Tag Archives: English ghosts

Sitwell Spectres: The Haunted Mansion of Renishaw: 1909

sitwell family singer sargent

The Sitwell Family, John Singer-Sargent, 1900. From left: Edith Sitwell (1887–1964), Sir George Sitwell, Lady Ida, Sacheverell Sitwell (1897–1988), and Osbert Sitwell (1892–1969)


Lady Ida Sitwell’s Strange Experience.

Friendly Ghost’s Visit

Chesterfield Correspondence London Chronicle.

Here at Chesterfield, of all places, Chesterfield, whose twisted spire might well serve as a sort of lightning conductor of the uncanny, there has been no little excitement over an announcement by Sir George Sitwell, Bart., that a ghost has been paying apparently perfectly friendly after dinner visits to “Renishaw,” his beautiful old Jacobean country house, some nine miles away.

The bare facts as vouched for by Sir George Sitwell and Lady Ida Sitwell, are briefly these. Soon after dinner on Saturday evening Lady Sitwell was sitting upon a sofa in an upstairs room chatting with half a dozen guests. She was tired, having been at a ball at Scarborough till 4 o’clock that morning, and traveled all day. Opposite her was an open door, giving out upon a staircase. This staircase was built by Sir George Sitwell himself. It replaced an older staircase that led down to an ancient and famous haunted room now done away with by Sir George, and merged into the hall.

Suddenly through the open door she saw a lady, apparently 50 or 60 years of age, moving past the door to the top of the stairs. The figure glided along the passage with arms outstretched. Her hair was gray and done up in a bun beneath a white cap. The dress was old-fashioned, like that of some old servant. The skirt was dark, the bodice blue. Although seemingly solid the figure cast no shadow and made no sound. As suddenly as it had come it vanished. Lady Sitwell immediately called out, “Who’s that?” No answer was given and she then rushed out upon the stairs. There was no sign of any one being or having been there until a lady of the party, a Miss R., saw beneath the archway below not 20 feet away, and in a full light, a figure exactly corresponding to Lady Ida’s description. “I do believe that’s the ghost!” she exclaimed. Then with the same silent motion as before the figure glided into the darkness near the now walled up door of the already mentioned ghost room and for the second time disappeared.

Such is the story; a very pretty ghost story as it stands. Alas, however, upon investigation the vision of “Renishaw” proves a very harmless unnecessary ghost, a ghost of shreds and patches.

Sir George Sitwell, who, as it happens, left “Renishaw” on Sunday with his family for a tour in Italy, confessed before his departure that the ghost was probably only a mental phantasm due to Lady Sitwell’s fanciful condition. But if so, what about Miss R., who was presumably in complete health and yet professed to have seen the old lady as clearly as Lady Sitwell herself? Accordingly, there is only general evidence to fall back upon. If any ancient inhabitant of “Renishaw” had really desired to communicate with the living world, no more appropriate occasion could well have been chosen than tonight when I visited the old house. It looked as lone and ghostly as could well be wished, standing deserted between the moonlight and silent trees and the distant flare of innumerable furnaces. Instead, however, of any ghostly intercourse, I found a cheery company of servants having a cosy supper, and entirely free from any supernatural qualms. With all deference to Lady Sitwell and Miss R., they ridiculed the possibility of there being anything in the way of a really public-spirited ghost at “Renishaw.” The old housekeeper, a charming old dame who looked the very image of Lady Sitwell’s phantom save of her air of melancholy, said that she had been there 23 years and had never seen so much as the ghost of a ghost.

As for the haunted lumber room, many was the time when she had known it was used as a bedroom without the remotest ill effect. She, by the way, happened to be out at the time of Lady Sitwell’s vision, so it could not have been her. As for the male domestics, one of them pronounced himself cheerily prepared to sit through a night at the top of the ghost-trod stair with only a candle and a bottle of whiskey for companions. Certainly there had been no possible sign of the ghost’s reappearance since the family left. For the rest, all that the servants knew of the ghost was by hearsay.

As for the many ghostly legends which are supposed to cluster round “Renishaw,” they are at any rate entirely unknown both to the neighbors or to Chesterfield people in general, who are, as a matter of fact, very much prepared to look upon the whole affair as a joke upon Sir George Sitwell’s part. The fact of the ghost having delayed its visit until the eve of Sir George’s Italian tour is held to add color to this theory. There only remains the testimony of Lady Sitwell and Miss R., who cannot for the moment be subpoenaed at the ghostly tribunal.

State [Columbia SC] 14 November 1909: p. 13

Having read of this latest appearance of a ghost at Renishaw, F. Gorell Barnes describes his experiences there. In 1892 he was parliamentary candidate for Northeast Derbyshire and Sir George Sitwell, who was then contesting another division, placed Renishaw Hall at Mr. Barnes’s disposal.

“My neighbors and visitors,” he writes, “told me more than one ghostly legend associated with it and more particularly with the old ghost room mentioned by Sir George in his letter.

“I recall one in particular, that when a stranger slept for the first time at the hall the ghost of a lady was supposed to appear. One visitor, whose name I do not now recollect, told me of a young lady who occupied the ghost room having been found in a state of abject terror and refused to give any account of what she had seen.

“Some weeks before the general election of 1893 my election agent came to stay with me till the election was over. On the night of his arrival we worked till about 1 A.M., lighted our candles and went up the staircase which Sir George describes as having been put in twenty years ago, close to the old ghost room. Near the top of the stairs this gentleman, an astute and clever Sheffield solicitor, stopped short, tapped me on the shoulder and whispered:

“’There’s somebody following us up stairs.’

“I went down, examined the stairs, entrance hall and the rooms, without finding anything. I ascended the stairs again, and step for step as I ascended I distinctly heard footsteps following me up to the top of the staircase.

“I returned again to the entrance hall, but I saw no figures as described by Sir George Sitwell. There were no ghosts or phantasms, no reversed impressions of something seen in the past, but distinct footsteps were heard by two over-tired, but not excited men.

The Sun [New York, NY] 3 October 1909: p. 12

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: Sir George seems to have regarded his wife, Lady Ida, with both amusement and contempt. Certainly, only a few years later, when her extravagance landed her in debt and she was found to have fallen into the clutches of money-lenders and to have uttered bad checks, he refused to pay her creditors and allowed her to spend three months in jail. One suspects that the servants interviewed by the author were in such a cheery mood because Sir George had left the premises.


Mrs Daffodil invites you to join her on the curiously named “Face-book,” where you will find a feast of fashion hints, fads and fancies, and historical anecdote

You may read about a sentimental succubus, a vengeful seamstress’s ghost, Victorian mourning gone horribly wrong, and, of course, Mrs Daffodil’s efficient tidying up after a distasteful decapitation in A Spot of Bother: Four Macabre Tales.

An Uncanny Thing in Nottingham: 1910s

cowering from ghost Ghosts' Gloom a Novel



Henry C. Hall

At a dinner party at a friend’s house recently, the conversation turned to a subject on which, to my surprise, I was the only one present able to give first-hand information. The subject was that of ghosts, or spirits, and a general discussion developed. Not ghosts, or ghost stories, talked of in the usual flippant manner, but spirits from the other world, and whether they are visible at times on this earth. During the conversation, a lady remarked she had never yet met anyone who had actually seen a ghost. I was immediately an object of interest, when I quietly announced the fact that I had definitely seen one. As the details of my experience caused considerable astonishment, I have decided to write them down for the benefit of readers of Light.

The incident happened when I was a boy of 15 years of age. We lived in a large house at Nottingham, a very old house with fairly extensive grounds. As the actual house is occupied at this moment, I do not propose to reveal the exact address, as it might upset the present occupier to know it is haunted. But the house stands in what is known as the Sherwood Rise district, and to those who know Nottingham, this will give them an idea of its whereabouts.

It was a summer evening in July, and the day had been oppressively hot. The time was round about six o’clock, so that it was broad daylight. I had been in the garage with one of my brothers, where we had been amusing ourselves with shooting darts form a toy revolver. Presently, I left to go into the house, and crossed the yard with the toy revolver in my hand, still loaded with one of the harmless rubber darts. I made to enter the house by the back way for a short-cut, passing through a glass porch to the back door, which opened into a small square lobby. On this hot evening, the back door stood wide open; and, passing into the lobby, the kitchen door was on my left, and this was also wide open. Facing me on the far side of the lobby was a swing door that led into the front part of the house, and this door was closed. At this particular moment the kitchen was unoccupied, the maids being elsewhere in the front portion of the house.

I should mention here that the kitchen quarters were entirely isolated and cut off from the rest of the house when the swing door referred to was closed, so that the lobby, kitchen, scullery, and larder (each leading out of the other) being deserted, there was no human being on this side of the swing door besides myself. There was no back staircase or other means of communication from this part of the house, to the front. It is important to remember this.

Hanging on the far side of the kitchen wall, directly facing the kitchen door, was the kitchen clock, one of the old-fashioned type, with a large dial. When the kitchen door was open, it was an easy matter to glance at the time as you walked across the small lobby, and I did so on this occasion. Suddenly a bright idea entered my head. What a perfectly delightful target the clock face made for me with the loaded revolver in my hand. Now for a bullseye with my last shot. I would stand and take direct aim at the clock, through the open kitchen door. I took up my position, pointed the revolver, and prepared to take sight before pulling the trigger. During these few seconds there was dead silence. A great stillness seemed to pervade the place, a hushed deep calm, which I could almost feel. That kind of stillness which is inseparable from a house on a hot summer evening, when there is no life or movement; and save for the regular ticking of the clock, the silence was profound. It was at this precise moment that the great event happened.

With my finger still on the trigger, taking deliberate aim, I saw a ghost—a ghost in human shape—appear before my eyes. This unearthly apparition was that of a man, tall, and of medium build, enveloped from head to foot in a hooded long grey cloak or shroud. The substance of this uncanny thing appeared to be some kind of vapour, or thick smoke, partly transparent, but with a well-defined, clear-cut outline. It emerged slowly and stealthily from the interior of the kitchen, presenting a most eerie sight, and drifted noiselessly and warily along the floor, directly across my line of fire.

I was so utterly bewildered and dumbfounded, that I could not move, and stood and gasped in amazement. I gazed before me as if in a trance, completely stupefied. Suddenly my hand released its grasp of the revolver, which fell to the tiled floor with a crash. This breaking of the silence appeared to startle the ghost, for it turned its head in my direction, as if caught unawares, not knowing till then that I was there. We stood face to face for one awful second. Then hesitating, as if uncertain as to its next move, the ghost mysteriously glided back again, and withdrew from sight to where it had come from. It had completely vanished; the kitchen was empty. Where was I? Had I been asleep? Was it all a dream? No, I had not moved. There was the clock, there was the revolver on the floor, there was the daylight, and there was I, fully conscious of everything, so that it was all real and true.

Uttering a cry, I dashed through the swing door leading into the front hall, rushed up the front staircase, and stirred the whole household with shouts that I had seen a ghost. My mother and other members of the family came to know what the noise was about. By this time, I was in a very agitated and excited state caused by the shock, for I had experienced something beyond all belief and passed through a somewhat terrifying ordeal. Between my sobs I told of what had happened, and, gradually coming round, I gave them a more graphic account. They saw I was genuinely upset; and, while wanting to discredit my story, were anxious not to increase my distress by doing so. After a time, they went down to inspect the exact spot and make investigations, and try to prove to me there was nothing there. Of course there was not, and the kitchen, scullery, larder, and cellars, were all searched in vain to prove I was mistaken. There were no curtains, no draperies about, no shadows, no dark places; nothing in fact could be found to help the family in their argument. It was still daylight with the evening sun streaming through the windows.


I was not mistaken; there was nothing to be mistaken about, and the search was futile so far as I was concerned. What I had seen was as clear and definite as my own reflection in a mirror. My experience, however, was the sole topic of conversation for the rest of that night, and finally I went to bed, but could not sleep. I had seen something that was not of this world, and was worried to think I should never be able to explain it, never be able to make it real or believable to others. It had to be seen to be realised.

It was not long after all this happened that my father decided to sell the house, and we ultimately left it for another residence. And then it was that I was told something of which my own experience was a counterpart. It seemed that some two years previously, late one winter night, one of our maids had rushed from the kitchen, and through the same swing door, screaming she had seen a ghost, and went off into hysterics. Everyone had gone to bed except my father and mother, and they returned to the kitchen with the maid to prove the absurdity of her assertions. They declared such a suggestion was wholly preposterous, and so annoyed were they about it, that the maid was given notice to leave the following day and–leave the poor girl did, all for having seen a ghost! I had never been told of this incident, and it was not until after we had left the house that I heard of it. There is not the least doubt of course, it was the identical ghost that I saw two years later. And while my experience needs no support from outside sources–being beyond all doubt or dispute–the incident of the maid-servant doubly strengthens my story of the whole phenomenon.

And that is the end of my uncanny adventure, strictly true in every detail. I have seen a ghost just as definitely and assuredly as I write these lines. I can see it to-day as vividly as I did at the time; it is indelibly stamped upon my memory and consciousness. The experience became part of my conscious self or personality, and will remain part of it for all time.

And now for the sceptics, if any, and to answer possible queries of readers of this narrative. As a boy, I was perfectly normal in every way; I was mentally sound, I had no delusions, and had no foolish fads or fancies. I was certainly not imaginative, and had never even read a ghost story. To-day, as a man, I am a very normal sort of individual, plain and matter of fact, but a great and keen searcher after truth. Had it not been for the amazing occurrence just related, I am the type of person who would have laughed to scorn any idea of the possibility of seeing a ghost. But this incident completely altered my whole outlook from that day onwards, and at this juncture I am as certain and as matter-of-fact about this, as about anything that has been actually solid and substantial in my life.

In these days it is difficult to be certain about anything, but I am well convinced and satisfied beyond all doubt, about just three things. More than that, I am equally convinced about each. Those three things are:– (1) I have seen a ghost. (2) I am a living being. (3) I shall live again after death.

Light 14 July 1933: pp. 433-434

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire:  Mrs Daffodil wishes she had a pound for every time she has heard of an hysterical servant being given notice after seeing a ghost. Still more does she wish that those servants sacked on such grounds could appeal their inequitable dismissals by bringing evidence to a labour tribunal that said premises were, in fact, haunted. Heavy damages would inevitably lie….

Mrs Daffodil has heard a story from that ghost-hunting person over at Haunted Ohio about a young woman who came home from school every day, only to be terrified by the heavy footsteps of a man walking upstairs and a “presence” looking into her room from the hall. She would flee the house in a panic, sometimes wedging herself between the screen door and the door, until her parents came home. When she grew up, she said something to her mother about the horror she had experienced. Her mother, who no longer lived in the house, said casually, “Oh, yes, we knew there was a ghost, but we didn’t want to tell you, so you wouldn’t be scared.”

After such a revelation, Mrs Daffodil would not have been surprised to hear of a matricide.

Mrs Daffodil invites you to join her on the curiously named “Face-book,” where you will find a feast of fashion hints, fads and fancies, and historical anecdotes

You may read about a sentimental succubus, a vengeful seamstress’s ghost, Victorian mourning gone horribly wrong, and, of course, Mrs Daffodil’s efficient tidying up after a distasteful decapitation in A Spot of Bother: Four Macabre Tales.

The Wrecked Major: 1882

knole long gallery 1902



“Our nearest neighbour in ___shire was a Major S., a man of good family, and possessed of ample means, yet one whose society was not courted in the county in which he had recently become a resident. Curious things were said of him, worse were hinted at, so that the surrounding gentry fought rather shy of him with the exception of a few who both visited him and received his visits. For this man my mother entertained the utmost aversion. She detested alike his appearance and manners; the former she considered diabolical, and the latter repulsive, as indeed they were. My father had frequent arguments with her on the subject of the major, and always took his part. But his defence of him in no ways softened my mother’s feelings towards him. She persisted in loathing the man, and said she was sure something dreadful would come out about him. Her dislike extended itself to his surroundings; and she would not even pass his house when out walking or driving. My father simply smiled at this feminine absurdity, as he termed it, and continued to think not so badly of the major.

It chanced that my mother passed him one day. He was riding; and she told us on her return that the expression of his face, as he looked down at her, was absolutely appalling in its wickedness; indeed, she could think or speak of nothing else. That very same night she awoke from sleep with a cry of terror. On my father asking her what the matter was, she said—‘Oh, William! I have had such a fearful dream, and I am sure it has to do with Major S.’

“‘Nonsense, nonsense;’ was the sleepy reply.

“‘But I tell you I am convinced of it,’ and she told him her dream. She described herself as going into a large gloomy looking room, full of quaintly carved furniture, arranged after a peculiar fashion, the ceiling of which was traversed by an oaken beam, and from this there dangled a rope having a noose at the end.

“‘What is going on here?’ I asked, although I cannot remember being conscious of seeing any one.

“‘Hush!’ exclaimed an awful voice. ‘A dreadful crime is being committed, part of which will be known now, and part at the day of judgment!’

“‘Aye, indeed; curious, very; but go to sleep, my dear, and forget all about the major.’ With this advice given in a drowsy tone, my father once more sought oblivion in sleep. But my mother did not allow him to remain in peace. Again she woke him up with an exclamation of horror at the repetition of her dream. No sooner had she fallen asleep than she found herself transported to the sombre room, with its beam traversed ceiling, and ghastly dangling rope. At sight of which, as on the former occasion, she cried, ‘What is going on here?’ and the same impressive voice responded with ‘Hush! a dreadful crime is being committed; part of which will be known now, and part at the day of judgment!’

‘I know we shall hear something about that horrid man,’ she kept repeating in spite of my father’s assurances to the contrary.

Their feelings, under these circumstances, may well be imagined when the next day the country was ringing with the news that Major S. had hanged himself during the night.

Hastening to the scene of the tragedy, my father, on being shown into the room, at once recognised it as the one my mother had seen in her dream.”

Psychological Review Vol. 4 May 1882: p. 311-12

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: It is curious how many of these sorts of premonitory dreams were recorded in the annals of the past, and how one can still find similar stories on the “Internet” to-day. If the affair had gone according to the proper patterns of folk-lore, the lady would have seen the Major being carried off to his Doom by the Wild Hunt mounted on fire-breathing demon-horses. The story is a trifle ambiguous as to whether the Major she saw on her ride was a living man or the phantom of one already hanging in his chamber.

Mrs Daffodil is reminded of the chilling scene near the end of Mr Dickens’s Nicholas Nickleby, where Ralph Nickleby comes to a bad end.

“He had torn a rope from one of the old trunks, and hanged himself on an iron hook immediately below the trap-door in the ceiling—in the very place to which the eyes of his son, a lonely desolate little creature, had so often been directed in childish terror, fourteen years before.”

Mrs Daffodil invites you to join her on the curiously named “Face-book,” where you will find a feast of fashion hints, fads and fancies, and historical anecdotes

You may read about a sentimental succubus, a vengeful seamstress’s ghost, Victorian mourning gone horribly wrong, and, of course, Mrs Daffodil’s efficient tidying up after a distasteful decapitation in A Spot of Bother: Four Macabre Tales.


The Maid with Red Hair: 1899


In the spring of 1899, being then a member of a certain Psychical Research Society, and hearing that a ghost had been seen at No — Southgate Street, Bristol, I set off to interview the ladies who were reported to have seen it. I found them (the Misses Rudd) at home, and on their very graciously consenting to relate to me their psychical experiences, I sat and listened to the following story (told as nearly as possible in the eldest lady’s own words) : ” It is now,” she began, ” some ten years since we were the tenants of the house you mention, but I recollect what I saw there as vividly as if it were yesterday.

“The house, I must tell you, is very small (only eight or so rooms), dingy, and in a chronic state of dilapidation ; it stands in the middle of a terrace with no front garden to speak of, save a few yards of moss-covered tiles, slate-coloured and broken, whilst its back windows overlooked a dreary expanse of deep and silent water. Nothing more dismal could be imagined.

“Still, when we took it, the idea of it being haunted never for one instant entered our minds, and our first intimation that such was the case came upon us like a thunderbolt.

“We only kept one maid, Jane (a girl with dark hair and pleasant manners), my sisters and I doing all the cooking and helping with the light work. The morning on which incident No. 1 happened, knowing Jane to be upstairs occupied in dusting the rooms, and my sisters being out, my mother asked me to go into the kitchen and see if the stove was all right as ‘there was a smell of burning.’

“Doing as she bid, I hastened to the kitchen, where a strange spectacle met my sight.

“Kneeling in front of the stove, engaged apparently in polishing the fender, was a servant-girl with RED hair; I started back in astonishment. ‘Who could she be?’

Too intent at first to notice my advent, she kept on at her work, giving me time to observe that she was wearing a very dirty dress, and that her rag of a cap was quite askew. Satisfied she was not ‘Jane,’ and wondering whether some one else’s maid had mistaken our kitchen for her own — the houses in the terrace being all alike — I called out, ‘Who are you? what do you want?’ — whereupon, dropping the fire-irons with a clatter, she quickly turned round, displaying an ashen-pale face, the expression on which literally froze me with horror.

“Never! never had I seen such an awful look of hopeless, of desperate, of diabolical abandonment in any one’s eyes as in those of hers when their glance met mine.

“For some seconds we glared at one another without moving, and then, still regarding me with a furtive look from out of the corner of her horrible eyes, she slowly rose from the hearth, and gliding stealthily forward, disappeared in the diminutive scullery opposite.

“Curiosity now overcoming fear, I at once followed. She was nowhere to be seen; nor was there any other mode of exit by which she could have made her departure than a tiny window, some four feet or so from the floor and directly overlooking the deep waters of the pond to which I have already alluded.

“Here, then, was a mystery ! What had I seen? Had I actually encountered a phantasm, or was I but the victim of an exceedingly unpleasant and falsidical hallucination? I preferred to think the former.

“Not wishing to frighten my mother, I intended keeping the incident to myself, writing, however, a complete account of it in my diary for the current year, but, a further incident occurring to my youngest sister within the next few days, I determined to reveal what I had seen and compare notes.”

The eldest Miss Rudd now concluded, and on my expressing a desire to hear more, her youngest sister very obligingly commenced:

“I had been out shopping in the Triangle one morning,” she said, “and having omitted to take the latchkey, I was obliged to ring. Jane answered the summons. There was nothing, of course, unusual in this, as it was her duty to do so, but there was something extremely singular in what appeared at her elbow.

“Standing close beside — I might almost say leaning against her (though Jane was apparently unaware of it) — was a strange, a very strange, servant-girl, with red hair and the most uncanny eyes; she had on a bedraggled print dress and a cap all askew ; but it was her expression that most attracted my attention — it was horrid.

“’Oh Jane!’ I cried, ‘whoever is it with you?’

“Following the direction of my gaze, Jane immediately turned round, and, without a word, FAINTED.

“That is all. The apparition, or whatever you may please to call it, vanished, and the next time I saw it was under different circumstances.”

“Will you be so kind as to relate them?” I inquired.

Miss Rudd proceeded: “Oh! it is nothing very much!” she exclaimed, “only it was very unpleasant at the time — especially as I was all alone.

“You see, mother, being delicate, went to bed early, my sisters were at a concert, and it was Jane’s ‘night out.’

“I never, somehow, fancied the basement of the house; it was so cold and damp, reminding me not a little of a MORGUE or charnel-house; consequently I never stayed there a moment longer than was absolutely necessary, and on this night in question I was in the act of scurrying back to the drawing- room when a gentle tap! tap! at the scullery-window made me defer my departure. Entering the back kitchen, somewhat timidly I admit, I saw a face peering in at me through the tiny window.

“Though the night was dark and there was no artificial lighting at this side of the house, every feature of that face was revealed to me as clearly as if it had been day. The little, untidy cap, all awry, surmounting the shock-head of red hair now half- down and dripping with water, the ghastly white cheeks, the widely open mouth, and the eyes, their pupils abnormally dilated and full of lurid light, were more appallingly horrible than ever.

“I stood and gazed at it, my heart sick with terror, nor do I know what would have happened to me had not the loud rap of the postman acted like magic; the thing vanished, and ‘turning tail,’ I fled upstairs into the presence of my mother. That is all.”

I was profuse in my thanks, and the third Miss Rudd then spoke:

“My bedroom,” she began, “was on the top landing — the window over-looking the water. I slept alone some months after the anecdotes just related, and was awakened one night by feeling some disgusting, wet object lying on my forehead.

“With an ejaculation of alarm I attempted to brush it aside, and opening my eyes, encountered a ghastly white face bending right over me.

“I instantly recognised it, by the description my sisters had given, as the phantasm of the red-headed girl.

“The eyes were terrible! Shifting its slimy hand from my forehead, and brandishing it aloft like some murderous weapon, it was about to clutch my throat, when human nature would stand it no longer — and — I fainted. On recovering, I found both my sisters in the room, and after that I never slept by myself.”

“Did your mother ever see it?” I asked.

“Frequently,” the eldest Miss Rudd replied, “and it was chiefly on her account we relinquished our tenancy — her nervous system was completely prostrated.”

“Other people saw the ghost besides us,” the youngest Miss Rudd interrupted, “for not only did the long succession of maids after Jane all see it, but many of the subsequent tenants ; the house was never let for any length of time.”

“Then, perhaps, it is empty now?” I soliloquised, “in which case I shall most certainly experiment there.”

This proved to be the case; the house was tenantless, and I easily prevailed upon the agent to loan me the key.

But the venture was fruitless. Three of us and a dog undertook it. We sat at the foot of the gloomy staircase; twelve o’clock struck, no ghost appeared, the dog became a nuisance — and — we came away disgusted.

A one-night’s test, however, is no test at all; there is no reason to suppose apparitions are always to be seen by man ; as yet we know absolutely nothing of the powers or conditions regulating their appearances, and it is surely feasible that the unknown controlling elements of one night may have been completely altered, may even have ceased to exist by the next. At all events, that was my opinion. I was by no means daunted at a single failure. But it was impossible to get any one to accompany me.

The sceptic is so boastfully eager by day. “Ghosts,” he sneers, “what are ghosts? Indigestion and imagination! I’ll challenge you to show me the house I wouldn’t sleep in alone! Ghosts indeed! Give me a poker or a shovel and I will scare away the lot of them.” And when you do show him the house he always has a prior engagement, or else the weather is too cold, or he has too much work to do next day, or it isn’t really worth the trouble, or — well! he is sure to have some very plausible excuse; at least, that has been my invariable experience.

There is no greater coward than the sceptic, and so, unable to procure a friend for the occasion, I did without one; neither did I have the key of the house, but — taking French leave — gained admittance through a window.

It was horribly dark and lonely, and although on the former occasion I did not feel the presence of the superphysical, I did so now, the very moment I crossed the threshold. Striking a light, I looked around me: I was in the damp and mouldy den that served as a kitchen; outside I saw the moon reflected on the black and silent water.

A long and sleek cockroach disappeared leisurely in a hole in the skirting as I flashed my light in its direction, and I thought I detected the movement of a rat or some large animal in the cupboard at the foot of the stairs. I forthwith commenced a search — the cupboard was empty. I must have been mistaken. For some minutes I stood in no little perplexity as to my next move. Where should I go? Where ought I to go if my adventure were to prove successful?

I glanced at the narrow, tortuous staircase winding upwards into the grim possibilities of the deserted hall and landings — and — my courage failed.

Here, at least, I was safe! Should the Unknown approach me, I could escape by the same window through which I had entered. I felt I dare not! I really could not go any further. Seized with a sudden panic at nothing more substantial than my own thoughts, I was groping my way backwards to the window when a revulsion of feeling made me pause. If all men were poltroons, how much would humanity ever know of the Occult? We should leave off where we began, and it had ever been my ambition to go — further.

My self-respect returning, I felt in my pocket for pencil, notebook and revolver, and trimming my lamp I mounted the stairs.

A house of such minute dimensions did not take long to explore; what rooms there were, were Lilliputian — mere boxes; the walls from which hung the tattered remnants of the most offensively inartistic papers were too obviously Jerry built; the wainscoting was scarred, the beading broken, not a door fitted, not a window that was not either loose or sashless — the entire house was rotten, paltry, mean; I would not have had it as a gift. But where could I wait to see the ghost? Disgust at my surroundings had, for a time, made me forget my fears ; these now returned reinforced: I thought of Miss Rudd’s comparison with a morgue— and shuddered. The rooms looked ghastly! Selecting the landing at the foot of the upper storey, I sat down, my back against the wall — and — waited.

Confronting me was the staircase leading up and down, equally dark, equally ghostly; on my right was what might once have been the drawing-room, but was now a grim conglomeration of bare boards and moonlight, and on my left was an open window directly overtopping the broad expanse of colourless, motionless water. Twelve o’clock struck, the friendly footsteps of a pedestrian died away in the distance; I was now beyond the pale of assistance, alone and deserted — deserted by all save the slimy, creeping insects below — and the shadows. Yes! the shadows; and as I watched them sporting phantastically at my feet, I glanced into the darkness beyond — and shivered.

All was now intensely suggestive and still, the road alone attractive; and despite my spartonic resolutions I would have given much to be out in the open. The landing was so cramped, so hopeless.

A fresh shadow, the shadow of a leaf that had hitherto escaped my notice, now attracted and appalled me; the scratching of an insect made my heart stand still ; my sight and hearing were painfully acute; a familiar and sickly sensation gradually crept over me, the throbbing of my heart increased, the most inconceivable and desperate terror laid hold of me: the house was no longer empty — the supernatural had come! Something, I knew not, I dare not think what, was below, and I knew it would ascend.

All the ideas I had previously entertained of addressing the ghost and taking notes were entirely annihilated by my fear — fear mingled with a horrible wonder as to what form the apparition would take, and I found myself praying Heaven it might not be that of an elemental.

The THING had now crossed the hall (I knew this somehow instinctively) and was beginning to mount the stairs.

I could not cry out, I could not stir, I could not close my eyes: I could only sit there staring at the staircase in the most awful of dumb, apprehensive agonies. The thing drew nearer, nearer; up, up, UP it came until I could see it at last — see the shock-head of red hair, the white cheeks, the pale, staring eyes, all rendered hideously ghastly by the halo of luminous light that played around it. This was a ghost — an apparition — a bona fide phantasm of the dead ! And without any display of physical power —it overcame me.

Happily for me, the duration of its passage was brief.

It came within a yard of me, the water dripping from its clinging clothes, yet leaving no marks on the flooring. It thrust its face forward; I thought it was going to touch me, and tried to shrink away from it, but could not. Yet it did nothing but stare at me, and its eyes were all the more horrible because they were blank; not diabolical, as Miss Rudd had described them, but simply Blank! — Blank with the glassiness of the Dead.

Gliding past with a slightly swaying motion, it climbed upstairs, the night air blowing through the bedraggled dress in a horribly natural manner; I watched it till it was out of sight with bated breath — for a second or so it stopped irresolutely beside an open window; there was a slight movement as of some one mounting the sill: a mad, hilarious chuckle, a loud splash — and then — silence, after which I went home.

I subsequently discovered that early in the seventies a servant-girl, who was in service at that house, had committed suicide in the manner I have just described, but whether or not she had RED hair I have never been able to ascertain.

P.S. — The Ghost I am informed on very reliable authority, is still (August 1908) to be seen.

Some Haunted Houses of England & Wales, Elliott O’Donnell, 1908

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: Red hair was considered to be either the mark of the Devil or a sign of a coarse or depraved person. While one might consider engaging a red-headed scullery maid, a red-headed parlour maid could not have been countenanced.

We have heard supernatural tales from Mr O’Donnell before: The Ghost with One Shoe; The Banshee Sang of Death; The Spectral Hound.  He, Mrs Daffodil has observed, had a wide streak of misogyny, was obsessed with “Elementals” and decay, and—Mrs Daffodil knows that you will be grieved to hear it—often paltered with the truth. Still, we are obliged to him for providing us with the grues on snowy afternoons.


Mrs Daffodil invites you to join her on the curiously named “Face-book,” where you will find a feast of fashion hints, fads and fancies, and historical anecdotes

You may read about a sentimental succubus, a vengeful seamstress’s ghost, Victorian mourning gone horribly wrong, and, of course, Mrs Daffodil’s efficient tidying up after a distasteful decapitation in A Spot of Bother: Four Macabre Tales.


Christmas Ghosts Doomed by Bridge in Britain: 1905

Cartoon from Punch. Caption: Instead of our usual Servant's Ball, this year I've invited the staff to come up here and watch our Bridge

Cartoon from Punch. Caption: Instead of our usual Servant’s Ball, this year I’ve invited the staff to come up here and watch our Bridge


People Are Too Busy at Cards to Bother About Christmas Wraiths

London, Dec. 30 Among the destructive effects of bridge is the total discomfiture of ghost and ghost stories without which, in the good old-fashioned days, no Christmas annual could be complete. It has no place in this years’ Christmas periodical literature, and current fiction is equally silent on the subject of the ghostly visitant who contributed to the Christmas festivities of a decade ago.

White ladies, headless monks, gray friars, wicked lords and all the vast army of spooks who were obstreperous on Christmas eve, are no longer part of the novelist’s stock in trade.

Women who anxiously inquire for a really good ghost story at the shops, meet with a blank stare of surprise. Not a single ghost story has emanated from the publishers this Christmas tide.

“Out of date,” was the terse explanation of the publisher of light literature when asked why the Christmas ghost had been exorcised. There is no demand for blood-curdling stories of clanking chains, rattling bones and dismal shrieks.

The Haunts of Ghosts

Dreary tumble-down houses, ancient feudal castles and melancholy moated granges, as will be seen from the following list of Christmas phantoms, are their favourite haunts. All of them are pedigreed ghosts with officially recorded appearances.

At Dilston Castle, Lady Westmoreland; Cullaly Castle, the wicked priest; Beddiscombe Manor, the screaming skull; Calverley Hall, Sir Hugh Calverly; Pradenham House, Isaac Disraeli; Rainham hall, the gray lady; Corby Castle, the radiant boy; Newstead Abbey, the black friar; Brookhouse, the headless woman; Copley House, the two heads; Pomeroy Castle, the lady; Churton Hall, the lady and dog; Llyne Valley, the white horse of Llangynwyd; Holland House, Lord Holland; Bisham Abbey, the wraith of Lady Hobey; Rufford Abbey, the Cistercian father; Cheedle Rectory, the abbess of Godstown; Hampton Court, Catherine Howard and Jane Seymour.

The Spooks’ Delight.

A fine ghostly company these. Lady Derwentwater, so goes the tale, has been wont at Christmastide to revisit this earth to expiate the crime of restless ambition which impelled her to drive the Earl of Derwentwater to the scaffold.

Isaac Disraeli, father of the late Lord Beaconsfield, is said to drive a ghostly coach and pair. The beheaded form of Lord Holland used to walk in the grillroom carrying his head in his hands. The wraith of Lady Hobey carried a spectral basin, wringing her hands and vainly trying to wash out the stain of guilt, for, according to the legend, she murdered her boy because he blotted his copybook.

The Cistercian father, dressed in white, always appeared to women only, but this Christmas none of these ghosts are reported to have manifested themselves.

What is the use of their troubling, when everybody is too deep in bridge all night through to watch for them?

Bridge Is Supreme

If a census was to be taken of the amusements which occupied the guests at the country houses during the Christmas holidays it would probably be found that in sixty per cent of the cases bridge had ousted all the games associated with the old-fashioned Christmas festivities. If there were one or two children in the house they were bundled off to bed as early as possible and the house party settled down in religious silence to bridge.

In many houses the game was played for four successive afternoons and nights without a thought of turkey, plum pudding or crackers. The one anxiety was to rush thru a short meal as quickly as possible. Bridge, in fact, killed in certain circles the old-fashioned Christmas in London. Several waif-and-stray parties were given on Christmas day, the idea being to gather together the lonesome souls who dislike noisy festivities, to pull down the blinds and play bridge from luncheon until the small hours of the morning. Tea and the short dinner were regarded as interruptions and small talk as superfluous.

The Minneapolis [MN] Journal 31 December 1905: p. 3 

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire:  Mrs Daffodil has seen, first hand, the scourge that bridge has become: meals sent back to the kitchen, untasted, beds left vacant, presents unopened beneath the tree, mistresses left neglected at house-parties, and engagements broken off without a murmur because one of the contracting parties was absorbed in sorting out a defective trick.

But the human toll is as nothing compared to the loss of the Christmas ghost story. Mrs Daffodil entreats those who are tempted to take up the fatal deck to Think. Remember those memorable childhood Christmas Eves spent lying awake, scarcely daring to breathe under the covers or staring at the door of the cupboard, wondering if it had moved. Those happy times were all because of the Christmas ghost story and those memories will be lost to future generations if the bridge set cannot shun this noxious habit. Mrs Daffodil urges you to put down the cards and the bridge tallies shaped like little Chinese lanterns, and vow to keep alive the traditional Christmas ghost narrative. Posterity, and the terrified children of Britain, will thank you.

Mrs Daffodil invites you to join her on the curiously named “Face-book,” where you will find a feast of fashion hints, fads and fancies, and historical anecdotes

You may read about a sentimental succubus, a vengeful seamstress’s ghost, Victorian mourning gone horribly wrong, and, of course, Mrs Daffodil’s efficient tidying up after a distasteful decapitation in A Spot of Bother: Four Macabre Tales.

This has been an encore posting of a piece originally posted in 2013.


Some Christmas Ghosts of the British Isles: 1907

Some Christmas Ghosts

Queer Pranks of Uncanny Spirits That Make Their Appearance Each Yuletide.

Ghosts and other preternatural apparitions have always been recognized as among the essential factors of a good old-fashioned Christmas. Our forefathers loved to gather round their mighty fires in their ill-lit halls at Yuletide to listen to the histories and legends of their ancestors, whom, when their imaginations had been sufficiently inflamed, they would seem to see in the flesh once more, flitting across dark corridors and peeping from behind the wind-shaken arras.

So, in course of time, men grew to look for ghosts at Christmas as naturally as for mistletoe and holly berries. And the ghosts obligingly made a note of our requirements, more especially as they were surer of a sympathetic reception at that time of year than any other. A man may be cynical, if you like, on August bank holiday, on Christmas eve never! Christmas became the fashionable time for haunting. No self-respecting ghost could afford to be out of the swim at that season of the year. Thus we find that specters of old established reputations–ghosts who may almost be said to have retired from business–will put in an appearance at Christmas if on no other day in the year.


There is a wicked Jemmy Lowther, for instance, otherwise known as the “bad Lord Lonsdale” of whom indeed, history makes no record, but whose iniquities are still recounted with bated breath (or used to be) by the people of Westmoreland. For centuries this notorious spirit energetically haunted the Whole county frightening his descendants out of their wits, raising unearthly dins, scaring nurse girls and teasing cattle. Now in more dignified style he contents himself with riding as a phantom coach and six at full speed across the country, generally at Christmas-time. No one ever seems to have seen him or his equipage, but the sound of the wheels, the snorting of the steeds, and the objurgations hurled by his lordship at his invisible coachman serve to remind the country people at the festive season that he is not “laid” forever beneath Wallow Crag as they had the impudent assurance to suppose.

hearse from Boone County Recorder 1908


Queen Anne Boleyn and her less famous sire have also given up haunting for many years past; and if they are to be seen at all it is at Christmas they must be looked for. Like Lord Lonsdale, both these personages revisit the glimpses of the moon in coaches. The luckless Queen drives down the avenue at Blicking Hall, holding her head in her lap in a hearse-like conveyance drawn by four headless horses with headless coachmen and grooms to match. Poor, pretty, flighty Anne Boleyn! You little thought that yours would become a shape to frighten lovers in their evening rambles, and send the children screaming to their nurses! Her father, Sir Thomas Boleyn. is also a headless specter, driven by headless horses. He has to cross 40 bridges and drive through 40 gates till someone courageous enough can be found to open or to shut — we forget which — one or all of these before him. The headless driver in the coach-and-six is a frequent apparition in Ireland. On Christmas Eve, when a family is seated at the board expecting a belated guest, the noise of wheels will be heard. There will be a rush to the door, it will be flung open and in the darkness without the spectral coach will be seen driving away — sure harbinger of misfortune for host or guest.

A legend of this kind must materially contribute to the enjoyment of the Irish Christmas dinner!

headless horseman

Then there is the spectral headless horseman of Wyecoller Hall, near Colne. This ruined mansion was the seat of the Cunliffes de Billington, a family which became extinct in 1819, in fulfillment of a curse laid upon it by the murdered wife of one of its members. Every Christmas a headless cavalier, in seventeenth century costume, gallops wildly up the road to the hall. He dismounts and enters, making his way with echoing footfall up the stairs. Fearful screams are heard, the tragedy is re-enacted and the horseman reappears to gallop frantically away over hill and dale, as if the devil were at his heels.

Watton Priory, photograph by JohnArmagh

Watton Priory, photograph by JohnArmagh

Yorkshire is infected by ghosts and these never fail to gratify the legitimate expectations of the Christmas holiday-maker. Between Driffield and Beverly is the old Gilbertine priory of Watton. There are several uncomfortable legends connected with this venerable pile, and it is not easy to identify the various spectral visitants who haunt the place. There was an erring nun, who was walled up according to the humane fashion of those days, and some declare they have seen her. The most authentic apparition, however, is that associated with a wainscoted bed room connected with the moat by a secret passage. In this room a Royalist lady took refuge with her child when the mansion was attacked by a marauding band of Roundheads. Her retreat was discovered and the Puritans, incensed by her haughty replies, dashed out her child’s brains and struck off her head. Now the poor lady comes once a year to sleep in the oak-paneled room and next morning the bedclothes are found-disturbed and bearing the impression of her fair form; and if any one occupies the bed she appears at the foot headless, in bloodstained garments with her child in her arms, standing motionless for a while, and then vanishes.

Calverley Hall, photo by Betty Longbottom

Calverley Hall, photo by Betty Longbottom

Another victim of the barbarous practice of the bad old times was Walter Calverley, who was pressed to death at York in 1604. There is a painful story of his begging his old servant to sit on the stones with which the life was being slowly crushed out of him. “A pound o’ more weight lay on, lay on!” The servant obliged his request, and was hanged for his good nature. Calverley seems to have nourished (and not unnatural) considerable ill-will against the human race. He used to gallop about on a headless horse, running down any luckless folk he met in his path. Then he was “laid.” But a clergyman who visited Calverley hall about Christmas time was unpleasantly reminded of the dead criminal’s post-mortem activity. The reverend gentleman felt something creep on to his chest as he lay in bed, pressing him very hard, and was then thrown three times on to the floor. Other pranks has Calverley played, such as tolling the bell toward the close of the year from midnight till dawn. The weight on the chest of which the clerical gentleman complained is a sensation not unknown about Christmas time, and is not always to be ascribed to supernatural causes.

The north of England has not a monopoly of ghosts. Once upon a time, at Bisham Abbey, on the Thames, lived a learned lady, the wife of Sir Thomas Hoby and afterwards of John Lord Russell. As ill-luck would have it, the eldest son of this Elizabethan blue stocking was an idle urchin, so averse to learning that he used deliberately to spill ink over his copy books. If much learning had not made Lady Russell mad it had made her extremely irascible, and she chastised the bad little boy so severely that he died. Dr. Lee, author of “Glimpses of the Supernatural” states that “in taking down an old oak window-shutter of the latter part of the sixteenth century a packet of antique copy books of that period was discovered pushed into the wall between the joints of the skirting, and several of these books on which young Hoby’s name was written were covered with blots, thus supporting the ordinary tradition.” The unnatural mother is now seen at Christmas gliding through a certain chamber, and washing bloodstains from her hands. Her little victim is never seen, and sleeps soundly, where tiresome masters and mistresses and copy books are not.

Glamis Castle in the Snow, Morris's Country Seats, 1880

Glamis Castle in the Snow, Morris’s Country Seats, 1880

Glamis Castle, in Forfarshire, has a whole staff of ghosts and we are not sure that their visitations are confined to any particular season of the year. That wicked person, Earl Patie, [sic] may be relied upon to return to his ancestral hall at Christmas time. For was it not on a dark and stormy winter night — possibly Christmas eve — that he announced his intention of playing cards, although it was the Sabbath? The righteous Scots properly recoiled with horror from such a proposal, and Earl Patie retired grumbling to his room, declaring that he would welcome the devil himself as a partner. The invitation was responded to with alacrity. A tall, dark stranger appeared, and the reckless thane offered, if he were the loser, to sign a bond for whatsoever his mysterious guest might ask. They played with a zest. A butler who incautiously peeped through the keyhole, had his eye blinded by a sudden streak of flame; and Patie having lost the game, the stranger vanished with a bond for what the carl did not precisely know. Five years later he died and as his spirit continued to return to play cards with the dark stranger in the old chamber this was bricked up and remains the “Secret Room of Glamis Castle.”

No wandering, troubled spirit has more claim upon our credulity and our sympathy than the hapless Lady Bothwell, who returns every year to Woodhouselee, upon the Esk. Her husband, James Hamilton, or Bothwellhaugh, lost his lands as a result of his devotion to the ill-fated Mary Queen of Scots. His wife retired with her infant child to her own personal estate of Woodhouselee, not knowing that this had been given by the Regent Murray to a creature of his, the Lord Justice Clerk Bellenden. This man came to Woodhouselee while the household was asleep and had the brutality to turn the lady and her infant out in the woods in their nightclothes. Next morning Lady Hamilton was found wandering a raving lunatic, the child dead in her arms. She died herself a few days later. Her husband swore to be avenged, and laying his plans carefully, shot Murray, Mary’s traitor brother, in the streets of Linlithgow. Men bore the wrongs done by process of law to those they loved less patiently than they do now. But still poor Lady Bothwell walks in piteous guise the park of Woodhouselee.

Prince Rupert at Edgehill

Prince Rupert at Edgehill

If supernatural apparitions are to be considered as they undoubtedly are, indispensable features of Christmas entertainment then the good people of Edge Hill, near Keinton, in Northampshire, had good reason to think themselves highly favored at Christmas, 1641. A battle between Cavaliers and Roundheads had taken place at this spot a month or two previously and to the amazement and horror of the villagers the action was fought over again almost every evening during Christmas week by spectral warriors. First the sound of drums, as afar off, would be heard, then the tramping of armed men, the trampling and neighing of horses, the firing of guns; then the rival hosts would appear in the air and the battle would be repeated in all its details. King Charles I. sent some of his officers to investigate the phenomenon, and they declared that they recognized among the ghostly warriors several of their old comrades who had fallen in the engagement.

In the same county of Northampton (says Mr. Thistleton Dyer) there still lingers the belief that the ghosts of suicides and of unfortunates buried at cross-roads with “stakes in their insides” have a particular license to wander about on Christmas eve, and to wreak their vengeance on defenceless persons.

Ghosts are generally believed by the country folk to be more spiteful at this season than at any other. In Ireland, however, the banshee who is usually more a friend of the family than otherwise, selects this time for a visitation.

Yes, most of us see ghosts at Christmas time. They do not all come to us in dreadful guise, clanking their chains and showing ghastly wounds. Most of us see ghosts of a different kind ; by the Christmas fireside and at the Christmas board, we seem to see dim, dear faces of husbands, wives, parents, children, old sweethearts and old friends whom we shall never greet in the flesh again. We are perhaps too busy to give them a thought during the rest of the year; but then they come back to haunt us. We would not be without them. And most of us, I suspect, are prone to unlock the haunted chambers in our hearts and hold sweet, sad converse with the inmates at the merry Christmastide.

Cincinnati [OH] Enquirer 21 December 1907: p. 12

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire:  Quite the embarrassment of ghostly riches! Of course, this was written as pleasant holiday entertainment. Several distasteful details are omitted, such as the grewsome fate of the Nun of Watton’s lover and the fact that Walter Calverley, far from being the “victim of the barbarous practice of the bad old times,” murdered his two children, nearly murdered his wife, and was riding hell-for-leather to murder a third child when he was captured. Any punishment was richly deserved.

Mrs Daffodil, who visited Glamis in her earlier career as lady’s maid, is clucking her tongue over the mangling of the name of the notorious 15th-century “Earl Beardie.” To be fair, several of the Lords Glamis were named Patrick; perhaps the journalist, in that over-familiar American way, thought “Patie” was an appropriate nickname.  Mrs Daffodil wishes her readers bright Yuletide spirits and the happiest of New Years to come.

Mrs Daffodil invites you to join her on the curiously named “Face-book,” where you will find a feast of fashion hints, fads and fancies, and historical anecdotes

You may read about a sentimental succubus, a vengeful seamstress’s ghost, Victorian mourning gone horribly wrong, and, of course, Mrs Daffodil’s efficient tidying up after a distasteful decapitation in A Spot of Bother: Four Macabre Tales.


Unlucky English Castles: 1907

Fyvie Castle


Weird Histories of Some of the Old English Castles That Are Now Passing Into the Hands of Rich Americans.

by F. Cunliffe-Owen

Each year witnesses a considerable increase in the number of Americans who lease or buy castles and manors in Europe, oftentimes in that portion whereof whence their own ancestors originally sprang. This being the case, it may be well to recommend that before concluding any bargain they should assure themselves as to whether the place which they intent to acquire is not the subject of some old time malediction; for experience has demonstrated that the curse in such cases is likely to extend its baneful influence from the original owners responsible for its existence, to a whole series of subsequent purchasers and tenants of these so-called “unlucky houses.”

There are plenty of country houses which maybe thus described, the blight being in some instances ascribed to a tragedy or crime, and in others to the fact that the property, after being consecrated to the use of the Church, had been sacrilegiously wrested from the latter. It is not that the houses are haunted–for every ancient manor or castle that respects itself has its familiar specter, which forms to such a degree a recognized feature of the establishment that people have actually appealed to the English tribunals to quash sales, on the ground that the ghost had failed to materialize, but it is because these unlucky houses bring misfortune to the owners or lessees.

Ridiculed the Superstition.

Among those who have suffered in this manner are Lord and Lady Leith, who, when they acquired Fyvie Castle, in Aberdeenshire, were disposed to ridicule the idea that it was accounted unlucky. Lady Leith is an American woman, a daughter of D. A. January of St. Louis, and her husband, after retiring from the British navy, established himself in business in this country, and made a large fortune in Chicago as president of the Joliet, the Illinois, and the Federal Steel Companies, before returning to his native land to buy Fyvie Castle. All sorts of legends cluster round the latter, including that of the Trumpeter of Fyvie, whose unhappy love for Annie Tifty, the miller’s daughter, has furnished the themes of so many poems.

The Trumpeter’s tragic death, which is said to have caused even the very stones to weep, led to the imposition of a curse upon the castle by that master of magic and spells, Thomas the Rhymer, who, angered beyond measure at the disposition of the lord of the castle to ridicule the idea that stones could weep, declared that the ownership of Fyvie should never pass from father to son until the third of three stones known as “The Weeping Stones” was recovered. One of the stones is built into the castle walls, where it absorbs and exudes moisture in a most curious way; another is transferred to the possession of each purchaser or tenant of the estate; while the third, which is missing, is currently believed to be lying embedded in the mud at the bottom of a terribly deep lake in a remote portion of the property. Whatever doubts may have existed in the mind of Lord and Lady Leith as to the value of this superstition were set at rest by the death of their only son Percy in South Africa during the Boer War.

Not but his parents were prepared for their bereavement. For fully twenty-four hours before the receipt of the despatches containing news that the young officer, born in America, had fallen in battle, the people of Fyvie Castle had been troubled by the appearance of the specter of the Trumpeter, known in the countryside as “The Green Laddie,” who for the last five hundred years has invariably shown himself when ever any calamity was about to overtake the owners or occupants of Fyvie.

It was with the object of averting a similar misfortune that Colonel William Frederick Webb, on dying, bequeathed Newstead Abbey, the famous home of the poet Lord Byron, to his youngest daughter, married to General Sir Herbert Chermside, instead of to his eldest girl, or to his only son Roderick. The abbey, which was built by King Henry II in expiation of the murder of St. Thomas a Becket, Archbishop of Canterbury, has long been burdened with a curse to the effect that it should never pass from father to son, which, according to some, dates from the time of the confiscation of the abbey at the Reformation, and by others has been ascribed to an act of sacrilege perpetrated by the fifth Lord Byron, surnamed “The Wicked.”

This peer had many crimes in his record, including the killing of his coachman, whom he shot dead for some disobedience, and the singularly cowardly murder of his cousin William Chaworth, while he was staying as his guest at Newstead Abbey. Byron was tried for this latter homicide by the House of Lords, and escaped with a verdict of manslaughter, which was punished by the imposition of a heavy fine. Held up to obloquy in connection with this crime, and ostracized by society, he withdrew to the country to spend the remainder of his days in Newstead Abbey, so embittered against his fellow creatures that he sought in every way possible to shock and horrify them. In fact, he was believed by the people of the district to be in league with Satan, and invited the wrath of Heaven by violating the sepulcher of the old time abbots of Newstead, one of whose skulls he had mounted in silver and converted into a drinking cup, which he used at those orgies at which he and his boon companions defied Providence and hailed Satan. He lived to see both his son and the latter s only boy die by violence in quick succession, and it was in this way that the abbey passed into the hands of the poet, a distant relative.

Had to Sell the Abbey

The sixth Lord Byron, the bard, as everyone knows, had no son, and left only a daughter, afterward Countess of Lovelace, who, like Newstead Abbey, figures often and lovingly in his poems, notably in “Childe Harold.” The abbey therefore at his death went to a remote kinsman, who became seventh Lord Byron, and he was obliged, through poverty, to get rid of the old place. He sold it to Colonel Wildman.

The latter, likewise pursued by the malediction imposed upon the owners of Newstead Abbey, lost his only son, and was overtaken by other reverses, which led him to dispose of the property to the late William Frederick Webb, the traveler and explorer. Sometime after becoming the owner of the abbey, Webb discovered, by mere chance, m a second hand bric-a-brac shop on Bedford-st., off Covent Garden, in London, the gruesome drinking bowl of the fifth and wicked Lord Byron. He at once purchased it, and caused the skull to be reverently reinterred within the abbey precincts, hoping that thereby the curse upon the place might be lifted. But being in doubt about the matter, and fearful lest any harm should befall his only son, he declined to leave Newstead Abbey to him, but bequeathed the place to his younger daughter, Lady Chermside, who has no children.

What the ultimate fate of the abbey may be it is difficult to see; for recently coal has been discovered on the estate, the mines proving exceedingly rich. The operations, however, cannot be extended without entailing the destruction of  the abbey, with its cloisters and quaint old garden; and it is understood that General Sir Herbert and Lady Chermside, called upon to choose between the possession of a country house burdened with a curse, on the one hand, and great wealth on the other have come to the conclusion to abandon the Abbey.

New Battle Abbey

Two other famous mansions, each of them burdened with a curse, and popularly known as unlucky houses, are Battle Abbey and Cowdray Park, the latter the country seat of the Earl of Egmont, while the former, owned by Sir Augustus Webster, is now leased to Michael Grace of New York. If I mention them together, it is because they are, after a fashion, united in their misfortune.

Battle Abbey, built by William the Conqueror, remained in the possession of the monks until the reign of King Henry VIII., who drove out the friars and presented the abbey and its lands to his favorite. Sir Anthony Browne, Knight of the Garter and Master of the Horse.

The Terrible Curse

The story goes that as Sir Anthony was celebrating his housewarming in the great abbot’s hall a monk suddenly appeared, no one knew whence, strode up to the dais, and pronounced a solemn malediction upon the spoiler of the Church. He warned Sir Anthony that the curse would cleave to every owner of the place, and to his remote posterity and foretold the special doom which was to be their temporal punishment. ” By fire and water,” he exclaimed, “your line shall come to an end and perish out of the land!”

The prophecy sank deep into the minds of men, until it was literally fulfilled in a remarkable manner two and a half centuries later. Sir Anthony died suddenly, before he had been able to complete the great manor house which he had begun to construct on the site of the old abbey, which he had partially demolished for the purpose. His eldest son, created Lord Montague, moved to Cowdray Park; but he did not, however, escape the curse. He got mixed up in the Gunpowder Plot with Guy Fawkes, and was put to death on the scaffold.

Misfortunes of one kind and another pursued the family relentlessly. Several for the Lords of Montague met their death by violence. The eighth and last Lord Montague was drowned in the Rhine a little over one hundred years ago, in a foolhardy attempt to shoot the falls at Schaffhausen. By a strange coincidence, on the very same day, Cowdray Castle was mysteriously burned to the ground. Battle Abbey had already been sold by the fifth Lord Montague to Sir Godfrey Webster, in the hope of escaping the effects of the curse. Cowdray went, on the last Lord Montague’s death in the Rhine, to his sister, married to Stephen Poyntz.

In 1815 Mr. and the Hon. Mrs. Poyntz were staying with their two only sons at the seaside town of Bognor, on the Sussex coast. One hot July day after a pleasant outing the party were on the way home, when a sudden squall upset the boat, drowning Poyntz, his wife, and his two sons. The calamity was of course credited to the account of the curse pronounced upon the ancestor of Mrs. Poyntz by the monk at Battle Abbey.

With regard to Battle its possession seems to have brought misfortune upon the Websters; for they were obliged by financial embarrassments to get rid of it; and it passed through several hands before being purchased by the late Duchess of Cleveland, mother of Lord Rosebery. When she died she bequeathed it to her nephew, Captain Francis Foster. But he would not hear of making it his home, and hastened to sell it, whereupon it was repurchased by the family, in the person of Sir Augustus Webster, the present baronet. But immediately after having established his title to the place he rented it on a long lease to Michael Grace of New York.

Cowdray Park

On Mrs. Poyntz’s death, Cowdray was sold by the estate to Lord Egmont, whose earldom had been conferred upon one of his ancestors for services in connection with his colonization and governorship of Georgia. Not content with buying a place burdened with a malediction, Lord Egmont may be said to have brought to Cowdray a family curse of his own, from his estates in the south of Ireland.

The story goes that the fifth Earl of Egmont was appealed to by a widow on his Irish property to postpone her eviction, owing to the fact that her only son was dangerously ill. But the Earl was relentless, and had the widow and her son pitched out on to the roadside, where the sick man expired a couple of hours later as the result of exposure and of the rough treatment to which he had been subjected. The widow, in her bitter anguish, went down on her knees by the corpse of her boy, and cursed the Earl as only an Irish peasant can, praying to Heaven that neither he nor any of his successors would ever have an heir.

The Answer to the Curse.

It would seem as if the prayer had been heard; for the fifth Earl died without issue, and was succeeded by his cousin the sixth Earl. The latter likewise died childless, and was succeeded by a cousin, the late Earl, who in turn had no children, and was followed in the honors and estates by his kinsman, the present Earl. This nobleman, separated from his American wife, formerly a barmaid in London, without any divorce, has no offspring; while the marriage of his younger brother and next heir to the peerage, until recently a policeman at Johannesburg, has remained childless. After that in the line of succession is old Spencer Perceval, an octogenarian, whose only son, Henry Godfrey Perceval, was murdered, with his wife and only child, in Nebraska, on September 29, 1884, under the most shocking circumstances. The crime attracted considerable sensation at the time, not only by reason of its atrocity, but also by the fact that a grand-uncle of the victim, the Right Hon. Spencer Perceval, while Premier of Great Britain, was assassinated in the lobby of the House of Commons. The present Lord Egmont has spent much of his life in this country, and has had a most adventurous career. For, before succeeding to the earldom, he had been in turn a sailor before the mast, a member of the London fire brigade, a of the town hall of Chelsea, a market gardener, and all sorts of other things besides, and even now is far from well off, owing to the fact of his being saddled with a big place like Cowdray Park, without the necessary means to maintain it in fitting style.

Cecil Rhodes is regarded by people in Suffolkshire as having been a victim of the curse which rests upon Dalham Hall. Certain it is that he died unexpectedly only a few months after having purchased it from Sir Robert Affleek. He bequeathed it to his brother, the popular Colonel Frank Rhodes, one of the leaders of the memorable Transvaal raid.

Another Owner Died.

He in turn enjoyed possession of Dalham Hall for only a short time before being gathered to his fathers, although he seemed when he took possession of the place good for many years to come. Since then it has changed hands twice. The mansion, which is of brick, and was built away back in the days of William and Mary, that is to say, shortly after the Stuarts had been driven from the throne of England, occupies the site of a famous monastery that shared the fate of so many other establishments of the same kind at the time of the Reformation, in having its ecclesiastical occupants driven out, when, after it had been looted and plundered, it was given to one of the minions of King Henry VIII. Subsequently it became the residence of the Anglican Bishops of Ely. But even they found the place too heavily burdened on account of the blighting malediction of its former monastic owners. They got rid of it, and it passed through several hands before it was acquired by the Affleck family. The latter are a branch of the old House of Auchinleck. The baronet, a nephew of the Admiral, married an American girl, a daughter of Thomas Clark of New York. The next successor was a cousin. In fact, the Dalham Hall property has never passed from father to son, and the present baronet, who recently figured in the bankruptcy court, has no issue, while his only two surviving brothers, three having already died, are likewise childless.

To what extent the Church has the power to lift curses of this kind imposed upon former ecclesiastical property is a moot question. The wife of the seventh Marquis of Lothian felt so uneasy at living at New Battle Abbey, that she proceeded to Rome, and confided her scruples and fears about the matter to Pius IX. She informed him that the Lords of Lothian are descended in a direct line from the last Roman Catholic abbot of New Battle Abbey, a prelate who forsook the Church of Rome at the time of the Reformation, and joined the Protestant Church. Wedding Lady Helen Leslie, he retained possession of both the abbey and lands of the monastic order of which he had until then been the head, and which had been given by David I. of Scotland to the White Monks of the Cistercian order several hundred years previously. Not content with absolving himself from his vows of celibacy, the abbot coolly pulled down the monastery and the stately abbey which formed part thereof, and made use of the materials to build himself a seat on the very same site.

After hearing what the Marchioness had to say, the venerable pontiff said, “Remain quietly where you are, without worrying yourself, my daughter.” But Lady Lothian would not be comforted until she had obtained from His Holiness a document bearing his sign manual, authorizing herself and her children to occupy their Scottish home in peace. This papal permit is now preserved among the family archives of the Lords of Lothian, in the very same case which contains the original documents forming the grant of New Battle Abbey by King David to the Cistercian monks.

Family Finally Scared Out

But in spite of this papal permit, Fate nevertheless; seems to pursue the House of Kerr, of which the Marquis is chief, to such an extent that neither he nor any of the members of his family is willing to live there. He may he said to owe his succession to the family honors to one of the many tragedies that figure in the history of his house, his elder brother having had his brains blown out accidentally while duck shooting in Australia.

Berkeley Castle–where Edward II. was put to death in so atrocious a fashion, and which, burdened with his dying curse, has brought so many tragedies to its owners that their annals may be regarded as one long series of dramas and crimes—and a number of other old manors and country houses could be cited, to show how well founded are the superstitious fears entertained by many people on the subject of so called “unlucky houses.

Evening Star [Washington DC] 27 January 1907: p. 9

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: This was written at the end of those halcyon days when American millionaires like William Waldorf Astor, who bought his way into the Peerage, were snapping up castles right and left. A ghost and a curse were an expected part of a stately home purchase. Astor purchased Hever, Anne Boleyn’s childhood home, only to be disappointed when her ghost did not appear for him.

The English were not the only ones entertaining superstitious fears. The Americans had their own brand of unlucky dwellings, known as “hoodoo houses,” albeit probably lacking an abbot’s curse by way of explanation for the malign influence. Here is an example:



McConnelsville, Ohio, July 9. The old belief in evil spirits and devils is gaining credence in Eastern Morgan and Western Noble. Near Keith’s is a house that seems to have a baneful influence on all who dare to enter its portals.

About a year ago it was occupied by the family of Dr. Gatewood. The doctor had an extensive practice, and seemingly a bright future. In the midst of his success his beautiful wife became a raving maniac and the heart-broken doctor wandered off to Cleveland, where he took his own life. Recently Dr. J.W. Lindsay, a young physician, moved into the property vacated by the Gatewood tragedy. He had only resided in the haunted house a few months until he became a confirmed drunkard, and, to complete the ghastly history of the place, word is just received that his wife, in a fit of despondency, took morphine, and died from the effects.

Cincinnati [OH] Enquirer 10 July 1895: p. 10

Mrs Daffodil invites you to join her on the curiously named “Face-book,” where you will find a feast of fashion hints, fads and fancies, and historical anecdotes

You may read about a sentimental succubus, a vengeful seamstress’s ghost, Victorian mourning gone horribly wrong, and, of course, Mrs Daffodil’s efficient tidying up after a distasteful decapitation in A Spot of Bother: Four Macabre Tales.


Ghosts at the Seaside Resorts: 1882-1926

A travelling ghost show, such as would visit sea-side resort towns, c.1900

A travelling ghost show, such as would visit sea-side resort towns, c.1900



Writing on the subject of ghosts that haunt the seaside resorts of Great Britain, a London correspondent says:—

Last year a man took a furnished house at the seaside, as he wished to spend the summer there on account of his wife’s health. The house was roomy and double-fronted, but at the end of a fortnight the wife’s nerves were worn to a frazzle and they were glad to return home.

No one saw anything, but there were crashing noises, sounds of heavy breathing in the passages, and sounds all through the night of someone moving from room to room. One does not usually associate the sunshine and ozone of a seaside resort with spooks, but this seemed like a case to the contrary. Weird happenings were reported from a boarding-house at Blackpool which the superstitious insisted were genuine manifestations of the supernatural. But practical folks were inclined to credit “unseen” boarders with a turn for practical joking.

First queer sounds were heard, and then strange handwriting appeared on a screen and on a table, both of which articles of furniture performed as graceful a dance as their rigid legs would allow. Spiritualists who appeared on the scene were hit by flying pepper boxes. Bells rang mysteriously, and the hands of the clock had a habit of going round the wrong way.

It was thought that a certain boarder had a psychic influence, as the moment he returned to town the manifestations ceased.

A vicar who took a certain locum tenens job at the seaside for the regular clergyman, who had gone to Scotland with his wife, had a curious experience. The back garden went down to the beach, and the newcomer liked to stroll to the end of it late at night.

Leaving a low light burning in the study, he had been lounging and smoking for half an hour and then returned up the garden path. Judge of his surprise when he saw the Rev.__ whose place he was taking, sitting at the desk of the study, a pile of books at his side.

The sequel was singular. News came the next morning that the vicar and his wife had been in a railway accident and were both in hospital.

Peculiar Manifestations.

Certain places along the British coasts have their special and peculiar manifestations. There are, for instance, the spectral longships of the Solway Firth. The story is that in the old days two Danish sea-rovers, their long ships loaded with spoil, put into the Firth for shelter. A squall came shrieking from the sea and sank the ships at their moorings. Ever since, on the anniversary of their destruction, these two ships glide up Solway, and no local man is bold enough to put to sea when they are visible.

There is a certain small town on a beautiful estuary on the south coast to which small coasting vessels go. One of these was lost in a great storm a few years ago, and several families in the town mourned their relatives for lost. Then, five months later, after another great storm, she was seen coming up the river in the dusk. Many people declare they saw her, but she never arrived she faded into mist.

A story is told of the Needles, the famous headland of the Isle of Wight. A fine ship was proceeding up the Channel in a dense fog. The captain had gone below, thinking his course was right, but a stranger came to him and told him to take soundings at once. Scarcely knowing what he did, he obeyed and found but seven fathoms beneath his keel. He tacked at once, and, the fog lifting, found that had he proceeded when the “ghost” appeared he would have been wrecked on the Needles.

Pukekohe & Waiuku Times [New Zealand], 10 December 1923: p. 8

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: A learned psychical researcher named R.S. Lambert suggested that hauntings in Britain occurred most often in the presence of tidal water and that water was a kind of conductor for ghostly energies. He also noted, more practically, that underground water could undermine ancient houses, producing mysterious phenomena like groans or opening doors.

Mrs Daffodil cannot really see the attractive of the sea-side for ghosts unless, with their shrouding draperies, not unlike a bathing cap and towel, and deathly-pale faces, like those of bathers slathered in zinc creme, they hope to be mistaken for the Living.

Shall we have a few more?

Another writer states that while staying at Brighton with some friends in November, 1879, he was walking alone on a moonlight night on the seaside of the Esplanade, when a carriage and pair drew up alongside the rails. He was greatly startled, as the wheels made no noise, but he at once took half-a-dozen steps towards the carriage, and then distinctly recognised its occupants as his grandmother, an old lady of 83, whom he had left perfectly well at Cheltenham a few days before, also her coachman and footman on the box. Vaulting over the rails he made one step forward to greet her, when to his horror the whole thing vanished. On his relating the circumstances to his friends they of course laughed at him, but next morning they received a telegram that the old lady had been found dead in her bed, at 7.30 that morning. Previous to this occurrence the correspondent had always laughed at the bare idea of ghosts. The Spiritualist 21 October 1881

Blackpool has several hauntings, though none more remarkable than the one popularly ascribed to the sea. According to tradition, the church and cemetery of Kilmigrol once stood about two miles from the shore, and were one day submerged. Ever since then, on certain nights in the year, even in stormy weather, a ghostly chime of bells may be heard ringing, far under the waves. I have met people in Blackpool who assure me they have actually heard them.

A similar haunting is stated to take place off Whitby. According to local tradition, the bells of Whitby Abbey were sold when the Abbey was suppressed in 1539. They were put on board a ship to be conveyed to London, but as soon as the vessel conveying them weighed anchor and tried to leave the bay she sank, and the bells found a home on the sea bottom. And ever since then at certain times, as in the case of Blackpool, bells no human fingers touch ring their hidden chimes.”

I am told there is a house near the Blackpool Winter Gardens which is periodically haunted by the phantasm of a girl in blue. All blue—blue hat, bodice, skirt, and eyes.

She is encountered on the staircase leading from the hall to the first landing, and looks so much like a real person that those who see her invariably take her for one, and it is only on learning afterwards that there is no such live individual in the house that they realise she is a ghost.

The house is not known to have any particular history, and the cause of the haunting is a baffling mystery.

At Brighton ,the ghostly happenings are in a house almost within sight of Brunswick square. They are invariably in the form of whistling on the staircase. The whistling sometimes ascends, as if the whistler were walking up, descends to the hall, or is stationary, but nothing is ever seen.

Elliott Donnell, 1926

Mrs Daffodil invites you to join her on the curiously named “Face-book,” where you will find a feast of fashion hints, fads and fancies, and historical anecdotes

You may read about a sentimental succubus, a vengeful seamstress’s ghost, Victorian mourning gone horribly wrong, and, of course, Mrs Daffodil’s efficient tidying up after a distasteful decapitation in A Spot of Bother: Four Macabre Tales.


The Spook Syndicate: 1905

A bill for the play "The Castle Spectre," c. 1800. Naturally there is a ghostly nun.

A bill for the play “Castle Spectre,” by “Monk” Lewis, c. 1800


There is a fresh reason for weeping and gnashing of teeth among the trust hunters. That is, if we are to credit a prospectus just issued by Mr Symington Spiffkins, latterly a London materializing medium and now the head and front of what is known as the Spook Syndicate, Limited.

“It occurred to me,” says the distinguished gentleman, “That every year more and more Americans are either purchasing or renting estates in the Old World. A very few of these properties are properly equipped with select and guaranteed spectral attractions, and with a view of filling the want I established the Spook Syndicate, Limited, which may be said to virtually control the ghost market.

“It is not too much to say that we have a corner on white ladies, wood demons, banshees, wraiths, bogeys, black knights and headless horsemen, lately carrying on business at old stands in various ruins, mouldering castles, manor houses and chateaux.

“All our phantom folk are engaged under a guarantee to perform their duties and keep regular hours, so that there may be no disappointment to the lessees. Some especially startling novelties are ready for the coming season. Terms invariably in advance.”

There is much more of this preface in the prospectus, and then follows some specimen attractions which should certainly bring business. Here are a few taken at random:

“No. 96—Black knight, in fine state of preservation. Carries his head under his arm (very desirable). Rattles a chain with horrible emphasis. Good family ghost, warranted kind and does not appear to children. Hours 12 A.M. to 2 A.M. May be engaged by the season or for a term of years.

“No. 62—Green goblin, with forked pink tail. Emits sparks. More economical than fireworks. Shrieks like the dinner horn of a deaf-mute asylum. Can be relied on to frighten an inebriate away from his cups. Very old. Five hundred years at his last place, where he gave great satisfaction.

“Lot A—White ladies. Very select assortment. Prices according to age and historic details. Suitable for sentimental couples and readers of Marie Corelli. Warranted a cure for dope fiends. Can be engaged with or without blood-curdling groans. Note—Heads will be popular this season. Phosphorescent eyes and veils are no longer considered fashionable.

No. 16—Upper part of a king (unique speciality.) For some centuries the feature of a ruined tower by the North Sea. May be highly recommended. Appears promptly at 1 A.M. and engages in looking for his lost legs. A consolation prize for those who have failed to get presented at court. ‘Half a king is better than none.’ Recommended for engagement to wives who wish to break their husbands of late hours.”

Mrs. Spiffkins further announces “a great drive” in “sheeted specters, midnight hags, phantom huntsmen and black dogs.” In sort, the American who intends to rent or buy an estate abroad should examine the stock of the Spook Syndicate, Limited.

Baltimore [MD] American 30 July 1905: p. 48

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire:  Mrs Daffodil is always amused at the rich Americans who wish to lease a haunted stately home so they can boast to their friends about the headless cavalier in the Blue Room or the ghost of Mary, Queen of Scots going bump in the Long Gallery.  The same people would demand a reduction in their rent if they believed they had a ghost in their residence in New York, Chicago, or St. Louis.

But the brashness of Americans is a familiar comic theme, as Mr Oscar Wilde demonstrated in “The Canterville Ghost.” Britain also witnessed the unedifying spectacle of that climber, Baron Astor of Hever (née William Waldorf Astor), bribing his way to a peerage and thinking that by buying Hever Castle, once Anne Boleyn’s home, he and his guests would be able to hob-nob with her ghost. With a strength of character unusual in the ectoplasmic, she refused to appear. Or perhaps it was merely that she was not on the books of the Spook Syndicate and was thus under no obligation.

Mrs Daffodil invites you to join her on the curiously named “Face-book,” where you will find a feast of fashion hints, fads and fancies, and historical anecdotes

You may read about a sentimental succubus, a vengeful seamstress’s ghost, Victorian mourning gone horribly wrong, and, of course, Mrs Daffodil’s efficient tidying up after a distasteful decapitation in A Spot of Bother: Four Macabre Tales.


Snubbed by the Ghost of Anne Boleyn: 1916

Hever Castle

Hever Castle, where Anne Boleyn’s ghost walked.

Anne Boleyn’s Ghost Refused to Walk for Baron Astor

From the Kansas City Star

Snubbed for years by the British peerage, William Waldorf Astor, a short time ago created a baron, now is snubbed by royal ghosts. The self-expatriated American went to England a quarter of a century ago. He attempted to put himself in the ranks of aristocracy with his millions.

But the titled of England resented his efforts. He was snubbed by big and little ladies and lords. Astor entertained lavishly to gain favor, made many large gifts to public institutions, became sullen as he continued to get the royal cold shoulder and finally did a little snubbing on his hook.

He bought a large estate, Cliveden on the Thames. He immediately closed public highways across his estate, which had been open for hundreds of years. That added to his unpopularity. He gave a great ball at Cliveden. But no one of note was present. Astor ordered all the carriages for his guests for 1 o’clock. But when that hour came the guests refused to stop dancing. Mr. Astor went to bed.

A Classic Snub

Yet the millions could not be resisted long. So polite society came to his entertainments and snubbed him. The snub of the Duchess of Cleveland has become a classic. Mr. Astor in showing the duchess one of the staircases in the building asked;

“Isn’t that handsome, your grace?”

“Yes, it certainly is,” the duchess replied.

“Isn’t it more so than any other staircase you ever saw?”

“Yes,” the duchess said gently. “I admire it very much. It is much finer than our old staircase at Battle Abbey, which has been spoiled these 200 or 300 years by the spurs of those stupid, old knights.” Battle Abbey probably was the grandest old place in England and compared to Mr. Astor’s place was as a palace to a coal shed.

Mr. Astor persisted, using rent from property in New York City to pry his way into the first ranks. The Prince of Wales called him a cad. The king made him drop the “honorable” which he was using before his name. Mr. Astor bought the Pall Mall Gazette and turned it from a Radical paper to a powerful Tory organ. He swore allegiance to the English crown, gave to charity and tried to become a peer by buying an estate which carried a title with it.

Buys Hever Castle.

Then in 1903 he bought Hever Castle. Hever Castle had been crumbling since the fifteenth century. Its old gray walls had assumed a scaly appearance beneath a coating of dull colored lichens. The stagnant water in the moats about the castle was choked with weeds.

Mr. Astor reconstructed the castle. He fixed the drawbridge and towers as they had stood at the time Anne Boleyn lived there as a child. He built a Tudor village about the castle to house his guests. His estate was as it had been in early days. It was the marvel of England.

To this castle the dark-eyed, dark-haired Anne Boleyn was exiled by King Henry VIII. She had been a maid of honor at the English court. The king smiled at her but she did not realize what his smiles meant. Before long she had fallen in love with the gallant young Sir. Henry Percy, son of the Earl of Northumberland.

Sir Percy used to come to court with Cardinal Wolsey, chief counselor of the king at that time, and while his master was closeted with the king, the young page found opportunity to meet Anne. The king discovered the plot. Anne was banished from court and Sir. Percy was forced to marry another.

The Royal Ghost

The old gossips of Kent still tell stories of the exile of the beautiful Anne Boleyn, and how she was wont to wander up and down the windy gallery of Hever Castle moaning for her sweetheart. There was little at Hever to overcome the young girl’s distraction. The dark moats with their stagnant waters, the foreboding shadows which lurked about the round towers, all tended to increase her melancholy. Later she returned to court, and to the executioner.

Each year since her death, it is said, the ghost of Anne Boleyn appeared at Hever Castle. It crossed the old bridge over the river in front of the castle, wailing as she had done for her sweetheart, those who claim to have seen the ghost say. It came at midnight, once or often during the holiday season.

This year, for the first time, the ghost has failed to come. Mr. Astor, after years of snubbing by live royalty, was created Baron Hever New Year’s Eve. But his troubles are not over. The royal ghost refuses to walk for him.

Colorado Springs [CO] Gazette 18 February 1916: p. 12

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: Mr Astor seems to have comported himself with a rare combination of tactless bluster and social ineptitude. He was ridiculed on both sides of the Atlantic. One American paper printed a table of “Enormous Sums Mr. Astor Has Paid to Obtain his Peerage,” totaling $11,750,000. The same article listed “Very Peculiar Things That Mr. Astor Has Done” such as

Offending King Edward by telling the King what entertainments he had planned instead of asking his Majesty’s pleasure.

Ordering Admiral Sir Berkeley Milne out of his London house because he came without an invitation, as escort to an English society lady who had been invited.

Involving himself in a quarrel with the Duke of Westminster about the visitors’ book of the house the Duke had sold him.

Giving to a British museum, the flag of Captain Lawrence’s (he of “Don’t Give Up the Ship”) vessel, the Chesapeake, captured by the British in 1813.

Publically expressing annoyance at the story of Anne Boleyn’s snub.

The British press was no less caustic, printing cartoons of him loaded down with money bags and ridiculing his efforts to obtain a peerage. It was not until he had contributed massive sums to the British War effort (and one of his sons was wounded fighting in the British Army) that he was grudgingly given a coronet in 1916. 

If Mrs Daffodil believed in ghosts, she would congratulate the Lady Anne for her good taste in snubbing such a bounder.

Mrs Daffodil invites you to join her on the curiously named “Face-book,” where you will find a feast of fashion hints, fads and fancies, and historical anecdote

You may read about a sentimental succubus, a vengeful seamstress’s ghost, Victorian mourning gone horribly wrong, and, of course, Mrs Daffodil’s efficient tidying up after a distasteful decapitation in A Spot of Bother: Four Macabre Tales.

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