Andrew Perry was furious. On one December morning in 1970, Perry, the owner of the only stable in the region that rented its horses out to holiday-goers, discovered that somebody had broken into his stable during the night, saddled his black horse and went riding with it, exhausting it to such an extent that when Perry recovered it, it was completely worn out and sweating profusely.
He shared his story with his friend, Douglas Dalton, the owner of the local pub in this village north of London. “It’s Her,” Dalton replied, “Me too, as I was taking the dog for a walk the other night, I heard a horse galloping fast toward me. I didn’t see anything. The dog started trembling. The horse sped past me and I still hadn’t seen anything. It is not the first time that I observed such a phenomenon. It’s Her, I tell you.”
Andrew Perry objected, “Do you really believe that a woman who died 300 years ago would open my stable or terrorise your dog without you seeing her?”
In the mid-17th century, Lady Katherine Ferrers was 18 years old. Alone in this world, only the Markyate land remained of her vast fortune, which had methodically been plundered by her relatives. She settled in the castle that had been abandoned long before and set off to see each of her farmers, determined to restore the land. The farmer who lived furthest away was a certain Ralph Chaplin. Lady Katherine was surprised. He was clearly not a peasant, but rather a lord. He, too, he told her, had been dispossessed by his family. He had belonged to the minor aristocracy and had now been reduced to a mere farmer. His look and manners charmed Lady Katherine. They decided to see each other again.
Very soon, the beautiful Lady Katherine and the handsome Ralph became lovers. They had suffered a similar fate, deprived of their fortune by their families. They were alone in this world and wanted to seek revenge.
Over the course of many nights, Ralph let Lady Katherine wonder: he would meet up with her through a secret passage in the castle, but he would only do so very late at night.
One day, she asked him about it, “Why so late?”
“Because I have another profession. I am a highwayman,” he confessed to her.
Lady Katherine was shocked, but also pleasantly surprised. She asked if she could accompany him on his next expedition. Ralph accepted reluctantly, wondering what this elegant aristocratic lady would do on the dark highways when they robbed carriages.
And yet he found her to be not a pupil, but a teacher. She rode a horse as well as she fired a gun. The two of them quickly became a formidable team. They attacked lone travellers, targeting the coaches and carriages of the noble. They aimed their guns at their victims and gleefully pillaged them, taking their loot back to the castle and stashing it in a secret hiding place.
Soon, the whole region was abuzz with tales about these two men – one of whom being apparently very young and the other much older – who had now come to incarnate terror. Henceforth, few would venture out into the night, though some still dared to do so, because the pillaging and ransacking continued.
One night, Lady Katherine was tired and decided to stay at home, while Ralph set off on another bounty hunt. The next morning, as Lady Katherine was being dressed, her chamber maid chattered away, “Milady, did you hear the news? They have finally succeeded in killing one of the two bandits. Last night, he was all by himself. One of the assailants managed to shoot him, killing him instantly.”
Lady Katherine managed to keep her composure and did not show anything.
The mayor of the village came to tell her that the bandit was one of her farmers, Ralph Chaplin. Lady Katherine congratulated the authorities on their big success.
“Who killed the bandit then?” she asked.
“The police officer.”
Soon, the policeman was found dead in his home. He had been attacked in the night. All of those who had participated in the death of Ralph Chaplin would be killed one after the other. There was only one bandit left of the two, but the remaining one was even more fearsome than they had been when they were together.
One night, however, a traveller transporting wine barrels took the necessary precautions. He had hidden revolvers in his coat and as soon as the bandit stood in front of him, pointing a gun at him, he sneakily took out his gun and fired at him. The bandit screamed in pain, turned around and rode away on horseback, disappearing into the night. Lady Katherine wished only one thing, to die in her own bed; she knew that her death was imminent. The black horse continued galloping; Lady Katherine was losing blood, and managed to reach the castle’s secret backdoor that led directly to her apartment. She slid onto the floor and stopped moving, dying in the doorway of her room.
The next morning, the servants discovered the masked bandit’s body. But who had been sowing terror in the region for so long then? They took off the mask, and to their horror and surprise, discovered that the masked bandit was none other than their master, Lady Katherine Ferrers.
Ever since her death, she has refused to leave her Markyate estate. A dead woman, she continues to terrorise the region’s inhabitants.