Tag Archives: haunted castles

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“Out of date,” was the terse explanation of the publisher of light literature when asked why the Christmas ghost had been exorcised.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.


An Ectoplasmic Elopement: 1898

(c) Brighton and Hove Museums and Art Galleries; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation

Cavalier with a Mandoline, Bernard Louis Barione (c) Brighton and Hove Museums and Art Galleries; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation

June being the bridal month, Mrs Daffodil thought that she would pair with the story of Mlle Bob Walter’s “Elopement Bureau,”  another runaway couple—this time of the spectral sort.


The Story of the Mysterious Disappearance of Two Ghosts.

The Penorwood girls picked up their ghost in Italy. It was certainly a little lonesome for any ghost to inhabit a ruined and decaying palace with no living soul to haunt from year’s end to year’s end, and when the three rosy-cheeked girls, healthy and independent, took a fancy to the old place and “camped out” there for a week, as they expressed it, the ghost was delighted and worked overtime with clanking chains and shrieks and dismal moans and all that.

The Penorwood girls not having an unruly nerve among them, were also delighted and lost no time in looking up the ghost’s history. It was a young lady ghost they found, and a beautiful story. Forbidden attachment, stern father, coat of arms, rapiers, and dungeons and everything there ought to be. Oh, it was simply perfect; so night after night they listened to the ghost and wished they might have it for their very own.

To say that the ghost was gratified is putting it mildly. And one could not help liking the Penorwood girls, so when their week was up and they made a beeline for Germany, the ghost went along. It brought, it is true, dismay to the hearts of hysterical ladies and otherwise phlegmatic men in many a hostelry, but as no one ever dreamed of connecting it with the robust Penorwood girls, those young ladies enjoyed the matter hugely. To be sure, there was the question as to how the ghost would carry herself in the old family house in Kentucky, but that was a long way off.

It was by the side of Lake Teuffelwasser that they settled next. There was an old Baronial castle there which they rented for a song, full of delightful passages and leaks and draughts, and with a real moat around it. Besides all that, there was a legend.

Out upon the little lake, it was said, a ghostly cavalier sometimes appeared on moonlight nights, floating in a ghostly bark and playing upon a ghostly guitar. That decided the matter, and they took the castle for the rest of their stay in Germany

The young lady ghost got to work beautifully the very first night, and seemed perfectly at home, clanking from the lowest dungeons to the top of the winding stairway that led to the little room at the top of the tower overlooking the water.

One night the moon shone brightly, a faint sweet tinkling was heard out over the water, then the Penorwood girls clapped their hands in ecstasy. The cavalier was on duty. At that moment their own ghost was happily climbing the winding stairway in the tower, but in a little while she had reached the top and was silent.

The tinkling music came nearer, until it seemed right under the castle walls, where it played until 12 o’clock. Looking out, the girls could see it standing erect in its filmy boat, its eyes upturned to the tower window, playing sweet songs of sentiment, until as their little ormolu clock chimed the hour it suddenly disappeared.

There was a little clank and a long-drawn sigh from the tower room, and all was silent.

Every night after that the Penorwood girl’s ghost clanked up the tower stairway and the cavalier came beneath their walls at 10 o’clock and gave a concert until 12.

“Funny, isn’t it?” suggested one of the girls, “that both ghosts won’t work at once?”

But they little suspected the truth—the truth that should have been foreseen by a young lady especially—until one night there was no clank nor any serenade.

They had almost given up in despair, when one clear night they chanced to be looking out on the lake and saw the dainty white boat gliding by, carrying their cavalier—and another—and their maidenly hearts were happy for the two ghosts had eloped. And what was the use of clanking chains and tinkling guitars now?

Cincinnati [OH] Enquirer 20 November 1898: p. 18

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire:  Mrs Daffodil assumed that the Penorwood girls of Kentucky, so enchanted by the clanking maiden and the tinkling cavalier, were echoes of the fearless Otis family of “The Canterville Ghost.”  However, that amusing work by Mr Wilde was not published until 1906. Perhaps Mr Wilde took the Cincinnati papers and was inspired by this flight of fancy.

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.