From the Darlington & Stockton Times of December 23, 1871

IT was as if Charles Dickens himself had taken over the pages of the D&S Times of 150 years ago this week as the paper described a very Victorian Christmas – complete with a very Dickensian ghost.

“That Christmas is nigh is evidenced by the profusion of good cheer observable on every hand as we walk through the streets of the north of England,” said the paper. “Huge lumps of beef, tempting in their rich mixture of red and yellow and set off to the best advantage by a judicious arrangement of decorations fill the butchers’ shops from floor to ceiling, while in nearly all classes of trade – especially dealers in edibles – there is some manifestation in token of the Christmas-tide.

“Grocers’ shops are perfectly redolent with the fruits and spices of distant climes which, moreover, are set out in tempting array in the windows, whilst fruiterers have added to their stock of luscious attractions the retailing of plants and greenery germane to the season – the shining leaves of the holly prettily blending with the pearly berries of the mistletoe.

“Game dealers add their quota in loads of geese, turkeys, rabbits and hares, confectioners are rich in sweets, twelfth cake and other delicacies, and the wine and beer sellers also determine not to be left out in their efforts to cater for the devotees of the merrie Christmas.”

And there was also “a local ghost story” which, said the paper, might have sounded fantastical but “has the evidence of so many persons that it cannot be rejected”.

Darlington and Stockton Times:

This curious haunting at happened at Ellerton-on-Swale, a hamlet now with a tearoom and garden centre attached between Scorton and Northallerton. At about 2pm on December 15, a “widow woman” who lived in a roadside cottage with her grandchild was subjected to knockings on the door but when she answered, no one was there.

Then there followed a barrage of stones which lasted for hours. Neighbours set up watch to defend her, but still the stones kept coming, with the neighbours unable to find where they were coming from.

“A cessation took place near midnight, only to be renewed the following morning, and the pelting continued into the afternoon without any discovery being made as to the cause,” said the D&S. “The old woman was in the greatest consternation, and evidently ascribed the visitation to the evil one.

“Strange to say every stone was aimed at the windows with such unerring precision that there is scarcely a whole pane left in any of them. Some of these stones were larger than a man’s hand, which entirely does away with the supposition that they have been thrown by a catapult.”

And there the mystery of the seasonal stone-throwing ghost of Ellerton was allowed to rest.