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The Ghosts of Cumbria
The Ghosts of Cumbria
Ghosts inhabit every corner of the ancient counties of Cumberland and Westmorland. Laurie Kemp has ventured fearlessly among the lakes and fells to uncover the stories of the uneasy spirits that lurk in dark and eerie houses.
Here are the tales of the hangman of Brigham, the ghost of James Lowther, the headless ghost of Hutton Hall and many more/
'Gill House is a fine old farmhouse nestling in a wooded dell near Bromfield, Aspatria. It can lay claim to being one of the most haunted houses in Cumbria. There are possibly four or five ghosts involved. All have been seen and thoroughly investigated.
During the war the house was used as a hostel for Land Army Girls. The Daily Dispatch at the time reported, “One night last week the whole dormitory was thrown into panic by the screams of one girl who declared she had suddenly awakened with the feeling that she was being strangled and pulled through the bed.”
A seasoned investigator, a Mrs Helen Parkin, together with the Reverend Murray of Ainstable and his wife, were called in. Their experiences were even more remarkable. Mrs Parkin talked of footsteps that were “loud and clear and came straight through the head of the bed. He stood right next to me and there was a loud noise. All the warmth was taken out of the room.”
Later the presence came back, tapping on the wall. “Then we all got a wave of the most filthy smell,” a smell that Rev. Murray had only encountered once before at a funeral when the coffin leaked.
The ghost may have been that of an eighteenth century Satanist known as Gerald Reay who had stolen the consecrated Host from St Kentigern’s Church, or it may have been that of his grandson, Jackson, who had murdered his wife, or it may have been the mysterious figure who was often seen dragging a long-hired through the churchyard at Bromfield.
What is not in doubt, it seems, is the fact of there being a presence. The existence of the ghost was attested by other authorities, including Canon Phythian Adams of Carlisle Cathedral.
Another clergyman, a Dr Henry Askew of Greystoke, testified to eerie happenings at Corby Castle in 1803. He woke in the early hours of the morning to see “a glimmer in the centre of the room, which suddenly increased to a bright flame. I looked out apprehending that something had caught fire when, to my amazement, I beheld a beautiful boy, clothed in white, with bright locks resembling gold, standing by my bedside. He then glided towards the side of the chimney where there is obviously no egress, and entirely disappeared.”
An equally aristocratic house, Workington Hall, also appears to play host to ghosts. Again it is a clergyman who bears witness. Patricius Lamplugh Curwen was resting after hunting with his dogs when a door opened. No person came through but the dogs appeared to fix their gaze as though they followed someone going to an armchair, sitting down, and then returning to the door and closing it. The experience of the several people in the room at the time was uncanny.
Other Cumbrian homes can lay equal claim to supernatural presences. Hutton Hall possesses or is possessed by a headless lady. Mrs Humphrey Ward wrote of the ghost of Wordsworth being seen at Rydal Hall. Sizergh Castle has a ghost chamber.
Well-known local journalist, Laurie Kemp has done extensive research into the ghosts of Cumbria. He has visited all the key locations, read the dusty manuscripts and even seen a ghost himself.
That was in the days when he was working on the now defunct Carlisle Journal. The offices were between English Street and Blackfriars Street where Marks and Spencers now stands. Laurie returned late at night, after a convivial evening at the Crown and Mitre, only to be aware of footsteps slowly descending an open staircase. No person was present, just the footsteps slowly descending the staircase. It might have been the ghost of a despairing editor or it might have been one of the uneasy sprits buried in St Cuthbert’s Churchyard. There were tales that the notorious body-snatchers Burke and Hare had operated in the area in the 1820s and there had been reports of empty coffins.
It takes a certain kind of sensitivity to investigate the occult and supernatural. Laurie is a hardened journalist, willing to stare intently into the mysterious unknown, ready to follow wherever good copy leads.
When it comes to ghosts, there’s a lot of good copy in Cumbria.' - Steve Matthews, Bookcase.
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