breaking forth upon them, in dazzling splendor, in the darkest and most lonely parts of the road. seat herself behind him. If he were on horseback, she would seat herself behind him, "rustling in her silks," accompany him a certain distance, and then as suddenly disappear, leaving the bewildered countryman in blank amazement.
Silky had a favourite resort at Belsay, two or three miles from Black Heddon, on a romantic crag beautifully studded with trees, under whose shadow she would wander all night. The bottom of this crag is washed by a picturesque little lake, at whose outlet is a waterfall, over which a fine old tree spreads its waving branches, forming by their intersection a sort of chair. In this Silky loved to sit, rocked to repose by the wild winds, and it is still called Silky's Chair.
This sprite exercised a marvellous power over the brute creation, arresting horses in their daily work, and keeping them still as long as she was so minded. Once she waylaid a waggon bringing coals to a farm near Black Heddon, and fixed the team a since upon bridge, called, after her, "Silky's Brig." Do what he would, the driver could not make the horses move a step, and there they would have stood all night had not another farm-servant fortunately come up with some ''witch-wood" (mountain-ash) about him. He went to the horses, and at the of her pitch voice, they moved on at once, but never did their driver dare to go abroad again without being well armed with witchwood.
In some respects Silky showed a family likeness to the brownies. Like them she would, during the night, tidy a disorderly house; but if cannie decent people had cleaned their rooms, and arranged them neatly, especially on a Saturday afternoon, the wayward sprite would disarrange everything as soon as they were gone to bed, so that on Sunday morning all would be in the wildest confusion.
Silky disappeared from her haunts very suddenly. One day a female servant, being alone in one of the rooms of a house at Black Heddon, was terribly frightened by the ceiling above suddenly giving way, and a black mass falling through it with a crash upon the floor. She instantly fled out of the room,screaming at the pitch of her voice,
The devil's in the house!—the devil's in the house! He's come through the ceiling! The family collected around her in some alarm, and at first no one dared enter the room; when the mistress at last ventured to go in, she found on the floor a large rough skin filled with gold. From this time Silky was never more heard or seen, so it was believed that she was the troubled phantom of some person who had died miserable because she owned treasure, and was overtaken by her mortal agony before she had disclosed its hiding-place.
Another female form, clad in rustling silks, haunted Denton Hall, near Newcastle, and another a shady avenue near North Shields. This last was thought to be the ghost of a lady who was mistress to the Duke of Argyle in the reign of William III.
- Henderson, W. (1879). Notes on the folk-lore of the northern countries of England and the borders. Covent Garden: W. Satchell, Peyton and Co., pp. 268-270.
This article incorporates text from Notes on the folk-lore of the northern countries of England and the borders (1879) by William Henderson, which is in the public domain.