One cold autumn evening at Ty Mawr Farmhouse on the outskirts of Bryneglwys, an old beggar arrived seeking shelter from the storm that was rising ominously over the nearby Berwyns, some food to carry him through to the morning. However, the daughters of the farmer, a man of wealth and some station, answered the door, and on seeing the old man shivering there, laughed haughtily at his need, and taunted him with his poverty, and sent him on his way into the storm.
‘You will repent your conduct to me’, cursed the old man at the daughters, as he made his way from the farmhouse. The daughters shouted their own insults at the beggar before slamming the door closed, throwing the yard into full darkness.
The old man died that night, was found stiff and grinning beneath a hedge on the land belonging to Ty Mawr by the servants on their way to church in the village.
Within two days strange things began to occur at Ty Mawr. Weird shrieking would be heard in the hallways of Ty Mawr in the small hours of the morning, getting the dogs to wailing and haring around the farmhouse. Ashes and milk would be found on the floors, causing the fearful maids to do some cursing of their own at what they felt was the arrogance and spitefulness of the daughters of the farmer.
This was nothing however, to what came next. One evening the maids had gathered in the kitchen, about many their many tasks but together, gossiping and darning, gossiping and cleaning, gossiping and cooking. The lamps burnt brightly in the kitchen, the windows onto the dark yard mirrors. A face suddenly appeared at the window by the door, leering and grinning, gaunt and grey. The maids screamed, dropped their work, causing a fearful noise and fled the kitchen in terror. They had recognized the face, of course, as that of the old man, dead and grinning beneath the hedge.
The face would appear again over the next few weeks, always grinning. The farmer himself saw the face several times, but on throwing open the farmhouse door and rushing into the yard, never saw the old man anywhere but at the window.
The matter worsened over the following days. The maids and the daughters would feel themselves pinched and slapped by long bony fingers as they made their way along the hallways, and in the rooms. No one slept, little work was getting done, and the farmer was despairing of it all, furious with his daughters at the lack of Christian charity that had caused this haunting. The dead old man had been true to his word. Despite the earnest, bruised kneed, tightly clasped hands and furrowed browed prayers, some other remedy was required.
There was at this time a famous exorcist, a Rev. Griffths living at Graianrhyd near Llanarmon-yn-Ial. He was known for his work in expelling spirits and devils, and it was to him the farmer paid a call one morning. Stood on the doorstep of Griffths’ home, the once proud farmer made something of scene, begging and pleading for the exorcist to bring an end to the haunting.
Finally agreeing to the farmer’s pleas, the Rev. took up his bulging carpet bag and travelled back with farmer in this trap. On arriving at Ty Mawr, the door to the farmhouse was wide open, the whole household stood in the yard, clutching at one another and sobbing. On seeing the return of the farmer, together with the Rev. Griffiths, they gathered around the trap, fretting and begging for help.
The Rev. Griffiths climbed down and dismissed the gathering, striding purposefully into the farmhouse through the open door. In the silence he stood for a moment, until turning and gently closing the door on the fearful faces still in the yard. Immediately, a Bible flew across the kitchen, missing Griffiths by an inch and slamming against the door, causing those without to scream and shout out.
‘Do not enter this farm until I tell you to do so,’ he called through door.
Turning back into the kitchen he called for the spirit to appear.
‘I’ll do that,’ came a cackle, ‘Aye, I shall do that right enough’. And with that a bull appeared, huge and black and menacing. The Rev. Griffiths dropped his bag, reached into his pocket and pulled out a small, simple, well-worn cross.
‘I command you to appear in your truthful form - no lies old man, in your true form now.’ The Rev. Griffiths snarled.
The bull disappeared, as suddenly as it had appeared, and in its stead stood the hunched old man, lank haired and grey faced, a sneer of blackened teeth in his gaunt face. ‘Do your worst, wizard,’ spat the old man, and the bull reappeared.
‘Lies’, snapped Griffiths.
The lion disappeared and in its place a wolf stood in its place. ‘Lies’, snapped Griffiths.
The wolf disappeared and in its place stood a huge black dog, a gwyllgi. It growled and snarled. ‘Lies’, snapped Griffiths.
The gwyllgi disappeared and in its place boar appeared. ‘Lies’, snapped Griffiths.
As the duel between the exorcist and the furious spirit of the old man continued, the spectral beasts grew smaller and smaller in size - a cat, a weasel, a rat, until eventually a small black spider was all that remained.
With that, the Rev. Griffiths dipped quickly into his huge bag and pulled out his small tobacco box. He reached out to catch the suddenly scurrying spider and popped it into the box, closing it with a snap.
He left the farmhouse to find the household still gathered in the yard. He showed them the box, told them that the spirit of the old man would not, could not be at rest, such was his hatred of the daughters. In truth, the household seemed a little disappointed with the tiny box, and despite himself, Griffiths was annoyed.
‘Would you like me to show you the spirit?’ He asked.
The farmer, his daughters, wife and servants all gasped and backed away. The Rev. Griffiths smiled, reassured them that they would be plagued no longer. On taking a small payment for his services, the Rev. Griffiths left and took to the moors, placed the box in a bag weighted down with stones, and unceremoniously dropped the thing in a bog.
E. Owen, Welsh Folk-Lord: A Collection of the Folk-Tales and Legends of North Wales, Woodhall, Minshull & Co., Oswestry & Wrexham (1896)