A new blog by Lawrence
Do you believe in ghosts? I do, because I’ve both seen and heard them.
I used to be a brewery sales rep, travelling around the historic country pubs of Devon and Cornwall, and nearly every landlady had a tale to tell me about her bar being haunted. I then managed my own pub for a while…and saw for myself that these landladies weren’t lying!!
The ghost of a lady in a gold ballgown used to sashay through the pub. My barmaid, who was terrified of ghosts, saw her one night when alone in the dark. Other staff heard crashing noises, whilst punters heard ghostly footsteps on the stairs to my flat. Things going bump in the night became so commonplace that, after a while, I hardly even noticed them.
And, of course, I’m hardly alone in Devon in experiencing such things. Devon is one of the most haunted counties in England, and there are more sightings of ghosts on our beautiful soil than almost anywhere else on Earth. We’re haunted by cavaliers from the English Civil War; maritime heroes like Raleigh and Drake; ghostly monks and nuns stalking long-ruined priories; tragic white ladies in historic castles; pixies; witches; and spectral beasts.
There are even ghostly Roman soldiers so, to paraphrase Caesar, lend me your ears and I’ll guide you through some of Devon’s ghosts, tales of hauntings and folklore. Some will be familiar to you, some less so, and some are from personal experience, and have never been written down before. Seeing as how I live in a haunted house, in a famously haunted village, I’ll kick things off with the tale of a ghost from a nearby mansion.
The tragic ghost child of Haunted Hayne Manor…
What the pageboy saw…
was the butler stealing the family silver!! Yes, the butler at Hayne Manor, a gothic revival mansion near Stowford in West Devon, had been busy spiriting away his master’s silver for a good few months. When the pageboy caught him in the act, the untrusty servant did what any good criminal would – he murdered the young witness and hid his body (along with his ill-acquired horde) in a hollowed out tree on the manor grounds. That should’ve been the end of the matter but it wasn’t. Not by a long shot.
The child’s disappearance coincided with the realisation that a good deal of silver was missing, so suspicion naturally fell on him. And yet Christopher Harris, the manor’s lord and master, felt something wasn’t right, for he trusted the pageboy as he would his own son. Brooding on events, he had trouble sleeping at night. Nothing would help. Not even the jug of claret with dinner, the port with the cheese, brandy with cigars, and small nightcap of a rather fine single malt before bedtime.
Of course, being visited by the missing child’s ghost didn’t exactly aid Christopher’s hopes for rest!!
On the third night, Christopher followed the ghost, who led him out of the manor’s maze of rooms and into the grounds. The ghost showed Christopher were its body was stashed, inside the hollow trunk of a wizened old oak.
The tree was cut down the following day, and both the corpse and silver recovered. The butler confessed to his crime and was hanged in Launceston. The pageboy’s ghost was quiet for a while.
However, there are more ghost stories and tales of hauntings at Hayne Manor in Stowford. The place has a dark, somewhat sinister look to it, and a woman who used to work at Hayne Manor as its housekeeper recently told me that she’d heard footsteps in empty corridors, and seen doors close all by themselves.
The pageboy’s ghost has been seen from time to time in the house and grounds. It is claimed he also haunts the quiet lane outside. The ghost of a headless man haunts the terrace, whilst a former owner (the grandson of Harold Macmillan, Prime Minister of Great Britain during the Profumo Affair) says he often saw the ghost of the first Lady Harris in his bedroom. A spectral dog has been seen prowling nearby.