Try not to scare off buyers if you hope to sell your home this weekend, says FRED REDWOOD
HALLOWeeN, along with its fright night spooks, monsters, tricks and treats, has become very big business in Britain.
One city analyst calculated that, last year, shoppers spent around £460 million on fancy dress, food and decorations, making it the second biggest party night after New Year’s eve.
When it comes to the property world, Halloween is an opportunity for dusty, derelict, Gothic horrors of houses to chime with the times.
Astute estate agents have the chance to entice buyers through the door and point out what could be done to turn a cold Victorian villa into a comfortable home — given, perhaps, the help of a little exorcism.
Some homes on the market have macabre backstories that rattle with the Halloween spirit of ghouls and skeletons. Located in Malmesbury — reputed to be england’s oldest borough — adjacent to the abbey, Grade I-listed Abbey House was once part of a Benedictine monastery founded at the end of the 7th century.
It overlooks the River Avon, which ensures it is often shrouded in a chill mist this time of year. But what spooks visitors is that, when they set foot in the gardens, they could be treading on the burial ground of the first King of england. Athelstan — Alfred the Great’s grandson — died in 939 AD and was buried at Malmesbury Abbey, next door.
His bones were removed at a later date, which means he is commemorated only by an empty tomb.
His last resting place was Abbey House gardens, where he was placed to avoid desecration by the Normans. Nobody knows exactly where.
Like Halloween itself, there is also fun at Abbey House. It has become famous as the home of the ‘Naked Gardeners’, owners Ian and Barbara Pollard, who held ‘ clothes optional days’ in their 3.8 acres of immaculate grounds. It is for sale with struttand
parker.co.uk at £3.25 million. Although supernatural events are reported in properties of all ages and styles, the classic Halloween horror is often set in a Victorian Gothic pile. This, after all, is the period that gave us Dracula.
The Haven Fort Hotel, overlooking Little Haven Beach on the Pembrokeshire Coastal Path, is a Grade IIlisted Victorian Gothic villa that could be the setting for a Sixties American horror B-movie.
It is also in the area known for spooky sightings, the Broad Haven Triangle.
In 1977, the present owner’s mother woke to a buzzing sound and claimed to have seen a craft land nearby. A UFO, perhaps?
THAT could be laughed off as the result of too many tipples — except that 14 pupils going to school reported the same thing.
Meanwhile, a farmer’s wife said she heard scratching at her window that morning and a farmer swore his herd of cows vanished from their collecting yard, only to reappear in a field some distance away.
Several people reported seeing two smartly dressed men with slicked-back hair driving a futuristic car.
Yet another farmer saw a strange car in a field that had no vehicular access.
The sightings were so numerous that the Ministry of Defence asked the RAF Police to investigate. But no satisfactory explanation was found. Whatever the cause
of these goings-on, they’ve done nothing to harm the hotel’s reputation.
‘I spent many evenings in my late teens sitting by the open fire in the bar listening to the mother and her daughter’s wonderful stories,’ says local Carol Peett.
‘They made the scariest stories sound amusing.’
The Haven Fort Hotel is priced at £1.295 million with wattsandmorgan.co.uk.
Although no ghosts have been seen at Crimplesham Hall, King’s Lynn, Norfolk, for sale with humberts.com at £1.75 million, in the 1540s Francis Dereham said his final prayers in the chapel room. Later, he was executed in the Tower of London for being the lover of Henry VIII’s fifth wife, Catherine Howard.
As a lighter counterbalance to this bleak slice of history, a painting found behind a door in the house shows two life-size skeletons drinking champagne: ‘Some guests never leave,’ it says. ‘Be afraid, be very afraid.’
Halloween may be a handy way of getting people to view such a home, but drop the theme once they are inside.
‘Clear the drive of leaves and ensure the heating is on to create a welcoming atmosphere,’ says Rupert Wakley, a partner at Knight Frank. ‘ Place a nicely decorated pumpkin at the door, but don’t overdo the Halloween spirit.’