The Shropshire road where you 'could meet the Devil at midnight and face his judgement'

There is a small and inconspicuous road in south Shropshire where, it is said, you could meet the Devil himself and face his judgment.

A road between Acton Burnell and Cardington, not unlike one where you might find the Devil's Causeway
A road between Acton Burnell and Cardington, not unlike one where you might find the Devil's Causeway

And according to local folklore, if you don't measure up you might not make it back from an encounter on the road known for generations as the Devil's Causeway.

Modern-day Shropshire folklore expert and paranormal enthusiast Amy Boucher explains: "There are a number of tales which link the Devil to a specific area, which were often used to implore the listener to avoid that place.

"Acton Burnell in Shropshire is the home to several such stories."

And it is between Acton Burnell and the nearby village of Cardington that 'Old Scratch' is said to do his devilish business, north-east of Church Stretton and west of Much Wenlock.

The stretch of road in question is mentioned in the 1883 tome Shropshire Folk-Lore by Charlotte S. Burne: "A stretch of rude pavement, from two to three hundred yards in length, known as the Devil's Causeway.

"It once formed part of a Roman road leading to Wroxeter from Rushbury, and in the judgement of the Rev. CH Hartshorne, the local antiquarian authority, was never more than on an average thirteen feet wide."

Amy takes up the tale of the causeway: "This road is known as the Devil’s Causeway, as folklore states that the Devil created it in a single night, to aid his nefarious travels.

"He is believed to wander this road still, and mostly appears to anyone who chooses to walk this path at midnight. 'Owd Scratch' takes the form of a man riding a white horse (sometimes with horns and hooves like a goat or cow and far taller than any mortal man).

"He has tasked himself with judging the souls of those who are caught out late. If you have lived a good life, you may pass unheeded as the Devil knows he cannot harm you. You are allowed to live, so you can warn the other travellers of the dangers.

"However, if you are a wretched soul, the devil is free to beat you to a ‘bloodied pulp’. Certainly, this seems like an extreme fate - but if you consider the risks associated with travel, especially on isolated rural roads at night, you can begin to understand the reason such stories develop.

"I would argue that the purpose of this story is to emphasise the risks of the human world. The Devil is thus a conduit for the fears inspired by long, open roads and dark nights.

"Perhaps a harrowing crime occurred on the stretch of road long ago, so horrible people resolved that only the Devil could have done it.

"We will never know, however this story clearly serves as a deterrent."

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