There is an interesting paranormal investigation story making the rounds about what the couple involved described as an encounter with a hobgoblin that was so terrifying, it scared both into becoming ordained ministers. While the incident happened a few years ago, they’re out and about promoting their new book and, since no one seem to have been talking about hobgoblins lately, it seems like a good time to look about both their unusual story and conversion and the ‘terrifying’ shapeshifting hobgoblin that drove them to do it.
"The worst thing we’ve seen was Atwick church at St Lawrence's. We had what we call a spirit box with us which is like an electronic Ouija board and Christine had a Dictaphone and we said is anyone there we don’t mean you any harm please come forward.”
According to their interview in Hull Live, Vic Harbord and Christine Townend are paranormal investigators and the authors of “Heaven Only Knows, Paranormal Investigations from around Yorkshire.” The investigation they were describing took place at St Lawrence's Church, Atwick, near the North Sea coast of Yorkshire. A quaint old church dating back to the 1500s, St. Lawrence doesn’t seem to be the place for paranormal investigations, and they don’t give a reason why they and their East Yorkshire paranormal research group were there, but they were prepared for an encounter since they came armed with a spirit box to give any spirits there a voice and a recording device to preserve it. While in the church’s graveyard, they called out that they meant no harm, then they heard something that was not a voice.
“Then Christine said: 'Did you hear that growl?' I said: 'What growl?' and the growl actually moved and I walked towards it which was a silly thing to do and the others heard two big loud bangs and we did a bit of investigating into it and there’s a legend that it’s supposed to be haunted by a goblin. This happened in the church yard. I took a photograph and there’s a head in the window what looks like a demon to be honest."
Before you ask, they did not provide the photograph (although it may be in their book). The couple also admitted that there were six other investigators in the group investigating the church graveyard and none of them heard any growling – only the two loud bangs. That seems unusual because there were more growls.
"It wasn’t long into the investigation when I actually heard like a growl. The grass was quite long but not extremely long and I said have I just heard a growl and I’m thinking well I can’t have heard a growl and as Vic’s talking away to the rest of the group I'm still thinking well I've heard a growl and then I heard it again. I heard it three then four times and after the 4th time I just couldn’t believe what I was hearing. I thought well this is ridiculous."
Before you ask again, they did not say if they recorded the growls. And “ridiculous” seems like an inappropriate description of the growls, since the couple admitted it was those eerie sounds that frightened them so much, they soon became ordained ministers. (Have other churches which are suffering minister and priest shortages thought about recruiting terrified paranormal investigators? Just a thought.) How could some growls scare two people to become religious leaders?
"When you hear a growl it’s a negative energy. It’s inhuman. It’s obviously not very nice."
OK, “inhuman” definitely sounds scary. However, when the couple began investigating the history of St. Lawrence Church and Atwick, they found it had a history of being terrorized by an unusual being – a hobgoblin. Wait a minute … isn’t William Shakespeare’s Puck from “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” a hobgoblin?
“Those that Hobgoblin call you and sweet Puck,
You do their work, and they shall have good luck:
Are not you he?'
'Thou speak'st aright;
I am that merry wanderer of the night.”
("A Midsummer Night's Dream" by William Shakespeare)
The folklore of hobgoblins dates back to at least the 1500s and they were considered to be helpful and friendly household spirits or elves – Puck or Robin Goodfellow was a mischievous fairy or sprite – rather than evil like regular goblins … “hob” means elf. It is believed that the reputation of hobgoblins became more evil due to the spread of Christianity. Some of the more famous folklore hobgoblins were evil – Blue Burches was a shapeshifter, Robin Roundcap was blamed for accidents in barns, and the hobgoblins known as Dobby in Lancashire and Yorkshire were said to be pranksters. Doing research for their book, Townsend learned that hobgoblins were believed to be able to shapeshift, which led her to believe that they may have encountered one in the graveyard – shapeshifting into a growling creature and then into a demon.
"Still to this day we’re not 100% sure what we encountered. When you start thinking about all this folklore from years ago you start to think well is it true is there some truth in this folklore."
Sure, there may be some truth to the folklore, but a growling, demonic hobgoblin? That doesn’t really fit the myths of hobgoblins. As the couple showed their photo and told their story, other paranormal investigators thought they saw something far worse.
"It looked half-dog half-human, something horrible anyway. After a lot of studies we decided that it was a face. When you study it, this face is stood in the church because it’s behind the stained glass of the window."
They decided that what they had seen in that stained glass window was the "face of something inhuman like a demon." Combine the face of a demon peering menacingly at you through red, blue and yellow panes depicting a religious scene with the menacing growls of something that sounded like a mean dog and you may have something that could definitely scare someone into a religious job or becoming a paranormal author or both – a shapeshifting Dog-Man. Could that be what Vic Harbord and Christine Townend saw at St. Lawrence’s Church in Atwick?
Now that they’ve let the hobgoblin out of the bag, perhaps it is time to go back for another visit. This time, have the cameras and recorders ready!