10-08-2007, 09:23 PM
This seventeenth century mansion has been occupied by the Sitwell family for the past 400 years. Reports of a haunting there go back at least 100 years. The current owner's grandfather made many of the improvements to the estate that are visisble today, such as the garden, park, and lake, as well as cosmetic changes to the interior. During some of these renovations involving the enlargement of the central staircase, a secret was revealed that may be the cause of the hauntings.
Back to 1885. Miss Tait, daughter of Archibald Campbell Tait, the Archbishop of Canterbury had been invited to Sir George's (the renovator) coming of age party. She was given a first floor bedroom to stay in. In the middle of the night she woke up because someone was kissing her. She ran to the room where Sir George's sister was sleeping and told her. Miss Sitwell then made up a bed for Miss Tait on the sofa, explaining that she would never sleep in that room because she had had the same experience there.
After the party, Sir George's agent, a Mr. Turnbull, came to see him about some business. During the conversation, Sir George laughingly told him the story of Miss Tait's phantom kisser. The agent didn't laugh. He looked shocked and then related a story of his own.
When Sir George had lent him the use pf Renishaw Hall for his honeymoon, a friend of the bride had come to stay. She slept in that same bedroom and had reported the same experience. She was so shaken up that she left earlt the next morning. Mr. Turnbull had put it down to an over-active imagination.
A few years after Miss Tait's vsisit, Miss Sitwell was entertaining guests in an upstairs drawing room after dinner. The room was brightly lit and the door to the hallway was open. She was chatting away when she realized there was a figure in the hallway outside. Her friends claimed to have seen nothing but Miss Sitwell's eyes obviously following something. She later wrote of her experience, "I saw the figure with such distinctness that I had no doubt at all that I was looking at a real person."
The figure was of a woman, seemingly a servant, with gray hair in a bun under a cap. Her dress was blue and had a full dark skirt. She moved as if trying to avoid detection or notice, but her arms were stretched out in front of her with hands clasped. She moved towards the top of the staircase and disappeared. Lady Sitwell called out, "Who's that?" and urged her firends to acompany her on the chase. They were jsut about to give up when one young woman, looking into the hall below cried out,"I believe that's the ghost!"
Where her old room used to be, she saw a woman with dark hair and dress, obviously distressed and deep in thought. Her figure cast no shadow. She slowly glided around and then melted away.
Back to the secret...
During the enlargement of the staircase, the first floor room where the women had had their harrowing experience, as well as Miss Sitwell's old room, had to be demolished. Sir George asked the clerk to take note of anything interesting that was found. Maybe Sir George was psychic, because when the floor was taken up, a coffin was discovered between the joists of the bedroom floor. From its constrcution, and the fact that it had nails rather than scr'ews, it was dated from the 17th century. It had been attached to the joists with iron clamps. It had no lid, since the floor had served as a lid.
The coffin did not contain a skeleton or bones, but there were marks in the coffin that indicated that a body had been in it. The coffin has kept its secret. What happened there and the origin of the coffin has never been discovered.