Ghosts: A Realtors Dream Or Nightmare
[Original headline: Home for sale: has own ghost]
Encountering ghosts is not a common hazard for estate agents - but some have stories to tell. Allan McPherson-Fletcher, Strutt & Parker's Highland consultant, says he has personal experience. "My grandmother lives with our family, and the ghost will come and sit with her at the kitchen table," he says. "She finds it comforting to have a ghost snoring beside her.
"Sometimes, the electric kettle will come on. The ghost, who we think is a woman, turns on radiators and lights, and leaves the hot water taps running. We think she must have spent years carrying buckets of coal and trimming lamps, and she's so impressed with our modern technology she insists we use it all the time."
McPherson-Fletcher's family has lived at Balavil, a Robert Adam house near Kingussie, for more than 200 years. A maid in the early 19th century, forsaken in love for the butler, flung herself into the waterfall below the house. They say she has stalked its rooms ever since.
Ghosts, unlike pony paddocks or a mile of double-bank fishing, are rarely selling points.
Richard Gaynor, the director of Country House Sales for Savills, says: "The moment a client begins to talk of ghosts we advise them to keep quiet. Ghosts, benign or otherwise, are bad news and if we are told of something we may have to reveal it."
The Bishop of Reading, the Rt Rev Dominic Walker, expert on the paranormal for the Church of England, says that some houses retain a memory of an emotional event or change to the building. "Something happens," he says, "such as a traumatic experience that triggers off a memory of the past and events will be replayed - rather like a video."
Perhaps it was Henry VIII's violent dissolution of religious houses that set the ghostly apparition of a monk walking the courtyard of Grove House. Until 1530 Bruton in Somerset had a fine medieval priory, and Peter Law, owner of this 18th-century townhouse, thinks there might be a connection. "Books we know we don't have will suddenly turn up then disappear again," he says. "Pictures are never straight; it's our daily task to straighten them. We leave the room and they go crooked again."
The Grade II listed house has an adjoining cottage and a former coach house in the grounds. In a corner of the main house and the cottage "there is always this cold current of air and the cat just sits staring at the space".
In Essex, close to the Roman Fort at Bradwell-on-Sea and the 7th-century church built from its ruins, New Hall hosts a most domesticated ghost. Mrs Christopher Russell, the owner, says: "In the 19th century the chap living here had waited too long to marry. He joined the army and when he finally married an actress he was an old man. When he died she let the house go to rack and ruin. So he came back and haunted her to spur her on to love the house. His ghost opens and closes the door at the bottom of the stairs, where he used to appear, then does the same with the study door."
Sir Nikolaus Pevsner in his Buildings of England describes the five-bedroom New Hall as "an attractive little Queen Anne house", but its origins are Tudor or earlier. There is a period barn and more than two acres of grounds. Another haunted house cited by Pevsner is Sheiling Hall near Maidstone, Kent, half-timbered and in its original late-15th-century state. This Grade II listed Wealden Hall House has moulded beams, hexagonal crown post and the spectre of a servant girl. Major Edgar Crickmore Porter, the owner, says: "Soon after we moved here, I saw the apparition of a girl in a long, dark frock. She was just standing in a corner. The next time I saw her she was running through the main hall. During renovations, we uncovered three medieval windows and I've not seen her since."
The ghostly maidservant wandering the corridors of the old Imperial Hotel, Southampton, which Berkeley Homes has turned into apartments, is unusual in having a name. During the Boer War "Mary" had caught her soldier boyfriend in flagrante. Berkeley's Gareth Jacob says: "Devastated, she died of a broken heart. She has been spotted in the hotel, a sad and lonely figure."
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