Thomas Busby was a ‘thug, thief and drunkard’, who lived in North Yorkshire, England, in the later part of the 1600s, who cursed anyone who sat in his favourite chair to die.
Thirsk Museum, 14-16 Kirkgate, Thirsk, North Yorkshire, England
BACKGROUND AND HISTORY
Tomas Busby married Elizabeth, reportedly the daughter of ‘a small-time petty crock’ named Daniel Awety, who lived near the village of Kirby Wiske. Awety had reportedly purchased a farm after moving to the area from Leeds and his house, which he called ‘Danotty Hall’ was ideal for his ‘illegal coining activities’. It was also believed that Awety had built a ‘hidden chamber’ in the house which was connected to the cellar via a secret passageway.
Busby became Awety’s partner in crime and was also reported to be the original owner of an inn near Sandhutton and about three miles from Danotty Hall.
One day, Busby was returned to his inn, ‘drunk as usual’, to find his father-in-law sitting in his favorite chair and demanded Awety move immediately, but the older man refused. They two men reportedly got into a ‘heated argument’ and Busby ‘forcibly removed Awety from the chair’ and kicked his father-in-law out of the inn after Awety ‘threatened to take his daughter back with him to his farm’.
Some reports state however that the argument may have been over Busby’s wife Elizabeth the coining business or ‘almost anything else’. Sources also add that Busby and Awety’s relationship was ‘known to be far from harmonious with Busby often in a foul mood with Awety for some reason or another’ and that Busby’s mood ‘blackened’ when he saw Awety sitting in his favorite chair.
Busby supposedly sneaked into Danotty Hall later that night and murdered his father-in-law with a hammer before hiding his body in the woods nearby. Reportedly, when people began to notice that Daniel Awety had disappeared the local police organized a search and his body was found. Busby was arrested at his inn and charged with murder.
In the summer of 1702, Busby was tried and sentenced to death for murder at the York Assizes. He was sentenced to be ‘gibbeted (hung from a gibbet), have ‘his body dipped in tar’ and his remains ‘displayed on a stoop’ (post) attached to the gibbet, in ‘full view of his inn’.
Reportedly, on the day of his execution, Busby was drunk and had to be ‘dragged’ from his favorite chair and, as he was led to the gallows, at the crossroads near his inn he cursed the chair vowing that ‘anyone who dared to sit in it would die a sudden and violent death’. One account reportedly tells how Busby was granted a last wish to have a ‘final drink at his own inn and sit in his favorite chair’.
The inn was later renamed the ‘Busby Stoop Inn’ but was closed in 2012.
Busby’s spirit is believed to haunt his old pub, the ‘area where he was gibbeted’ but his favourite chair is reportedly the focus of his curse which ‘became irrevocably linked to his revengeful spirit’.
According to ‘local legend’ the chair has been responsible for ‘more deaths than most serial killers’ and one estimate reportedly puts the number of its victims at over sixty, after news of the curse spread and drew curious visitors to the inn, wanting to sit in the chair.
There have also been reports that Thomas Busby haunts the inn and ‘reliable witnesses’ have reportedly ‘announced’ that they have seen Busby’s ghost ‘wandering around the second floor’ which drew even more visitors to the Busby Stoop.
Reportedly, the first death associated with the chair was that of a chimney sweep who, along with a friend, sat in the chair while having a drink one evening in 1894. Reportedly he never made it home and, ‘inebriated’ he ‘laid down on the road to sleep’ and the next morning was ‘found hanging from the post next to the gibbet’ near where Busby was executed, which ‘sealed people’s belief in this curse’.
His death was reportedly ruled as a suicide but in 1914 the friend with whom the chimney sweep had spent his last hours with ‘admitted on his death bed to having robbed and murdered his friend’.
Some would also often dare friends to sit in the chair, although very few actually did and the few who were brave enough to take the dare ‘all met untimely ends’. A motorcyclist reportedly ‘died on his bike shortly after leaving the inn’, a hitchhiker was ‘knocked down and killed two days after visiting the inn’ and a ‘local man in his early thirties died of a massive heart attack the night after he sat in this chair’.
During the Second World War, across the road from Busby Stoop, an airfield was built that the Royal Canadian Air Force used and the men would ‘often partake of the inn’s ale’ and several crewmembers were dared to sit in the Busby chair. Those who took the dare reportedly never returned home from their missions.
In the 1960’s, before Tony Earnshaw took over the running of the pub, he claimed to have overheard two airmen who dared each other to sit in the chair, and who both sat in the chair, would hit a tree with their car on their way back to the airfield later that day and both men reportedly died on the way to the hospital.
In 1968 Tony Earnshaw took over The Busby Stoop Inn. He was reportedly ‘more of rebellious and non-superstitious man’ and when he heard of the ‘Busby Stoop Chair Curse’, dismissed the ‘centuries old legend’ and ‘stated that all the deaths associated with the chair were mere coincidences’.
Reportedly, only a few days later, a group of builders having lunch at the inn dared a young worker to sit in the chair, he obliged and after returning to the building site he reportedly ‘fell through a roof and died’, landing on ‘the concrete ground below’.
After the young builder’s death the landlord locked the chair away in the cellar but in 1978, a deliveryman sat in the chair and told the landlord ‘it was a very comfortable’. The man reportedly suggested that ‘such a fine chair should not be locked away in a damp cellar’ and ‘within hours’ his truck ‘veered off the road and crashed, killing him’.
Also in the 1970s the chair reportedly also claimed ‘a number of victims’ including a ‘cleaning lady who was diagnosed with a brain tumor after knocking into the chair’, a ‘number of cyclists and motorcyclists who suffered fatal road accidents’, a ‘hitch-hiker who was run over after having spent two nights at the pub’ and ‘a local man who died of a heart attack shortly after sitting in the condemned chair’.
Soon after these events Earnshaw apparently decided that the chair was too dangerous to keep any longer and at his ‘explicit request’, to ‘prevent anyone from ever sitting on it including maintenance and cleaners’, the Busby chair has been ‘moved out of harm’s way’. The chair had been in the inn for over 275 years and, after being donated by to the Thirsk Museum in 1978, it is now the ‘most popular piece on display at the Thirsk Museum’.
The chair can be seen attached to the wall, five feet up, in one of the display areas to prevent anyone from sitting in it and the museum has ‘never broken its promise in over thirty years’ despite ‘numerous requests and even the threat of legal action’.
THEORIES AND EXPLANATIONS
Many believed that the deaths connected to the chair were just an ‘unlucky coincidence’ or that the ‘majority of those brave enough to defy the curse were just risk-takers, prepared to push their luck’ as a number of the deaths happened on roads, and thousands of men of ‘Bomber Command’ never returned from missions.