Tuesday 17 July 2007

A ghost of our own

We have a ghost. About five years old with long fair hair and wearing a long white dress. Now personally I would have said the latter is a mistake in this house, neck-deep in dust and madness. But there you go.
We found out about her through my cousin, Catherine, who is over from Australia on a visit. Catherine has inherited the spooky genes of the family (we have all manner of spiritualists and odd religious fundamentalists in our history – most of us more or less came out the womb reading tarot cards).
Anyhow, she came over along with size-zero Mother and her own (not size-zero) mother, Aunty Wendy, to have a nose around the new place. We had a rather nice Thai takeaway (oh the heaven that is a takeaway, after nine years without) and a few glasses of the good stuff and I was saying how warm and embracing the house felt.

‘Funny really,’ I said. ‘I thought it would be a spooky house but really it isn’t at all.’
Catherine was wandering around the Oak Room (or as Adrian calls it ‘the Baronial Hall) at this point. Then suddenly she went ‘on point’ – truly, if she’d been a gun dog she’d have had one paw up and her tail stiff as a brush.
‘There’s a little girl here,’ she said.
Oh no.
‘Are you sure?’ I asked, giving off big vibes of ‘please don’t tell me anything seriously weird.’
‘Absolutely.’ She went on about the long blonde hair and all. I was, let’s be honest, sceptical. After all, it’s a pretty archetypal image, even down to the long white (possibly grubby along the hem-line) frock.
‘Have you got a cellar?’
Yup, two actually.
‘One with a door with a window above. Some kind of heating thing there.’
Oh stop it. Yes we have a cellar exactly like that with the remains of a huge old under-floor heating system.
‘Er, why?’
‘She was locked in there as punishment.’
Now this we don’t need to hear.
‘She’s very benign though. She’s not angry or vindictive or anything.’
Well that’s fine then.
I love the idea of ghosts but not in my house. It’s like mice and bats and other forms of wildlife – they’re great as long as I don’t have to share living space with them.
So, anyhow, they all headed off back to the safety of size-zero Mum’s nice friendly ghost-free house and we were left – with a ghost.
‘I wish she hadn’t said that,’ said Adrian.
‘Yup, so do I,’ said I.
‘I’m going to be looking for her now. Out of the corner of my eye and all.’
‘Yup. Me too.’

So now my people-to-find list has an extra item on it. It now reads:
- find architect
- find builder
- find someone to help with garden
- find someone to fix Rayburn
- find someone to fix hot water
- find ghostbuster

Mind you, I’m already getting advice on the latter.
‘You want Father X. He’s terribly good at that sort of thing,’ opined someone at a party we went to over the weekend.
‘What, even though I’m not Catholic?’
‘Oh no, he won’t remotely mind. He really is very good.’

By heck, a bonda fide exorcist in the town? How utterly thrilling.

But I’m not sure I should exorcise my poor little ghost. It seems a bit extreme (and tantamount to child abuse) to throw bell, book and candle at a five-year old (even if she has been dead for God knows how long). So I shall see how we go, my ghost and I. Maybe she will want to be released at some point and then I'll see if I can find a way to help her. Until then, well, it's live and let live (so to speak).

PS - for Un Peu.....here's the bonkers wallpaper!


@themill said...

Love the wallpaper!!!! Sounds like you need Crystal - these things spook me somewhat.

CAMILLA said...

Gulp -! Darling Jane, a child ghost,oh my goodness. She will have to have a name, if indeed she is one. Your photo's of rooms in house are something to die for! GORGEOUS. So pleased for you that you are enjoying the new location in Devon. My husband wants to put our Cottage on the market again, oh no! I shriek, can remember the last time we did that, am panicking now! Loved your blog Jane, your writing is amazing.
Sending you best wishes.


Zoë said...

Wow, thats some wall paper! I bet it belongs in an archive somwhere in the V and A! How long do you suppose it has been there? havent reda the blog yet, came to sneak a peak !

Cait O'Connor said...

How old is your house Jane? The photos are truly gorgeous.
So many old houses do have ghosts, we have one next door to us. There was a resident one in the hospital I worked in. If they are benign there's nothing to worry about.
When I first moved to our cottage in Sussex the old lady who had lived there before (and had died)followed me about for a few days, I didn't see her but felt her (you will understand). She watched my every move but eventually disappeared, it was as if she was checking me out. A few years later we had ghost children who ran about upstairs. Several psychic happenings occurred but none were scary.
Glad you are blogging again.

Bluestocking Mum said...

I was just thinking the same-Crystal is the one to see your place.

That wallpaper is stunning-was thinking the same thing as Zoe about it being in some archives somewhere. There are people out there who come and remove old paper and preserve it for museums/reference. There was someone I am sure a couple of years ago in Country Living Magazine?? She 'made' block print/wallpapers using old methods and was also employed by V&A as some sort of wallpaper/interiors historian.

Your house looks very beautiful and is going to be very interesting to hear about.

warm wishes

toady said...

Jane the house looks fabulous, loads more piccies please. The wallpaper puts me in mind of Pugin or the guy who designed Knighthayes - can't remeber his name- and come to think of it you're not really too far from there. I'd send a copy of the picture to the National Trust to get an opinion. Toady

Grouse said...

I wonder whether you could do a house-history search and track the previous people on the deeds, so find out who the little girl is? Now that WOULD be interesting...

Anonymous said...

Just read this very interesting blog. That room is amazing. As for the spirit, keep talking to her. Let her know you are friendly and you are not afraid of her. She's passed on. She can't hurt you or anyone. And you can't hurt her. Child spirits can cause mischief because that's what children do, but don't forget she was there first! I'm sure your lovely family can only be a comfort to her. Let her be a comfort to you. And if you feel the need for the house to be blessed, get someone in and encourage her to move on. Although, if she's been there a long time, she might not want to.

Best wishes, Crystal xx

Faith said...

The house is beautiful Jane, but not mad keen on ghosts I have to say! I recently bought my daughter's house off her and am about to let it. One of the first things I did was to have it blessed. As you know I am a Catholic so didnt seem an odd thing to do. I'm sure any Catholic priest would be happy to help. I had that house blessed for two reasons - the main one was that my daughter had suffered violence there, and the other one was that she and my other daughter sensed a presence. The whole ritual only takes about 20 mins for a small house - yours would take longer!!! mine was NOT an exorcism, that is different. It was a blessing with Holy Water and you go through the rooms blessing them and the priest reads the words of the ceremony from his book. Poor little girl, may she rest in peace.

I actually like that wallpaper! Toady mentioned Knightshayes - love that place! absolutely gorgeous.

bodran... said...

You lucky thing you've got yourself a beautiful ART's& CRAFT'S property with original features in situ including the wallpaper...The A&C movement used to be one of my passions, and at the time i was one of the only people in the country with any knowledge on it and The furniture i sold at sothebys, at vast profits..I love your house and i'm jealous but not of the ghost...xxx
You are not to change a thing until i've seen it..lol

Suffolkmum said...

Love that Arts and Crafts stle stuff. Ooh a ghost - and a wee girl at that - I always thought I would NEVER live in a house with a ghost, I would just move straight out, but you know I think there's someone/something here too, and I'm not remotely scared, even though I have been so much on my own here. See how it goes....I once read a really interesting article by someone (can't remember who) saying that often what are perceived as ghosts are actually the dreams of the house - they're dreaming of past events and new people spark off recollections. Of course it takes a leap of faith to think of a house dreaming, but it's quite a nice idea.

countrymousie said...

This house is going to be something else - trust you to get a ghost as part of the package!
The house looks wonderful and was waiting for you I think.The wall paper looks like blocked. Someone like Colfax, Designers Guild or Sanderson have huge libraries. If you put a pic in the forum no doubt someone will know it. You know how knowledgable this lot are! love mousie

DevonLife said...

Man alive Jane you have moved to some kind of castle! Are you landed gentry. Is it Lady Jane and Sir Adrian, with little Lord James (and Jack!).

Amazing, very very jealous. I too am not jealous of the ghost however, I am far too chicken to be cool about things like that.

Wall paper reminds me of an early Celia Birtwell - go on take it off gently and flog it on ebay, that'll pay for the Rayburn man.

Anonymous said...

oh i love itim sorry but im so intrested in things like that , i wish i lived there i will be the ghost hunter , i love the wallpaper .xxjep

Elizabeth Musgrave said...

the wallpaper is utterly fabulous. not so sure about the ghost. I'm a bit of sceptic about such things but there is a sense here of the house's history, sometimes there is movement outside in the yard, but like suffolkmum's, it's pleasant and domestic and not at all intrusive, more like the house has been a hive of industry for so long it is imprinted in the place. not mad honestly although would not share that sensation in my work world!

bradan said...

We had a ghost when my daughter was about three, in our house in England. We would hear S. talking to some one, but couldn't see anyone. One day, my husband was moving a wardrobe and S. started crying that he was 'squashing the lady'. So he said he would leave it 'til the lady moved and S. was happy. One day S. said to us "The lady has gone away now, she said 'Bye Bye' to me".
Here S. sees the ghost of her cat Franki, who was run over. When we first came here I would sometimes wake up to the smell of cooking or baking in my bedroom, which I found out later used to be the kitchen. We always have our house blessed, like Faith we are Catholics. It is a lovely ceremony, just as Faith describes, not an exorcism at all.
By the way, your house looks fantastic, would love to hear more about it!

Pondside said...

Gorgeous house Jane. Just what everyone over here imagines an English house must look like, if it isn't a cozy Laura Ashley cottage. You're bound to have lots of good times decorating it!
Your ghost sounds benign - and if you haven't seen a ghost yet, you probably won't, so don't worry.
We moved often when I was a child and my mother always had the house blessed. I don't do it, but admit to walking through all of our new houses and talking to the house - sort of like introducing myself. I've always figured that it can't hurt!

Frances said...

Hello Jane, I do like the pictures of your new home.

The ghost, well, who knows. The oldest houst that I have ever lived in was in Brooklyn, ca. 1840. Not too old by some standards. I just felt that many people had spent their days there, and had some happy times, and some not so happy times. Mostly, I had happy times.

Where I live now was originally a residential hotel, and some older residents even now qualify for weekly linen service. Wish that I did not have to do my own laundry!

But I do imagine that the various rooms in this building have seen many dramas. I have never felt/seen any spectres. Not even while doing laundry.

The wallpaper is truly remarkable. I mention wallpaper in a blog tonight after seeing Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix.


Mark Bridge said...

As far as I'm concerned, that wallpaper is much scarier than your ghost!


What a wonderful house! So much character and history - I love that wallpaper - you must keep it.

I, too, would be slightly spooked by the idea of a ghost, but she sounds like a benign one and you sound as though you're sensitive to atmospheres around places, so I'm sure you would have picked up on anything unpleasant. Trust the process and see what happens. Looking forward to reading more about Dulverton.

Un Peu Loufoque said...

Ok you need to talk to the ghost and be nice to her, after all she is only a child. I grew up with one and I turned out fine ...welll almost... love teh wallpaper do be very careful taking it off!! Oh actually jstu wrap whole house up adn send it airmail I love teh whole place!!!Jealious as hell.. You sure those palntss inth e garden aren't big domestic violets, my mother had loads and they spread like wildfire, are the leaves heart shaped?

Un Peu Loufoque said...

Oh and re catholic preast you had better find out first who she is and when she comes from, my friend got a priest in to exorcise a ghost and he was C of E but teh ghost was a rock cake so took no notice and still hung about until she got one of the right faith in!!

ps I am allowed to call RC's rockcakes as I am a rather lapsed one so no one get houghty toughty about it please!!

Sally Townsend said...

Whaaaaaaaah I'm coming to stay, I ADORE your house !! STOP DO NOT TAKE OFF WALLPAPER !! Are you going to write a book on the renovation ? like I didn't as it was so exhausting.

M J Francis said...

You have a lovely house. Hopefully it's still lovely and you're not too haunted by the ghost (presuming you still live there now?) I'm a little late to this party, but I saw the link to this blog entry materialise at the bottom of your blog page just now. As a one-time paranormal investigator, these things interest me. Although I came out of that being more sceptical in some ways, which is to be expected if you witness people blatantly pushing glasses around spirit boards. Now I just write about weird things ;)