achieve. The rooms are beautiful, the grounds idyllic, the food, good, but I only ever book to go there if I’m absolutely desperate to get work done because — dramatic pause — it’s haunted.
Half the people who stay there never sense that at all. And of the half that will admit to finding the atmosphere a bit eerie, half won’t use the ‘h’ word. They’ll say things like: ‘It’s all the creative energy around that creates the “unusual” atmosphere.’
A writer friend told me recently that he hadn’t slept the whole month he was there. ‘Because it’s haunted!’ I said. ‘No, I just couldn’t switch my If that was me, at that point I would have simply had a heart attack. But on a tight schedule, with just a few precious days to work, instead he tried to get some sleep. — Until he was woken with it happening again.
The following morning he requested a different room, worried that his story might sound unbelievable. He needn’t have worried. Miss Warby doesn’t like chaps, apparently. ( In underpants especially, I’d imagine.) She’s the ghost in that room — the officially ‘haunted’ one.
But I know eerie stories for most of the other ten rooms too… The first time I visited I was writing with Sue Collins — she came running, shaking, into my room in the middle of the night. There was a sound ‘like a man wearing metal boots’ scraping overhead in her room. I ended up poking her ceiling with a broom shouting ‘get out’, which worked, until the following night.
I’ve heard of people returning to their rooms to find books in neat piles that they’d left scattered about; windows swung open that they’d locked shut. Sue told me her late father-in-law, Ronnie Drew, once felt as though someone had crept into bed beside him, while he was staying there.
Every time I stay, I bolt awake at 4am each day, as if some extra-sensory perception has been alerted. Every time I promise myself I won’t be disconcerted — but I am. After dark; after everyone’s in bed, the weirdness descends. I end up lying frozen in bed, pleading with the darkness: ‘Whatever’s there, don’t appear to me.’ I haven’t been for five years because I was so unsettled last time…
So why go back? Because, when you’ve work to get done there’s nowhere like it. The staff treat you like family and it’s such a privilege to stay in a grand house. I just don’t want to come home with a piece beginning: ‘It was 4am. The ghost’s cold hands tightened round my throat. “...About that thing you wrote in the paper,” she hissed…’