My Experiences At Dalston Hall
Dalston Hall Ghosts: I wrote this before I started going and doing ghost tours at Dalston Hall. I did those for years afterwards and many strange things happened. But this piece dates from before all that:
Dalston Hall dates back to Norman times. At night the towers are floodlit which brings out the orange in the sandstone walls. The hotel is approached up a drive through the trees. Look out for the ghost of the Victorian handyman as you drive up at night; he has often been seen in the grounds.
The current facade of Dalston Hall is actually the most modern part of the building – dating from 1899 – and it hides a more ancient heart. The difference between the daylight outside and the subdued dimness inside is notable; all around dark wood paneling makes the place intimate and yet strange. Passing into the hotel from the reception, you go by the stairs and into the Manorial Hall. The hall dates from around 1500. An inscription reads:
Iohn Dalston Elisabet mi wyf mad ys byldyng
The letters are in Gothic script, and curiously written in reverse.
Above the Manorial Hall is a gallery. It’s here that the oldest ghost – known to the staff as Lady Jane, can be seen. She appears in Tudor dress and may well be one of the family actually called Dalston who owned the Hall for many decades.
Off the Manorial Hall to the left an old wooden doorway opens onto a staircase. Near the bottom of the stairs is a heavy iron gate which dates from the time the hall was first built. From what is today the back of the hotel, the two ancient towers are plain to see. This staircase spirals, up worn stone steps to the top of the left tower.
The stairs come out in what is now the honeymoon suite complete with a four poster bed. The walls are the original stone and the windows cut through blocks three feet thick. This tower is even older than the Manorial Hall and dates from the early Middle Ages when it was a Pele tower put up as a defence against the Scots.
The Honeymoon Suite is not haunted but it is atmospheric enough despite that. If you climb past its door up the stairs, you emerge onto the battlements and from them you can get even higher to the top turret. From here you look south to the Lake District fells.
Going down again, on the ground floor there is a small library which serves as a lounge for residents. On the same corridor, there is also a cupboard for hanging coats. When the back panel of this cupboard was removed during renovation it revealed a staircase going up to meet a blank wall.
From this floor the staff can go down to the extensive cellars that wind like a rabbit warren underneath the hotel and almost travel in time from modern plaster, Victorian bricks and medieval stone. There are storm drains down here and when the rain is heavy the cellars flood.
More than one of the porters have heard noises from the cellars when making their rounds in the depths of the night. It has been described as the sound of wooden barrels being manhandled and rolled around. But, wooden barrels have not been used for a long time at Dalston Hall. In 1997, during the daytime the noises were heard and one brave fellow called Richard actually went down to investigate. He said he saw the figure of a man, but losing his nerve, he turned and came back up again. He asked the receptionist who the other fellow was. The receptionist told him that he must be mistaken; there was definitely no one else down there.
After I had interviewed the staff at Dalston Hall, I came across another account of the ghost in the cellar in Liz Linahan’s book, The North of England Ghost Trail. She refers to a workman renovating the Hall in the 1960s who met a man in the cellar who helped him by handing him tools. Needless to say the man vanished. It could have been the same spirit, but I’m pretty sure that this was the same man, though Richard wasn’t apparently aware that his ghost in the cellar had been reported so far back.
Room 4 is said to be haunted by a poor maid who threw herself from the Pele tower above. It has an original fireplace with inglenooks to either side. A female member of staff and her partner stayed there one night but both had difficulty getting to sleep. She told me that she had a strong feeling of a presence in the right hand inglenook – as if someone were watching them both while they slept.
One guest came down in the morning and asked to be moved from Room 4. She said that she woke up to hear her dog growling at the door. It kept growling on and off all night, though there was no one to be seen. She said that she herself had begun to feel a presence in the room.
In 1996 another guest awoke to find a lady sitting on the bed next to him. She spoke to him but her voice came from somewhere behind him, not from her mouth. He couldn’t afterwards remember a word she’d said, but had not been frightened at all during the experience.
There are also sounds of things being dragged over wooden floorboards in the night. Yet, these days there are no wooden floorboards – all the floors are carpeted.
Room 12 is perhaps the most interesting. It has half a bathroom. It is difficult to see from inside, but if you go outside the Hall and look into the bathroom window, you’ll see that the room has been cut in half and divided with a false wall. Though the faded decor of the closed off half is visible from outside, there’s no way to get to it without knocking a hole in the wall.
Room 12 has a lovely view of the gardens, perhaps the best view of any room in the hotel. It also has a four poster bed. People who have slept in the room – not everyone but a significant number over the years – have complained of being woken by girls’ voices whispering. No one has said that anything untoward happened, they sound as if they are just having a giggly time. The trouble is – there’s nobody actually there.
Liz Linahan reports that in October 1996, the candles used for the medieval banquets held in the Manorial Hall were seen by staff to flare up by themselves. During the same month, glasses were heard to smash in empty rooms, and were found broken a good distance from the shelf they had been stacked on; pint glasses rose into the air on their own; the library windows were discovered flung open and the night porter reported the sound of planks banging together.
In October 1997 the telephone system went haywire and all the phones began to ring at once. When they were answered, there was no one there, yet they kept ringing every ten minutes until they stopped as mysteriously as they’d begun. Lights also flickered on and off and the fire alarm system reported fires that had not occurred.
This is something I wrote after our first trip to Dalston Hall with Claire (see a previous post with a ghost on her shoulder). She is responsible for the various “sensings”. I notice that this text below has been attributed without credit by various websites… but believe me it’s mine.
A Report into Psychic Investigations of Ghosts at Dalston Hall between 28 March and 1 April 2001
Mr Fingernails in the Cellar
There have been various stories of barrels moving in the cellar and sightings of workmen, even ghostly workmen handing tools to real workmen, but these can be put down to The Handyman below. Two psychics have independently described an entity that is non-human and appears to them as a black fog. It appears to have something protruding from its forehead, which has been described by one psychic as a hat, though the other disagreed. They did agree that it could move fast, move through floors, and had long fingers with long weird fingernails and liked to loom over people to scare them. In fact it turned out to be a big bully and though it got a kick out of scaring people, couldn’t really harm them.
The Handyman lives in the cellar with Mr Fingernails, though whether they get on is unknown. He is described as having tweed or check trousers, being big and physical. He enjoyed his job with the barrels so much he never wanted to leave. It is a physical job but he’s proud of being the breadwinner and a real man. Or was he?. He has a significant armband on his right arm which is to do with his job – maybe a badge of rank. He also has a horse with long hair on its fetlocks so I guess he’s some kind of drayman.
Girl Being Dragged By Hair
This poor girl who is described as having a pale face, possibly powdered was seen being dragged by her hair, beaten up, raped and possibly thrown out of the window to her death, by a burly man dressed in leather. We have no idea of period for this but it could be 1500s. The psychics felt she was a courtesan or ‘floozie’. This scene happened in the corridor outside Rooms 4,5 and 6.
This poor girl stands by the window in Room 4 gazing south. Three psychics have independently felt great sadness here and two of them reported the sensation that the girl had looked out of the window thousands of times. She is described as having a headdress, like a bonnet, but more in the style of a headband? With flowers and frills in white cotton. It holds her head back. Her waist is drawn in tightly as if by stays. She has a ring on her finger, which she fingers. It is felt that perhaps she is pining for a man who never returned. An older lady comes in to check if she is all right.
The Dogs and Party
There is a party going on in the Baronial Hall, there are fat dogs and people and high-pitched pipe music. Possibly medieval? A woman also haunts the grille at the bottom of the tower that leads into the hall, and there are strong feelings that there is a void under the hall floor (now bricked up) and Mr Fingernails comes up from this. The party may be the same one from which the girl dragged by her hair (above) was taken.
Three Women and a Young Girl
On the stairs, there are three young women and a small blonde girl. They watch people going up and down, but what they are really doing, and why is it a mystery?
We have done a number of this type of investigation at Dalston Hall. I met the Horells from California on the 2nd October and we talked through the ghostly background. We went on a tour of the area the next day including an exclusive exploration of a haunted castle with electromagnetic field detectors and a remote thermometer. Mike was very keen on the gadgets and it sounds like he’ll be making some investments when he gets home…
We had a few odd readings on the EMF detector from the middle of the study room where there seemed to be an electrical field of about 8 volts hovering in mid air.
Claire, our psychic arrived on the evening of 3 October. She confided in me that though the ghosts were around they seemed a little bored with our company. They couldn’t scare us any more so they had lost interest. We sat in the study room and Claire received some personal messages for the Horrels and then she told me that, most unusually, there were some messages from me. I went back into the room later to pick up my mail (!). I began to feel quite uneasy and kept seeing things out of the corners of my eyes. Then my right hand started to shake and I said to Claire, “Have you got any paper? Someone wants to write something.” I have never had this experience before and it was very odd. The handwriting was elegant 18th Century copperplate (I have since looked in books – though at the time it seemed like lots of whirls and squiggles) and it spelled out the name “John” time and time again. It also went through other squiggles which I couldn’t make sense of until daylight the next day. We asked who it was – if John could write his surname and he wrote out very clearly “John Dalston”. Now, there were three John Dalstons at Dalston Hall. The last one of these died in 1711 and from the writing style, I would place our John around then rather than earlier. It also wrote out the name Lesley. Leaving out the ‘l’ the first time, then going back to put it right again. Then it wrote “George” with a real flourish. Over and over again the three names were written out. The only other word was “Love”. Interestingly the ‘v’ was drawn as a heart. I think most modern people would have made the ‘o’ into the heart which is another convincing thing.
Claire also said there were some Gremlin type things in there who had seen an opportunity to manifest themselves. We managed to get them to clear off, but you must be VERY careful not to do anything like this unsupervised because darker energies do like to scare you. Interestingly, Mike got a strong sense of anger. He looked very angry and I wondered whether he was going to bash me!
We did an EMF reading on my hands which both (not just the right one) gave off an electrical field of over 11 volts per metre. Normally I give off about 2 volts per metre.
It was very strange but extremely interesting to have spirits write through my hand; but I must warn you once again not to open uncontrolled channels like this unless you or someone with you knows how to get rid of the nasty things which will try to come through.
Dalston Hall revisited
I went to Dalston Hall many many times. The (then) owner is a lovely man and we got on well (I think). I went with various psychics at different times and the owners would just let us wander round the place – down in the cellars and up on the battlements. The cellars are an odd place and there is a place that gives me strange chilling sensations still.
But there were only a handful of really odd events that I couldn’t explain
The first was when we had a group of American tourists in and typically I would be very busy rushing round making sure everyone was happy. I came up taking a short cut across the gallery above the Manorial Hall. There was no one in there as we were using another room at the far end of the Hall. My mind was on other things but as I emerged onto the balcony I heard music with some kind of inner ear (I’ve had this experience a few times and I can only describe it as being able to hear a sound which sounds like it is coming from an outside source but which is totally different in quality to the real sounds I can hear with my physical ears). This music was the kind you associate with medieval times. I stood there, listening to a band that wasn’t there for several minutes. I wasn’t scared, it was just odd.
As I said I must have had 40 or more trips to Dalston Hall. We got a kind of routine for our paying guests. We would do the tour – have something to eat in the dining room and then retire to the back room. I will see if I can find any photos to post of these. We would just light the place with candles and I would tell stories of my own experiences there and elsewhere, but mainly my material was the stories of all the hundreds of people who had come on our ghost trips across Britain and Ireland and told me their own true stories. Or stories they certainly appeared to believe were true. I have lots of those I might recount at some time. We would also do kind of guided visualisations such as I had learned on my shamanism course. But ultimately I didn’t believe in the ghosts. I would have odd experiences and be “convinced” and then that conviction would fade and I’d explain them to myself by saying I was tired and putting it down to atmospheres the events and the venues and the lighting would produce. But the next thing I am about to tell you convinced me. Though now I’m not so sure.
So, we used to use these electrical field detectors to pick up odd electrical fields. I used them a lot so I can tell you my hands and arms do not usually have a detectable electrical field. But this particular night I had the weirdest sensation in my right hand. I scanned it and the scanner lit up showing some kind of electricity and I knew that it wanted to write. I had never done anything like that before but I picked up a pencil and out came this elaborate copper plate writing saying that John Dalston was there. We asked his name and his dates of birth and marriage. I forget exactly when but it was the early 1600s. We didn’t get much sense out of him but he said he had married an Irish Catholic woman which would have been extraordinary if true for those times. I went into the bar and the bar staff said “Have you seen a ghost? You’re white….”
So, after that I regularly tried to contact John Dalston at Dalston Hall. He came through but he didn’t have much to say for himself. I also got George Dalston who had different handwriting, but again, he was pretty thin as a personality. But then one night totally unexpectedly a different handwriting but still very loopy and joined up wrote “Love”. I thought that was nice and it persisted and wrote “You are a well loved fellow”. It struck me as quite an archaic phrasing so I asked it who it was and it said.“Rebecca Goffrey”. I asked Rebecca who she was and she said, “Your wife.” Now, it so happens that I was married at that time so I made some wisecrack which she ignored. I asked what my name was and she said, “Davey Goffrey”. She said I was “a watcher for the King”. I still have no idea what that means so I might just Google it right now – I got no results…
She said we had a child and that my father was a ropemaker called John. Our son was called John too. I asked her when and where we were married and she said “Tuesday July 14th, 1714 at St Katherine’s Church, London”. When I managed to look it all up I saw that 17th July 1714 wasn’t a Tuesday. Also the name Goffrey exists (I hadn’t previously heard of it) and there are several in the London phonebook but then probably every name under the sun is in the London phonebook. I also looked up churches in London and there is no St Katherine’s. I thought the whole thing was a product of my imagination then some years later I was in London (where I used to live) and I saw a sign for St Katherine’s Dock. In fact I used to go to parties there way back. I even kissed a girl there (don’t tell anyone – especially Rebecca). But it’s a dock (actually a swanky marina), not a church. But as the Wiki entry makes it clear it used to be a hospital founded by a religious order in the Middle Ages, but it was knocked down in 1825 to make way for the dock development. Not only was there a hospital there but there was a church prior to 1825 and it was a densely populated area and people got married there. Go figure.
As for the name Goffrey, it isn’t very common but it does exist. A family called Goffrey is recorded as arriving by boat in New York. I am guessing that the name is a variant of the more common Geoffrey.
The whole episode was odd. Rebecca doesn’t write to me anymore but it’s still nice to think that someone out there in the ether thinks I am a well loved fellow