Sadly, many popular legends are now disappearing from our landscape, but a new book aims to preserve some of Lancashire's most famous tales. Bygones has been given exclusive access to the Illustrated Tales of Lancashire and will publish five such legends over the coming weeks. Here is the third, the Unbidden Guest, a story originating from Clitheroe.

MANY years ago in a lane near to the centre of Clitheroe there lived a famous wizard.

He could see the future and many paid him to tell their fortune.

The cottage where Jeremy lived was very modest; the inside walls were covered with moth-eaten black cloth.

The only light in the room came from a candle that dangled over the table. Jeremy himself sat in an old-fashioned chair and ‘held


He was a strange-looking man with long, bony fingers and a shaggy white beard.

And, although he invoked satanic powers for his many visitors, he did not believe in them himself.

One day he pulled aside the curtain to reveal the sunlight streaming through the window.

He exclaimed, ‘Tis a bonnie world, and there are few views in it to compare with this one for beauty.

It will always be there, even after us mortals have come and gone.’

Following this observation, Jeremy sighed and turned away from the window, only to find that he was no longer alone.

There was a strange-looking visitor sat in the chair normally occupied by paying visitors.

Jeremy asked what the visitor wanted, only to be told that as he had collected fees from unsuspecting innocents, it was his turn to take his percentage.

Jeremy replied, saying, ‘Even if you had a claim to any reward, it wouldn’t need a packhorse to carry your share


The stranger laughed at this last remark and replied that he would not be denied.

Following this exchange, everything went dark and even the view outside looked forbidding, with frequent flashes of lightening.

Totally exasperated, Jeremy opened the door and bade his unwelcome visitor depart forthwith, but then Jeremy observed the stranger’s cloven foot and realisation dawned.

Acknowledging Jeremy’s recognition, the unbidden guest gave a blood-curdling laugh. The visitor then produced a parchment and suggested that Jeremy should append his name to it, saying that if he signed then for the next twenty-two years

he would have untold riches, but Jeremy refused.

Without further ado, the visitor departed. After a very quiet week, Jeremy walked to the village to purchase some vitals.

Normally children avoided any contact with him, but today they kept on playing their games and villagers acknowledged him with friendly greetings.

He was told in the village of a newcomer who possessed magical powers. He realised that he’d made a terrible mistake and wished that he could have another chance. No sooner had he had this thought than there was a clap of thunder and his

unbidden guest was once again sat in the chair, with the document on the table.

The Devil asked if Jeremy was ready to sign. This time he answered in the affirmative, but said that he couldn’t write. On hearing this, the Devil seized Jeremy’s hand and, using it as a pen, scratched out ‘Jeremiah Parsons, his x mark’.

He then departed. Shortly after, a man knocked on the door asking for a consultation, during which time he commented that the wizard who lived in Clitheroe had left.

Over the following years Jeremy acquired untold wealth, but then the end came. Jeremy’s house was razed to the ground and, even though they searched, nobody could find any trace of him.