Sunday, July 02, 2006

Up In The Attic

A rather tardy postscript to this years Ghost Tours, but I wanted to wait for this photo before posting.

This shot of the attic bathroom was taken (on 5/5/06 19.05) by Tony Edwards, one of our psychic tourists, of his partner Claire dowsing for ghosts. Two nice little orbs are bobbing cheerfully where she's standing in front of the sink.

Everybody finds this spot when dowsing, and it's supposed to be the traces of a Victorian gentleman with a curly moustache, who's rather disgruntled to have us all traipsing through the attic.

I was told this by a medium who came on the tour a couple of seasons ago - a small lady with long white hair plaited into a thick braid, reminiscent of the Native American psychic in Poltergeist, only taller - who encountered him in the bathroom, and got rather told off for being there!

"But I've told him, 'I've paid for my ticket! I'm not going anywhere!" she said, firmly. Even the dead didn't argue!

Funnily enough, the male presences in the Architects Office also resent us being there! I wonder if this ties in with the haunted hat stand that used to be there when the office was in use.

Vernon Morgan and his son Roger used to work there in the early 1980's, and on the first day Roger started there he hung his coat on the hatstand beside the door, and his co-worker in the office said, "Oh, don't bother hanging it there. It throws the coats off!".

Sure enough, a few minutes later, off it came.

Apparently it happened so often, that the architects took to timing how long it took for the coat to be thrown off!

Years later we took the hatstand downstairs to our staff-room (The Smoking Room), and it kept the coats on quite happily. So whatever was throwing the coats of is probably still in the attic.

Which brings me to my final point of this entry. Paul, our resident expert, sent me a copy of a comment that was posted on his Tredegar House blog:

'Had this posted to my blog this morning. It is, frustratingly, posted by 'anonymous' but rather interesting nonetheless....

"I went to Tredegar House as a boarder in the 60's. One day I was ill and was allowed to stay in bed in the dormitory which was up in the attic, quite close to the back stairs. I was laying down in bed, but something made me turn over and look towards the door. Above me was a ghost of a man, dressed in old fashioned clothes, an embroidered waistcoat and funny round old fashioned spectacles. He was in physical form, and was staring down at me intently as if concerned about me. I screwed up my eyes and closed them hoping he would go away when I opened them, but he was there for at least two minutes, and then vanished. I told no one at the time fearing ridicule, and have only told the story a handful of times since the event. What a creepy old building it is, and when I was there, some of the old nuns were very creepy as well!"'

Don't get me started on ghost nuns - that's another story!

Saturday, May 20, 2006

The Little Girl In The White Dress

Last night we completed the penultimate tour of this years first ghost season. It was splendidly gloomy, with a heavy and persistent rain - if only a few peals of thunder had rumbled across the roof tiles the atmosphere would have been complete.

As the patrons were indulging in a glass of wine, I' d decided to tell them about the Little Girl In The White Dress. I tend to use the closing moments of the tour in the Servant's Hall to drop in a few tales that there haven't been time for on the tour proper.

The LGITWD crops up a fair bit. We've been very lucky on the tours to be accompanied by people with psychic talents, and whenever we get into the Bell's Passage and the Family Dining Room she generally "makes an appearance".

Penny, a lady who came on tours on several occasions, was the first person to report her presence. She reported seeing a little girl, in a white mop-cap and a white dress; she'd seen her many times, and frequently when she'd visited the house, she'd feel the child tugging at her dress. Now, whenever anybody with a hint of psychic ability moves through that part of the house, up she pops! I've got rather blase about saying "What, a little girl in a white dress? Yes, lot's of people have seen her!"

I'd just quaffed a glass of orange juice in preparation to speaking, and sat down on the bench beside three young ladies, when the blond lady turned to the lady beside me, and said "Tell him!"

"No!", said her friend,

"Go on!"


"Tell me what?", I asked. I know that whenever this conversation occurs, something's happened to someone!

"I'll tell him then!", said the exasperated blond lady, "When we were in the Bell's Passage, she felt a little girl holding her hand!"

Not only did she feel this, but finally told me that her hand went icy cold and the little girl's grip was so strong that it it bent her wedding ring so that she couldn't turn it on her finger.

I've been thinking about this recently, and the appearance of the LGITWD always occurs after we've passed the doors that lead into the Nursery Wing. (See pic.)

Samantha, one of our guides, has been followed by child-like footsteps several times after she has been into the Nursery Wing, which is now used for storage. On one occasion the footsteps followed her down the long staircase from the Linen Closet, along the service passage, up the steps into the Bells Passage, and as far as the door into the Smoking Room. Then, with a final tug at her dress, the "little person" left.

Jen, our Housekeeper, had a peculiar sighting involving the Nursery Doors area. Whilst working in the Cedar Closet, she saw a child peer around the doorframe, glance back as if waiting for permission to cross, and once that permission was granted, move across the doorway in the direction of the window that overlooks the cobbled courtyard of the Home Farm.

"Was it a boy or a girl?", I asked.

"I'm not sure," Jen replied, "It was just an outline.".

Monday, May 01, 2006

So far, we've survived!

With the second tour now tucked firmly beneath our belts, the first ghost tour season is now well under way.

Our first tour was less "lively" than anticipated - partly due to a small group of participants who were under the impression that they were on the Ghost Train at Barry Island, and kept up a background cacophony of "OooooHooo!"s and hysterical laughter throughout, so that atmosphere was somewhat lacking! Anything subtler that a full blown Poltergeist-style furniture whirlwind would probably have gone unremarked.

Our dowsing experiment continues in the attics unabated, however. (See pic above). For four years we've been setting the public loose in the attic with dowsing rods, and recording what they find on a chart in the Architect's Office (see pic with Orbs). I give them a brief demonstration of how to use them in the pursuit of "spirit traces", or "place memories", or "psychic recordings", or "ghosts" however they choose to think of it, and the results are very intriguing. There are about 12 key points in the attic that are found every time, and are connected with spirits that have been identified by people with mediumistic abilities that have attended the tour.

The cast list of the "differently alive" that can be found in the attic include:

  • A young man, slightly the worse for drink.
  • A middle-aged lady with breathing trouble.
  • Two male presences in the Architect's Office (possibly the footmen's sitting room - see Load of Orbs 2).
  • A depressed female presence in the bathroom (with accompanying cold spot)
  • A middle-aged Victorian gentleman, (with a curly moustache) who resents us being there.

It would be easy to dismiss this as a load of bunkum if it weren't for the fact that people, many of whom have never dowsed in their lives before, keep finding them! True to form, they were all present last Friday (though the previous Friday, the "spot" in the bathroom was tracked leaving the room, and heading down the corridor!).

We let people keep the dowsing rods with them when we carry on through the house, but we've not recorded the results (so far), and there are many occasions when you spot the rods crossing out of the corner of the eye.

New Sam (a new guide also called Samantha) reported a seeing a young girl in the Master's bedroom, holding the rods out in front of her with some alarm as they lashed around like a Dalek's arms!

"Quick! Take them! Take them!" she cried to her mother.

"I'm not having them!", her mother replied, taking a hasty step backwards.

Needless to say, she was standing directly beneath the portrait of John Morgan - well done, that man!

Friday, April 21, 2006

Tonight's the Night!

First night of the ghost season 2006 is upon us, and goodness knows what lays in store!

The last place that you would expect to encounter the supernatural is on a ghost tour - it seems to be a little too crowded for the average manifestation - but that hasn't stopped us so far.

(See "Load of Orbs 2")

We've been forewarned by Gafyn to expect a certain degree of liveliness.

"I think John's bedroom may be quite active for you on Friday, as he died on 22nd March, so his energy could be around the place quite prominently this time of year!!! Paul also says it's only a fairly small group this week, that might be a good thing as it will be more intimate! I feel the stairs maybe prominent for you as well!"

I shall report back later - if I'm spared!

Sunday, April 16, 2006

A Load of Orbs 3

The final offering for the orbs fans amongst you (you know who you are!).

This is a deceptive picture, taken by Lisa Jenkins, our much missed former administrative assistant, on 19/12/05, while the house was open for the Christmas season.

(Click the pic again, like the previous entry, it's a B-I-G picture.)

This is the King's Room, the former bedroom of Lord Evan Morgan, and the theme of this room was the 1920s - flappers and young bucks etc. (As opposed to Dickens downstairs - I was Mr. Bumble (not a young buck)).

Though at first sight there appears to be only a small orb on the upper left thigh of the gentleman on the right of the picture, closer inspection of the gentleman on the left reveals him to be positively festooned with them - nearly eight in all, though rather faint one's at that.

The King's Room was another of the room's which Evan used for his occult practices. The lads are facing a large Victorian wardrobe which conceals behind it an alcove in the wall which Evan used as a black-magic altar. John, Duke of Bedford, in his biography "A Silver Spoon" writes up a seance which Evan conducted in this room incorporating a mummified Egyptian witch's hand, the same dead witch's robes, white owls flying around the cornice, and and icy chill in an overheated room.

How very christmassy!

I have hopes for a good crop of orbs this season, or even something better. Last season a lady in the attic snapped Paul coming towards her along the corridor, and ghostly in front of him was the transparent silhouette of a female form! We couldn't get a copy at the time, because it was on her mobile phone, but this year I've my own camera phone.

We live in hope.

A Load of Orbs 2

A second helping of orbs for you now!

This shot of the abandoned architects' office in the attics of Tredegar House was taken by a Mr. David Berry, a member of the ghost tour booked especially for him and his workmates, on 11/3/2005.

("Where is the orb?" I hear you cry! Click the picture and all will be revealed - it's a BIG picture.)

There were about thirty of them, and they were all terribly keen ghost-hunters (how many other works outings take you to a haunted house?), and as we went up into the attics they asked if they could take a few shots with their digital cameras to see if we could catch anything. They were great fans of Most Haunted, you see.

As the attics are an unrestored part of the house I unilaterally decided to let them have a go. Besides, I was curious about this orbs business, and we'd never tried it before. I did warn them that orbs were supposed to be rare, and that we weren't likely to get anything.

That's the last time I'll listen to me!

The place was aswarm with them! We had five separate cameras, of five different makes, and all of them caught more than one. I was frankly astounded; there were things bobbing over my head! This is the only picture that I have from that evening, and I wish to the dear Lord that I could get my hands on the rest.

[This room is supposed to have the spirits of two men in it, (one of whom stands in the lefthand corner of the room featured in the above picture) both of whom aren't very keen on us being in there. A medium who came on the tour one season told me mid-tour - interesting, as this may have been the footmen's sitting room.]

When we all settled down in the Servant's Hall at the end of the tour we started to compare shots. Someone, a lady to my right, said "I've got an odd shadow here." Indeed she had; she'd taken a shot of of the left window seat in the Master's Bed Chamber (not strictly allowed, but by that point I didn't care), and on the right of the cushion was a peculiar shadow - a dark patch, rectangular and box-like, as if something had been placed upon the red damask cushion. As we were looking at it, someone else, a gent on my right, said "Oh, I've got that as well!".

He scooted up the bench, and dear to God, he had! The same shot of the window seat, and the same box-like shadow on the right hand side. I still have no idea what that was all about - a ghost person, perhaps - but a ghost box!

Perhaps John Morgan, our resident ghost, was trying to hint at something!

A Load Of Orbs 1

Orbs - as any devoted follower of Most Haunted will tell you - are the peculiar blob-like phenomena associated with digital photography, that many people believe are caused by a spirit presence attempting to manifest. Derek Acorah assures us - and he should know - that this phenomenon is rare.

The peculiar thing we've discovered at Tredegar House is their remarkable proliferation - it's very difficult for us not to snap an orb!

This fine example was captured during this most recent visit of our friendly psychic, Gafyn. I quote at length from the e-mail that Paul, our resident expert, sent me after their afternoon's scurrying through the cellars on 17/3/06.

"Gafyn felt lots of things as he went round the House but nothing greatly specific, except when we entered the cellars. I hadn't realised that Gafyn had never really been down there. As soon as he entered the Receiving Cellar he was hit with all kinds of images. He saw people conducting a ritual involving the consumption of red wine with a drop of blood in it, and all sorts of strange goings-on. He became absolutely convinced that it was here, in the room where the focus of the natural spring is probably strongest (you can see it bubbling up in one corner of the bath, underneath the makeshift stage that was erected for Halloween) was the Magic Room. He even felt that much of the supernatural activity had its centre, if not its actual source, in the Receiving Cellar.

[The location of Lord Evan's Magic Room is something of a mystery. We know that he had one; many guests reported being shown it. Though the House was stuffed with occult paraphenalia throughout (all of which was buried somewhere in the grounds by a footman after Evan's death, on the instructions of the last Lord Tredegar), the precise location of the room is unclear. Aleister Crowley, a life-long friend of Evan's, states in unpublished diaries that it was "the largest and best equipped magic room that I have seen." No mean claim from a man who once had his own Abbey!

The receiving cellar does seem to be a good location for a secret area; the two doors into it can be locked without affecting the the flow through rest of the house, and it is sufficiently away from the main areas for the necessary privacy. In addition to the natural energies associated with the spring that rises in the receiving cellar, the cellar also contains two medieval stone heads of pagan design - a Green man, and possibly a Wild Man of the Woods. Where these came from is uncertain, but they have been in the house probably since the 1660's, if not a hang over from the previous Tudor building (or earlier - the lost 1385 home of Llewellyn ap Morgan)]

Paul continues;

"We took some photos on Rob's digital camera. Several orbs were apparent, but the most curious moment occurred in the Game Larder (we really did roam EVERYWHERE today; including the Housekeeper's Flat, Nursery Wing and Flour Room), Rob took a photo and nothing was present, then, just seconds later, he took a photo of Gafyn in the same spot. [see above - Goff] Gafyn started posing and messing around for the camera. When Rob examined the image he was stunned to find a very large orb on, or near, Gafyn's head. When zoomed in, the orb seems very unlike dust, in that it is perfectly spherical, and almost like a golf ball, although considerably bigger. Very interesting."

Indeed! Is this a manifestation? Or is it just a trick of the way digital camera's form their images? Or is it dust, or internal light refraction? Frankly, you can make you own mind up! All I do know is we get a large number of them, in all sorts of conditions. Rare is the one thing they're not.

The House does seem to have a strange effect on electrical equipment. Batteries drain, and filming in the House can be very irksome for the cameramen, who have to keep reloading new batteries. On one occasion I was escorting a gentleman from ASAP (the Association for the Study of anomalous Phenomena) through the house with a video camera. We were about to enter the Master's Bed Chamber, and said "Now, this is the room with the most sinister reputation in the House!" and he said, "Oh, it's stopped! The battery's gone flat. Don't worry, I have my camera!"

The batteries in his camera had also gone flat.

Sunday, April 02, 2006

Unpleasantness in the Bells Passage

The Bachelor Staircase (pictured) leads from the Smoking Room - the door to which you see on the left at the foot of the stairs - right up into the attic where the second best guest bedrooms were set aside for the use of "single gentlemen". This was so arranged so that single gentlemen, after an evening at the billiard table, and a damn good run at the drinks cabinet, could clatter up the stairs in the wee small hours without disturbing the ladies.

Though, some of the ladies that attended Tredegar House don't strike me as the sort to be easily disturbed by drunken single gentlemen! Lady "Emerald" Cunard, for example, a friend of Evan Morgan, once rolled up to a party with a donkey, and made it stand on the billiard table - which everyone considered quite hysterical (apparently).

It is surprising that this very male part of the House should therefore be very much the domain of a female presence. The cleaning ladies that were working in the house when I started used to hear a female voice calling their name from this corridor, and each thinking that it was the other would enter the corridor to find that there was nobody there. It once happened to me in the middle of a tour - I heard what I thought to be a female voice call out Goff, stopped in mid flow (thinking it was one of the punters), said "Yes?", only to be faced by twenty five people looking at me as if I'd gone mad!

This female presence is not new. In the late 1920s the servant's used to see the figure of a lady in white on this staircase, which they believed to be the spirit of Gwyneth Erica Morgan, sister of Lord Evan, who had died tragically a number of years earlier.

Gwyneth simply disappeared - walking out of the house in London which she shared with a friend in the middle of the night. There is some confusion about exactly what happened. Her friend gives at least three differing accounts to the papers - she was dressed only in her pajamas, she was fully clothed, she took some clothes with her, she left everything behind. She disappeared completely for six months - though there were "sightings" of her on the continent - until she finally reappeared when she floated to the surface of Lime House Dock.

The coroners inquest was also a bit unusual. Her housemate wasn't questioned, for example, and the verdict was handed to Courtney, Lord Tredegar (her father) for his "approval" before it was read to the court. An open verdict was recorded - despite the fact that the pockets of the cardigan she had been wearing had been stuffed with stones, but this satisfied Courtney.

Gwyneth was considered a little "unstable" and her father's great fear was that she had committed suicide - something more scandalous than murder at the time. Her brother Evan, however, was convinced that that was just what had happened. Gwyneth was moving in dangerous circles, including a malign dope-peddler called Brilliant Billy Chang, and could have been disposed of.

Her father refused to bring her home and bury her with the family at St. Basil's Church in Bassaleg - presumably to keep well clear of the whiff of suicide - and this was why the servant's believed she frequented the staircase. After Courtney's death, Evan had her disinterred and brought home for burial, ironically beside the grave of her father. Whether the sightings ceased after this point is not known.

However, something female is felt in this corridor. I remember descending into the Bell's Passage during one early ghost tour to see a very startled man sitting on the radiator, blinking behind his spectacles like a goosed owl. When I asked him if he was alright, his wife said,

"It's OK! He's just felt something smooth the hair down on the side of his head. (Pause) He didn't like to mention it!"

And just last season Paul, our resident expert, while sitting at the bottom of the stairs, not listening to me blabbing on, heard a female voice singing quietly to itself at the top step. For more details of his moment of unpleasantness visit the link below.

Sunday, March 26, 2006

The Return of John Morgan

As we gear up for the coming season's Ghost Tours, it's nice to know that John Morgan, our prime suspect for Tredegar House ghost, has returned to us at last.

Sadly, he's only come back in portrait form, nothing too ectoplasmic. The portrait had been away for roughly eighteen months for restoration, and the ludicrous Charles the 2nd poodle hair-do that later Morgans' added to the picture has now been removed. Perhaps this will give John a more cheerful aspect to his haunting now that he doesn't look such a berk!

How John became identified as top candidate for haunting is a strange tale in itself. Two summers ago Paul, our resident expert, was approached by a member of the public on a free-flow day (when people can just wander through the house un-guided), who asked him a number of peculiar questions - such as "Is there a blocked off safe in the house?"

It transpired there was, hidden away from the public, in the back of the walk-in safe in the Old Library. This was a surprise to me, as in my nine years of working there I'd never spotted it! When Paul asked how he knew about it, the answer was almost as peculiar - he'd dreamt it!

This was the start of our long association with Gafyn Cromwell, who discovered his psychic gifts with us, and has continued to give us his imput to the tours ever since. One of the first things we did was invite Gafyn down for the day one Sunday, and Paul and I followed him through the house taking copious notes, and a lot of very startling stuff came to light (more of which later). But it was when we entered the Master's Bedchamber that everything upped a gear!

Gafyn started to pace. "I feel really frustrated!" A limp started to appear. "And my back's killing me. I've got a vile taste in my mouth. Bitter! And I'm choking! I can't breath properly! " Finally, his left hand went up to his face. "And I've gone blind in this eye! I can't see out of it. It's misty!"

I couldn't make head or tail out of this, frankly. I thought that the choking might be a reference to the attempted murder that occurred in the room in 1677, but as for the rest - no idea. Paul, however, was wearing a sphinx-like expression, as of a man in the know who's not saying anything. Alan Hall was guiding another tour through the house behind us, we adjourned to the landing above the Bachelor Staircase to compare notes, when Paul said, "I know who that is! It's John Morgan."

Paul explained that John Morgan, father of Sir William Morgan, Knight of the Order of the Bath, was the man who had got Tredegar House in order the first time round. He'd married his cousin Martha Morgan, who'd owned most of Breconshire, and had created a vast estate. He's sorted out the family finances, got the cash flowing in, got the political patronage lined up, and died before he could ever enjoy it! More importantly, when he died he'd been a physical wreck, and blind in one eye!

John doesn't feature much on the tours of the House; he installed the Edney Gates in 1716, and that's about it. The only person to know about John is Paul; and the only way he'd found out was by opening a box in the National Library of Wales that hadn't been opened since it was deposited there by the last Lord Tredegar in 1951!

So, we're quite happy to claim that John is the frustrated occupant of the Master's Bedchamber that has contributed to it's unpleasant reputation over the years, and we're very pleased to have him back with us.