The Real Haunted Mansion
Interview and article by Craig Hamilton-Parker.
On a few occasions, I have been asked by the newspapers to investigate haunted houses and mansions for Halloween. Below are two good stories that took place around Halloween in which I investigated two haunted mansions for real Halloween stories for the press.
This first story I did with Rachel Dobson as a feature for The Daily Star as part of a story covering the release of the movie ‘House on Haunted Hill’
The Real House on Haunted Hill
House On Haunted Hill is a grizzly tale of some bright young things who meet a ghostly and gruesome death. Inspired by this blood-curdling tale and armed with the reassurance that it’s only fiction, right?, I decided to have my spooky experience and go ghost hunting.
Recruiting the help of ghost hunter and medium of 10 years, Craig Hamilton-Parker, we paid a visit to the magnificent, but a haunted home of the 7th Marquees of Bath, Longleat House, near Warminster, Wiltshire.
He’s never been inside the house before and is hunting ‘blind’. As Craig, 46, who knows about these things, says: “It’s such a great place the spirits don’t want to leave. “He looks like a friendly headmaster in his blazer and chinos, but having a chat isn’t easy when there are ghosts around. He suddenly veers off down dimly lit corridors in the private quarters of the huge, echoed house, his imaginary antenna leading him to spooky quarter.
Standing in a bland and empty corner of the corridor, with his head bowed in concentration, Craig murmurs, “This used to be the nursery and children would play here. But a little girl who played here with blonde, ringlet hair died of a breathing disease.”
I stand there, not daring to breathe, the hair on the back of my neck slowly standing to attention. Craig continues: “There’s also a woman here too, but she’s connected to a different time in history. I saw her standing in the corridor. A lot of tragedy has surrounded her life and she has a very ruthless husband. She’s waiting for him to return.”
Entering the Haunted Mansion
I dash through the haunted area and stumble down the servant’s steep spiraling staircase away from the former nursery. Down in the boiler room when Craig senses that dead bodies have been stored on the floor, I scarper to the nearby café for a strong brew.
A chat with the house steward, Ken Windess who’s worked at Longleat for over 20 years, proves Craig was spot on with his ghostly sightings. In fact, baby Alice who used to play in the nursery before it was converted into a corridor, died of consumption in 1847.
She was exactly as Craig had described, right down to the blonde ringlets.
As for the tragic woman, she turned out to be Louisa Carteret. Married to one of the Marques’s ancestors, she had an affair with one of the servants. Her ruthless husband found out and naturally had him disposed of. The servant has booted down the namely ‘breakneck’ stairs – the spiraling staircase next to the nursery – during the 1700s. His body was stored in the boiler room until it could be fully disposed of.
Louisa is told he’d just ‘gone away’ and never knew he’d been bunked off. She’s waiting for him, rather than her husband, in the servants quarters where they used to meet in the haunted mansion. Although having ghosts around may send shivers down your spine, Craig maintains the spirits will do you no harm.
“Theses are friendly ghosts,” he says with a dad-like smile as we stand in the sunshine on the vast grounds of the house. “They’re there because they like it, just like us.”
The Haunted Halloween Mansion
This next Halloween investigation was done in conjunction with the Sun and with the release of the movie ‘Darkness Falls’. I investigated the haunted house with Yvette Fielding from TV’s Most Haunted in tow.
FREEWAY, the giant Irish Wolfhound, wobbles with genuine fear when he steps out of the Clock house kitchen. They say dogs have a sixth sense when trouble is afoot and Freeway certainly seems to know something is up in his 900-year-old house. He is permanently spooked and will barely venture out of the kitchen – the warmest, most welcoming room in the house.
Who knows which particular presence makes his hackles rise, as the Clock house is reputed to contain more spirits than George Best’s minibar.
A cavalier, two priests, and a bereaved mother are all said to roam through its ancient beamed corridors.
There are even rumors that the last woman hanged, Ruth Ellis, has found her way to this quiet corner of the Surrey countryside.
Three mediums who have visited the haunted mansion have all picked up strange spirits inside its ancient walls.
Yet this house, which owner Fred Batt shares with Freeway and two clattering suits of armor, is where I have chosen to spend the night.
Fred has grown used to living with a whole family of unexplained spooks – but I am not so comfortable with his extra house guests.
Candelabra in hand, I reluctantly tiptoe around to introduce myself to all the Clock house residents.
Having watched new ghost film, Darkness Falls, I’ve convinced myself that ghosts are an invention of Hollywood scriptwriters.
I hope I’m not about to be proved wrong.
The hub of the psychic activity
The room I have chosen to spend the night in has been described as ‘the hub’ by one psychic.
It’s creaking floorboards and resident rocking horse make it seem more like something out of a horror film.
There have been far too many sightings of spooks at this house for my liking. One of the most common sights has been of a pair of monks or priests who pace along the upstairs hallway of the haunted mansion.
Determined to feel their ghostly presence, I huddle in the house’s claustrophobic priests hole – a short hidden passageway where priests from the 16th century would have hidden to avoid being hung, drawn, and quartered by Henry VIII’s soldiers.
The dingy hole is cold and dark and the sense that someone is in there with me – making the breath catch in my body – is overwhelming.
I hover unwilling for a few unnerving quiet minutes, feeling spooks – real or imagined – drawing me into their world.
And then I want out of the haunted mansion.
I relight my candelabra – the flames have mysteriously flickered out – and start exploring once again.
The ancient house does little to dispel the spooky sensations which rattle around it.
The Stairs Creaked
The polished wooden stairs creak louder than a Scooby-Doo sound effect and the eyes of the eerie portraits on the wall seem to follow me as I follow the path of the priests towards the high beamed living room.
This room is the most haunted in the house and is certainly not the place to snuggle up for a second viewing of that film, Darkness Falls.
Fred has already been scared silly in the room. Shortly after he moved in he took a photograph of it to enter an interior design competition.
When he went to develop the digital photo on his computer, he nearly jumped out of his skin.
There in his shot were at least four ghostly shapes, including a soldier in full body army, a bearded cavalier, and a woman with a cloth bonnet covering her head.
“I was looking in disbelief at the photographs,” says Fred. “If I had not taken them myself I would not have believed it.”
As he stared at the spooky shots, the clock struck midnight, the bells ringing out in the icy night air.
“I was scared to death,” he says.
“It really freaked me out, but then I went straight back into the room and shouted ‘What the **** is going on?’
“Since then it’s been ok.”
Many people have heard the pounding of ghostly footsteps in the Clock house’s narrow hall and have been disturbed by the clunk of an opening door handle in an eerily empty room.
Fred recalls in a ghostly whisper: “My builder was in there decorating the room with the door shut.
The Doorknob Turned
“The doorknob turned then sprang back and the door opened. He thought it was me but I was out in the garden.”
Despite these unexplained happenings, Fred, who is petrified of ghosts, says he would not live anywhere else.
He says: “I quite often hear noises but I love it here. I can’t leave now – it’s the homeliest place I have ever lived. It feels like I should have been here all my life, that’s the weird thing.”
In fact, it seems that Fred himself is to blame for at least one spirit roaming the house.
The Reincarnated Baron
One psychic who visited the Clock house as part of Living Television’s Most Haunted program declared the nightclub boss was, in fact, a reincarnated baron, and said that Fred was followed by a blonde ghost who went by the name of Ruth.
Fred is already convinced that Ruth Ellis, the last woman to be hanged in Britain, haunts Caesars – the glitzy club he owns in South London.
She worked at the nightspot in 1948, when it was known as the Locarno club.
Since her death, screams and spooky goings-on have been reported at the club, particularly in the upstairs dressing rooms.
Now Fred believes she may be following him home.
He says: “I can feel her in my car. People say they have seen me driving with a blonde woman when I know I have been alone.
“I can feel her when I go to the club and when I leave the club. When I get in the house the feeling goes. The spirit mediums tell me she follows me from the club to the house.
“The best way I can describe it is as if someone is behind me and then I turn round but of course no one is there.”
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