The world of the paranormal is populated with supposedly cursed objects. Everything from jewelry, to cars, paintings, dolls. even chairs and other furniture, among many others, have been said to be cursed or haunted. You name it, there is probably one of them that has been said to be cursed or haunted at some point or other. One type of cursed object that doesn’t seem to get too talked about is that of those large iron cooking pots called cauldrons, and it is hard to see why not. After all, old-fashioned cauldrons are entrenched within the realm of spooky imagery, with it being nearly impossible to see one without imagining a group of cackling witches gathered around one up to some nefarious work. They seem so perfect for it, and indeed there are most definitely supposed cursed cauldrons out there, ranging from the legendary back in history, to more modern day ones.
One of the most legendary and well known cursed cauldrons comes to us from Surrey, in England. Within the Wey Valley, at Moor Park, in Farnham, is a sweeping sandstone cliff in which one can find a small, otherwise unassuming cave, but this particular cave has a long history of strange myths and legends, once said to be the realm of fairies and possessing a spring with mysterious healing waters. Called Mother Ludlam’s Cave, also known as Mother Ludlum’s Hole, the most popular legend orbiting this craggy gash in the rock is that of the folk healer and white witch Mother Ludlam, who is said to have lived in this dank, gloomy place among the fairies sometime in the 17th century. Also called the “White Witch of Waverly,” the story goes that Moher Ludlam was well-known for lending people whatever they required, including household items and cooking utensils.
To do this there was a certain ritual the prospective borrower had to follow. They first had to approach the cave at midnight, then turn around three times and request the desired item three times. If they were granted the object, there was a strict rule that they were to return it within exactly two days’ time, a rule which had never been broken because although Mother Ludlam was not a particularly malevolent presence, no one wanted to see what she could to with her powers if she were to be roused. In one version of the story, one day a person appeared at the cave seeking to borrow Mother Ludlam’s beloved cauldron, in which she made her potions and concoctions, and she agreed, expecting it back in two days, but it never arrived. Mother Ludlam then allegedly became absolutely furious, cursing the cauldron and sending the borrower scurrying to the Frensham Church for sanctuary from her wrath, where the cauldron remains to this day.
Another, more sinister version of the tale has it that the one who came to borrow the cauldron that night was the Devil himself. In this scenario, Mother Ludlam supposedly saw through the Devil’s disguise as a villager and refused to lend the cauldron. The Devil being the devil that he is stole it anyway, and the enraged witch actually chased after him. It is said that each time the Devil leapt, a hill sprung up, leaving behind a series of three hills in the valley called The Devil’s Jumps, as well as natural amphitheater known as the Devil’s Punchbowl, and when he finally gave up his endeavor and dropped the cauldron, it formed the hill known as Kettlebury Hill. Mother Ludlam then took back the cauldron, placed it in St. Mary’s church, and used powerful magic to keep it from ever being stolen again. One story is that even to this day, to steal it will bring upon the thief great misfortune and death.
Yet another version of the story has nothing to do with Mother Ludlam at all. In this version, it was the fairies living in the cave who lent the cauldron out. It was said that people could borrow from the fairies by knocking on a rock at the top of the hill and whispering into the cave what they wanted. One day the fairies lent out the cauldron, but it was returned late, sending them into a fury. They refused to take it back, and swore to never lend anything to humans again. For the unfortunate borrower of the cauldron, they cursed him to be followed by the cauldron for the rest of his days, magically endowing the object with the ability to use its tripod as legs to move about and scrabble around after him. The man became so distraught by the cauldron eerily following him around everywhere he went that he sought refuge at St. Mary’s Church and collapsed and died from the stress of the ordeal, after which the cauldron, which had followed him into the church, became inanimate once again and remains there to this day. Both the Frensham Church and St. Mary’s Church claim to be in the possession of the original cauldron of mother Ludlam, but which ever version you believe, it might be a good idea to not try and steal it.
Another cursed cauldron can also be found in England, this time sealed away at the Manor Farm’s cellar of North Lincolnshire. The story revolves around a dwarf, or in some accounts alternately a type of goblin called a Hobthrust, which was said to terrorize the farm and surrounding area back at the end of the 19th century. The dwarf was said to carry about a cauldron filled with the bones of children, but its evil ways were stopped when it was killed and cremated at nearby Thornton Abbey, after which his ashes were placed within it. After this, is was said that the dwarf’s evil and vengeful spirit inhabited the old iron pot, and that to touch it meant certain death from its potent curse, causing it to be locked away in the cellar at the farm, which at the time supposedly had a secret tunnel leading to the abbey. Far from just an urban legend, it seems that there are several cases of unfortunate people falling victim to this curse. One such case is that of a young boy who allegedly was playing in the cellar one day and picked up the cauldron to throw it into a pond as a prank, after which a few days later, the boy was hit and killed by a hay wagon. A local man who retrieved the cauldron from the pond to put it back in the cellar similarly met a dark fate when he suddenly dropped dead a few hours later. In the 1930s, a boy named Charles Atkins also touched the pot, and was killed by a hay wagon shortly after in an incident eerily similar to what had happened to the first victim. Atkins then made sure that the cellar remained sealed and walled off, and the cauldron would remain there in the dark for years, waiting for its next victim.
The curse would go on into later years as well. In 1974 the farm was bought by John Morton, and during renovations they broke through the wall and found the hidden cellar and its malevolent charge. Construction workers refused to go near the dusty old cauldron, which had been lying down there in the gloom for many years, but nevertheless, builder Alf Darwood had a freak accident in which he slipped off a ladder to break his foot and seriously injure his back, later claiming that it was the only accident he had had in 30 years of building and blaming it on the cauldron’s dark curse. After this, Morton decided to lock the accursed cauldron away within a steel cage, and it sits down there in the cellar to this day. Is this just a spooky local tale or is there something more to it?
Yet another supposedly haunted and cursed cauldron comes from more modern times, and has rather macabre origins. The story here begins with the American serial killer Ed Gein, also known as the Butcher of Plainfield or the Plainfield Ghoul, who confessed to killing two women back in the fifties, and is thought to have killed many more. One of the inspirations behind the movie Psycho and Buffalo Bill in the book The Silence of the Lambs, Gein was also a known grave robber, stealing corpses and fashioning their skin and bones into gruesome keepsakes and trophies such as lampshades, furniture, and even jewelry. He was eventually convicted of one murder, but was found to be legally insane, and languished at Mendota Mental Health Institute until his death in 1984. Shortly after his arrest, his whole charnel house of horrors was cleared out and his property and belongings auctioned off, with one of those being and a gore encrusted cauldron that was found at the residence.
The cauldron, claimed to have been used by Gein to hold human body parts, was eventually sold off to a woman who bought it at the auction in 1958 and used it as a plant pot for years before passing it on to her unknowing grandson, Dan McIntyre. At the time he did not realize that this was the cauldron that had been found at Gein’s house and which had contained human organs and bones, and it was not until friend Hollis Brown, who had been part of the fire clean-up, recognized it that he would realize its horrific legacy. McIntyre would later say of this:
Hollis saw many terrible things. He told me upon entering the home he saw a woman’s breast as the doorbell. Inside he saw a skin lampshade, a comforter/blanket made from human skin, furniture made of skin/breast, bloody gut buckets, a change purse made from a woman’s vagina, a belt with nipples on it. When Hollis saw the cauldron in my parent’s garage, he recognized it as the same Black Cauldron that he has seen Ed’s parents use to render hog fat on the farm. He also recognized it as the same cauldron in one of the outbuilding sheds, and remembered Ed’s sinister use for it. He remembers the cauldron was covered in dry blood and guts, next to two barrels/tubs of bloody human entrails, intestines. 50 yrs. later Hollis recognized the cauldron in my parent’s garage and turned white as a ghost. I asked him how does he know it was the same one covered in dry blood? He lifted his arm and said the hair on my arm stands straight up every time he looks at it in my parent’s garage.
McIntyre would claim that since coming into possession of the cauldron he had experienced various strange phenomena, such as disruption of nearby electronics and a feeling of unease, dizziness and anxiety when he was around it. He also claims that he came down with a mysterious illness, and became convinced that Gein’s cauldron was infused with a dark, evil energy. After continuing to experience various paranormal phenomena, McIntyre decided to auction off the haunted cauldron in 2015, with the winning bidder being none other than Zak Bagans, of the hit ghost hunting show Ghost Adventures. The cauldron would then be featured on Bagans’ cursed objects show Deadly Possessions, and put on display at his Haunted Museum in Las Vegas, which features numerous displays of myriad supposedly cursed and haunted items.
Is there anything to these tales? Or is this perhaps just dark legends and atrocities gathering about objects to imbue them with legend and a certain larger than life status? Are any of these cauldrons really cursed? If so, why are these forces anchored to these cauldrons? Or is it just superstition and spooky stories? No matter what you may think, you may want to think twice about approaching any of these, just in case.