A bloody murder, a grisly execution – and a curse that reaches its chilling malevolence down through time from the summer of 1702 to the present day…
At the end of the 17th century, criminal and counterfeiter Daniel Awety moved from Leeds to the tiny village of Kirby Wiske, near Thirsk, North Yorkshire, to pursue his business of forging currency.
He bought a farm at the top of a rise – a good look-out for unwanted visitors – and renamed it Danotty Hall. Awety extended the farm, building a hidden room for his nefarious goings-on linked by a secret passage from the cellar.
Awety’s daughter Elizabeth married a local man named Thomas Busby, and Busby and his father-in-law became partners in the lucrative forgery business.
But it seems Busby had a violent temper, and was a bully and drunkard. One evening, most likely after drinking, he returned home to find Awety there. The two men argued over some trivial matter and Busby threw Awety out.
Later that night, still seething, Busby went up to Danotty Hall. There, he viciously and cold-bloodedly bludgeoned his father-in-law to death with a hammer, hiding the body in nearby woodland.
When friends and family realised that Daniel Arwety was missing, a search was mounted. And, when his battered and bloody body was found, the immediate and most likely suspect for his murder was the villanous Thomas Busby – who was promptly arrested.
Busby was tried at York Assizes in 1702. Found guilty of murder, he was condemned to hang and his body be dipped in pitch and left in a gibbet opposite the coaching inn at the crossroads. Gibbeting – displaying the corpse in an iron cage – was feared by condemned criminals more than the execution, as it was believed the spirit would find no rest in the afterlife.
Thomas Busby’s last request was to have his final meal at his favourite pub – the coaching inn. But, after he’d eaten, he stood from his chair and invoked a curse of sudden and horrible death – as he himself was condemned to suffer – to anyone who dared sit in the chair.
From this time onwards, the pub became known as the Busby Stoop Inn – after the ‘stoop’ or small platform, on which Busby was executed – and the curse of the chair began. And, from that time, many also believed the old coaching inn haunted by the restless spirit of the executed man.
The chair remained in the pub for centuries, and drinkers would often dare one another to sit in the cursed seat usually with, it is claimed, deadly consequences. Many of these alleged incidents of the curse have been recorded.
In 1894, a chimney sweep and his friend left the Busby Stoop Inn late in the evening. The sweep was found the following morning, hanged on a gatepost, next to the old Busby gibbet. An inquest decided it was suicide.
A number of Royal Canadian Air Force pilots were based at the nearby Skipton-on-Swale airfield during WWII, and were regulars at the pub. It is said that airmen who sat in the Busby chair never returned home from sorties.
In 1968, a new landlord took over Busby Stoop. At first skeptical of the Busby curse, he later reported several disturbing incidents. In 1967, the landlord heard two RAF men daring each other to sit in the chair – and both did. And both men died later that day, after their car hit a tree.
The landlord also told how, in 1970, a labourer took a dare to sit in the chair. After returning to his building site, he fell through a roof to his death.
When a cleaner at the pub tripped and fell into the chair, and apparently became ill and died shortly afterwards, the landlord decided it was time to put the chair away where it could do no more harm.
So the chair was locked away in the cellar. But even there, the curse wielded its evil influence – an unfortunate delivery man took a quick rest while unloading packages in the store room, and was killed in a car accident that same day.
The ghost still walks…
Unnerved by these strange and tragic coincidences, in 1972 the landlord finally asked the Thirsk museum to take the chair, on condition that it never let anyone sit in it. The museum hung the chair high on a wall and no-one has tempted the curse for nearly 30 years.
However, although the cursed chair is now unable to cause any more harm, many claim to have seen the ghost of Thomas Busby at the site opposite the pub at which the gallows stood.
And, at the pub itself, there have been reports of a tall and terrifying faceless apparition on an upstairs landing, which disappears through a wall, leaving those who encounter it filled with a sense of dread and despair.
It seems the unquiet spirit of Thomas Busby still cannot find lasting rest…