Month: November 2015

Satanism in Cleveleys: From the Blackpool Elk to Lady Gaga: the long history of the Horned God in Blackpool



I set off on a walk round Cleveleys. Then I saw the following on a campervan.  And it set me thinking.  Actually what did set me thinking was that in the next house there was another car which also had a similar image.  But I can’t find the photo.


Is Cleveleys a hotbed of Satanism?

Probably not.  The figure is a representation of the Horned God.  In this context it signifies rebelliousness, nonconformity and sexual energy.  Well we’d all vote for that.  So who is this Horned God that a man (or woman or transgender obviously) feels impelled to portray him, or her etc…


Idownloadthe sorcerer

The horned helmet from Star Carr and the cave painting of the Sorcerer from France are  early manifestations of art and religion.    The kind of religion practised by the artists was animistic.  The expression of art and religion was the most important change in human behaviour.  It is not that we became more intelligent, it is that we became able to think of things in new ways.  One result of this new facility was that we could imagine things that do not exist and the earliest expressions of art were creatures that combined animal and human characteristics.  Where deer provided food and the most familiar large animal the imagined creature was a horned man.  It is probable that the Elk hunters of Blackpool had rituals which involved horned helmets.



In pre-Roman Britain Cernunnos, a horned god, was worshipped.  In Ancient Greece and Rome another Horned God was worshipped.  Was Cernunnos connected with the horned helmets at Star Carr and the cave painting of the Sorcerer?  In view of the persistence of Horned Gods it is possible that a Horned God migrated from the animist hunter gatherers to the agricultural polytheists.  When the Romans came to Britain they would have found a God with much in common with Pan.



The next step for the Horned God is the most surprising of all.  Christianity came to England as an elite religion.   For some time Christianity and Paganism lived side by side often with the notion that Christianity was more modern and advanced.  The term “Pagan” has overtones of country bumpkin.

There are two schools of thought.  One is that Pagan practises persisted.  The other is that they didn’t.  I am of the opinion that they didn’t.  This belief has been shaken by two sources.  One is the persistence of some Christian ideas in Nagasaki where Christianity was persecuted for hundreds of years and the second the odd practises discovered at Saveock Water.  I still think that Paganism did not survive as a system of belief but rather as a series of customs and stories detached from their original significance.     Christians were able to occupy the locations of Pagan assemblies and to annexe Pagan Festivals and absorb Pagan figures into Christian Worship.  A lively culture involving wells, maypoles, mistletoe, fairies existed alongside Christianity.

Imagine that a Pagan minority is  isolated.  Christians see them worshipping a Horned God.  They are worshipping the Devil.  The Devil has horns.  This may seem an unlikely chain of reasoning but it is not unusual for one religious group to accuse a rival group of worshipping the Devil.  Some early Protestants believed that the Pope was the actual Devil.

So the Devil was Cernunnos (or Pan)  and was shown as a man with horns and cleft feet.  I imagine that early artists enjoyed portraying the Devil or Demons because it gave them freedom.  Evil is more interesting to portray than good. There are  more ways to be bad than good.

But  an astonishing change… from God to Demon.  The Horned God… if he existed and he doesn’t … might well feel a bit miffed at this radical demotion.  Never mind the Horned God has been around for a hundred and thirty centuries and more.  The Horned God can survive and thrive.


Some Protestants believed that the rise of Protestantism was the last phase before Christ returned to Earth.  However the time before the return of Christ was to be a time of false prophets and  diabolical activity.  Catholics believed that Protestants were Satanic.  Do you believe in redemption through grace?  Or do you believe redemption comes through works?  Many people died over this question.

Witches were thought to be part of a Satanic Empire which was preparing for an apocalyptic conflict with Christianity.

Margaret Murray, anthropologist and archaeologist, argues that Witches were part of a coherent well-organised structure which operated from pre-Christian times.  This is a view that modern Pagans take.

Strangely it is likely that modern Wicca derives its practises and beliefs from the persecution of witches who were not really witches and did not have a coherent doctrine.  So the only people who believed that witches existed and that persecution was justified are modern witches.   It is things like this that make the world enchanting and dangerous.  .

Madame de Maintenon  was a mistress of Louis XIV.  Fearing that she would be replaced by other mistresses she is said to have taken to poisoning them and consulting with a Witch called Lavoisin.  A priest performed a Black Mass over her naked body (nice work etc…)   and infants were sacrificed.

The line of thinking here is that if the witch trials demonstrate that witches have power then become a Witch and gain the power.

I think.

It was said by the Chief Police Officer to Louis XIV that her crimes were so serious that they could not be exposed.

My view is that witches never existed (although some people believed they were witches) and that a charlatan used Madame de Maintenon’s anxieties to extract money.  Lavoisin may  have used things associated with witchcraft to support her performance.  So Madame de Maintenon was the first to revive something that didn’t exist in the first place.  Why  did  Witch Trials continue?   Well a lot of people made a living from it.  Torturers, executioners, judges, wood-print makers, printers.  Even ordinary people benefitted: labour became more valuable.   There was a witchcraft industry.  Everybody benefitted.  Except…


Satan and Demons had always been popular subjects for art, folk tales and literature.  Blake said that Milton “was of the Devil’s Party without knowing it.”  The “Devil’s Party” had a lot going for it.  Who decided that God should be God?  Did we get a vote?  The doctrine of the Divine Right of Kings which said that the king should be king even if he was rubbish because God had chosen him aligned God with arbitrary  and reactionary power.  Sympathy for the Devil crops up in Blake, Byron, Shelley, Oscar Wilde, and Aubrey Beardsley.  In France literary Satanism took off.  Satanism was more normal amongst artists than Methodism.   The revival of Catholicism and High Anglicanism  probably coincides with a longing for ritual, ceremony , incomprehensible behaviour and irrationality.  I was going to say hocus pocus.  Hocus pocus was a  term used by Protestants making fun of Latin used by Catholic Priests.



Without intention everything goes back to the bloody Templars.  This organisation was rich and powerful.  The French King took its  money and property.  Rather than just steal it he claimed that the Templars were heretical.  Unsurprisingly a few of them admitted under torture that they worshipped an idol called Baphomet.  This is probably a version of Mohammed.  Considering that Christians were preoccupied with Crusades for centuries they knew very little about their opponents.  They thought that Moslems worshipped an idol called Mohammed.

We wouldn’t go to war in the Middle East without knowing a thing about what we were doing, would we?

19th Century France was leading the  pack in a Satanic Revival and  Eliphas Levi was the foremost exponent.  He made an influential set of Tarot cards.  One of the cards was based on Baphomet.  Here it is.



While Satanism never attained the following it did in France it did have a mighty influence especially with WB Yeats… the future Nobel Prizewinner.  To be fair his interest was in Ceremonial Magic.  Yeats met Alisteir Crowley and was influenced by him.


In the late nineteenth century when people were exploring religious alternatives to Christianity they took the Horned God as an  icon.  Pagans and Satan Worhippers revered the Horned God who the Christians had denounced as Satan.

I will not go into the Elizabethan fixation with cuckolds who were supposed to wear horns except to say that I think that horns were a symbol of vitality and virility and the attribution of horns to the cuckold originally meant that the cuckold had been traduced by somebody more energetic.

Aleister Crowley, an inspiration to modern Pagans and Satanists, was fascinated by the Horned God.  Aleister Crowley was a man of epic strangeness and intelligence.  One of his closest colleagues, possibly the only man who exceeded him in strangeness,  was Austin Osman Spare.  Inevitably  the two quarreled.  The basis of their quarrel was that Crowley practised ceremonial magic with great emphasis on ritual where Osman Spare preferred a  more spontaneous form.   The two forms are the inspiration modern Witchcraft, Satanism and Paganism.

Osman Spare is the most neglected British Artist.  His eccentricity, his shyness and the fact that he worked in many styles makes it difficult to come to terms with his work.  Amongst other things he was a pioneer of surrealism and pop art.

In 1917  Osman Spare was conscripted into the Royal Army Medical Corps, like so many others he was stationed in Blackpool where he was reprimanded for his scruffiness.  He remained in Blackpool for a year.

Alesteir Crowley was close to the British  Intelligence and knew Dennis Wheatley and Ian Fleming.  He claimed that he was the source of Winston Churchill’s V for Victory sign as an occult counter to the swastika and that the V sign was a horn sign.  Whether or not this is true it is certain that Winston’s V-sign was related to the vulgar V-sign which is connected to the Horned God.

churchills v sign
Alesteir Crowley became a cult figure in the counter culture of the 60s.  He is featured on the Sergeant Pepper LP cover.  Another version of the horn sign is used in rock music.  The Sign of the Horns derives from Alesteir Crowley’s horned god and one of its first appearances is on the cover of the Yellow Submarine where a cartoon  John Lennon is making the Sign of the Horns over the head of Paul McCartney.  These cartoons were carefully made from life drawings.


Although Osman Spare  is  neglected he is surely due for a re-evaluation.  Jimmy Page of Led Zeppelin bought many his major works.  Osman Spare claimed that Hitler was an admirer of his work and asked him to do a portrait which he refused.  Spare did make a portrait of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle who took an interest in the Brides in the Bath case in Blackpool and spoke in Blackpool  about his spiritual beliefs.  Osman Spare was  an oddly loveable character, in his photos he insists on wearing an RSPCA badge.

An examination of Spare’s work shows that it abounds in horned images.  I like to imagine that during his soujourn in Blackpool Osman Spare might have bumped into Wilfred Owen (based at Fleetwood)  ordered by his mother to buy a coat in Blackpool (from Rawcliffes?).


Blackpool had other connections with the Witchcraft Satanist Pagan movement.  Madeline Sylvia Royals was born in Blackpool in 1910.  She was ill as girl and while bedridden she studied the Bible.  In 1930 she moved to London where she met Aleister Crowley and other occultists including Gerald Gardner.  She changed her name to Madeline Montalban.  She published articles about astrology in the magazine Prediction.  In 1956 she founded the Order of the Morning Star.

She described herself as a Pagan and also venerated Lucifer.  She was a practising astrologer (we are reminded of the astrological signs around All Hallows Church in Bispham and also of the fortune telling on the Golden Mile).  Oddly she also published romantic short stories.

Gerald Gardner was at one time a friend of both Madeline Montalban and Aleister Crowley.  His connection with Blackpool is slight  but interesting.  Gardner is regarded as the Father of Modern Wicca or Witchcraft.  He came from a wealthy Lancashire family.  He claimed to have been initiated into a pre-Christian witch cult in the New Forest in the 1930s.

He had a talent for publicity and the movement grew.  The connection with Blackpool arises from the dispersal of his estate after his death.    When this was sold the sale was negotiated by John Turner the Manager of  Ripleys Believe It Or Not Odditorium, Blackpool.

The items were shipped to San Francisco with the idea of starting a Museum of Witchcraft but they were dispersed.

Chaos Magic is a modern form of magic that derives from Osman Spare.  A leading practitioner is Phil Hine.  Phil Hine was born in Blackpool and attributes his early interest in Nature to an awareness of the power of the sea.  In an interview he makes the following observation about his early contact with occult groups.

Phil: Yeah, so I was with the Blackpool witches and I got back into Chaos Magic at that point I think, probably as a counterpoint to what I was doing with them. Kathy said, “What’s this Chaos Magic all about then? Go and find out about it and come back and tell us.”

It is interesting is that a schoolboy in Blackpool had no difficulty  joining a coven.


Jayne Mansfield.  Jayne Mansfield had a lively career during which she had an affair with John F. Kennedy and recorded music with Jimi Hendrix as a session musician.  She switched on Blackpool Illuminations in 1959.


Anton La Vey founded the Church of Satan in the United States and Jayne was a devoted follower.  He is sometimes credited with popularising: “The Sign of the Horns” which is a staple of modern Satanism.  A brief look at Google will reveal everybody… the Pope, the President of the US… performing the sign of the (2)

Whether or not these are reliable images they indicate how deeply the Sign has penetrated modern culture.




queen meets lady gaga                                                            The Queen meets Lady Gaga, Blackpool 2009

A search through Google shows that many performers use a stock of Pagan/ Satanic imagery. Especially Lady Gaga. The Horned God and Paganism is  understood  by a wide audience.  When Lady Gaga met the Queen at Blackpool the Queen of Pop Satanism met the Head of the Anglican Church.



It  is easy to represent a Horned God and  all the  images of a Horned God have derived from earlier examples.  Michaelangelo  puts horns on Moses.  There was a  cultural heritage of horned creatures.



This is  self-indulgent but I have to put my favourite verse about Satan by W H Auden.  Auden pictures Satan as unrecognisedly  triumphant in a world of PR and consumerism and self-help. Being Satan he is not a happy bunny:

“I’m so bored with the whole fucking crowd of you

I could scream.”

The lonely death of Abigail Whalley. Robins Lane, Carleton 1931.

The murder of Abigail Whalley is an unsolved crime.


The Bungalow in Robins Lane

Many people will know Robins Lane because it is close to Carleton Crematorium.  Traditional Christianity was hostile to cremation because it made physical resurrection difficult.  As late as the nineteenth century William Gladstone kept a finger he had accidentally shot off to  facilitate his resurrection.

I am dwelling on cremation because its history involves  my favourite topics… eccentrics and druids.  You don’t really get any more eccentric than Doctor William Price… Welsh Nationalist, Socialist,  and druid.  When his wife gave birth to a son William Price, aged 83, provocatively named him Iesu Grist.  The boy died and William Price, in keeping with his druidic beliefs donned his druidic robes and burned the lad in his back garden.  He was arrested but burning a dead child does not break any law, probably because when they made laws they never thought anybody would do it.  So we owe Carlton Crematorium to the activities of William Price  the most lovably loopy person who has walked the earth. Possibly.  Druids still meet fortnightly in Blackpool and the Ancient Order of Druids has a long  connection with Blackpool.  At the opening of North Pier in 1863  a Bard on a Donkey appeared with sixty members of the Order of Druids .

Used by kind permission of Rhondda Cynon Taff Libraries

Used by kind permission of Rhondda Cynon Taff Libraries

William Price in Druidic outfit.  The greatest Welsh Person?

There were three reasons to be cremated:  it was hygienic and progressive, it was a denial of traditional christianity (the Catholic Church did not accept cremation until 1983) and it had a classical status to  people brought up on Roman and Greek Traditions.

Abigail Whalley had been a teacher in Manchester.  Her sister had died a few years previously and her family was prosperous and distinguished but she had no close relatives.  She had twice been married and widowed and had her bungalow, Auburn, built at Carleton.  She was eighty-five years old.  She gave generously to charities.  She had a reputation for eccentricity and miserliness.

She seems to have been lonely.  And cantankerous.   Her cleaner had left and her bungalow was neglected.  She wore old fashioned clothes.  She was heard to say that she had so much money that she did not know what to do with it.  These words are relevant to her fate.  Aged 85 she would walk from Blackpool to Carlton to save the bus-fare.  She was seen dragging a large piece of oilcloth home.   People were  discreet  but we have the impression of somebody going quietly out of their mind in Carlton.

On  Monday  May 11 her neighbours noticed she had not lit her fire or opened the blinds.  At the bungalow she was found in her bedroom with a fatal head wound.  A strong box had blood on it.  Nobody knows what was taken.  Possibly money from the strongbox and  jewellery.  The only thing  definitely missing was an old-fashioned silver watch.

The Police launched an enquiry.

The investigators  must have felt confident.   Abigail Whalley’s home was specifically  targeted .  This means the robber/killer must have had personal knowledge of her.  Since there was no car involved the murderer most walked to the bungalow.

The bungalow had no lighting, gas or electric, so the crime was  likely to have been committed at first light. This seems especially the case since many of the neighbours kept dogs but no dog had barked.  It comes as a shock to realise that a bungalow in Carleton in 1931 did not have gas or electricity.  Carleton was a rural village.  The most likely escape route for a fugitive was across the fields to Bispham or North Shore.  You can still walk from Kincraig Road to Robins Lane along the newly developed Blackpool North Ponds Trail.

The killing most likely happened early on  Monday 11 May.

It looked as if a local man had committed the crime.

But nothing turned up.  A set of clothes were found in a public  toilet but it turned out that a man had given a tramp a set of clothes and he had put them on and left his old clothes behind.  There was suspicion about a lavender seller, this was 1931 and the Depression was at its height.  The lavender seller was found and cleared.

Finally the Police were searching for a red haired man who was known in Preston and Liverpool and had a scar above his eye.  We do not know why he was a suspect .  My guess is that he was somebody known to the Police who had been seen in Blackpool.  But it is unlikely that a stranger would have had the knowledge to commit this crime.

The Police looked out for the stolen watch but it never appeared.  The Police did not find a murder weapon.   It may have been a chisel since this could have been used to break into the bungalow and to break into Mrs Whalley’s bedroom which was locked.

A man breaking into a bedroom must be aware that there is somebody inside.     Was he from Blackpool and had he heard about this rich widow?  Since Abigail Whalley’s bungalow was targeted amongst other homes  he must have known the rumours that she was rich and known where she lived.  The most likely explanation is that somebody told him.  And that person did not tell the Police. .  The investigators  must have questioned all known burglars living in Blackpool.  Maybe they questioned  the killer.

Time for irresponsible guessing.  The killer lived in Blackpool, was aged between 20 and 40, may have had a job or worked some hours (because of the need to be at work on Monday morning) may have acted in collusions with somebody else who gave him information. If the killer acted on his own he was unlikely to be married.

On the other hand he may not have been working (and the need for money would be a motive) and he may have come across the information accidentally.  He may  have met Mrs Whalley and spoken to her.  It is certain that the reconnoitred the bungalow before the crime.

Why did he kill her?  Dawn is breaking and he has come into the bungalow.  Mrs Whalley’s room is locked.  He breaks open the door.  In dawn light Mrs Whalley is much more active then he has expected and he is afraid she will scream so he hits her with the chisel.  He opens the chest.  There is nothing much there.  He goes home across the fields.

And then what?

Unsolved  murders are fascinating because there is an untold story.  Maybe he never committed another crime.  Maybe he went on to become a pillar of society.  Maybe he became Mayor or Chief Constable. He had skills which would serve him well: he was persistent, he was determined and he was discreet.

M aybe he learnt his lesson and stuck to minor crime.  Maybe he regretted it every day of his life.  Or he never thought about it again.  He probably lived in Blackpool and died in the later years of the twentieth century.  If you have lived in Blackpool from the seventies you probably passed him in the street.

The  enquiry failed because there was no evidence at all to follow and the dispirited investigators  had no option but to withdraw from the case.

But the murderer got away with it and Mrs Whalley is buried in Poulton Old Cemetery.

After the murder Mrs Abigail Whalley’s bungalow became a tourist attraction and visitors took all the flowers from her garden and the bolder ones sneaked up to the bedroom window of her bungalow to gaze at the spot where the crime happened.  Extra passengers made the bus-route to Carleton more profitable.  Somebody stole the street sign.

In 1936 the Evening Gazette reported that a Layton Taxi Driver, Harry Hodge, reported picking up a lady at Blackpool North Railway Station and driving her to Robins Lane.  As she was alighting he saw an old man with a Punch-like face, sunken eyes, long dark hair and a prominent chin.  The woman passenger screamed and ran off.  The man disappeared.

The association of the Crematorium, which had opened in 1935,the loneliness and isolation of the spot  and memories of sinister events may have triggered Harry Hodge’s experience.  There is something other-worldly  about Robins Lane.  Basically it is a track joining farms: a survival from a forgotten past.


This is the entrance to Carleton Crematorium where Harry Hodge saw a ghost.  Robins Lane is to the right.


Thanks to Juliette Gregson’s

“Blackpool’s top ten ghosts”

The events are covered in the Blackpool Evening Gazette.