Often referred to as the Doggett vampire or the vampire of Tarrant Gunville, this has the classic signs of a ghost story and might have remained so if not for the accounts of what the state of the corpse was in the 1850s when the church was being rebuilt.
Legend has it that Lord Melbury lent a considerable sum of money to his steward William Doggett and left him in charge of his magnificent mansion Eastbury House, in Tarrant Gunville. But Dogget gave the money to his brother and was later utterly powerless to repay it.
When Lord Melcombe wanted his money back, Doggett – desperate and broke – started to sell the building materials used in the house. It is reported that some of the other mansions and villas from the area have stone providing from the tearing down of Eastbury House.
Unfortunately, even that was not enough, and on hearing that Lord Melcombe was on his way back from Europe and would plan to collect the debt, Doggett shot himself through his jaw with the bullet going up through his head. As per church records this happened on the 23rd June 1786 and it is said that the stains of his blood are still visible.
Soon after, stories began to circulate that Doggett had returned to stalk the village. His blood-covered face was seen after dark. Doors opened and closed by themselves.
So far it has all the elements of a typical ghost story, however his contemporaries felt otherwise, considering the way they chose to bury him.
In 1845, Tarrant Gunville church was demolished and rebuilt. Workmen also reorganized the churchyard and ended up exhuming Doggett’s body. They are reported to have found his legs tied together with yellow silk ribbon and that his body was not at all decomposed. Different versions of the story have it that there were two vampire teeth visible under his top lip, with other details such as: the course of the bullet could be seen on Doggett’s face and scarily his face had a rosy complexion as there were no signs of decomposition on the full of the body.
His body was dealt with in the “accepted way” for a vampire, and he made no trouble for the village after that.
The urban legend was recorded in 1907 by Charles Harper, who wrote that:
“Generally at the stroke of midnight, a coach with a headless coachman and headless horses drives out and picks up Doggett, down the road.
If you see an old-world figure at such a time, stepping into that horrid conveyance, you will recognize him as Doggett by his knee-breeches, tied with yellow silk ribbon. The headless coachman asks (out of his neck?), “Where to, sir ?” and the ghost says, “Home”; whereupon the horses are whipped up, and they drive back to the house. The shade of Doggett, entering, proceeds to the paneled room where he shot himself a century and a half ago – and shoots himself again!”