Haunted by the Ghost
of a Murdered Child

migratory legends of type 4025
trnaslated and/or edited by

D. L. Ashliman

© 1999-2022


  1. Mother Mine, in the Fold, Fold (Iceland).

  2. I Should Have Gotten Married (Iceland).

  3. The Child Murderer (Denmark).

  4. The Child Phantom (Sweden).

  5. Short-Hoggers o' Whittinghame (Scotland).

  6. Fine Flowers in the Valley (Scotland).

  7. Lady Anne (Scotland).

  8. The Infanticide Mother (England).

  9. The Crying Child (Poland).

Return to D. L. Ashliman's folktexts, a library of folktales, folklore, fairy tales, and mythology.

Mother Mine, in the Fold, Fold


A young woman who lived on a farm became pregnant. After giving birth to the child she set it out to die of exposure, not an uncommon act in this country before it became punishable by severe penalties. Now one day it happened that the young woman was invited to a dancing party. However, she had no good clothes, so she stayed at home in a sour mood. That evening, while milking the ewes in the fold, she complained aloud that for the want of a proper dress she could not go to the party. She had scarcely spoken when she heard the following song:

Mother mine, in the fold, fold
You need not be so sad, sad.
You can wear my castoff rags,
So you can dance,
And dance.
The young woman who had let her child die of exposure thought that she recognized its voice. She took such a fright that she lost her mind and remained insane the rest of her life.

I Should Have Gotten Married


Once there was a woman who had a child whom she abandoned outside to die. Later she had another child, a little girl. She did not abandon this girl, who grew up until she was of marriageable age. A man asked her to marry him. Many people were at the wedding. In the middle of the festivities they heard someone chanting through the window:
I should have come of age,
And had a suitor too,
I should have gotten married,
Just like you.
The guests thought that this verse was meant for the bride and that it was sung by her sister, who had been abandoned outside to die.

The Child Murderer


At the manor Serridslevgaard near Horsens there is a large brewer's kettle that used to sit in the wall. A wicked girl threw her infant child into this kettle. She had secretly given birth to the child. After this misdeed a child's cries were constantly heard from the kitchen, so that no one dared to be there. All the girls were interrogated about this, and the guilty one confessed. Thus she came to be punished for her guilt.

The Child Phantom


Many years ago there died on the estate of Sundshult, in the parish of Nafverstad, a child of illegitimate birth, which, because of this, was not christened and could not be accorded Christian burial, or a place in heaven, and whose spirit, therefore, was left to wander the earth, disturbing the rest and making night uncomfortable for the people of the neighborhood.

One time, just before Christmas, the parish shoemaker, on his rounds, was detained at the house of a patron, and, having much work before him, he was still sewing late into the night, when he was unexpectedly startled from his employment by a little child appearing before him, which said, "Why do you sit there? Move aside."

"For what?" asked the shoemaker.

"Because I wish to dance," said the specter.

"Dance away, then!" said the shoemaker.

When the child had danced some time, it disappeared, but returned soon and said, "I will dance again, and I'll dance your light out for you."

"No," said the shoemaker, "let the light alone. But who are you that you are here in this manner?"

"I live under the lower stone of the steps to the porch."

"Who put you there?" asked the shoemaker.

"Watch when it dawns, and you will see my mother coming, wearing a red cap. But help me out of this, and I'll never dance again."

This the shoemaker promised to do, and the specter vanished.

The next day a servant girl from the neighboring estate came, who wore upon her head a red handkerchief. Digging was begun under the designated step, and in time the skeleton of a child was found, encased in a wooden tub. The body was that day taken to the churchyard, and the mother, who had destroyed her child, turned over to the authorities. Since then the child specter has danced no more.

Short-Hoggers o' Whittinghame


It is little more than half a century since the good people of Whittinghame got happily quit of a ghost, which, in the shape of an "unchristened wean," had annoyed them for many years. An unnatural mother having murdered her child at a large tree, not far from the village, the ghost of the deceased was afterwards seen, on dark nights, running in a distracted manner between the said tree and the church-yard, and was occasionally heard to greet.

It was understood by the villagers, that it was obliged thus to take the air, and bewail itself, on account of wanting a name -- no anonymous person, it seems, being able to get a proper footing in the other world.

Nobody durst speak to the unhappy little spirit, out of a superstitious dread of dying immediately after; and, to all appearance, the village of Whittinghame was destined to be haunted till the end of time, for want of an exorcist. At length, however, it providentially happened, that a drunkard, one night, in reeling home, encountered it; and, being fearless in the strength of John Barleycorn, did not hesitate to address it in the same familiar style as if it had been one of his own flesh and blood fellow topers.

"How's a' wi' ye this morning, Short-Hoggers?" cried the courageous villager, when the ghost immediately ran away, joyfully exclaiming:

Oh weel's me noo, I've gotten a name;
They ca' me Short-Hoggers o' Whittinghame!
And, since that time, it has never been either seen or heard of. The name which the drunkard applied to it denotes that the ghost wore short stockings without feet, a proabable supposition, considering the long series of years during which it had walked.

Our informant received this story, with the rhyme, from the lips of an old woman of Whittinghame, who had seen the ghost.

Fine Flowers in the Valley


She sat down below a thorn,
Fine flowers in the valley,
And there she has her sweet babe born,
And green leaves they grow rarely.

Smile na sae sweet, my bonie babe,
Fine flowers in the valley,
And ye smile sae sweet, ye'll smile me dead,
And the green leaves they grow rarely.

She's taen out her little penknife,
Fine flowers in the valley,
And twinn'd the sweet babe o' its life,
And green leaves they grow rarely.

She's howket a grave by the light o' the moon,
Fine flowers in the valley,
And there she's buried her sweet babe in,
And green leaves they grow rarely.

As she was going to the church,
Fine flowers in the valley,
She saw a sweet babe in the porch,
And green leaves they grow rarely.

O sweet babe and thou were mine,
Fine flowers in the valley,
I wad cleed thee in the silk so fine,
And green leaves they grow rarely.

O mother dear, when I was thine,
Fine flowers in the valley,
You did na prove to me sae kind,
And green leaves they grow rarely.

Lady Anne


Fair Lady Anne sate in her bower,
Down by the greenwood side,
And the flowers did spring, and the birds did sing,
'Twas the pleasant May-day tide.

But fair Lady Anne on Sir William call'd,
With the tear grit in her ee,
"O though thou be fause, may Heaven thee guard,
In the wars ayont the sea!" --

Out of the wood came three bonnie boys,
Upon the simmer's morn,
And they did sing and play at the ba',
As naked as they were born.

"O seven lang years wad I sit here,
Amang the frost and snaw,
A' to hae but ane o' these bonnie boys,
A playing at the ba'" --

Then up and spake the eldest boy,
"Now listen, thou fair ladie,
And ponder well the rede that I tell,
Then make ye a choice of the three.

"'Tis I am Peter, and this is Paul,
And that ane, sae fair to see,
But a twelve-month sinsyne to paradise came,
To join with our companie." --

"O I will hae the snaw-white boy,
The bonniest of the three." --
"And if I were thine, and in thy propine,
O what wad ye do to me? " --

"'Tis I wad clead thee in silk and gowd,
And nourice thee on my knee." --
"O mither! mither! when I was thine,
Sic kindness I couldna see.

"Beneath the turf, where now I stand,
The fause nurse buried me;
The cruel penknife sticks still in my heart,
And I come not back to thee." --

The Infanticide Mother


In passing a cottage [in Northumberland] I remembered that an old woman had dwelt who was suspected of having caused the death of one of her children. I inquired of a person, a native of the village, who was with me, if he knew anything of the circumstance, and received from him the following account:
I knew the woman, who is now where the Lord pleases, very well. She was the wife of a day-tale* man, and they had more small bairns than they could well provide for; and in harvest she used to go out a-shearing. One year, about the harvest time, she had a young bairn at the breast, which she thought was one too many; and that she might not be hindered of the shearing by staying at home with it, and that she might get rid of it altogether, she smothered it in the cradle.

There was no public inquiry made, nor inquest held, but all her neighbours, especially the women folk, believed that the bairn was wilfully made away with, for she had the character of being a cold-hearted mother. She never did well, though she lived for nearly forty years afterwards. She fell into a low way, and was, at times, almost clean past herself. She was always at the worst about the time of the harvest moon; and would then often walk about the house, and sometimes go out and wander about the common, all night, moaning and greeting in a fearful way.

I have many a time seen her holding her head atween her hands, rocking herself backwards and forwards on a low chair, groaning and sighing, and every now and then giving an awful sort of shriek, which folks, who knew her best, said was her way when she fancied that she heard the bairn cry out in the same way that it did when she was smooring it. About the harvest time, she often used to see the spirit of the innocent that she had put to death, and her neighbours often heard her talking to it, bidding it to be gone, and not to torment her longer with its cries.

She is now dead and in her grave, and has been many years; and whatever may be her punishment in the next world for taking away the life of a harmless bairn of her own flesh and blood, she certainly dreed a heavy penance in this.

*A day-tale man is a labourer not engaged by a master for a certain time, but working for any person who will employ him by the day or by the week.

The Crying Child


In Krosnowo a servant girl had a child. In order to hide her shame she suffocated it immediately following its birth, then buried it in a turf shed. That same evening a man walked by the turf shed and heard pitiable crying. Others who passed this place experienced the same thing. People say that the poor child will have to continue crying until it is dug up and buried in a consecrated graveyard.

Return to D. L. Ashliman's folktexts, a library of folktales, folklore, fairy tales, and mythology.

Revised October 1, 2022.