United Utilities' workers were "stunned" to discover a 17th century witch's-style cottage, with a mummified cat sealed into the walls, during a routine construction project in Pendle, Lancashire.
The "spellbinding" find occurred near Lower Black Moss reservoir in the village of Barley, which nestles in the shadow of Pendle Hill - the UK's premier witching hotspot.
Speculation is already rife among local historians that the building could be the lost Malkin Tower - the site of a notorious meeting of the Pendle witches on Good Friday, 1612.
Archaeologists brought in by the North West water firm to survey the area found a remarkably well-preserved building from the 1600s, hidden beneath a grass mound.
The building contained a sealed room, with a mummified cat bricked into the wall. It is believed the cat was buried alive to protect the cottage's inhabitants from evil spirits.
Carl Sanders, United Utilities' project manager, said: "It's not often you come across a fairytale cottage complete with witch's cat. The building is in remarkable condition. You can walk through it and get a real sense that you're peering into the past."
Simon Entwistle, an expert on the Pendle witches, said: "In terms of significance, it's like discovering Tutankhamun's tomb. We are just a few months away from the 400th anniversary of the Pendle witch trials, and here we have an incredibly rare find, right in the heart of witching country."
Frank Giecco, from NP Archaeology, led the team who unearthed the Pendle building.
He said: "It's like discovering your own little Pompeii. We rarely get the opportunity to work with something so well preserved. As soon as we started digging, we found the tops of doors, and knew we were onto something special."
In truth, the discovery does not point at the cottage being used by a witch, but more as a home occupied by people with a primitive fear of witches.
There are many ancient houses in the United Kingdom that have had a walled up cat buried within.
As a cat was regarded as more akin to the Devil`s `familiars`, the body of the cat would keep any evil being that enters the home.
Live cats were preferred, and one such tragic discovery I witnessed were the preserved mummified remains of a female cat and two kittens. All three bore the tortured expression of suffocation at the point of death.
So sad, and so bestial..