True Ghost Stories | Lydia Atley | Part 1
This Spirit Will Never Rest Until She Gets Justice
“…we should pass over all biographies of ‘the good and the great,’ while we search carefully the slight records of wretches who died in prison, in Bedlam, or upon the gallows.”
~Edgar Allan Poe
Indeed, Mr. Poe…indeed. And others who lived and died in quiet tragedy, start to finish.
Like a young woman, Lydia Atley (also spelled Attley and Atlee in various records), who was in her late 20s when she disappeared on July 22, 1850.
Disappeared — and was presumed murdered.
In the tiny English village of Ringstead, it was no secret that Lydia was nine months’ pregnant with the child of William Weekley Ball. He was the local butcher and was married at the time. He and his wife, Hannah, had no children.
The February 29th 1864 edition of the Eastern Counties Gazette describes Lydia as being “of middle height, thin in person…Her hair was auburn in colour, nearly inclined to red, her face was slightly contracted on one side…”
It adds that “…she possessed a pair of innocent eyes, and a remarkably fine set of teeth of ivory whiteness, which she frequently displayed.”
She was not particularly intelligent and because of this, fell prey to those who took advantage of her. Villagers saw her as a vulnerable character and a victim in the ongoing saga with the butcher. She had already had an illegitimate child — a son, Henry, born March 10, 1846 — in the Thrapston workhouse. When he was 2 years old, she left him there so she could start a new life.
Lydia lived with her brother, John, who had kept the family home after their mother’s death just two months before the young woman’s disappearance.
Scratching out a meagre living, she sold nuts and oranges round the village in spite of a bad leg, and like her younger sister, Elizabeth, was a lacemaker. None of these brought enough money to support herself…