Wednesday, 22 February 2017

The 'Orrible 'Ouse of Terrible Old Tat #06 - Which Which Witch?


Welcome once again dear friends to the 'Orrible 'Ouse of Terrible Old Tat! Do come in, just be careful you don't trip over all those dropped 'h's though. Anyhow this week we are looking at a particular item, or rather a family of items, that I really should have opened this blog series with, as it appeared in the logo illustration for the introductory despatch from the 'Orrible 'Ouse. Look I meant to, honest! But as you can see this place is permanently in a bit of state, and I couldn't get to the boxes for a load of old Doctor Who dolls ok! 

Anywho, this week I've dredged up an old board game that I'm guessing made many an appearance on Christmas lists and birthday requests. It certainly was the star item on one of my childhood missives to Santa, and the Bearded Gent did indeed come through on this one. Now that much anticipated item was a board game called Haunted House, and unlike many other much hankered for toys, this one did not disappoint! And looking back, I think it was my favourite childhood board game, and was played with for many many years on a regular basis.


And my experiences with Haunted House is clearly not in any way unusual, for this is a game whose mere mention triggers a wave of nostalgia in several generations. For this is a board game that has never been long off the shelves, and indeed, it's still available in toy shops to this very day. In fact it's now only a few years shy of being 50 years old! I reckon it's only the fact that this board game has gone through several rebrandings that has prevented it from being recognised as a true classic.  So then, let's have a quick wander through its long history... 

The spooky treat first appeared in 1970 in the US, a creation of pioneering board game makers, Milton Bradley (later known as MB Games), under the name Which Witch. It initially came in a huge square box the size of the board itself, but was reissued a year later in a more familiar, slimmer rectangular box that was way easier to get in the toy cupboard, thanks to it now having a more convenient folding board. Now the same year as the folding board made its debut, 1971, it made its first transatlantic appearance, released in the UK by Denys Fisher. And while the game pieces, rules and box art were identical, it was now called Haunted House. European versions began to appear soon after too - in Spain it became Embrujada (Haunted), in France it was Le Manoir Hanté (The Haunted Manor), in German it was Spukschloss (Haunted Castle), and in Italy it was Castello Incanto (Castle of Spells) and also Brivido (Shiver). 

In all its incarnations, Which Witch/Haunted House sold steadily for many years. In 1975, there was the first evolution of the game, with Denys Fisher releasing a rejigged version entitled New Haunted House. Reflecting the new moniker, there was new box art, and the titular witches disappeared from the game, being replaced with ghosts, and one of the game's gadgets, a broom trap becoming a falling knight. In the mid '80s the game evolved again, with a few more tweaks to the mechanics and pieces, and it actually became in two distinct versions.


The more short-lived one, which appeared in toy stores in 1986, saw the now venerable game re-skinned to be a tie-in to the Real Ghostbusters cartoon series, and was called, unsurprisingly, The Real Ghostbuster Game. Needless to say this spin-off edition did not last long. However its other '80s incarnation, released the year before in 1985, proved to be far more tenacious! Ghost Castle from MB Games, brought some more tweaks to the game, several of witch, sorry, which had been first seen in some of those European versions. The main changes were the tower on the board becoming a more durable plastic, a deck of cards becoming a spinner, and a ball being replaced with a skull! A plastic one, not a real one I should point out...  Anyway, since then the game has more or less stuck to its new name of Ghost Castle, and indeed the game is still available to this very day, with the current version being issued by Goliath Games. 

So why has this game been so popular over the years? Well, we'll be bringing out the board and setting up the haunted house in all its glory next week to take a proper look at the gameplay. And along the way we'll note some of the changes and evolutions it has undergone in nearly five decades of providing spooky thrills! 



Sunday, 19 February 2017

MICROGORIA 40 - The Hamlyn Book of Horror


In this episode, Mr Jim Moon has a flip through a battered but much loved tome in the Great Library of Dreams, a huge favourite with monster-obsessed kids in the 1970s and 1980s - the Hamlyn Book of Horror by Daniel Farson! 

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Friday, 17 February 2017

FOLKLORE ON FRIDAY - The Strolling Stones

The Cheesewring at Bodmin Moor

Over the past few weeks we have been exploring some legends surrounding certain standing stones that claim that these ancient pieces of rock actually revolve, at particular times of the day or year, of their own accord. A famous example is the Cheesewring in Devon (pictured above), an iconic array of stones, often thought to be an ancient structure but was actually formed by wind and weather erosion. It has a typical folkloric origin tale, in this case it is said that the Cheesewring is the result of rock throwing contest between a local giant Uther and Saint Tue. But also according to legend, the topmost stone revolves at dawn when it hears a cockcrow. In this case, we should perhaps note that in addition to the miraculous ability to rotate itself, as it is located in the wilds of Bodmin Moor, the Cheesewring must also possess preternatural auditory senses too as the nearest farms where a cockerel might be lie many miles away! 

Last week I outlined a theory that these tales of self-turning stones perhaps originated in the 18th century, thanks to a highly influential book recording how on the Isle of Barry, an alleged survival of Druid rituals was the custom of walking around a local standing stone. And the idea that standing stones were linked to Druids and people would "take a religious turn" around them seeped into the folklore of many megaliths, and became corrupted into tall tales that the stones themselves did the turning. And as we have discovered in recent weeks, the alleged ability of stones to revolve or rotate frequently appears to be a generic attribute added to more elaborate and individual folklore stories about them.

However I suspect this generic attribute of turning themselves at cockcrow or certain days of the year, while sounding rather bizarre to modern ears, easily took root in folklore due to the presence of an earlier related story tradition. For while revolving now and again might sound very odd to us, it is in fact the very least of the magical powers of mobility that ancient standing stones were reputed to possess. To begin with we have numerous legends and old tales of stones that walk. For example, in Gloucestershire, near the ancient market town of Minchinhampton, is a menhir called the Long Stone, which does considerably more than revolve!
"When the Longstone hears the clock strike twelve, it runs round the field," as almost every child in the place will tell you. 
from Cotswold Place-Lore and Customs by J. B. Partridge, in Folklore, Vol. 23, No. 3. (Sep., 1912)

Furthermore, not far away is another megalith, one that is thought to be the remnant of a long barrow. And this standing stone is keen on a bit of exercise as well, as Mr Patridge goes on to relate -
In Avening parish, about half a mile south of the Longstone, is "Tinglestone," a menhir crowning a long barrow; Mr. Frost of Avening tells me that it too* "runs round the field when it hears the clock strike twelve."
Skipping a little further north, we have the famous monuments at Avebury, which comprise of three stone circles and an ancient henge. To the north of the village lies one of the larger megaliths in the complex, a diamond shaped sarsen known as the Swindon Stone. However despite weighing in at an impressive 65 tonnes, the Swindon Stone likes to get out and about too, with local legends asserting that it is apt to go for a wander, and crosses the nearby road at midnight.

The Swindon Stone at Avebury

Now of course it would be easy to dismiss such legends as idle fancy, however we do have more detailed reports of the secret strolls taken by standing stones. Consider the following tale concerning the Wimblestone, located near Shipham, related in the book Somerset Folklore (1965) by Ruth L Tongue 
Zebedee Fry were coming home late from the hay-making above Shipham. It were full moon, for they'd worked late to finish, and the crop was late being a hill field, so he had forgot what night 'twas. He thought he saw something big and dark moving in the field where the big stone stood, but he was too bone-weary to go chasing any stray bullock. Then something huge and dark in field came rustling all alongside lane hedge, and Zebedee he up and dive into the brimmles in the ditch till it passed right along, and then he ran all a-tiptoe to reach Shipham. When he come to the field gate he duck two-double and he rush past it. But, for all that, he see this gurt stone, twelve feet and more, a-dancing to itself in the moonlight over top end of field. And where it always stood the moon were shining on a heap of gold money. But Zebedee he didn't stop for all that, not until he were safe at the inn at Shipham. They called he all sorts of fool for not getting his hand to the treasure - but nobody seemed anxious to have a try - not after he'd told them how nimble it danced round field. And nobody knows if 'twill dance again in a hundred years. Not till there's a full moon on Midsummer Night.
It is interesting to note that "wimble" is thought to be derived from an old word meaning 'lively' or 'giddy'. And indeed there are other tales of folks falling foul of the Wimblestone, with one story alleging it attacked a farmer who struck it with a stick, and chased him across the countryside until he took refuge in a nearby church!

The Wimblestone, seen here behaving itself for a change

As a side note, it would seem that tales about the marauding Wimblestone inspired one of the stranger monsters ever seen in Doctor Who. In October 1978, an adventure for the Fourth Doctor (played Tom Baker) began entitled The Stones of Blood. Now as well featuring Druidic rites, megaliths, and Celtic goddesses, we were introduced to some alien monsters called the Ogri. These space criminals had been hiding out on Earth, and as they were a silicon based life form, they disguised had themselves as menhirs! The practical upshot of which was we had standing stones moving around at night in search of blood to drink!

But to return to the realm of folklore, thankfully though, it would appear that most stones that like a stroll aren't as aggressive as the Wimblestone. However it would seem that such stories of walking stones are in fact very ancient indeed. Around 828 AD, a Welsh monk named Nennius wrote an epic work entitled Historia Brittonum which recounted the history of the British Isles and its peoples. Much of the material in the volume was fanciful to say the least and owed more to legend than actual historical fact. And while it is of limited value to historians, it is a treasure trove of folklore. For example, Nennius makes a very interesting reference to a tale about an ancient standing stone found in Wales -
The third is a stone which moves at night in Glenn Cindenn, and though it should be cast into the sea, or into a cataract, it would be found on the margin of the same valley.
It is also worth noting that it is thought that Nennius didn't actually pen all (or according to some scholars, any) of Historia Brittonum, and that the text was assembled from even earlier anonymous sources. The mention of the stone returning to its site if ever moved is also a common feature in moving stone lore, alongside stories of the stones resisting and foiling any attempt to move them. For example, our bad boy rockstar, the Wimblestone is alleged to have rolled over and crushed a chap who tried to pull it up with oxen. So then, it would seem we can trace stories of strolling stones back at least to the 7th century. Little wonder then that the apparently more recent additions to folklore involving stones rotating took root so quickly. And as we shall we next week, ancient stones often did more incredible things than just taking an occasional hike...


Doctor Who and the Stones of Blood

Sunday, 12 February 2017

HYPNOGORIA 51 - A Tribute to John Hurt


In a special episode, Mr Jim Moon pays tribute to the life and career of John Hurt, looking back over a personal selection of his most outstanding roles. 

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Friday, 10 February 2017

FOLKLORE ON FRIDAY - The Turning of the Stone


Over the past few weeks, we have been examining curious legends about assorted ancient stones, in particular the strange tales that claim many of them possess the magical ability rotate or turn themselves at certain times, usually at midnight or sunrise. So far we discovered that such fanciful stories of revolving rocks often don't appear to have any clear origin, and in many cases seem to be a gloss on to any existing folklore surrounding the site. 

However a possible clue to the source of these stories perhaps lies in the fact that many of these stones have previously been assumed to be some surviving monuments created by prehistoric or pagan people, when in fact often they are actually natural features of the landscape or of more recent construction. A typical example is the Cuckoo Stone in Derbyshire (shown above), a large rock to be found just outside Matlock. This huge stone has often been thought to be a surviving megalith from ancient times, and its jagged, spiky shape is very reminiscent of other standing stones. However despite stories of a lost stone circle in the area, modern scholars tend to think it is just an natural boulder. 

However its name has an interesting tale to relate. It is thought that 'Cuckoo' is a corruption of 'cock crow'. For like other ancient stones we have been discussing, this imposing rock is said to turn itself around if it hears a cock crow, presumably at dawn, and upon certain days of the year. However which days of the year these are, no one is very clear about. And yet other tales add the claim that the Cuckoo Stone also revolves at midnight too. Again we have no clue as to why this stone should gyrate in this fashion other than a long standing association with being a possible site of ancient worship.

The Turning Stone

Not far away from the Cuckoo Stone, just outside Ashover, is another revolving rock, the Turning Stone. Much like the Cuckoo Stone, the Turning Stone is alleged to revolve at certain days of the year at cock crow. However once again the old local lore doesn't actually specify which days of the year this occurs on. Given there is only around 5 kilometers between the two stones, one can't help wondering if the legends have spread from one to the other. However we should note that both stones' names refer to their alleged usual rotating antics. 

Now the exact origins of the Turning Stone are unclear - it could well be a natural formation but largely due to its proximity to what is very likely a man-made megalithic structure called Robin Hood's Mark,  it has been assumed to be a relic of ancient man. An 18th century antiquarian, Hayman Rooke in an article entitled  'An Account of the Druidical Remains in Derbyshire. In a Letter to the Right Honourable Frederick Montague, FAS. By Hayman Rooke, Esq. FAS.' published in n Archaeologia v12 (1796), has this to say about Robin Hood's Mark - 
This rocking stone, which, from its extraordinary position, evidently appears not only to have been the work of art, but to have been placed with great ingenuity; the two upper stones (a and b) have been shaped to fit exactly with the two upright stones (c and d) on which they rest; and so artfully contrived, that the lower stone (b) moves with the upper stone (a). It measures about 26 feet in circumference.
That this is a Druidical monument formed by art, cannot, I think, be denied; we are assured that the Druids were well skilled in the art of magic, by which the superstitious Britons were led implicitly to believe in the miracles performed by these rocking stones.
And he goes on to mention the nearby Turning Stone -
It stands on the edge of a hill on Ashover common; height nine feet. It was a very ancient practice among the Britons to make three turns round their sacred rocks and fires, according to the course of the sun. Martin, in his account of the Western isles, says, "that in the Isle of Barry there is one stone about seven feet high, and when the inhabitants come near it, they take a religious turn round according to the ancient Druid custom." Hence there is great reason to suppose, that the above-mentioned stone was a rock idol to whom the Druids offered up their devotional rites.
Now the book he is referencing is A Description of the Western Islands of Scotland by Martin Martin, which was first published in 1703. Now this volume detailing the life, culture and traditions of the Scottish isles was a huge success, inspiring many similar works, and remaining constantly in print for a century after it first hit the shelves, with a raft of special editions and reprints following. Given the huge impact Martin's tome had upon the study of ancient history and folklore, I rather suspect his writings are the origin of much speculation about Druids and standing stones over the years.

Robin Hood's Mark - an illustration from Rooke

However the striking thing here I think is Martin's phrase "a religious turn" to describe the rite of walking around the stone. Rooke makes the connection with Martin's account and the name Turning Stone, and you can see how deeply Martin's writing had influenced antiquarian thinking in Rooke's day. Now modern scholars would be very wary of taking a report of one local custom and seeing it as a relic of a Druidic ritual once practiced nationwide, as we now appreciate how localised such lore often is. However back when the study of ancient history and folklore was young, such over-elaborations and far-reaching generalisations were more commonplace, as they were working from an assumption that there was a nationwide culture.

Whether or not the Isle of Barry ritual detailed by Martin was an authentic survival of a Druid rite doesn't really matter in reference to the origins of rotating stone stories. But the huge influence of his book is I suspect another matter, in particular the way his writings influenced our view of ancient Druidic and Celtic cultures. And given the phenomenal print runs of this book, I can't help but wonder if the common folkloric tale of a standing stone turning itself at a certain time or on a certain day of the year actually originates from Martin, with the notion that ancient Druids taking "a religious turn" around the local standing stone becoming quickly corrupted in oral retellings as the stone itself doing the turning. This would at least account for the fuzziness over which days of the year the Turning Stone and Cuckoo Stone are supposed to do their tricks.

However I suspect there may be another factor at play here than merely just a historical case of Chinese Whispers. For there is another similarly widespread tradition of stories about standing stones which perhaps provided the fertile ground for the turning misconception to take root in. And that is the legions of stories about stones that walk, which we will explore in the next Folklore on Friday.


The Turning Stone - an illustration from Rooke

Wednesday, 8 February 2017

The 'Orrible 'Ouse of Terrible Old Tat #05 - Who Nose?


Welcome once again dear friends to the creaky old pile of half-forgotten ephemera that is the 'Orrible 'Ouse of Terrible Old Tat! This week we are, I promise, concluding our look back at the first very range of Doctor Who action figures - or dolls as they were called back then - produced by UK toy masters, Denys Fisher in the late 1970s. And in this final installment we are looking at the nine inch plastic versions of the Doctor's most famous enemies. 

Now the first proper monster to ever appear in the show would also become the most famous - I refer of course to those genocidal pepperpots, the Daleks. These armoured horrors from Skaro first appeared back in December 1963 in the second ever Doctor Who serial, variously known as 'The Mutants', 'The Dead Planet', or simply 'The Daleks', for back then Doctor Who adventures only had production codes rather than definite titles for the story arcs, and hence strictly speaking the story is called Serial B. Anywho, these metal monsters were an instant hit, indeed so much so that the Daleks got their own spin-off toys years before there was ever a Doctor figure, with the first miniature Daleks hitting the toy shops in 1965 in a whole variety of shapes and sizes from different manufacturers. 


Now then, gingerly stepping over the tatological* tarpit that is the various breeds of toy Dalek invading the toy shelves in the mid '60s - for they were legion (see here) - all we really need to note right now is that none of them were actually what we would now call 'screen accurate'. In fairness, they were all recognisable as Daleks, and were never in any danger of being mistaken for Gareth Hunt, but they tended to sport somewhat off-piste proportions and colour schemes. Up until Denys Fisher came on the scene, the best toy dalek you could buy was one produced by another UK toy firm, Palitoy in 1975 - a battery operated talking Dalek whose only real flaw was that it was slightly on the chubby side. Hence there was still room from improvement, and indeed the Denys Fisher Dalek from 1977 was widely hailed as the most accurate toy Dalek to date. 

However that said, I always thought the Denys Fisher Dalek looked a little on the small and undernourished side. To my childish eye, it looked like a Dalek that hadn't been eating its greens, and I much prefered the chunkier Palitoy one, even if it did look like it had eaten all the pies. But as the Denys Fisher Daleks are still much sought after by collectors, and are currently going for around £500, so I'm probably in the minority there. However while we could argue all day over which of these '70s toys is the more accurate version of their screen counterparts, there is an interesting tale surrounding the colour scheme of the Denys Fisher incarnation. As you can see from the pictures, this particular Dalek has a silver body and a striking red head piece, giving it something of a sporty look. And while that colour scheme might seem a little unusual, it was familiar to 1970s kids for identical Daleks had appeared in a set of cardboard figures given away by Weetabix (a tale for another day), and in Doctor Who comic strips found in British weekly comic Countdown**.

A Weetabix Dalek card and a panel from Sub Zero published Countdown comic in 1972

However the curious thing is, despite the Skaronine terrors adopting various liveries over the years, there had never actually been a silver and scarlet model on screen, neither in the TV show, or even in the two movies starring Peter Cushing as the Doctor produced in the 1960s. However interestingly, the origin of this rogue pepperpot is tied to the creator of the Daleks themselves -no, not Davros, but writer Terry Nation. Now Nation has invented the Daleks in his script for The Mutants/Dead Planet/Serial B and had cannily retained the rights - which was why they were so heavily merchandised in the 1960s. Nation even ended up with a flotilla of Daleks of his very own, after acquiring some of the movie props, which would go out on promotional tours. In an article on the Daleks in the Radio Times special issued for the 10th anniversary of the show, old Terry was pictured at his home with his own honour guard of Skaro's finest patrolling his drive!

Terry Nation and his Skaro posse

And look, there's the Scarlet Top! So where did he come from? An unrealised outing for the Daleks perhaps? For there were a few of those down the years, most famously Nation planned to bring them into his other SF TV series Blake's 7 and tried to get a solo Dalek show on US TV.  Actually the truth is more prosaic - over the years the various Dalek props own by Nation got a bit battered during their days on the road. Sadly rumours of them smashing up hotel rooms and hanging out with Keith Moon have just been made up by me. Anyhow, due to assorted Daleks getting damaged in transit, those deemed to tatty to show to the public ended up as spare parts, and eventually lead to the creation of Scarlet Top, essentially a Skaro Frankenstein made of bit of ex-Daleks*** (more details available here). However, it would seem that reference materials provided by the Beeb for Denys Fisher featured lots of snaps from the Radio Times photo shoot, and likewise Weetabix and Countdown artist Gerry Haylock got the same press pack to work from too. And hence the Scarlet Top came into the Dalek canon...

The 10th Anniversary Doctor Who special from Radio Times 

Now then, to move on to the other arch nemesis manufactured by Denys Fisher, their nine inch Cyberman shares a similar heritage. As detailed here, their terror from Telos was clearly modelled on the Cyberman seen menacing the Third Doctor on the cover of 10th Anniversary Radio Times special - it's the silver wellies that are the give away apparently! However, it is fair to say that the resulting Cyber-doll wasn't as quite as screen accurate as their Dalek. The decision to go with fabric for the Cybersuit makes it look like it's wearing pajamas, and the pipes and chest pieces look a bit too chunky and cumbersome. Indeed the chest unit, which serves as the Cyberman's lungs by the way, often slipped down so much, it would end up being worn like a bum-bag by many Denys Fisher Cybermen.  Obviously, much of this comes down to a matter of scale - there's lots of fiddly bits on Cybermen that were hard to do well at nine inches. But none of that explains why this Cyberman is a true rogue. Look closely here...


Yes, this Cyberman has a nose! And, as far as I can tell, nobody nose why! Boom! Boom! ...Oh alright, please yourselves! But leaving the bad puns aside, the only thing I can come up with is perhaps the designers at Denys Fisher were short of pictures of Cybermen, and possibly were consulting a range of photos of assorted old Cybermen. Now over the years, the Cybermen have changed quite a lot, in in their first appearance had gauze face masks rather than steel headpieces, and hence you can see a bump where their noses were. And looking at the general features of the Denys Fisher Cyberman, it could well a result of a harassed designer attempting to synthesis the four different models of Cybermen pictured in that fabled Radio Times Special. Quite possibly while screaming "what the hell are these silver bastard things supposed to look like ?!?".  Well, that's my theory and I'm sticking to it!

A Tenth Planet Cyberman

So then dear friends, that brings us the end of this trawl through Doctor Who toys from the 1970s. However, never fear, the 'Orrible 'Ouse of Terrible Old Tat as many. many more dubious treasure to share with you! 

*  - Yes, I did just make that word up
** - A story in which Scarlet Top appears, Sub Zero, was reprinted last month by Doctor Who Monthly as a free gift with Issue 508
*** - All together now "They have ceased to be!"

Saturday, 4 February 2017

FROM THE GREAT LIBRARY OF DREAMS 29 - The Man With The Roller



This week in the Great Library of Dreams, we are returning to the Stoneground Ghost Tales, written by EG Swain, a good friend of the great MR James. In this story we hear of how Mr Batchell acquired a rather nice photograph of the vicarage at Stoneground, and what was discovered with the picture was enlarged... 

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Friday, 3 February 2017

FOLKLORE ON FRIDAY - The Stones Are in Town!


Last week we began exploring the curious legends of stones that move by themselves, and this time we are looking at two more such rotating rocks, both of which can be found in heart of English villages.

In the lee of the Malvern Hills in Herefordshire, just near the border with Worcestershire, lies the little village of Colwall. And as you drive through the village, you will see, literally in the middle of the road, albeit on a traffic island, a large squarish stone, known unsurprisingly as the Colwall Stone. As is traditional for such prominent rocks, there are local legends that is was the work of giants, or had been dropped by The Devil. However another tale claims that every night, at the stroke of midnight the Colwall Stone turns itself around, and according to some versions, Old Nick Himself comes to do the turning. Quite why the stone turns, and indeed why it should be one of the Devil's chores, local lore never actually explains. Much like many of the old stones we are discussing in these articles, in previous times when archaeology was much younger, it was guessed that the stone was some relic of our pagan past. However in the second edition of The British, Roman, and Saxon Antiquities and Folklore of Worcestershire published in 1852, the pioneering antiquarian and folklorist Jabez Allies writes - 
There is a large block of limestone called Colwall Stone, situated by a cottage (formerly named the "Old Game Cock"), on the road-side at Colwall Green. Some have supposed that it was placed there in ancient times as a memorial of some event, or as evidence of some custom; but, upon my visiting the spot in 1846, I learned from a person in the neighbourhood, that his late father, Francis Shuter, and others, about seventy years ago, got it out of the limestone quarry, in a copse at the foot of the Wytch, and, assisted by a strong team of oxen, dragged it to its present locality; but whether it was brought there in lieu of a more ancient memorial I could not learn. It is four feet long, three feet broad, and two feet six inches thick; and I was informed that the landlord receives one penny a year rent for it.
And before we go any further, I should point out that the Wytch is a nearby place and not a local hag! So then, it is quite probable, given the local source mentioned by Allies, that in fact the stone had only been in place since around 1770. While we cannot rule out that the current stone was a replacement from an older monument, the fact that at that time rent was changing hand for the stone, one does wonder if it was some crafty ploy to give Colwall a bit of history and attract some antiquarian tourists. Certainly around this period there was a growing interest in Britain's past, and giving your home turf a bit of ancient history, the more mysterious the better, was a shrewd way to attract visitors. 

However deliberate tourist trap or not, the tales about Colwall stone appear to be the standard lore that grow up around ancient megaliths ie left by giants, turning themselves. And given the stereotypical nature of the legends attached, and the extreme thinness of their details, I do rather suspect the stone, and the associated lore too, to be an 18th century *ahem* recreation,  rather than an authentic ancient site. 


Another stone that has been presumed to be an ancient megalith but is actually thought to be a more recent addition to the landscape is found in the village of Pyrford in Surrey. This small standing stone sits by the side of a road and is now thought to be a boundary stone, and dating from no further back than Norman times. However this stone too is repute to revolve at cock crow or when Pyrford church clock strikes twelve. Again there are no other details or any other attached stories, so I rather suspect that this is another case of a local stone having common legends from other megaliths grafted onto it. Indeed this theory that the lore surrounding the stone has been transplanted is strongly supported by the fact that the only church in Pyrford, St Nicholas', doesn't actually have a clock! 

However in an article Scraps of English Folklore, XII. (North Bedfordshire Suffolk, London and Surrey) by Barbara Aitken, published in  Folklore, Vol. 37, No. 1. (Mar. 31, 1926), her research conducting in the early 1900s turned up some rather more interesting local lore about the stone - 
A gardener, a resident in Pyrford but not a native, said, "I expect it was put up in remembrance of someone being killed. There's a cross scratched on it, so I expect it's like kicking a cross. Don't you know that? I've been in many parishes, and they always kick a cross in the road where anyone's been murdered or killed in an accident." Here he made a cross in the dust with his foot. "If a man's been killed in an accident on the road, the policeman'll always kick a cross; and some people keep on kicking a cross in the same place year after year. There've been several people killed on Pyrford Rough, but no one seems to trouble to keep up the crosses."
Now that sounds far more like authentic local lore - indeed so far I've been unable to find more examples from other regions of this particular little tradition. While historians think the Pyrford stone is mostly an old boundary stone, this folk rite of kicking a cross would seem to indicate that rather than being considered some ancient relic with supernatural powers, this stone was thought to have more mundane connections, a community memorial for a death on that road. 

However as fascinating as all of the above is, all it really tells us is that in the popular imagination the properties of revolving and turning were such a common feature of legends surrounding standing stones that this sort of story almost automatically becomes attached them, regardless of their actual history or folklore, in a similar way to how old empty houses quickly gain a local reputation for being haunted despite no one ever reporting ghosts and spectres there. But still we are no closer to uncovering the origins of these strange tales of rotating rocks. Next time on Folklore on Friday we shall look at some more ancient stones and see if we can shed any more light on this little mystery...