The sun was slowly sinking below the horizon as I made my way towards one of the oldest and most haunted buildings in Brighton: Preston Manor, the Stanford stately pile since 1764 and with a history going back to before the Domesday Book. Sweat started to inch its way down my brow. It was getting dark and I still had no idea where I was. Would I make it to the Manor before dark? And what would be awaiting for me when I got there?
A sense of trepidation was gnawing at me, what had I let myself in for? What if there’s no crooked real estate agents waiting to be unmasked by a plucky gang of youths and their talking dog? What if there was actually a g-g-g-ghost?
“Name please?” creaked the ancient doorkeeper. I gave it and he let me in.
A motely crew was assembled in the foyer, a few Jessica Fletchers, a couple of Lois Lanes and even a sprinkling of Ford Prefects and even someone who could have passed for Ron Burgundy. The housemaid, Daisy, welcomed us “You’re the reporters from the papers here about them murders?”
A shriek pierced the air and we were joined by Maisy; whose comedic entrance sets the light-hearted tone of the evening. For you see, dear Reader(s), I was taking part in one of Preston Manor’s famous Ghost Tours, and dear Maisy had just seen a g-g-g-ghost! Thus, the tour could begin.
It soon transpired that the famed Spiritualist Medium Ada Goodrich Freer (1857-1931) revealed that one of the ghosts (for there are many in a house this old) was a wronged nun, a Sister Agnes, who had been unjustly excommunicated from the Church. She could not rest until her body, buried in unconsecrated ground, could be put to rest… In case you wondering, they found a body, but the Vicar refused to bury a Catholic in a Protestant graveyard. So, the family had her buried in secret and no one has seen The White Lady since.
This doesn’t mean that there aren’t a plethora of other ghouls occupying the anicent house, “…a family of such antiquity and importance has the right to a ghost,” declares Dickens’ Mrs Rouncewell from Bleak House, a sentiment echoed by Mrs Weasley in Harry Potter. The downstairs has 2 more offerings; a cheeky gentleman and the officious Black Lady.
Upstairs though, things get darker. Doors rattle, fire grates shake, and cruel fingers wrap themselves around bed posts and the stories continue…
“KILL” groaned a diembodied voice to an employee on her first day.
“Sod off you silly old fool,” replied Sue -the employee in question, much to her credit, “I’m not afraid of you.”
True story. Sue herself told us.
On nights like this, there is always the danger that the fictions will overshadow the facts. However, Daisy and Maisy were able to tell the stories of the house without getting bogged down by the things that go bump in the night. They also managed to keep the tone light enough to make sure the younger visitors didn’t get nightmares