The Headless Hob of Neasham
Hob headless was a sprite that lurked on a road from Neasham to Hurworth. His presence was a nusance, pouncing on unsuspecting travelers, changing the direction of signposts, and causing vehicles to skid on the road. This headless figure was also known to lure unsuspecting travellers from their path into the treacherous waters of the River Tees. As such he was blamed for the various disappearances, deaths and drownings in the river that stretched along the road.
One of the most well known disappearances was that of the unfortunately named Robert Luck, a bricklayer from Darlington, on New Year's Eve in 1772. It is assumed that he had had a few drinks as part of the evenings festivities, which may account for his failure to be more cautious during his journey as he never returned home.
The townsfolk avoided his clutches in the village due to Hob being unable to cross a little tibutary of the Tees known as the the Kent Bridge. However the disappearance of Robert is thought to have prompted the people of Neasham to seek assistance from a priest to exorcise the malevolent sprite.
The priest is said to have successfullly banished the Hob to a hole by the roadside which was then covered by a large stone. Willam Henderson recorded the tale in his book Notes on the Folk-lore of the Northern Counties of England and the Borders (1879) noting
He has been exorcised, however, and laid under a large stone formerly on the roadside, for ninety-nine years and a day. Should any luckless person sit on that stone, he would be unable to quit it for ever.
It is believed the stone was cursed as an act of revenge by Hob Headless trapped beneath. The claim that those who sat upon the rock would remain stuck to it forever was enough to deter people from tampering with the rock, lest they accidentally unleash the malevolent creature once again.