5 Bizarre Dorset Legends!

Dorset is home to some weird and wonderful tales. Here are five you really should know.

1. Tarrant Gunville is home to a vampire

William Doggett was the steward of Eastbury House in Tarrant Gunville in 1786. As the story goes, he dismantled part of the
house after his master moved abroad, sold the building materials then shot himself on hearing his master was returning to
England – leaving, legend has it, a bloodstain that could not be removed.

Soon after stories began to circulate that Doggett had returned to stalk the village. His blood-covered face was seen after
dark. Doors opend and closed by themselves.

In 1907 Charles Harper wrote that: “Generally at the stroke of midnight, a coach with headless coachman and headless horses
drives out and picks up Doggett, down the road.”

“If you see an old-world figure at such a time, stepping into that horrid conveyance, you will recognise him as Doggett by
his knee-breeches, tied with yellow silk ribbon. The headless coachman asks (out of his neck ?), “Where to, sir ?” and the
ghost says, “Home”; whereupon the horses are whipped up, and they drive back to the house. The shade of Doggett, entering,
proceeds to the panelled room where he shot himself a century and a half ago – and shoots himself again !”

In 1845, Tarrant Gunville church was demolished and rebuilt. Workmen exhuming Doggett’s body found the workmen, exhuming
his body, found his legs had been tied together with yellow silk ribbon and his body was not at all decomposed. His body
was dealt with in the “accepted way” for a vampire, and he made no trouble for the village after that.

2. The mysterious Hover Cross of Moigne Down

UFO stories are common, and usually easily dismissed. But the 1967 sightings of a UFO over Moigne Down are extremely well

The Dorset Echo ran a story on October 24 about two policemen who gave chase to a large, bright, cross-shaped object they
saw flying through the sky at 80mph. It was 4am, but the officers were described as family men in their 30s, whose stories
were corroborated by a motorist who also saw the object.

The next day, the Echo ran a second story, saying five police patrols in Sussex had also seen the object. Two days later,
it was spotted in the sky over Moigne Down by a Mr Angus Brooks.

From the Echo’s report:

He said, “I was walking across Moigne Down, near Holworth, with my dogs at 11.25 yesterday morning. The sky was clear and I
saw a very fine ‘con trail very high in the sky over the Portland area.

“This disappeared and then into view, descending at a very high rate from the same area came a craft which slowed to level
out about a quarter of a mile to the south of me and at about 200-300ft.”

Mr. Brooks added that the craft’s shape on descent consisted of a central-circular chamber with a leading fuselage at the
front and three separate fuselages together at the rear.

“On slowing to a Stop, two of the rear fuselages moved into position at, the side of the craft and formed four fuselages in
the form of a cross at equidistant position around the centre chamber,” he said.

The craft remained visible for 22 minutes. It made little noise, if any, and its hovering attitude seemed unaffected by the
strong wind.”

Said Mr. Brooks, “From my position the craft’s construction appeared to be of a translucent material. It took on the colour
of the sky above it and changed with clouds passing over it.

“There could have been a clear material top to the fuselages and centre chamber, but this could not be seen from my
position. There appeared to be dark centre shadows down the floors of the fuselages and at the base of the centre chamber.”

Mr Brooks did not believe the object was a UFO, simply aircraft refuelling.

But in 1975 and 1976, the Hover Cross showed up again in Gloucestershire, seen in Tewkesbury and Cheltenham.

And some experts have linked it to the notorious “space battle” said to have taken place over Germany in 1561. (No, really,
that’s a thing. Details here, including a picture.)

3. Don’t mention the rabbit…

Say the word “rabbit” to a Portlander, and you might find them turning a little pale.

It’s a superstition with a basis in reality, because rabbits (or their burrows) were the cause of lethal rock falls in
Portland’s quarries. Men who saw a rabbit on their way to work would turn back, and the word became syonymous with bad
luck. So much so that when Wallace and Gromit’s Curse of the Were Rabbit was released, posters on Portland did not use the

Some islanders call them “underground mutton” instead.

4. The Shapwick Monster

On October 12th 1706, a live crab fell off a fishmonger’s cart being wheeled through the lanes between Wimborne and

The crab was found near East Farm in the village and the locals, having never seen such a beast before, immediately
summoned a village elder who proclaimed it to be a devil or “monster”. The villagers armed themselves with pitchforks as
protection and tried to drive the creature away.

How the story leaked out to neighbouring towns and villages, isn’t entirely clear (one version has it that the fishmonger
came back for his crab to see the villagers armed with sticks) but ever afterwards the people of Shapwick were looked upon
as rather simple.

The story was cemented in verse and pictures in 1841 by Buscall Fox (read it here) and today the legend is commemorated on
a specially illustrated story on display at the Anchor Inn and in the name of Crab Farm, which has a weathervane showing
the crab and villagers.

5. The Mer-Chicken

November, 1457, and according to Raphael Holinshed’s Chronicles of England, Scotland, and Ireland,a giant chicken was seen
coming out of the sea at Portland; “hauing a great crest vpon his head, and a great red beard, and legs of halfe a yard
long : lie stood on the water & crowed foure times, and euerie time turned him about, and beckened with his head,toward the
north, the south, and the west, and was of colour like a fesant, when he had crowed three times, he vanished awaie.”

When published, the Chronicles were met with scepticism as “unacademic” – but Shakespeare used them as the source for
Macbeth and Henry V, so they must be true. Right?

Source: http://www.bournemouthecho.co.uk/news/11120267.From_a__mer_chicken__to_the_Shapwick_Monster_here_are_five_weird_Dorset_legends_you_might_not_know/

Tags: ,

About Andrew

Co-founder & lead investigator of Paranormal Encounters. I've experienced the paranormal all my life, having encountered ghosts, angels and demons. I live in a haunted house and when not exploring and researching the unknown, I enjoy single malt Scotch whisky & potato chips (though not necessarily at the same time).