IN the south of Devon, some eighteen or twenty years ago, a reverend gentleman, of large landed property, held a small benefice in his immediate neighbourhood, for the purpose of evading residence in another quarter. He was accustomed to perform the duty every Sunday, and was conveyed to the church in his chariot through one of those narrow, shady lanes for which that country was then so justly famed. He died, and his remains were consigned to the vault in the church of the above-mentioned benefice, with much pomp and ceremony, and followed by a long procession of friends, tenants, and the surrounding neighbourhood. But his spirit was not supposed to rest in peace. Villagers returning from their labours had been terrified by the sound of carriage-wheels in the shady lane; and one had even seen the chariot itself drawn by headless horses. The rumour spread, till it was confidently asserted in the cider shops that "twelve parsons" had been convened to lay the spirit in the Red Sea. Still, the lane was believed to be haunted; and on investigating the reason why the spell had not taken effect, it was conjectured that, as one of the twelve parsons had been the intimate friend of the deceased--as he knawed the trick--he would communicate it to him, and so render it abortive. That parson was therefore struck out of the list, and the vicar of an adjoining parish, lately come into residence, from "Lunnun town," did it all hisself and neither chariot nor horses was ever knawed to walk again. This superstition was current under the immediate knowledge of the writer of this anecdote.
1 Athenaeum, 7th November 1846, p. 1142, quoted by Jabez Allies, On the Antiquities and Folk-Lore of Worcestershire, p 464.