Tuesday, 4 January 2011

Genuine horrors await us at Haigh Hall


One of the most haunted rooms in Haigh Hall, where I’ll be hosting a special night of ghost stories next Easter, is the so-called Noah’s Ark Room, a chamber shunned both by staff and visitors alike.

It’s pictured here (courtesy of ‘Wigan Observer’ snapper, Nick Fairhurst), with yours truly posing fearlessly in it. The shot was taken in early December as part of the publicity campaign for the Wigan Literature Festival, of which my Easter horror night will form one of the segments.

It’s difficult to reach this particular room, as it is located in the least accessible corner of the old manor house’s topmost floor, which until very recently was completely boarded off. The entire Hall, not to mention the extensive wooded estate surrounding it, has a reputation for being the haunt of malignant spirits, several of which I’ve already mentioned in previous posts. But the really unpleasant entities are believed to occupy the building’s upper tier. I’ve already mentioned the presence there that supposedly whispers in your ear, daring you to turn around and look at it. I’ve described the unseen being that roams the desolate rooms and passages, snuffling and banging at locked doors, and pursuing anyone it encounters with demented shrieks. But I’ve now picked up several additional tales, a couple of which are as yet unverifiable but worth repeating anyway.

One night in the late 1960s, a semi-hysterical man staggered into the Saracen’s Head pub on Wigan Lane (which is at least three miles from Haigh Hall, but the site of a Civil War battle in 1651 – a bloodbath from which many of the Haigh estate’s spectres are believed to originate). The man downed a large brandy before stammering that he’d just taken a short cut past the Hall, which at the time was empty and in complete darkness. A small light in an upper floor window suddenly caught his attention. Puzzled, he looked more closely – only to be stunned with horror when he realised that he was looking at a glowing eye, which in turn was regarding him with equal fascination. As he fled in terror through the tangled woods, the man swore that he could hear booming laughter from inside the derelict building, even when he was several hundred yards away.

It would be easy enough to fake something like that, of course, and no further sightings of this disembodied eye have ever been reported – I’m inclined to take that one with a pinch of salt, though I couldn’t help shuddering when I first heard it. But perhaps more disconcerting is an additional story I’ve heard concerning the Noah’s Ark Room. In the mid 1970s, a team of amateur parapsychologists had set up camp in there. Their first night was disturbed badly when a member of their party suddenly became violent and had to be restrained. His colleagues were shocked to see that his eyes had “distended in their sockets, as though ready to burst” and that his stomach “had swollen to twice its normal size”. An ambulance was called and the man was removed to Wigan Infirmary. So far so spooky, but more frightening was what the man had to say the following morning, when he’d calmed down. He insisted to his friends that everyone had been asleep on their camp-beds, when he’d heard a tapping at the door. Expecting to find that a member of staff had returned to the building for some reason, he opened it and was appalled to see the figure of his mother standing there, holding a candle. His mother, of course, had been dead for several years. She treated him to a demonic grin and tried to grab him.

The man felt certain that this had really happened, though his colleagues advised him that he’d simply had a vivid nightmare. However, over the following few months, even after the man had returned home, which was in another part of the country, he was visited again and again in his dreams by this demonic version of his dead mother, who assured him that she was in Hell and that he would be soon be joining her there. Doctors were convinced that he was having a breakdown, but apparently the man only found peace when a Catholic priest introduced him to a medium, who told him that the spirit that had attached itself to him during his sojourn in the Hall was not that of his mother, but of a malign being who had never actually lived. A Catholic Mass was then said at the man’s house, and he, reportedly, was never troubled again. Needless to say, he made no return visits to Haigh Hall.

For the record, I’ve used all my journalistic contacts to try to discover the identities of both the men who supposedly suffered these experiences, but have so far failed. I’ll keep trying, obviously. Who knows, maybe we’ll learn a whole lot more next Easter!

7 comments:

  1. Sounds great, wish I could get there!

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  2. It's going to be interesting. I went up there the other day, but the Hall was almost inaccessible due to the very heavy snow we had over Christmas (it snowed again last night). The place looked astonishingly eerie, lowering over a wintry wasteland.

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  3. Greetings,
    I'm over in the states, and this event sounds too good to pass up. Any idea on where/when tickets would be available?

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  4. Hi Numerii

    Still not sure when the brochure and tickets are due out. I reckon well before the end of this month. I will post the details on here as soon as they're available - but wow, you want to come all the way from the States for one night of ghost stories?

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  5. Paul,

    I look at it like this: I am a) a fan of your work, b) a fan of old, haunted climes, and c) I really want an excuse to visit the UK again. So, as I see it, I've hit the trifecta!

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  6. Thanks for the compliment, N. I'll certainly post all details as soon as I get them. Keep checking in.

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  7. I hope that when you eventually offer your presentation at the designated venue, the 'atmosphere' does not play mischief to the extent of diverting attention of those present from your excellent work towards something more 'outre'.

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