the gates of Fitzford House creak open a fearsome sight appears,
a massive black dog with glowing red eyes bounds out leading a
large horse-drawn carriage made of bones follows, driven by a
headless coachman and a ghostly white lady sits inside as it makes
its way the 16 miles to Okehampton Castle.
it reaches the castle the dog, with ceremony, goes to the castle
mound and plucks one blade of grass.
The spectral procession then turns and rides back to Fitzford
House where the blade of grass is laid on a stone and the spectres
vanish back to where they came from.
is the nightly torment of Lady Mary Howard, and when the castle
mound is finally free of any grass she'll be allowed to finally
punishment is very traditional in the same way as Sisyphus pushing
his rock up a hill, a long, tedious and repetitive task with the
added factor of possible "release" at the end, but only
after a distinctly impossible mission is completed.
possible injustice of this fate however is that Lady Howard herself
was actually the wronged party and the legends about her are widely
suggested to revolve more about her father than her.
Fitz, her father, became very rich, very young at the age of 21.
Like many before and after him the money soon turned him into
a moral-less shadow of his former self, sliding into a degeneracy
that caused him to vent his wrath on the folk of Tavistock and
led to the murder of two men, including his own best friend, killed
on the doorstep of Fitzford House.
found herself hated almost by proxy as stories about her father's
behaviour became twisted around to land on her own shoulders.
Fitz commited suicide, aged 30, after sliding into insanity and
Mary, just nine at the time, was sold by King James I to the Earl
of Northumberland who forcibly married her at 12 to his brother
Sir Alan Percy, simply to gain her fortune as the last of her
was the first of four husbands, all of whom she outlived. Percy
died after catching a cold on a hunting expedition and that left
her free to choose the man she desired, Thomas Darcy. Her one
marriage for love however ended in tragedy as Darcy died just
months after the two eloped and wed.
final two of her marriages were both about money, and both failed
because Mary was a much more assertive lady than the scared nine
year old thrust around when orphaned.
Howard never found peace in life or death
refused to let her husbands milk her dry and soon tied up her
fortunes to keep them safe. This led to massive arguments and
the break up of both marriages and the death of both husbands.
then retired back to a ruined Fitz house that had been left deserted
with her one remaining family member, a beloved son from her last
marriage called George.
hoped to live out her days in relative peace but life had one
more shock for her, the premature death of George. This was the
last break her heart could take and she died exactly one month
after her son.
her death, her life began to become a local legend and as such
became skewed from the truth. Her own life became merged with
that of her father and the deaths of her husbands became less
and less innocent until it reached the height of maliciousness;
the tale she had murdered all four husbands.
the legend was born, Lady Howard, in the coach made of her husbands
bones, riding on her futile journey each night, never allowed
the rest in death from the adversity that was her life.