In the 18th and 19th century was a rather strange custom of waiting in the local church porch on New Years Eve to see the souls of the dead entering the church. As midnight approached the shades of the people of the parish who were to die in the following months would appear walking up the church path and disappear inside.
It was all too common for the onlookers to see themselves as the last 'fetch'
A young lad called Robin accompanied the local vet to a lonely farmhouse near the village, after dealing with the sick animal they started on their way home past the ruins of the old priory. The church bell started to toll as they approached.
'It's the passing bell' said Robin after two strokes 'and it's for a man' for it was the custom in those days to ring single strokes for a man and double for a woman, three for a child. After a pause the strokes continued, counting out the age of the dead person. Twenty six strokes, the age of Robin himself. The building was dark and quiet and as they waited wondering who had been pealing the bells, the gate silently swung open and a strange procession entered the church yard.
A tiny figure led, dressed in black with just a red skull cap, chanting a dirge as he slowly paced up the path, past the two men the tiny figures carried a coffin and as was the custom the lid was open.
Robin and his friend although terrified couldn't help themselves but to lean forward and gaze at the figure.
The figure was Robin himself
The young man leapt forward demanding of the faeries his fate but as soon as he uttered his words they vanished leaving the two men alone in the churchyard.
From then on Robin was a changed man, moody and depressed. One month to the day he had seen the procession he died. His funeral procession took the same route as that of the faerie procession
In about 1826 a man called Ben Barr of Helpston Northamptonshire, who watched every year and professed to know the fate of everybody in the village, was reported quite ready to find a favourable verdict for the timid for the inducement of a few pence.
Watching is supposed to observed for three years before results would be obtained but once begun must be continued for life.