On the very first night that Sir William Richmond and his family occupied Beavor Lodge, all the members of the household were
disturbed by strange noises in the lower part of the house. There after, the nightly rattling of windows and the thudding of spectral footsteps would be considered the most minor of the weird nuisances.
Doors would open just before members of the household entered a room—as if an invisible butler had turned the handles. Mourn ful sounds of someone sighing and sobbing could be heard at all hours of the day or night, especially in a certain back bedroom and on the little staircase that led to it. A strange sound, as of some one stitching coarse material, was often heard; and nearly everyone had the uneasy feeling of being watched.
Built in the late 1 700s by Samuel Beavor, the house was a simple, rectangular two-story brick building. The main feature of the estate Was the lovely garden which was bordered on one side by the Thames and on the other by a country lane. When the Richmonds moved into the house in 1871, they were completely unaware that they were about to share the quarters with any sort of psychic phenomena. They knew of nothing in the house’s history to indi cate the presence of sobbing and sighing spooks. -
Shortly after they had moved into Beavor Lodge and had begun to be aware of the bizarre nocturnal activity peculiar to that house, Mrs. Richmond overheard two ladies talking while riding on an omnibus. “There’s Mrs. Richmond, who’s just moved into Beavor Lodge,” said one lady to the other, “1 wonder how long they’ll last when they find out how haunted it is?” The Richmonds were most unusual people. They soon grew to tolerate the sobs and the sighs, the obliging doors that opened at their approach, and the invisible footsteps that hurried about the house most of the evening. For over five years, Sir William and his brave household patiently endured in their residence on the bor derlands of the unknown. And then, in October, 1875, a startling new development was added to the haunting at Beavor Lodge.
Mrs. Richmond was reading to three of her children in the din ing room. She had rung for the parlor maid to take a letter to the post office and, when she heard a door open, extended the letter so that the maid might take it from her hand. As she glanced up from the hook, she was surprised to see a short woman dressed in a gray, filmy garment standing before her and the children. The cl dren’s backs were tuned to the strange woman, so Mrs. Richmond said nothing that would frighten them. Instead, she continued read ing without dropping a syllable, while at the same time keeping a surreptitious watch on the uninvited guest. At last the woman, through with her observation of the children, turned to leave the room. But before she had reached the door, she had disappeared as completely as if she had never been there.
Although Mrs. Richmond reported the incident to her husband and to no one else, the servants were soon seeing the apparition, too. One servant, who had been with the Richmonds at Beavor Lodge from the beginning and had long since grown accustomed to the house’s peculiar moans and groans, gave her notice after she had confronted the apparition of the woman in gray on the staircase. In the autumn of 1876, Mrs. Richmond had just fallen asleep when she was awakened by loud sobs in her room. An icy wind seemed to blow through her chamber as the curtains of her bed were pulled back, and an invisible hand reached in to pull her hair.
After this, she often heard a voice calling her name: “Clara! Clara!” Thinking that it was her husband, she would run to his study only to find him quite surprised by her charge that he had been call ing her. Once, however, they nearly collided in a passageway. He had been coming to her because he claimed to have heard her voice calling his name. Sir William remained singularly unimpressed with the haunt ing until he stayed alone at Beavor Lodge while his family was away in the country Only one servant, a cook, remained behind. The mas ter of Beavor Lodge set about enjoying the quiet of an empty house hold by spending his evenings in his study, catching up on his reading.
One night he had lit up his pipe, found his place in his book, scratched the ear of his collie dog, and began to read. There was ample light in the study; a reading lamp was positioned on a table next to Sir William’s chair and a blazing fire crackled in the fireplace. He had become absorbed in his book when the collie pricked up its ears and gave a low, rumbling growl of warning. Sir William frowned his impatience at the interruption as the handle of the door shook. When no one entered the room, Richmond sighed and muttered something about the cook not being able to make up her mind. The dog continued to growl and pressed up against its master’s legs as if it were terrified.
A distinct feeling of unease pricked the back of Sir William’s neck. Slowly he looked around. There, about twelve feet from his chair, stood the figure of a woman clothed in a long, flowing robe. He could not distinguish the specter’s face, as it was shrouded in a veil that clung mistlike to her features. The phantom remained in Sir William’s study for several moments while the collie whined in terror. Then, just as unexpectedly as it had come, the apparition vanished. It was about this time that George Richmond, who was Sir William’s celebrated artist-father, uncovered the legend behind the haunting of Beavor Lodge. According to the story that he had heard, counterfeiters had at one time taken up residence in the house; when they discovered a woman spying on them, they had sewn her up in a sack and tossed her unceremoniously into the Thames. “That explains the terrible sounds in this house,” George Rich mond told his son. “The strange sound of sewing, the horrible sobs of a woman in terror of her life.”
No sooner had the Richrnonds accepted the phantom presence of the Gray Lady, who had been done away with the counterfeiters, than another sorrowing specter began to appear in their garden. This apparition, also a woman, took her spectral stand beneath a pear tree. The Society of Psychical Research had long since become inter ested in the strange doings at Beavor Lodge, and the famous inves tigators, Gurney and Myers, held a séance with a medium, Mrs. Augustus De Morgan, in an attempt to learn the identity of the mys terious lady in the garden. According to Mrs. D Morgan, the sorrowing woman was a girl who belonged to a convent; she had become pregnant and had mur dered the ensuing child to conceal her guilt. The body had been buried in that spot long before Beavor Lodge was built and the gar den planted.
Richmond later wrote that Mrs. D Morgan was “an extremely sensible lady of exceptional accomplishments which, by their nature, were directly opposed to undue credulity. She was a good scholar, the daughter of a hard thinker, the wife of a great mathematician, deeply religious in her own way, and a great friend of CarlyJe. A lady of strong, independent judgement, she quite satisfied herself of the truth of this story”
In later years, Mrs. D Morgan found a way to “communicate” with the shade of the Gray Lady who sobbed in the darkened corners of Beavor Lodge. According to the Richmonds, Mrs. De Mor gan at last set the troubled spirit to rest, and nothing more was ever seen or heard of the phenomena that had disturbed domestic life at Beavor Lodge for over twenty-five years. A drowning at Downe Court | Bexley | Bradford | Downe Court | England | England | England | Hall place | Hardwick Hall | Haworth | Ireland | Lancashire | Norfolk | Penistone | Pontefract Town Hall | Rotherham | Rotherham | Salford | Scotland | Sheffield | West End | White Lady |
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