Cornish history is packed with odd traditions and tales. In particular Cornishmen
were very wary about the spirits who lived in the mines - the knockers, buccas (imps)
The Knockers were elf-like creatures that lived in the mines. Sometimes they were
helpful, working ahead of the miners and leading them to rich veins of ore. Most
miners were afraid of them, and treated the knockers with respect. They left food
out for them, as it was believed that anyone who was disrespectful to Knockers would
suffer bad luck. When a mine closed down, the Knockers lived on in the abandoned
Then there were the Spriggans. They were ugly and were feared. They had large heads
on small bodies. They were said to haunt the hillsides while protect the treasure
buried beneath. People thought they stole babies, raised whirlwinds to damage the
crops, and terrified the lone traveller.
The Piskies were all identical little old men, no higher than an inch tall. They
wore red caps, white waistcoats, green stockings, and brown coats and trousers. On
their feet they wore brightly polished, buckled shoes. The Piskies were good people
who helped the old, but they were mischievous and played tricks on people.
The inhabitants of Looe sometimes found it necessary to use spiked ridge tiles “piskie-pows”
as deterrents against witches, and to befriend the piskies and give then a dancing
place, lest they should turn the milk sour.
Stories of disembodied hands carrying candles, spirit voices warning of impending
rock falls and ghostly black dogs and white hares prophesying certain disaster abound
throughout Cornwall. In Looe there is such a legend:
It is said whispered that the spirit of a broken-hearted maiden cannot rest. Her
spirit appears as a white hare, visible only to her deceiver, which haunts and follows
him forever until he meets his end.
But down among the fishermen of West Cornwall this ghostly visitor plays a more kindly
part. After sundown it will flit, eerie but harmless, among the up-drawn boats by
the water's edge, or through the still byways of the port, a warning to all sea farers
of storms that will surely follow, to the destruction of the heedless.