SLINGSBY HEIGHTS – THE SPECTRE IN THE SHADOWS

Many of my customers, on the Ghost Walk of the Lanes, frequently ask if I have ever seen a ghost. I have certainly had what I would describe as a paranormal ‘experience’. This occurred, many years ago, when I went to visit a run-down Victorian property some fifteen miles from the City of York.

On passing a local estate agency, I was drawn by details of a rather shabby but, nonetheless, interesting looking property displaying a very appealing price tag. I knew immediately, of course, that the house would be in need of much restoration. However, curiosity got the better of me and I arranged a viewing. The estate agent was kind enough to allow me the keys so I could view at my leisure.

It was a late autumn afternoon when I drove through the dank North Yorkshire countryside to investigate the old place. No sooner had I entered the village than the house immediately loomed out at me. It stood alone on a small incline above the main street. This once proud Victorian villa now appeared dejected and alone; its silhouette dominant, yet tragic, against the backdrop of a watery autumn sky.

I parked up and began my ascent up a ravaged track, which led to the rear of the house, where I had been told I could gain entrance. Everything was overgrown and unkempt. Ivy clung to the damp Yorkstone walls, trampled grass stood knee high and the vast orchard had become a warren of rabbit burrows.

Amidst the neglect an intense aura of sadness hung about the place. I sensed that this grand old house had once rung with laughter and merriment. Now all that remained were the ghosts of much long-gone gaiety.
By all accounts, the house had belonged to an elderly lady of ninety two who, due to her age and infirmity, had recently entered a nursing home. It seemed she was the sole surviving member of her family whose forebears had built the house in the mid-nineteenth century.

As I fumbled with the keys a sudden overwhelming feeling of sadness ran through me. More disturbingly, I had the unnerving sensation that I was being watched by someone in the orchard. I looked around, but saw no one. However, curious as it may seem, I could sense someone was there. I could also tell that their feelings towards me were hostile. Whoever, or whatever it was that lurked unseen amongst the dripping foliage, certainly seemed to resent my presence.

Nevertheless, I rationalised such feelings as being due an over-active imagination. I turned the key in the lock and entered the musty dimness of the place. Once more, feelings of trepidation seemed to overwhelm me. The rear entrance to the property had led directly into a dark, decrepit kitchen, which housed an ancient well from which to draw water. A meandering corridor led off the kitchen into the main entrance vestibule, where a door opened into a huge sitting room built on two levels. The raised area seemed almost like a ballroom, with a grand fireplace and marble mantel at the far end. The room smelt of damp plaster and rotting wood; its window panes thick with grime. I was about to turn back into the hallway when I noticed the one single item that had been left behind in the room. Nailed to the wall, to one side of the door, was a crucifix. I thought little of it; that was until I made my way to the first floor.

The staircase was in an extremely poor state of repair with dry, rotting boards and loose hand rail. I, therefore, had to tread with much care and agility so as not find myself falling through into the under stairs cupboard. The upstairs comprised of three spacious rooms, all empty but for the same silver crucifix nailed to the wall beside each door. Had this been a devoutly Catholic household, I asked myself, or were they there to ward off evil? Needless to say, my overactive imagination had taken hold once more. An icy draft blew through the place. I quickened my pace and came upon yet another staircase leading to a downstairs corridor. In the grim darkness I found my way back to the kitchen. I locked up and was about to beat a hasty retreat, when I stopped in my tracks. A menacing dusk now shrouded the house, causing it to feel ever more foreboding. Once again I felt the resentful presence lurking somewhere in the dank shadows of the orchard.

Several days passed and I found myself dwelling on what I had experienced while visiting the old house; the feeling of sadness, the  crucifixes on the walls and, moreover, the surreal presence that had emanated from the dank recesses of the orchard. However, a more alarming revelation was about to be brought to my attention.

At that time I employed a cleaning lady who came from the very village where the house was situated. When she arrived, later that week, to spruce up my home, I decided to ask her if she could shed any light on the old place. What she told me seemed to suggest my imagination had not been working overtime at all. Once I had told her of my visit she immediately became alarmed, warning not to consider buying the house as it was haunted. She explained how her mother had once cleaned for the old lady, but had always felt uncomfortable about the place. These feelings had been particularly intense whilst in the orchard, where she always felt the threatening presence of someone watching over her. I said nothing in response. Nevertheless, I did reassure her I had no intention of purchasing the old place.

It seems the house has since become a rather charming rural retreat. Whether the presence can still be felt in the orchard I cannot say. However, it is often thought that spirits remain due to a sentimental attachment to somewhere they once loved. Other times, it is believed, they will linger, twixt this life and the next, until they feel at peace and ready to pass over.

Hear other tales of restless spirits, trapped twixt this life and the next, on the Ghost Walk of the Lanes.

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