Tie a Noose is a true ghost story from New York about a young servant girl who is killed by a man and violent man. This legend is sometimes called “The Ghost From Leeds” or “The Ghost with Flaming Fingers”. It is based on a number of folklore sources and a version that was collected in “Myths and Legends of Our Land” by Charles M Skinner.
Many years ago, there was a young Scottish girl named Anna Dorothea Swarts who traveled to the United States to seek her fortune. She came to work as a servant in a large stone house near the town of Catskill in New York State.
The man who owned the house was mean-tempered and violent individual called William Salisbury. He had paid for her ticket to come to America and, as soon as she began working for him, she realized what kind of a man he was.
He treated her like a slave and told her she wouldn’t be paid until she had worked off the cost of her ticket. She was trapped. Salisbury was vicious and brutal, taking pleasure in the suffering of others. He frequently lost his temper at Anna and looked for any reason to beat or abuse her.
On one occasion, he caught her passing by a closed door and accused her of eavesdropping on a conversation between him and his wife. Despite the young girl’s protests, he took her outside and whipped her until her entire body was covered in welts and bruises. Salisbury was so cruel to Anna that she couldn’t stand it anymore and, one day, she decided to run away.
When Salisbury found out she was missing, his anger knew no bounds. Cursing and swearing, he jumped on his horse and chased her across the countryside. The furious man relentlessly pursued poor Anna and scoured the woods until he eventually found her desperately fleeing through the trees.
When Salisbury caught her, he took a cord and tied her hands to the tail of his horse. Then, he dragged her all the way back to his house. By the time they reached the home, she was dead. Her frail body had been dashed to pieces on the rocks and stones that covered the country road. All that was left of her was a tattered, bloody mess.
Salisbury was arrested and tried for murder. In court, he claimed that he hadn’t meant to harm the girl at all and said he was only trying to teach her a lesson. According to the story he told, his horse had become frightened and reared up, throwing him off. Then, the horse bolted and dragged the young girl to her to death. He tried to explain it all away as a tragic accident.
In the end, the jury didn’t believe his story and Salisbury was given the death penalty. He was sentenced to be hanged by the neck for the crime of murder.
However, Salisbury was a rich man and money can buy many things. In this case, he used his money to bribe the judge. His sentence was suspended until he was 99 years of age, if he actually lived that long. In the meantime, he was ordered to wear a hangman’s noose around his neck to remind him of his crime. He was ordered to report to the judge at Catskill once a year to make sure he was keeping the noose tied around his neck.
After the trial, he was a changed man. Wherever he went, people would see the hangman’s noose and they stared and pointed at him, knowing he was a murderer. He couldn’t escape the shame. Salisbury became an outcast and nobody in the town would associate with him.
Soon afterwards, rumors began to circulate that the ghost of the young girl had been seen in the area. Sometimes, she would be spotted sitting on the stone wall at the bottom of his garden, with hellish flames rising from her fingertips and the sound of unearthly laughter coming from her lips.
At other times, the ghost of the poor murdered girl was spotted, tied to a ghastly horse that dashed past the man’s window every night. Those who saw her described her as a bloody skeleton with tattered garments and streaming hair flapping in the wind. The clatter of hooves on the rocks and the girl’s terrified shrieks echoed outside Salisbury’s window the whole night long. People would walk miles to avoid passing Salisbury’s house, not wanting to hear the horrible screams of the dead.
As the years went by, Salisbury became a recluse, never speaking to anyone and spending his time alone in his house.They say the ghost of the murdered girl tormented him every night, eventually driving him insane. One day, his dead body was found hanging from the ceiling of his house. Whether he was driven to suicide by guilt and remose or if he was forced into it by the ghost, nobody knows. Whatever the reason, he had taken his own life with the very noose that he was ordered to wear around his neck.