Editor’s Note: Huntingdonshire is part of England where fairy traditions have either died out or whether perhaps they never existed. However, sometimes there are stories from the region that recall fairy sightings elsewhere. For example, this report of a spectral army would have been interpreted as a fairy army in Ireland and perhaps in the north of England.
What may be called a Huntingdonshire Fairy Morgana is recorded to have taken place near St Neots in 1820. The real Fata Morgana is the appearance of spectral ships on the sea, and is due to reflective peculiarities in the atmosphere. I have only an indirect description of the phenomena said to have been witnessed at St. Neots; it is stated to have been similar to phenomena which occurred on Souterfell in 1743 and 1744. On referring to this I obtain the following: ‘On the 23rd of June, 1744, about 7 o’clock in the evening, a number of persons witnessed a troop of horsemen riding apparently on the side of Souterfell, in pretty close ranks, and at a brisk pace. The spectres became visible at a place called Knott, and advanced in regular troops along the side of the fell, till they came opposite Blake Hills, when they passed over the mountain after describing a kind of curvilinear path. They moved at a regular, swift, and walking pace, and were watched for upwards of two hours, during which time it is alleged they were visible, the approach of darkness at length concealing them from view. Many troops were seen in succession, and frequently the last but one in a troop quitted his position, and galloped to the front and took up the same pace with the rest. The number of persons who saw this spectral army amounted to about 26, and the attestation of the facts signed by two of the party bears date, 21st July, 1785.’ In the previous year ‘on a fine summer’s evening a singular meteorous appearance was observed on Souterfell. It resembled the figure of a man with a dog in pursuit of horses, running at a rapid pace till they got out of sight at the other end of the fell. On the following morning, two men ascended the mountain in full expectation of finding the man dead, and of picking up some of the horses shoes, which they thought must have been cast while galloping at such a furious pace, but no traces of man or horse could be found. Indeed the place is so exceedingly steep that a horse could scarcely travel on it at all.’ I have referred to these matters at length, because the phenomena witnessed at St. Neots is said to have been similar to them, but no further details are given. There are records of spectral troops and persons being seen near Stockton in the Forest, Yorkshire, in 1792, and at Harrogate, on June 28th, 1812. Saunders (1888), 169-171