The Restless Spirit of Nan Alker who Tormented Her Husband at St Leonards the Less, Samlesbury

The legend tells of how the dead wife of a man who re-married came back to haunt him in his dreams, causing him to drive iron stakes through her grave.

Nan Alker and the ghost of St Leonards the Less
Thomas Alker drove iron stakes into his wife's grave in an attempt to stop her haunting his dreams

Samlesbury in the North West of England is already a place that is filled with reports of paranormal activity, it is home to the famous White Lady of Samlesbury Hall as well as the boggart of Sykes Lumb Farm. The churchyard of St Leonard the Less is also home to it's own story of hauntings and a woman who was known locally as a witch, returning from the dead to terrorise her still living husband.

Just as happened with Meg Shelton, the witch of Woodplumpton, in the 17th century it was common practice to place either boulders or metal bars over the graves of them believed to be witches, this was done in a bid to prevent them from digging their way back out into the land of the living.

In the case of Nan Alker, who was branded as a witch by the locals, there is an different explanation as to why she really had additional iron bars added to her grave awhile after her passing.

Ghosts of Samlesbury
The final resting place of Nan Alker, who was said to have returned to haunt her husbands dreams after he remarried

Nan Alker was married to Thomas Alker in the 17th century, at which time she became gravely ill and both her and her husband were aware that her death was only a matter of time.

It is said that Nan Alker told her husband that he was not to re-marry, or even have relations with any other women after she had passed, she told him that if he did that she would come back and haunt him, it would appear that she was true to her word.

After the death of his wife, Tom spent the next several months as a lonely widower, however, he did eventually begin courting Ellen Hayes, who was a local farmer's widow, they found comfort within each others grief of the passing of their partners.

Haunted grave in Samlesbury
Nan Alker's grave as it is in 2021, it is overgrown and hard to read but is still there.

Shortly after starting his courtship with his new love, Tom complained that his dead wife was appearing in his dreams, just violently screaming at him. The nightmares got worse and worse until, one day Tom visited his wife's grave to discover that the huge stone slab had been broken and removed from her grave, it was that heavy that it required the help of several men from the village to put it back into place.

After that the nightmares continued, growing more and more vivid each night, and every morning Tom would wake to find the slab moved once more.

When Tom could take no more of the nightmares and the moving grave he resorted to drilling holes into the slab of stone and driving iron spikes through them, iron was believed at the time to ward off evil spirits. It is said that after this the nightmares stopped, and since then it is believed that Nan Alker was never to stir again.

We went and visited St Leonard the Less graveyard today, the area just oozes with history and the stories of legends, the church dates back to 1558 and was designated a world heritage site in 1966.

Unfortunately the grave of Nan Alker is heavily overgrown nowadays and unkept, it is however still visible, with the iron bars protruding above the surface. If you are local to the area and have anymore stories we would love to hear from you, let us know in the comments below anything you might know about Nan Alker and St Leonard the Less. If you enjoyed this story make sure you check out the UK's most haunted woods, Dering Wood.


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