Elland is particularly rich in archaic folklore, perhaps unsurprisingly considering its history extends much further back than that of its upstart neighbour, Brighouse. The town is mentioned in the Domesday Book of 1086 and at that time was a more substantial settlement than even Halifax or Huddersfield, whilst it remained a centre of the woolen industry until its decline in the mid-20th Century. Westgate, at the top of the town, is amongst its oldest quarters and there is a great concentration of strange stories here. The tale of the Long Wall Mouse is surely the very strangest.
Long Wall is the road which runs from the top of Westgate towards West Vale, proceeding beneath the louring eponymous wall. The story of the Long Wall Mouse is first recorded in Lucy Hamerton’s 1901 tome Olde Eland in which she recounts the experience of a Dr. Hiley who once witnessed the creature, describing it as the giant and silent apparition of a white mouse. Although the Mouse never attacked anybody, it was thought that anybody who saw it would meet with some misfortune shorty thereafter and locals always avoided Long Wall during the hours of darkness.
Animal ghosts of this nature are quite rare in the English tradition. One of the few comparisons must be “a small white animal, with eyes large as saucers” which caused a sensation in Baldock, Herefordshire in 1878. There are also similarities to the Baum Rabbit, whose appearances in the 1870s often startled pedestrians walking by St. Mary’s churchyard in Rochdale at night and which proved immune to gun shot and pellets. Then there’s the bizarre case of Gef the Talking Mongoose, who haunted a remote farmhouse on the Isle of Man during the 1930s.
Arguably, the Long Wall Mouse bears closest relation to the black dog spectres which are a familiar trope in English folklore. They are often found at similarly haunted liminal zones such as highways after dark and portended misfortune or death. West Yorkshire is replete with such manifestations by a variety of names including barguest, guytrash or skriker. Sometimes these apparitions could apparently adopt a number of different guises. For instance, the Holden Rag which haunted Cliviger between Todmorden and Burnley, was also believed to manifest as a shred of a white linen hanging from a thorn bush.