Just before Halloween (that now seems to start sometime in July and lurch ever onward until October 31st blessedly vanishes) a friend of mine from our stable yard suggested that a few of us get together and attend a book reading in one of the South West's most beautiful properties, the grand and decidedly gothic Tudor residence, Athelhampton House. The first section of the mansion was built in 1485, and then as time went on additions and changes were made.
Like my fellow companions, I wasn't really attending for the delights of the book reading (although if I'd had a small person of my own I probably would have purchased one) but I was personally more in it for access to the house itself. And you of course can guess why. I believe that Jayne and Becks were more there for the afternoon out in a beautiful place. although Jayne is sensitive to spirits.
Overjoyed by the prospect of access to such a location, and because I'm researching new places to mention in my forthcoming book, I emailed the owners of the house prior to our visit as to whether private hire was possible. After at first being ignored I then used the modern fast track method and more successful means of Messenger, and within moments had a reply saying that they the ghosts of the house were happy and wouldn't want disturbing. All I can say is here, is that they totally misunderstood what I do and how I do it. They clearly did not read nor pay any heed to my descriptions of how I work (unobtrusive, alone) and that my intention is not to rile nor 'stir up' any entities within. I wasn't going all Exorcisty on them.
The new owners of course mention and play on their famous ghosts, but are probably totally unaware of what I picked up when I was in the house last Saturday. When I say 'ghosts', I do of course mean apparitions - and as I've said many times, the only sort of phenomena that people not in-the- know tend to opt for as their stars of the show. Any other anomalous manifestations, be they of poltergeist-nature or indeed of audio worth, because they are not necessarily 'crowd pleasers' they take a back seat. Or in my case, no seat at all. It's what my Dad calls The Bum's Rush. I have no idea where this much beloved family phrase came from but it means cast aside, given the boot, dismissed. And I can't say that I'm not a little put out by the blunt refusal, because I'm not doing this for commercial gain but because I'm fascinated, and because spirits well, tend to respond to me. I give them a voice and they recognise the fact that I can let them reach out. As I was to find out...
The notable Athelhampton ghosts are typically residual in that they do not interact, and include dualling swordsmen, an ape that was bricked up in the wall, a stereotypical grey lady, a WW1 soldier, and a cooper. All rather standard.
The current family purchased Athelhampton in 2019 before Covid, and as such are only really just opening to the public and renting out as a wedding venue. I find it rather odd that they'd say Yes to wedding and film hire, but no to 'paranormal' hire - especially when a night of private hire can reap financial treasures upwards of a thousand pounds. Also, way back in 2002 the dubious and yet somehow much-loved UK TV ghost show, Most Haunted, took root there overnight and presented their evidence, such as it was. I'm sorry if I step on toes here or upset anyone who is a fan, but there are few ghost shows that I like, and even the ones that I did I now no longer watch, and this is one of them.
They're so scripted and much of the time faked, and the Most Haunted team have been caught faking (the Pontefract house to name just one howler of an episode) and I cannot believe a word they say - even if I know that the location that they are investigating is legitimate! Plus when they are acting (and it's obvious that they are) they're so bad that mostly I'll be forced to turn the TV off before steam pulsating from my ears threatens to blow my head up. They're so hammy it makes me embarrassed for them. So amateurish that they could get a job on those tacky Over 50s Funeral Plan ads. You know the ones... "Oh hello June! How are you, you look so happy even though you're obviously quite aged and about to pop off!" "Yes John, I'm so happy because I've just paid for my funeral and now I just can't wait to die because I want to make my grandchildren happy...!" And June will clasp the pot plant she's grasping to her bosom, and keep on smiling at John, who keeps on a-smiling back, trowel in hand.
And don't get me started on Derek.
Athelhampton people - don't you want to override this cringeworthy 'ghost fest' fiasco?! Evidently not. But I find that if a house is a commercial work-horse (and although much loved, this is what Athelhampton is) inevitably they will come round, and when they do, I'm there with proverbial bells on.
Anyhow, back to the business in hand! Becks, Jayne, myself and two other ladies rocked up in Becks's rather boy-racery BMW, and off we went into the walls of the house. It was as you'd expect, absolutely stunning and I was practically drooling at the prospect of getting inside. It was a beautiful sunny autumnal day, and we delved within the historic walls to the sound of Tudor music, and actors in costume.
The reading began. It was a few paragraphs from the newly published fictional account of Anne of Athelhampton's supposed escape from the house with her ape pet. I didn't know anything about the house's history aside from the Most Haunted team's descriptions, and so when the reading began it was telling tales from something about which I knew practically zilch. Therefore unfortunately it all sort of went over my head, but the reader and I think author, was enthusiastic and it was nicely written.
I however, was more engaged with the great hall in which we stood. Of the roaring fire and stonework, of the vaulted ceiling and minstrel's gallery. I could feel the presence of the house itself and could only imagine with wanton jealousy how it would feel to experience it without the thirty or so other bodies present! How I would love to explore, record, and let feelings mingle with the living history, so abundant it was palpable.
After a few minutes we were encouraged to buy the book, and take a tour of the wing. We were only allowed access to the immediate rooms on the two floors, which was a shame as the house is fairly large, but understandable as it is being refurbished and I may be right in saying that the family might still live on site? I'm not entirely sure. Becks and Jayne did the 'proper' tour, and I skipped off to try to get some alone time. Oddly, I did! I managed to record solo in the pantry, the library, the billiards room, the dining hall, and the best part of all, the cellar and priest hole!
I managed 18 EVPs in just 10 minutes 22 seconds of recording, which is pretty impressive even if I say so myself! Some are rather wispy, and a couple are good. Then there are the rest that are definitely something, but I can't quite tell what. The two stand-out captures would I have to say, be a man shouting out, "Save us!" when I was in the priest hole, and an interactive spirit responding to me saying, "Hello my name's Ann..." with a friendly, "Hey Ann."
Now, these are not the apparitions of the house, these are not historically important figures - but these are genuine entities nonetheless, who deserve to be heard. Sadly I can not investigate properly here - but I'm hoping to return as a normal day visitor, and see if I can get into the rest of the house to record. Watch this space...
Until then, I just wish that the owners would rethink their decision. I have messaged them one more time asking if the rest of the house is open to day visitors - they have read it, but failed to respond.
Oh well, can't win them all!