THE GABBYGAMIES OF ASHMORE by Rick Haynes
Ashmore is a village and civil parish in North Dorset, England. It has a deep pond, an old church and several farms and cottages, many with thatched roofs.
These days, it is a quiet place to live but like other ancient villages, it holds many secrets.
In the mid-eighteen-hundreds, at a place called Folly Hanging Gate at Washers Pit, it was believed souls of the dead lived in a deep barrow. Local folk would put their ear to the barrow and many swore they could hear the hypnotic sound of strange creatures inside. Some said they were fairies, whilst others believed they were evil spirits.
The locals called them, the Gappergenies or Gabbygamies.
Ashmore was only twelve miles away from my home, and, being inquisitive, I decided to visit. When I arrived, I wasn’t disappointed, for the view made me stand and stare. It was amazing, as Ashmore is 720 feet above sea level and has a commanding view of the countryside. I inhaled the fresh air and felt the better for it. The clear blue above was dotted with white fluff balls and I could see the shimmering sea away in the distance. With a gentle breeze kissing my face, I took my time and stood like a statue but my eyes were roaming, taking in the wonderful panorama. I didn’t know how long I stayed where I was, but when a bird flew past my nose, it was a wake up call and I could hear the local pub calling me.
With a pint of excellent home-made beer ready to be imbibed, I relaxed and closed my eyes. But, alas, not for long.
A man tapped me on the shoulder breaking my reverie. I noticed his leather jacket first. I guess because it smelt like a pigsty. With so many lines on his face, he looked older than father time yet his pale blue eyes were boring into me and I flinched.
“Do you seek the truth or are you just another onlooker?” I felt as if my mind was being controlled by a power beyond my comprehension.
“Err… the truth naturally.” How the hell did he know what I wanted?
“Follow me.” It was a command and without thinking, I downed my ale in one go and followed like a faithful dog.
He led me to the place I came to see for Ashmore Barrow lay before me. I swallowed hard and blinked several times. It was a piece of land, nondescript, and disappointing.
“Behold, this is the place of evil and righteousness. Which one do you seek my learned friend?”
I shrugged my shoulders. “Both?”
“The old tales are true as many heinous acts took place here. Human bones were recently discovered near the barrows. None of the locals could understand how the bones mysteriously appeared, but I do.They were the unearthed bones of children slaughtered to appease the Gabbygamies, and the bones of the men and women determined to protect their offspring.”
“Why did the people allow such vile crimes?”
“Do you know anything about the Gabbygamies? They were real but elusive, and they are still here, alive in these barrows. Like wraiths in the night, they seek out non-believers and murder them. With such a beautiful panorama and bountiful land, why do you think local folk never visit the barrows after dark? No, they aren’t stupid. They bolt their doors and stay safe beside a warming fire.”
This must be the local idiot, I told myself. “I have a question. Why are you here at this time of night?”
“To give you a gift, a gift to perhaps, save your life.” He pushed an old stone into my hands. With two dark sockets and a wide mouth, I gasped. The face was exactly as I had imagined. I was holding a stone icon of the Gabbygamies and it was glowing.
“Be righteous, my friend.”
“But… What do I do with it?”
“You carry it with you. To keep the evil ones from tormenting your mind and body. Many disbelieve the power of the Gabbygamies but their evil is everywhere. If you place it outside your home, they will never be able to cross the threshold.”
“I live miles away. Surely the demons cannot travel so far?”
“Do you want to take that chance, my friend?”
I closed my eyes for a moment and thought about the recent number of unexplained deaths in my village. They had all worked on the land near the Ashmore Barrow. My body shook, my eyes opened. I wanted to know more, but the old sage had vanished.
It was time to move and the further away I walked from the barrow, the less the stone glowed.
I doubted I’d ever return.
It sits proudly on the step to my front door and keeps the Gabbygamies at bay.
I hope you enjoyed my tale based loosely on myth and fact.