The town of Warrington, which sits on the banks of the River Mersey, is also a borough and unitary authority area of Cheshire. According to an obscure story from the 18th century, later repeated in Wally Barnes’ 1990 book Ghosts, Mysteries & Legends of Old Warrington, a terrifying man-beast once stalked a farm in Warrington. One such farm, once known as Peggy Gronachs Chicken Farm harboured a bizarre story which Wally Barnes was told of in the 1940s. According to Barnes, Peggy Gronach was ‘…the most evil, ugly and haggard old wretch ever seen in the vicinity.’
According to legend Peggy Gronach was a witch who escaped the original 17th century witch hunts which took place in Norwich. When Peggy moved to Warrington, she was the dread of the local community, her run down shack would spook many a passer by and no-one was ever brave enough to venture through the undergrowth. However, one day a group of young children were playing near the old farm and decided that, for a dare, they would approach the cottage. When they were within a few metres a terrifying roar emanated from the building and staring through the grime-laced window pane was a hideous face. Then, Peggy emerged from the farmhouse and began screaming at the children who, of course, fled the area.
When the terrified children returned home to their parents, they spoke of the great roar, to which their parents responded that the crone must have owned a ferocious dog. However, the children were adamant that what they saw peering from the house was a hair covered man with burning eyes, pointed ears and horns on his head.
However bizarre the report may have seemed, the following month, according to Barnes, ‘…a farmhand was driving a horse and trap about a mile from the cottage when without warning the horse reared up. The farmhand then saw a hideous ghoul-like creature under a tree ready to pounce.’
Local villagers began to spread rumour that Peggy Gronach had supernatural powers and that to explain the man-beast, they believed she could transform herself into the terrifying man-beast which had been reported around the area. Shortly after the farmhand’s encounter, a local farmer reported that one of his cows had been attacked. He found it dead and its head was hanging on my thread – only a very powerful creature could have committed such a crime. So, the local vicar, accompanied by ‘a gang of religious zealots’ visited Peggy’s remote cottage in the hope of driving her away from the village. However, upon arrival they found no trace of the old hag nor the hairy monster, the only sign that some ‘thing’ had been around was the carcass of a half-eaten goat.
There were no further sightings of the terrible monster, or Peggy Gronach, and the building was knocked down. Barnes however, ends the tale with a chilling climax, stating that, ‘Many years later workmen dug up the remains of a giant bullock – or was it a bullock ? Bullocks do not have human skulls. Think about it.’
This intriguing tale may sound far-fetched, but maybe, just maybe, out there in the sticks of old Warrington, there still lurks a frightful, hairy monster, a creature which, during the day either retires deep into the woods, or transforms itself into the shrivelled form of Peggy Gronach.