Why You Should Not Look into Crazywell Pool on Midsummer’s Eve
Crazywell Pool is a large pond located in the Dartmoor National Park, in Devon, England. This pond is famous due to the many local legends that surround it. The best-known of these is perhaps the one which claims that Crazywell Pool is bottomless. Other, lesser-known tales are more sinister in nature, and involve supernatural forces . In the area surrounding the pond, in Dartmoor National Park, there are many archaeological features, some of which have also had local legends weaved around them.
The myths and legends surrounding Dartmoor National Park, the home of Crazywell Pool, attract visitors from far and wide. ( annacurnow / Adobe Stock)
History and the Legend of Bottomless Crazywell Pool
Crazywell Pool (also spelled as Crazy Well, and called variously as Classenwell, Classiwell, or Clazywell) is situated about 3 km (1.9 mi) to the south of Princetown, in Devon, in the southern part of England. It is believed that the pond was originally a shallow-cast tin mine, which became a pool when water from a natural underground spring filled it up after its abandonment. Incidentally, as a result of mining, and the subsequent abandonment of these mines, many ponds like Crazywell Pool were created in Dartmoor. Yet, Crazywell Pool stands out from many of the other ponds in Dartmoor, thanks to the many local legends attached to it.
One of the best-known legends associated with Crazywell Pool is that it is bottomless. The origin of this myth may be traced back to the (erroneous) claim in many early topographical works that Crazywell Pool is the largest natural pond in Dartmoor. In order to test this claim, the villagers of nearby Walkhampton, or Sheepstor in another version of the legend, decided to find out for themselves the exact depth of the pool. In order to do so, they took all the bell ropes from the local church, tied them together, added a weight on one end and lowered it into the middle of the pond. According to the legend, although the villagers had dropped 164.6 meters (540 ft) of rope into the pool, it still did not hit the bottom. As a result, the legend of bottomless Crazywell Pool was born.
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The legend, however, seems to have been debunked quite easily, though these counter-legends have been conveniently left out. In one of these tales, found in several newspaper reports from the 1870s, the villagers are said to have brought a steam engine to the pool after their little experiment with the bell ropes. They used the engine to pump the water out of Crazywell Pool, and within three hours, the pond was completely dry. In another story, Dartmoor is said to have experienced a particularly dry summer in 1844. In order to overcome the problem of water shortage, water was pumped from Crazywell Pool into the nearby Devonport Leat. It was found that the pond is actually only about 4.5 meters (15 ft) deep.
Crazywell Pool on Dartmoor has given rise to many myths and legends. (Nilfanion / CC BY-SA 3.0 )
Crazywell Pool: More Myths and Legends
Another local legend associated with Crazywell Pool is that the water level rises and falls with the tide, even though this body of water is nowhere near the sea. The legend may have its origins in the writings of a Rev. E. W. L. Davies. In his 1863 Dartmoor Days , Davies made the following observation:
“Great numbers of fish have been placed in it at different times, but never seen afterwards. The pool appears to be subject to periodical falls and rises. On April 22, 1824, at half-past three in the afternoon, it was higher by 2 feet [0.6 m] than at the earlier part of the same day, and it was 12 feet [3.7 m] higher than that in April, 1823.”
Crazywell Pool in Dartmoor National Park has been the subject of many myths and legends. Source: Andreas / Adobe Stock
Although Davies wrote that the water level rose and fell periodically, he did not associate it with the tide. Perhaps this connection was made at some point of time after the publication of Davies’ work.
Not all of the local legends surrounding Crazywell Pool are of this harmless nature. Other legends are more sinister, involving the supernatural, and the harming of people. One infamous local legend, for instance, claims that if a person were to look into the pond on the midnight of Midsummer’s Eve , he/she would see the reflection of the next person to die.
One Midsummer’s Eve, so the story goes, the legend was told in a local inn, and a challenge was issued. Two boys accepted the challenge, and went to the pond to look into its waters at midnight. Their fates are unknown, as they never returned. Thus, this second legend serves the reinforce the first one, and both act as warnings to anyone foolhardy enough to look into Crazywell Pool on Midsummer’s Eve.
A variation of the legend states that there is a voice at the pool that whispers or sings the names of those who are about to die, presumably throughout the year. This legend was probably meant to keep people away from the pond altogether.
View of Bowerman’s Nose in Dartmoor National Park in Devon. (Sarah Charlesworth / CC BY-SA 2.0 )
Legends Associated with Dartmoor National Park
Crazywell Pool is not the only landmark in the Dartmoor National Park that has legends attached to it. The National Park, which covers an area of 953 km 2 (368 mi 2), contains both natural and man-made features. The granite that characterizes the moor’s geology was formed in the earth around 280 million years ago. Through the weathering and erosion of the rock, tors, which are large, free-standing rocky outcrops rising on hill, were created.
Crazywell Pool is situated below one such tor, Cramber Tor, which is “a low level flat pile of rocks perched on the side of Riddick Hill.” Whilst this tor is not particularly interesting, others have legends surrounding them. An example of such a tor is Bowerman’s Nose, which, according to legend, was originally a hunter named Bowerman. One day, as Bowerman was pursuing a hare, he came across a coven of witches, and angered them as he interrupted the ritual they were performing. The next time Bowerman went hunting, one of the witches turned herself into a hare, and allowed Bowerman to pursue her till he was exhausted. Finally, the witches turned the hunter into a pile of rocks.
Spinster's Rock is a Neolithic dolmen said to have been created when a group of maidens were turned into stone as punishment for dancing on the Sabbath. (Mik Peach / CC BY-SA 4.0 )
As for man-made features, the national park boasts having the largest concentration of Bronze Age ruins in England. Additionally, Dartmoor contains remains from various other periods, including the Iron Age, the Roman period, and the Middle Ages. Naturally, locals have weaved legends around many of these ancient remains, one of which is the Spinster’s Rock. Today, this feature is identified as a Neolithic dolmen (a single-chamber megalithic tomb), and, it may be added, the only recognizable one in Devon. Still, a romanticized explanation of how the stones came to be is that they were once maidens, who, as punishment for dancing on the Sabbath, were turned to stone, becoming the rock formation we know today as Spinster’s Rock .
To conclude, it is clear that Crazywell Pool was created as a result of both man-made and natural processes. Nevertheless, local legends have been attached to the pond to make it a more interesting site. Some of these legends may be said to have been actual stories that had been distorted, whilst others seem to have been conjured out of thin air, perhaps to explain the mysterious deaths and disappearances that have occurred around the pond. The latter form of legend-making has not been restricted to Crazywell Pool, but was also applied to many other natural and man-made features in Dartmoor National Park.
Top image: A woman stares into a dark lake. Credit: diter / Adobe Stock
By Wu Mingren
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