Monday, 8 December 2014

Unexplained ghostly experiences of a Conservation Volunteer

I was at Penrhyn Castle today to play the part of Lady Penrhyn for the schools hands-on living history Christmas programme. I was getting changed afterwards and preparing to go home when I overheard one of the conservation volunteers asking a conservator if he had been in the area near Lord Penrhyn's study earlier in the afternoon. He thought he had seen him standing at the top of the stairs. I immediately asked what had happened in case it was a ghostly experience and he said that he could not explain what had just taken place. He was moving tables from the corridor near Lord Penrhyn's study down some stairs into the lower link corridor and putting them near a door ready for the volunteers Christmas party on Wednesday. He turned to go back up to get some more tables when he became aware of a figure standing at the top of the stairs. He thought it must be one of the conservation team and he called out his name. The figure disappeared. The volunteer thought that the conservator was playing a trick on him, so he went back up the stairs to look for him. The doors were all locked up and there was nobody around. When he questioned the conservator he had been with another member of the team near Grand Lodge, which is a mile up the driveway! I had just left the Grand Hall with a party of school children and there was nobody else around.

I asked if he had ever experienced anything else unusual and he asked me, "How long have you got?" I sat down with a pen and paper to make notes, feeling very excited to hear some new stories to add to the collection. He told me that he has been involved in a National Trust conservation project entitled a Historic Services Survey. He has been into all of the derelict rooms, attics, cellars and roof voids in Penrhyn Castle to help carry out a survey on the heating and lighting of the property for several months. He was usually on his own and has often been in the dark, as he has been testing the emergency lighting system. He is very practical and down to earth and said that he does not feel at all nervous when in these situations. He always looks for a logical explanation for strange events, but he said that there have been some experiences which he cannot possibly explain.

While he was working in the Upper Link Corridor leading to the Keep bedrooms recently he walked towards the large mirror at the top of the stairs near the nursery bedroom. He clearly saw the reflection of someone walking along the chapel corridor towards the Lower India Room. He assumed it was one of the conservation team and thought that he would play a trick on them, as they had often tried to make him jump in the past. He crept along the Grand Hall Gallery, dodging behind pillars and lamps until he came to the Lower India Room, where he jumped out from behind the door and said "Boo!" There was nobody there and the door was locked. He checked with the conservation staff and they had not been working in the area at that time.

While he was working in the cellars a few weeks ago he went into the Barrel Vault, which is Medieval and is in the oldest part of the castle. It is underneath the Drawing Room. He was using a vacuum cleaner to clean the bottom of the 15th century spiral staircase, known as the Pyrs Gruffydd Tower. He suddenly heard a high pitched man's voice speaking in Welsh. He turned off the vacuum cleaner and went up the stone steps to the entrance to see if it was someone in the area outside the cellar. There was no-one around. He went back to the cellar and continued to vacuum, when the voice started talking again, exactly as before. He left the vacuum running and quickly went up the steps again to see if it was someone looking for him in the area near the entrance, but again there was nobody around. He went back down into the cellars and search all around them to see if there was someone about, but he did not find anyone. He realised that he could only hear the voice when he was in the Medieval cellar. I wonder if it could be John the Bottler, who has been seen in that cellar some years ago.                                                                                                                                                                        
One day he was doing some repairs in the New Room, which was created by enlarging a roof space above the Upper India room. He said that the door suddenly slammed shut, but there was no draught. It made him jump! He could not find anyone around.

He gave an interesting account of an incident which happened in the corridor outside the Visitor Experience team office, which used to be the Education Office. He was standing in the doorway when he suddenly became aware of  a young boy wearing a light coloured shirt and waistcoat standing behind him. He moved out of the way to let the boy go into the office but nobody walked past him. He turned around to see who it was and there was no-one there. The volunteer searched the corridor and looked into the other offices in the area but there was no young boy around at all. He had assumed that it was a member of staff's son.

One evening he was testing the emergency lighting system in the stable block. He switched the lights off in the Industrial Railway Museum. He was standing near one of the carriages. As the emergency lighting came on he caught a glimpse of a man sitting in the carriage. When he looked again, he had disappeared. There was nobody else working in the museum at the time and it was closed to the public. The carriage is kept locked.

I am looking forward to hearing more fascinating stories from this volunteer. He is going to let me know if he remembers any more incidents like these. He is also going to send me some photos of some of the places he has been working when things have happened, which he cannot explain.

Please let me know if you have had any unusual experiences at Penrhyn Castle, and I will add them to the collection.

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