Black Lady of Bradley Woods

The Black Lady of Bradley Woods is a ghostly figure of a woman supposed to haunt the woods near the village of Bradley, Lincolnshire, England. She is described by alleged eyewitnesses as being a young and pretty woman around 5"6 inches tall, dressed in a flowing black cloak and a black hood that obscures her hair but reveals her mournful, pale, tear soaked face. According to the legend she has never actually harmed anyone and has only ever proved to be a pitiful, if somewhat unnerving sight.

Origins of the Black Lady

The story of the Black Lady has been told in the area since at least as long ago as the 1920s, when local woman Ethel Campbell remembers being told the story by her mother to frighten her into going to bed early. This appears to have been common practice among parents in the area. Children were warned that if they weren't safely tucked up in bed by a certain time 'the black lady will get you!'.

One theory that has been put forward is that the Black Lady is the ghost of a nun. She appears dressed in black and certainly at nearby Nunsthorpe (now an area of Grimsby) a convent existed until the Reformation. This theory, however, gives no reason as to why the Black Lady should have moved from Nunsthorpe to Bradley, a mile and a half away. Also, though she may be dressed in black, few eyewitnesses describe her appearance as matching that of a nun.

Another possible explanation is that she is a spinster who at one time lives a life of isolation in her cottage in the woods far enough away from the village to warrant a spooky reputation. If village children had come across a woman living on her own in the woods and getting extremely angry when her privacy and solitude was breached then imaginary tales of witchcraft could have stoked the legend.

Neither of these theories ties in with the folklore, however.

The Myth of the Black Lady

The story runs thus; during the Wars of the Roses, or alternatively the Barons' Wars (accounts vary) a young woodsman and his wife lived with their young baby son in a cottage in Bradley Woods. The woodsman eventually left his family to fight for the army of the Earl of Yarborough, leaving his wife to bring up the baby alone. Many months passed and there was no news of the woodsman. Every day she would take her child and walk to the edge of the woods, awaiting the sight of her husband coming home from the wars, until one day, the enemy army crossed the Humber and marched through the area on the way to attack Lincoln. As she was leaving her cottage, the woman was set upon by three hobilars who brutally ravished her before snatching the baby boy and riding off laughing cruelly into the woods. Heartbroken and humiliated, she wandered the woods searching in vain for her child and husband, until one day her heart burst with sadness. After her death people began to see her wandering the woods, carrying on her neverending search. It is rumoured that if someone ventures into the woods on Christmas eve and shouts the words "Black Lady, Black Lady, I've stolen your baby!" three times the Lady appears to them to take back her child. This appears to be a modern addition to the myth.

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