Spend any time flipping through the cable channels and you quickly find a plethora of home renovation shows aimed at people trying to flip houses for a quick profit or renovate their homes to make them more livable or saleable. A couple in Wales may want to pitch a new kind of DIY show to a network – witch-proofing your home for fun and profit … and keeping away witches. Would you watch?
"The staircase had been built across a sealed-up medieval doorway that once connected different parts of the house, and the void underneath it had become exposed by the repairs being carried out on the old timber frame. It was very eerie to peer into the darkness and make out all the objects inside.”
As all do-it-yourself renovators know, the first step is tearing down walls. That’s what Kerrie Jackson and her husband Bleddyn were doing to 16th century farmhouse in Denbigh, an old town in Denbighshire county in northwestern Wales. (Photos here.) Denbigh dates back to the late 13th century when Denbigh Castle and the town walls were built by order of King Edward I to protect the area from Welsh rebels. That town was destroyed during the War of the Roses and rebuilt in its current location, where it has been a center for the textile industry since the 15th century. Their house has been there almost as long and Jackson describes it to WalesOnline as a Grade II-listed Plas Uchaf – Grade II is a historical designation and Plas Uchaf means it’s in the style of Plus Uchaf, a 15th-century cruck-and-aisle-truss hall house in Denbighshire.
“Initially, we could only see a couple of shoes through the rubble. As we kept pulling them out, more and more were found, until eventually we'd lined up eight odd shoes - all for the left foot and ranging from heavy men’s work boots to toddler shoes - along with the remnants of a horse’s skull, a wool hat and parts of a gun barrel.”
Kerrie and Bleddyn were not expecting to find such a well-preserved cache behind the wall and did some research. They found that the items were witch and demon-deterrents – witches and demons were said to enter homes at midnight via the staircase and the left shoes were there to attract the witches with their human smell, enticing them to put one on and then go looking for the right shoe, thus making them forget about haunting the house. The horse skull may be related to the Christmas tradition (really!) of Mari Lwyd, where a horse’s skull is placed on a pole and carried by a person hidden under a sheet who goes door-to-door reciting poetry or singing. (I’ll never say anything bad about normal carolers again!)
"We quite often come across quirky things around this old house that really connect us to the past - we believe it’s important to record what we find and then return them for future generations to discover.”
We know you were wondering—the Jacksons recommend carefully placing any items found in an old house that appear to be witch or demon deterrents back where they were found so the house continues to be protected for future generations. Of course, if you’re looking to protect a new house, you can hide similar items yourself in a wall near a staircase. It’s not clear what the half-eaten hat protects against (witches who like to say, “you’ll be scared or I’ll eat my hat!”?) but it’s better to be safe than sorry. Good like finding a horse skull – it sounds like a child’s hobby horse, which are a little easier to obtain, may work in its place.
Just remember to dress up like the horse and sing some Christmas carols first.