A couple of hundred of years ago, when Runswick Bay was a busy fishing town, a carpenter named ‘Crook Back Tom’ was the main figure in this folklore.
According to legend Crook Back Tom got his namesake from being pushed into carpentry at an age as early as 3, being his father’s apprentice. To deal with the pain in his back Tom drank, and he drank well much to the dismay of his wife who eventually took all of Tom’s money so that he could no longer drink their money away. But where there is a will there is a way for alcoholics, and Tom found that he could do jobs for people and all he asked in return was for beer. Eventually, this was all he was paid in.After years of suffering and living penniless his wife left, also leaving their young daughter, Kate, in the care of Crook Back Tom. As the years went by Tom lived poor and tried to bring his daughter up as best he could, though the alcohol always came first and, much like her mother, Kate despised her drunken father but loved him when he was a sober man.
One evening, after Tom had spent a week without alcohol, he was offered a job with alcohol as the pay; he took it and Kate was very upset. They had been living off porridge and water for so long and Kate was hungry, she couldn’t believe that her father would choose alcohol over her. Before she could say anything more Tom got angry and locked Kate away in a dark cupboard with a bouncy ball to keep her occupied during her punishment.
Tom went away to fish for the day, but little did he know that he was about to be picked up by the Royal Navy and forced into working for them. The Navy did Tom good, his back straightened up, his carpentry skills were well received and he eventually made his way up in the ranks, all the while believing his daughter would have been living safely with a neighbour.
Eventually Tom was discharged with honours, but this was after many years on the sea. He couldn’t wait to see his grown up daughter but by the time he made it back to Runswick Bay it was late, not wanting to wake the neighbours he went back home and decided to get Kate in the morning. To his surprise his old home was covered in cobwebs and sand, it looked as though it hadn’t even been entered since he left but he shrugged it off promising to talk with Kate about it the next day.
All through the night Tom could hear a tap coming from the cupboard, he believed it was just the windows but he couldn’t shake the thought that it sounded so much like a bouncing ball. The next day Tom set off to his neighbours who had some terrible news for Tom, they had gotten word what had happened to Tom and shared no blame for the fate of Kate. The lady explained to Tom that they only found out a week later and when they went to his house to search for Kate they found her clutching a ball to her chest, she was dead. Tom was devastated, and although his neighbour tried to comfort him and tell him that she thought Kate may have died from fright as soon as the door was closed she couldn’t shake the image of the many black dots the ball had left every time Kate had bounced it.
The cottage is still said to be haunted by Kate and the bouncing ball, and owners only manage a year in the home before they are driven out by the paranormal activity.