The Many Ghosts of Stanhope Old Hall by our fiend, Catherine Cavendish
‘In my new novel, Damned by the Ancients, the Mortimers’ new home is haunted by a presence so evil and so obsessed, it will stop at nothing to get what it wants.
Six years ago, previous owners, Bill and Sue Gandy decided to sell up the beautiful manor house. Not because of the ghosts – of which there are indeed many. When they owned it, they lived in it as their own house. These days, the present owners run an exceptionally well appointed B and B and restaurant. The Gandys had simply found that caring for such a large Manor House on their own was too much work. They were sad to leave. Even though their first days –and particularly first night there – had been scary.
The exquisite house and grounds form a medieval manor house situated on the edge of the village of Stanhope in England’s picturesque County Durham and was first mentioned in 1139. It passed from the Craig family through to the Stanhopes and then, as a result of a daughter’s marriage, became the official seat of the Fetherstonehaugh (pronounced ‘Fanshaw’) family for many years.
The last Fetherstonehaugh fell at the Battle of Blenheim in 1704 and from then on the house passed through a number of hands, including a possible link to the Earl of Carlisle. The fabric of the building reflects its age, with huge 15th century open fireplaces still extant along with original oak doors, staircases and flagstone floors.
A number of memorable historical discoveries have been made here.
A 250 million year old fossilised tree stump was discovered and can still be seen in Stanhope’s churchyard and in 1859, a huge collection of Bronze Age items was found at nearby Heathery Burn Cave – including some of the earliest known evidence of wheeled transport on Britain. These items seem to have belonged to a wealthy Bronze Age family who may have been trapped during a flash flood and al perished. Their skeletons were also discovered.
They had probably lain there for around 3000 years.
So what of the spooky goings-on experienced by the Gandys and earlier owners of the house? One strange story has it that a young couple entered the house back in the Middle Ages. They were engaged to each other and were never seen again – until their skeletons were discovered under the floorboards. They were holding hands.
The owner – and old lady – who sold Stanhope Old Hall to the Gandys said she had called in the Paranormal Society as a result of all the strange experiences she had witnessed. The Society’s investigators reported sudden drops in temperature, images of red-robed monks in the boiler room, orbs captured on camera and an old grey lady. The monks apparently had hidden in the basement to avoid Henry VIII’s persecution.
But, despite the warnings, the Gandys fell in love with the house and bought it. They dismissed the woman’s warnings as she considered herself something of a psychic and they didn’t (at that time anyway) believe in all of that. It took just one night for them to re-think their earlier scepticism.
Recovering from a combination of pneumonia and the stress of moving house, Bill Gandy retired to bed late the first night when, just as the couple were dozing off, they were startled awake by a veritable cacophony of noise. Stomping feet, slamming doors, all coming from the floor above. The couple were so exhausted, they didn’t get up to investigate, but they were unnerved.
Nothing quite like that happened again, but there have been other strange events.
A workman employed by the Gandys fled from a bedroom in terror after hearing something he couldn’t see drop invisible stones or pebbles on the floor.
Bill heard the clomping footsteps once more some months after the first occurrence and their son, who lived with them for a time and worked form home, often heard running footsteps going up and down the stairs, even though there was no one else in the house.
The night before Bill’s birthday one year, Sue alleges she woke to see a cheerful Mrs Bridges-type (from Upstairs Downstairs fame) bending over him and singing ‘Happy Birthday.’
The old grey lady spotted by the Paranormal Society also seems to have been seen by neighbours who told the Gandys they had seen her standing at the window of what had been Bedroom 10 during the 1970s and ‘80s when the house was a hotel. That room also proved too much for two local women who used to work at the hotel. They refused to go into that room alone because they felt something wasn’t right with it.
Despite all the ghosts, the Gandys always found the house warm and welcoming. The spirits that linger there are, it seems, benevolent. In its new life, Stanhope Old Hall certainly seems comfortable and welcoming. As a family run B& B and Restaurant, it hosts weddings and accommodation, providing an excellent base for all sorts of walking and sporting activities. In winter, when the winds howl over the Pennines and horizontal rain lashes down, the house truly comes into its own. Those four foot thick walls keep out the weather and an open log fire toasts the toes of the weary walker.
As for the ghosts? The present owners don’t mention their presence on their website but who knows? They don’t seem at all threatening. The same however cannot be said for the ghosts that haunt Villa Dürnstein – especially the evil Emeryk Quintillus…
Gabriele Ziegler is a young art student who becomes infatuated with charismatic archeologist Dr. Emeryk Quintillus. Only too late does she realize his true designs on her. He is obsessed with resurrecting Cleopatra and has retained the famed artist Gustav Klimt to render Gabriele as the Queen of the Nile, using ashes from Cleopatra’s mummy mixed with the paint. The result is a lifelike portrait emitting an aura of unholy evil . . .
The Mortimer family has moved into Quintillus’s former home, Villa Dürnstein. In its basement they find an original Klimt masterpiece—a portrait of Cleopatra art scholars never knew existed. But that’s not all that resides within the villa’s vault. Nine-year-old Heidi Mortimer tells her parents that a strange man lives there.
Quintillus’s desire to be with Cleopatra transcends death. His spirit will not rest until he has brought her back from the netherworld. Even if he has to sacrifice the soul of a child . . .
Damned by the Ancients is available from:
About the author:
Following a varied career in sales, advertising and career guidance, Catherine Cavendish is now the full-time author of a number of paranormal, ghostly and Gothic horror novels, novellas and short stories. Cat’s novels include the Nemesis of the Gods trilogy – Wrath of the Ancients, Waking the Ancients and Damned by the Ancients, plus The Devil’s Serenade, The Pendle Curse and Saving Grace Devine.
Her novellas include Linden Manor, Cold Revenge, Miss Abigail’s Room, The Demons of Cambian Street, Dark Avenging Angel, The Devil Inside Her, and The Second Wife
She lives with her long-suffering husband, and a black cat who has never forgotten that her species used to be worshipped in ancient Egypt. She sees no reason why that practice should not continue. Cat and her family divide their time between Liverpool and a 260-year-old haunted apartment in North Wales.
You can connect with Cat here: