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.