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boggart


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In the dialects of northern counties, ‘boggart’ was a general term for any supernatural being which frightened people, whether indoors or out, without specifying whether it is ghost, malicious fairy, or minor demon. An outdoor boggart might haunt any pit or well or lonely lane; an indoor boggart's behaviour was like a poltergeist's—he would knock, throw stones, break dishes, and so on. ‘Nearly every old house had its boggart which played ill-natured tricks on the inhabitants. Singly or in packs they haunted streets and roads, and the arch-boggarts held revels at every three-road-end’ (Harland and Wilkinson, 1867: 49). The word is still used for a mischievous ghost.

In some tales, the boggart is attatched to a particular house or family, like a brownie, but as a nuisance rather than a helper. The most frequent anecdote on this theme is a humorous one, found in several collections from northern counties, and also in Lincolnshire and Shropshire. It tells how a farmer was so pestered by the tricks of a boggart that he and his family decided to move house, much against their will; as they set out, a neighbour asked if they really were leaving. ‘Yes, we're moving,’ said the farmer. ‘Yes indeed,’ came the boggart's voice from among the piled-up furniture, ‘we're all moving.’ So the farmer turned the cart round and went home, saying if they were to be tormented anyway, they',d do better to stay in their own old house.


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