button to main menu  Gents Mag 1747 p.524

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Gentleman's Magazine 1747 p.524

  Souther Fell

Souther Fell

On Midsummer eve 1735, Wm Lancaster's servant related that he saw the East side of Souter-fell, towards the top, covered with a regular marching army for above an hour together; he said they consisted of distinct bodies of troops, which appeared to proceed from an eminence in the North end, and march'd over a nitch in the top, [mark'd A and B in my drawing] but as no other person in the neighbourhood had seen the like, he was discredited and laugh'd at. Two years after on Midsummer eve also, betwixt the hours of eight and nine, Wm Lancaster himself imagined that several gentlemen were following their horses at a distance, as if they had been hunting, and taking them for such, pay'd no regard to it, till about ten minutes after, again turning his head towards the place, they appeared to be mounted, and a vast army following, five in rank, crowding over at the same place, where the servant said he saw them two years before. He then call'd his family, who all agreed in the same opinion; and what was most extraordinary, he frequently observed that some one of the five would quit rank, and seem to stand in a fronting posture, as if he was observing and regulating the order of their march, or taking account of the numbers, and after some time appear'd to return full gallop to the station he had left, which they never fail'd to do as often as they quitted their lines, and the figure that did so, was generally one of the middlemost men in the rank. As it grew later, they seem'd more regardless of discipline, and rather had the appearance of people riding from a market, than an army, tho' they continued crowding on, and marching off, as long as they had light to see them.
This phaenomenon was no more seen 'till the Midsummer eve, which preceded the rebellion, when they were determined to call more families to be witness of this sight, and accordingly went to Wilton-hill and Souter-fell-side, till they conven'd about 26 persons, who all affirm they then saw the same appearance, but not conducted with the usual regularity as the preceding ones, having the likeness of carriages interspersed; however it did not appear to be less real, for some of the company were so affected with it as in the morning to climb the mountain, through an idle expectation of finding horse-shoes, after so numerous an army, but they saw not the vestige or print of a foot.
Wm Lancaster, indeed, told me that he never concluded they were real beings, because of the impracticability of a march over the precipices, where they seem'd to come on; that the night was extremely serene; that horse and man upon strict looking at appear'd to be but one being, rather than two distinct ones; they were nothing like any clouds or vapours, which he had ever perceiv'd elsewhere; that their number was incredible, for they fill'd lengthways near half a mile, and continued so in a swift march for above an hour, and much longer he thinks if night had kept off.
This whole story has so much the air of a romance, that it seem'd fitter for Amadis de Gaul, or Glanville's system of Witches, than the repository of the learned; but as the country was full of it, I only give a verbatim from the original relation of a people, that could have no end in imposing on their fellow-creatures, and are of good repute in the place where they live.
It is my real opinion, that they apprehended they saw such appearances, but how an undulating lambent meteor could affect the optics of so many people is difficult to say. No doubt fancy will extend to miraculous heights in persons dispos'd to indulge it; and whether there might not be a concurrence of that, to assist the vapour, I will not dispute, because three difficulties seem to occur, worthy of solution †
1st, Why a lambent agitated meteor should appear to stop at certain intervals, and return with augmented velocity to reassume the forsaken place.
2d, Why it should for a very long time preserve so regular a system, as to appear still five in a line.
3d. Why one particular evening in the year, only, exhibited the unusual meteor for three times, at so long intervals.
As these are at present beyond my philosophy to explain, it may be an amusement to such as will give themselves the trouble of enquiry, having neither added nor diminished to the
† To this relation we may add that in the spring of the year 1707, early in a serene still morning, was observed by two persons, one of the name of Churchill, who were walking from one village to another in Leicestershire, a like appearance of an army marching along, till going behind a great hill, it disappeared.- The forms of pikes and carbines were distinguishable, the march was not entirely in one direction, but was at the first like the junction of two armies, and the meeting of generals.
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