- Molly Leigh
Leigh was born in 1685 in a cottage on the edge of the moors at Burslem in Staffordshire. She was a solitary character who made a living selling milk from her herd of cows to travellers and passers-by. She was an eccentric person who kept a pet blackbird. The bird often sat on her shoulder when she brought milk into Burslem to sell to the dairy. She was known for her quick temper, and the people of Burslem were suspicious of her. This was not surprising as, throughout the country, women, particularly elderly women, who lived on their own in remote places were often labelled as witches.
In Leigh’s case it was the local parson, Rev. Spencer, who made the accusation. He claimed that Leigh sent her blackbird to sit on the sign of the Turk’s Head pub that the parson frequently visited, and that the bird's presence was responsible for turning the beer sour. Leigh was also blamed for other ailments suffered by the townsfolk. Leigh died in 1746 and was buried in Burslem churchyard, but there were claims that her ghost haunted the town. Spencer—along with clerics from Stoke, Wolstanton, and Newcastle—exhumed her body, opened the coffin, and threw in the still-living blackbird that had been her companion. They then reburied Molly in a north to south direction, at a right angle to all the other graves in the churchyard.
The 20th-century witch Sybil Leek claimed to be a descendant of Leigh's, and took to keeping a crow, named Mr Hotfoot Jackson, around with her, just as Leigh had done.
There are stories that her ghost appeared to walk the streets of Burslem apologising for her sins. Further stories claim that her spirit was exorcised by a group of several priests and that while it was successful, some of them died in the process.
Some claim that if one skips around her grave three times chanting the mantra "Molly Leigh, Molly Leigh, Chase me around the apple tree," her spirit will return. These ghost stories are still told to young children to this very day.
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