The Headless Cyclist Of Kingsthorpe: A Fatal Accident, A Bitter Winter & A Ghostly Encounter

A first-hand account of a fascinating ghost story from Northampton, England. A local man was walking through a violent storm to a local tavern when he claimed to witness a car colliding with a phantom cyclist. It turned out that the cyclist he claimed to see had been killed 25 years earlier on the same stretch of road.

Northampton Ghost
The headless cyclist of Kingsthorpe, Northampton, England

The winter of 1940 was a bitter one indeed for Britain: she had been pitched into a war which she seemed to be on the brink of losing; she was gripped in the claw of hard frost, and blanketed with deep snow - all events for which she was quite unprepared. But gloomy news, savage weather, or the unrelieved night of the blackout was not going to stand in the way of George Dobbs when he made up his mind to visit the local pub. In fact, terrible conditions outside were in one way an advantage in those times of shortage, as they filtered out the weaklings and the casuals leaving more room, ale, and fire for the faithful.

Mr Dobbs, who had recently moved from Stafford to the outskirts of Northampton, trudged heavily towards White Hills Hotel, where he paid a brief call to give him the strength to go on to his real destination, the Fox and Hounds, some half a mile further on. As he ploughed through the snow on the slope that led up past the cemetery gates he noticed a car - a relative rarity at night in petrol-starved Britain - lumbering towards him at about 15mph, its wheels following blindly the deep-frozen ruts in the snow. He glanced up, and suddenly saw black against the dim headlights, a cyclist coming towards him and laboriously struggling to keep his balance as he moved forward, even more a prisoner of the deep gully in the snow than the car.

As George turned back to his own problems of getting through the snow, wondering whether anything was worth going out for on such a night, he realised that rather foolishly he had thought that the cyclist was headless. It had, of course, been a trick of the sharp cutoff of the headlights, or more probably because the man had very sensibly completely wrapped his head in a dark muffler against the cold. After a few moments, it dawned on George, whose mind was still preoccupied with his own painful progress, that the car was not slowing down as it must do it it was to avoid an accident. He looked up again to see exactly what was happening, heard the engine growling on in low gear unchanged, and saw with horror that the vehicle was almost upon the unfortunate cyclist, who fighting desperately to keep his machine upright, seemed quite oblivious of the car immediately behind him.

Then almost before George had time to collect his thoughts the car was level with him: without stopping, without even a moment's alteration of pace, it crawled past, stumbling through the snow towards Market Harborough. There had been no sound apart from the tormented engine and the crunching of the frozen snow, but, George thought as he raced to the spot where the collision must have taken place, the snow could easily have muffled the noise of the impact. He reached the place where he had last seen the cyclist, and crossed and recrossed the road: he searched the verges in case the victim had jumped or had been thrown to one side. But there was nothing: no tangled and wrecked cycle, no mangled and broken human body. Thoroughly unnerved, George Dobbs fled as fast as the going would allow him to the Fox and Hounds at Kingsthorpe.

But despite the inner and outer warmth there, and the comforting presence of human company, he was too agitated to stay long: on the one hand there was the niggling fear that there might be a man out there lying injured in the snow, but on the other hand the greater fear that there was no man, no bicycle. He retraced his steps to the scene again and combed the area, back and forth until at last he was convinced of what he had tried not to believe. Back home his wife greeted him, ironically enough, with "Whatever has happened to you - you look as though you have seen a ghost", and when she heard the story she was inclined to laugh the whole thing off. But George's faith in his own eyes was unshaken.

About two years later, George was in the bar at the Fox and Hounds: an article on ghosts in the abbreviated sheet that passed in wartime for a newspaper had turned the conversation to the supernatural. The general opinion was one of ribald scepticism and it was with diffidence that George mentioned his experience. But it made little impression on his audience - until one of the oldest customers, Mr "Lid" Green, for many years the local gravedigger, said as if it had been the most natural thing in the world, "That was old ......, I buried him about 25 years ago. There was deep snow at the time, and he was knocked off his bike just by the cemetery gates. In the crash, his head was torn off his body."

This story was the account of the witness, Mr W G Dobbs, Northampton, England.

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