Parson Richard Dodge served as Vicar at Talland Church. Despite earning the awe and respect of the parishioners with his moral devotion, he was said to be an eccentric character and was widely credited with being an exorcist, he could summon evil spirits and caste them out, it was said as far as the Red Sea. He was learned in the black arts and went out at night to round up the spirits on the Highway.
Dodge could be seen driving the demons before him and swipe the restless dead with his whip from which they ran screaming, "Dodge is come! I must be gone!"
It was well known by many that Dodge's night time theatricals were a cover for a large smuggling operation he ran through Bridle Lane a path running down to the sea from the manor house at Killigarth. The smuggling may well be part of the story of Parson Dodge but the tale I am going to tell you had nothing to do with a smokescreen and everything to do with the laying to rest of The Spectral Coach.
Now there was a bit of moor land near Lanreath which had always been common land known as Blackadon moor. When the local landowners moved in to claim it an ugly dispute broke out regarding the dividing of the land. One particular landowner was so angry and distressed by the dispute he died of a rage. The tale goes that this landowner never gave in; even in death he drove away all who crossed the moor with his terrifying apparition. His spectre guarded the common in a coach pulled by two headless horses. All who ventured to pass him fell into a mazed state of confusion and a passing insanity. As the most direct route into the village was to cross the common land a good number of Lanreath parishioners had been directly and adversely affected by the spectre.
At his fireside Richard Dodge sat reading a letter from the reverend Parson Mills of Lanreath who implored him to calm the anxiety galloping rampant through his parish. "Dear Reverend Dodge," he wrote. "Please would you join me in the reassurance of the villagers, it is surely just a tale gone wild. Many villagers with credible reputations have been affected by the spectral coach and it is becoming increasingly difficult to disregard. I ask you to either reassure of its nonexistence or if it comes to light that there is some substance would you kindly return the coach driver to his grave."
Dodge arranged to meet with Mills one dark night out on the moor. The two men spent some time discussing the apparition and praying for the landowner's soul. When no apparition was forthcoming they agreed to the spectre's non-existence and went their separate ways. Dodge and his horse had made some progress back toward Talland, when the horse suddenly stopped and refused to continue. Dodge gave the beast its head and curiously the horse wheeled round and returned to the moor. Here he found Mills lying senseless on the ground before a coach and two steaming headless horses, sitting in the cab was a terrifying spectre. The spectre dismounted and began to move toward the men. Dodge summoned all his strength and courage and began to recite a shaky prayer.
As he was speaking the black clad driver interrupted with a shriek. "Dodge is come! I must be gone!" And he climbed onto his coach with its two horrific headless horses and they all disappeared across the moor never to be seen again.
The villagers were very pleased and Parson Dodge's reputation spread. The insanity inflicted on those who encounter the spectre and his grisly coach turned out to be a temporary affliction, no life was permanently lost and happily the villagers of Lanreath never saw the coachman again.
Now if you are walking on Lanreath common or along the cliffs at Talland and you see a spectre you know what to say.
"Dodge will come! So you be gone!"
Reretold by Anna Chorlton
Reverend Richard Dodge served at Talland b1713 and 1747