The Phantom of Ravenscar

They never found her body.

One would think that,
High on a bleak, treeless headland
Finding a girl’s body would be easy
But nobody ever saw Adelaida again

Some think that the ravens
For whom the rugged scene was called
Picked her bones clean, stripped her of flesh
The sheep on the moor certainly never did

Her father owned a farm outside Staintondale
Where he bred horses for mere pounds each
Big ones, riding ones, cart horses, ponies
Adelaida was four when her mother died

When she was eleven, her father took her away
He got out the battered trap, harnessed the nag
Put Adelaida in the back with a spare dress and bonnet
And drove down the bumpy road to Scarborough

The lady at the door
Gave Mr Beadnell three whole, entire pounds
Which in them days, the days of hedgehog hair, the 1780s
Amounted to the yearly wage of a fresh, naïve country girl
Just like Adelaida, another donkey on the grist mill

She never laid eyes her father again, but instead saw
Floors, grates, tables, occasionally the silver
Or whatever else needed scrubbing and polishing
For such was the pablum life of a house maid, of Adelaida

For a pretty girl, a vain girl,
One with plump roseate cheeks
And hair that curled blondely to her waist
A make-up palette was as alluring
As the fruit on the tree was to Eve

Adelaida too found herself cast out
When the shilling left on the bureau beckoned
She took it, put it in her skirts, smoothed them, and did not see
The man of the house, back from the coffee shop early.

Our Adelaida was fifteen
And hitched her ride to Whitby
By promising the pastor things
Under the blanket, against the stile
Before dancing away from him on the quay

The Golden Griffin pub,
Was up the road, on the hill
Overlooking the bay with its floating forest

It was, through and through,
A smuggler’s haunt,
The abbey had perfect tombs
For the perfect crime
Cask hiding, in the graveyard

Cocking her mousy head,
Adelaida served beer and chocolate
With her low neck, tight stays,


She soon won the gentleman’s favours
Not forgetting their secrets as well
Excise men rarely ventured
Where their would-be murderer’s trod

But, one did one day
Blond, tall, slightly freckled
The son of well-off farmer

Adelaida swooned
Into his arms, velvet coat compared to leather
Smelling of perfume and not fish
Cuddling, caressing,
Only, barely seventeen

There and then she spilt it,
Both the coffee on the floor
And when the men woke the dead
So that within the week,
Five swung

But the sixth did not.

It was he who came back for her,
Tricking her with a letter and rose
Adelaida came skipping out to take a cab
Took it to the straw field
Near the abandoned Beadnell cottage

Giddy with love, drunk on promise
Never to be seen again.


“She was never seen again”
Is not entirely true
In flesh she was not, but in spirit
Travellers will tell you otherwise

They say Adelaida is the angry phantom
Whom you might encounter on a gusty day
If you happen to be walking across the field
Where she played with the foals as a girl

She is not malevolent, not physically
But those who have blundered through her ghost
Which is rarely seen until it’s too late not to,
Have felt her rage at being cheated,
Of life and love

Or maybe just the money, ribbons and make-up
She could have had, had she lived after 1790
Now though she is merely a faceless shape
Wrapped in sailcloth that the wind blows back
One budding breast on show as she stands sideways

Adelaida Beadnell was only seventeen.

Her body was never found.

The Phantom of Ravenscar


Romford, United Kingdom

  • Artist

Artist's Description

I wrote this one day out of boredom, but it has since been featured in a myspace magazine and was cherrypicked on a literary website, which made me quite proud.

Hope you enjoy!

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