Sunday, 27 June 2010

Spooky Sunday

I'm looking at having Haunted Wales republished in two volumes by The History Press now that Landmark have gone bust. With Haunted Wales I set out to find all the old - that is pre-War - stories recorded in written primary sources from Wales. I was surprised to find a yarn from Flintshire that I had missed when researching Haunted Clwyd etc years before. Mind you, it was in the form of a piece of inexorable doggerel verse tucked away inside some old periodical, so perhaps it wasn't so odd that I missed it. It's not much of a story but it has its amusing moments and does shed some ligth on old ghost-lore. Here is the story as recorded in Haunted Wales:
Once upon a time, possibly in the 1740s but details are vague, a ghost was seen in the laundry at Hawarden Castle. A ‘misty form’ resembling that of a deceased steward called John drifted past several maid-servants, driving them into hysterics. John had been an unpopular bully during life, an absolute tyrant to those he considered his inferior, so this may explain their extreme reactions.

Lady Marshall, who learnt of the incident from a 90-year-old servant whose mother had been one of the maids, wrote it up in the form of a whimsical ballad. The ballad is very long but the story very slight, and it took some time to dissect it from Lady Marshall’s intentionally rococo language and shamelessly bad rhymes. We learn the staff were very distressed –

‘And they, for want of public ghost inspector,
Resolved to lay the case before the Rector.’
(You get the idea!)

The rector told them they were all ‘tom-fools’, so instead the servants sought out the services of a sympathetic priest, who agreed to perform the rites of exorcism. The ghost was duly conjured up among the sheets and smalls in the laundry, and John-as-was told the priest that ‘after so much wrong’ performed by him on his fellows, his spirit was unable to find a resting place. He did not explain why, of all places, he chose to haunt the laundry, and on being told ‘he must be laid’, he begged that it be in somewhere more salubrious.

Initially he suggested his spirit be conjured into a crow (which seems somewhat less salubrious to me) but the priest rejected this idea because he thought it might lead to ‘mischief’. So, John then suggested he be turned into a harmless leaf, but the priest also disapproved of this plan. He argued that an unfortunate cow might chance to eat the leaf – and the cow become possessed! Finally, John agreed to be secured inside a block of granite. This was done, the stone buried, and John’s spirit no longer troubled the living.
(The picture shows Hawarden Castle in about 1880, when it was the residence of W E Gladstone).


  1. Brilliant, i love Hawarden castle, we used to go super stoned and go on ghost hunts there when we were younger.

    My friends grandad used to be a grounds keeper for the castle and Gladstone, he had some seriously ace creepy tales about strange goings on there, and other stuff like preparing the emerald walkway for the Queens visit (we actually found this it was nuts).

  2. Ooh, I wish I'd had access to your friend's grandad's creepy yarns!