For such a small, seemingly uninteresting village, Little Eaton, approximately three miles north of Derby, has a surprising number of ghost stories. The village has not only the usual grey ladies, green ladies and black dogs; but also one or two rather more unusual stories.
The Drummer Boy
Drum Hill is a hill (obviously) on the far edge of the village, half way to Morley golf course. It is currently the location of a Scout/Guide camp site and activity centre, a fact which has no doubt assured the survival of the legend, as it is excellent for scaring young people on a camping trip away from home.
The story centres around a young drummer boy, usually described as being around 14 although occasionally as young as nine, who had been chosen to play at an important military or royal occasion on Drum Hill. The first version of the legend states that he slipped while walking around the flat top of the hill. He then fell down the steep north side and broke his neck on an incredibly sharp rock that managed to sever his head from his body. The second, equally gruesome, but also more believable version, claims he missed a beat during the parade, and was beheaded for his mistake.
Both versions have the same conclusion however - the headless drummer boy now haunts the hill, and the beating of his drum can be heard at night. Should the boy catch you, he will take your head for his own, and will then be able to rest in peace.
Many a small child has been scared witless by cruel Young Leaders1 that have told them the above story then proceeded to walk around the camp after lights-out, beating a drum!
Unlike most other ghost stories, this one has some element of verifiable truth. It is also most popular with children, and for some reason the one that strikes the most terror. The east side of the village is bordered by a wood called Cotter's Wood, a wood which is spooky in itself because the density of the trees makes it very dark, even on the brightest day. In the middle of the wood is a small hollowed clearing, with the remains of a small cottage in the centre.
The story goes that the cottage was once the home of a farmer and his wife. The farmer went off to work one day, leaving his wife at home. Whilst he was away, robbers attacked the cottage, stole all there was to take, killed the woman, and burnt the cottage to the ground.
When the farmer returned to discover what had happened, he climbed to the top of the nearest tree, and hanged himself. The top of the branches of the tree supposedly promptly blackened, and twisted into the shape of a hand, pointing down to where the cottage had stood, as a reminder of the tragedy. It is this tree which has become known as 'The Crag'. The tree still stands today, and can be seen from almost all over the village, and it is true that there is a blackened group of branches, which look like a hand. It also directly overlooks the primary school, ensuring the story is always in the minds of the village children.
The story goes on to say that should anyone climb the tree, and touch the 'hand', they will die within a week. To the best of this Researcher's knowledge, no one has ever been brave enough to try it!
The Grey Lady
Another story used by children to frighten other children tells the tale of a young man in his 30s who was a drunkard, and used to walk along the bank of Bottle Brook2, which runs through the village on his way back from the pub. After one particularly heavy session, he fell into the brook and was drowned. His mother, also a few cans short of a six-pack, supposedly now haunts the stretch of the brook where he drowned.
The haunted section of the brook is now covered over, and runs underneath an industrial estate. Alongside the brook is a small overflow tunnel, colloquially known as 'the sand-tunnel', presumably because it fills with sand if the brook floods. Local children now dare each other to walk through the tunnel, which is around six-foot wide and four-foot tall and incredibly dark, due to a sharp bend near the far end of it.
The story goes that should the Grey Lady, the man's mother, find you in the tunnel, she will feel your shoulder for a deep chip the man had, and if she feels it, will take you away, thinking you are her son. Certain particularly cruel, slightly older, children have be known to challenge children to walk through the tunnel with them, and then touch their shoulders, prompting screams and frantic bend-double running.
The Green Lady
Just off the main road through the village is an old water mill, now part derelict, part houses. The Green Lady, a totally non-threatening ghost, supposedly haunts the tall tower of the mill, which is unused. She is said to be the spirit of a local girl who was to marry the squire of the village's son - he jilted her at the altar, and the shock made her deranged. The Green Lady now stands in the top window of the tower, crying her eyes out and waiting for her husband-to-be to return.
There is an addendum to the story, which states a terrible disaster will strike the village should anyone manage to throw three stones through the figure. This, however, is most likely someone's misguided attempt to make the story more interesting.
The Black Dog
Finally, the village has the almost obligatory black dog. This large, black hound is fabled to be the hunting hound of the last squire of the village. The hound was said to have howled solidly for three days and nights, as his master was dying, when he stopped the villagers and servants knew the squire had died. Should a great howling ever strike up now, it is supposed to mean that a local figure of prominence is about to die.
The lack of howling in recent years is taken, somewhat cynically, to mean that recently Little Eaton has not produced anyone worthy of the hound's attention, and therefore of any note!