A Ghost Story of Princes Risborough

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Catalogue of 1997 Contents Sale

From some papers relating to the Grubbe family of Priory House, Blythburgh, Suffolk and Horsenden Manor, Princes Risborought, Buckinghamshire this true ghost story with diagrams etc., The haunted Horsenden Manor is now inhabited by a rock musician, one Jay Kay of the band Jamiroquai. A Ghost Story and some Considerations thereon. L.C. Grubbe, Southwold, Suffolk. The following pages may be of service to seekers after the truth about ghosts and indeed interest many people not yet attained to the omniscience necessary in order to exclude such things altogether from the pale of possibility. I say ‘omniscience’ because in a universe so vast as ours, one must manifestly know everything that is there, before he can assent positively what is not. The discoveries constantly being made by science of secrets that for ages have lain concealed in our midst prove the immensity of the fields open to exploration as well as the dense ignorance about them in which the human mind is still wrapped. Every new fact brought to light concerning nature and her resources is as a window added to the chamber of human consciousness opening on visas of possibility never before entertained, and stretching away again into the dim haze of the absolutely unknown. What I have to relate is a very plain matter of fact story. In a secluded part of one of the midland counties stands an old country house, the home of many generations of my family, out of whose hands it passed some 60 years ago. Possibly the site has been occupied ever since Roman times, for Roman masonry was found in the foundations during alterations, but he present main building though added to and in some part of the 7th century altered is probably the same as stood during the civil wars. I am however only concerned with a certain small portion of it, which during my grandfathers time bore the reputation of being haunted, though neither he nor his children have ever been accused of undue prejudice in form of what is to my mind miscalled ‘The Supernatural’. Being’ on very friendly terms with the present owners, I should be sorry to give more information about the house than is necessary to my purpose, which is certainly not in any way to infuse their interests and shall make no reference to the few other ghost stories during their tenure of the house that have come to my knowledge. During the 189-, the old house being to let, my family migrated there as tenants for the summer months, and what were always known in our time as the particular rooms that were haunted fell to my lot to inhabit. They consist of a large bedroom and a small dressing room connected by a flight of six stairs. These rooms are lettered in the plan ‘a’ and ‘b’. They are on the first floor, inaccessible from the ground outside, and have no communications with the parallel rooms of the same wing, ‘c’ and ‘d’, except by the stairway ‘e’ leading down and up to ‘c’. Let me say at once that though I have slept here for months together, on this and on two subsequent occasions, I have never seen or heard anything ghostlike. My evidence is favour of an occasional apparition there is of quite another kind. When our tenancy in this first year 189- had expired, the house was taken for the autumn by another family, total strangers to us, as well as the present owners of the house. On leaving we had taken a ladysmaid away with us – a very respectable woman, belonging to the neighbourhood. During the autumn she went back home for a holiday and returned to us on the East coast of England with the following story. The family who succeeded us as tenants had a housekeeper who occupied the two parallel rooms to mine. Sitting, sewing, alone one veining in the room ‘c’, as it was growing dark, she saw a stately and handsomely dressed lady pass across the room and disappear into the wall. Surprised, but apparently not frightened, she continued to occupy the same rooms until two or three evenings afterwards, when the same strange visitor made her appearance again, this time passing not into the wall but along the little passage marked ‘b’, into the inner room ‘d’ – the housekeepers bedroom, from which there is no other exit. Into that room the housekeeper followed at once, but found no trace of anybody. Her nerves then seem to have become a little unstrung and she declined to inhabit the rooms any more. Such was the story brought back by our ladysmaid. Two things in it interested me. Firstly, the ghost has appeared in a room where it had never been known to appear before, though this room lies alongside the proper ghost’s room, being separated therefore apparently by an ordinary doorless wall. Secondly, the ghost has passed into a wall. IMG_1158 Now it will be seen by the accompanying plan that the wall between ‘c’ and ‘d’ is 7 and a half feet thick and about 12 feet long. This wall is penetrated by the kitchen chimney and another small sitting room chimney but even then is manifestly of abnormal girth. As the ghost on the second occasion mentioned had proceeded along the passage ‘b’, I thought the wall she had entered on the first was probably the very thick one, so the idea of an immortal skeleton occurred to me. On questioning the ladysmaid, however, who had often viewed the housekeeper, she was quite positive the latter had pointed out not the thick one between ‘c’ and ‘d’, but the wall between the corner of this thick one and the fireplace in ‘c’. She did not know whether this was also a thick wall or not, and was doubtful what room lay on the other side but thought it must be the room ‘a’. A little reflection raised a doubt in my mind on that point because I knew there was at any rate a difference of some feet in levels between ‘a’ and ‘c’. When therefore the following summer my father again took the old house, I chose a couple of rainy days to clean up this point, spending them carefully measuring and surveying that floor and wing of the house. Assuming the house keeper’s story to be true, I wanted to know exactly what room was on the further side of ‘c’, and also what was the thickness of the wall between them, for it occurred to me that this also might be an unusually thick wall as indeed it proved to be in the greater position of its length. The result of my investigations was a plan of which the attached is a proportion reduced one fourth, showing that at the part of the wall (marked ‘x’), where the ghost was said to have disappeared, instead of there being any unusual thickness, it was scarcely an inch thick, quite smooth, papered and like the rest on the one side while on the other (the corner of the dressing room ‘b’ was a shallow cupboard, also papered at the back like the rest of ‘b’ and presently no appearance but that of an ordinary cup board. Evidently, as was admitted by everyone who examined the spot with the aid of my plan, at some former time this cupboard had been a doorway between the two rooms ‘c’ and ‘b’. As will be seen by the plan ‘c’ overlaps both ‘a’ and ‘b’, but ‘b’ only is on the same level, a being raised by the six steps. The house keeper’s story was in my own opinion strongly supported by the discovery of this doorway, for it would seen that the ghost had only traversed a path she was accustomed to when in the body, in going from ‘c’ to ‘b’. How long ago this doorway was thus blocked and concealed? I suppose it would be impossible to find out now. If it were possible some light might be thrown on the identity of the person who still apparently makes use of it. The present owner was born, and has lived till very recent years in the old house, but had never any suspicion of the two rooms having been formerly connected in this way. The construction of the rooms is just as we left it 60 years ago and none of my family now living even knew it different. They had of course observed the extraordinary thickness of the wall between ‘c’ and ‘d’, but had no notion of the thickness between ‘b’ and ‘c’, much less of a door even having led from one to the other. But the probability of the house keeper’s statement is further supported by an account of the ghost on a long prior occasion. Having been personally quite unfamiliar with the house until recent years, I had never paid attention to details of ghost stories, connected with it, coming from members of my own family who had in former days inhabited it. During our second tenancy a year or two ago, one of these, an aunt nearly 80 years of age paid us a few days visit. I took her up to the dressing room and produced my discovery of the concealed door. She was much interested and told me how in their youth one of her sisters, now dead had been greatly frightened in this room by the appearance of a strange lady who came out of the cupboard and passed between her and the hallmarked ‘e’. She described to me the position of the furniture in those days, how a small wash handstand stood against the wall at ‘e’ and her sister was washing her hands at the time. The sister had described the figure as bare armed and seemingly in distress, and being much terrified herself, ran excitedly downs stirs with her story. She was a young girl in her teens – perhaps 16, and the occurrence seems generally to have been attributed to her own fancy. Now assuming charitably that the parties concerned in the two similar stories have not deliberately lied, there are these curious coincidence. In 183- a young girl, born and died in the house, is surprised by the apparition of a lady coming out of a shallow cupboard in ‘b’ (which by the by being interested with several shovels could not possibly have contained a human being in the flesh and which nobody, so far as can be ascertained, suspected of being a disused exit from another room). Some 60 years later, the house having long changed hands, and moreover being at the time tenanted by total strangers both to the present and past owners, the apparition, also of a lady, is seen in the adjoining room ‘c’ to pass into the wall at the same point, from which so many years before, one had been seen to issue on the other side. Not till the following year is the fact revealed by an inquisitive outside that at this particular point of the wall there has been, at some unknown period in the past, a door leading from one room into the other, a fact which seems to explain why the ghost chose to take that particular course. The why and wherefore of these things is what puzzles us all, though if one on other of our own sense do not encounter them many of us inclined to say they are not. Perhaps the truth about ghosts is one of those immeasurable and marvellous secrets, which nature hides from us now, but will unfold before the world grows many years older. But let us remember what we are after all – little creatures inhabiting the bed of an atmospheric ocean, possessed of faculties and knowledge more or less adapted to our immediate wants here, but as ignorant of the life that probably abounds in the very air we breathe to say nothing of deeper elements, as creatures that crawl about the bottom of the sea are ignorant of the fish that swim in the water and the life that goes on above it. Yet do not nature’s kingdoms overlap one another, enough to give each at least a hint of the next? And how intimately connected and growing out of one another they are too! What a world of surmise is open here ! How strange it would be if after all these ages of universal evolution, the human being as we happen to know him were the highest form of life evolved in the universe! Surely nature has not stopped short of anything so imperfect! Those who are honestly sure that there is no hereafter for the human being are doubtless more or less justified in their assurance that there are no such things as ghosts; though how they can arrive at either conclusion in the face of nature’s constant surprises, passes my humble wits to comprehend. But good Christian people whose religion is nothing if it does not embrace a belief in something of the human being surviving so called death on the body’s dissolution, must be acquainted with every detail concerning the future of that something, before they can logically discard the idea of ghosts as absurd and impossible. Drop the word ‘supernatural’ although, and assume, what is manifestly the case, that nature herself contains many more mysteries than her human children have yet solved, and the existence of ghosts, based as it is on the report of all ages and all peoples, becomes a natural and reasonable proposition, to be demonstrated and explained, as I doubt not it will someday, by the instrumentality of indefatigable science.

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