I’ve just been reading one of F. Marion Crawford’s short stories. It’s called The Screaming Skull and at the end of the story there is a note that says that it was inspired by the real life legend of the screaming skull at Bettiscombe Manor.
I have been familiar with the legend for many years and while I was reading Crawford’s story one scene seemed very familiar, not because it was so akin to the legend, but rather because it was extremely similar to a scene in the 1958 film called The Screaming Skull.
In Crawford’s story the central character is a man and he throws the skull out of a window. A little later there is a persistent knocking at the door and when he goes down to answer it the Skull rolls over the threshold and rests against his feet. In the The Screaming Skull film the central character is a woman and she also throws the skull out of a window. Again the skull returns, knocks at the door, and then rolls into the house. There are a few other similarities as well and although the film is very different from Crawford’s story it is obvious that the script writer, John Kneubuhl, must have read Crawford’s story and been inspired by it. This brings to mind the game of Chinese whispers, where something is passed along from one person to another and is changed a little bit in each retelling, until only the essence of the original story remains.