The Family Ghost
Could the Family Ghost Story be True?
Whether the story of the family ghost is a true ghost story or not, there is certainly something very strange about it. Certainly it is a real ghost story. By that I mean that it has all the weird embellishments one might expect from an imaginative and creative author. However, the most curious feature is that there were those who said that the story was true.
The family ghost story became part of my family history research when the yellowing, fragile page of a newspaper dated Tuesday, October 19th,1880, turned up in the old family records I was studying. I was trying to find out why people left their homes and families to emigrate to Australia. The ghost story presented me with a reason I had not previously considered, for one family's swift departure from the Old Country.
The story of the family ghost was written by one of the five daughters of Arundel Everett, and printed in Melbourne by the Echo Newspaper in 1880. The story tells how the girls’ father bought a large house, referred to as "Hayes'Castle", which turned out to be haunted, in a village on the outskirts of London.
Of course they didn't know the house was haunted when they bought it, but shortly after the family moved into their new home, the old newspaper story told how various members of the family experienced strange and frightening encounters. It tells how Uncle William and Aunt Mary came to visit and spent the night, but refused to stay longer as they believed the house was haunted. Another Aunt, Etta, fled her room in the middle of the night, in the belief that a strange presence had entered. One of the children, Emilie, who was the baby of the family at the time, saw a strange man on the stairs, and the older children also saw strange things that could not be accounted for.
After a very short time in residence, some renovations revealed the probable cause of the haunting. Human remains were discovered in secret chambers below the house. The family vacated the house immediately after that, and left England as soon as they could. That might have been the end of the family ghost, but it was not the the end of mystery that the story of the family ghost created.
I was curious about the story, firstly because the daughter who wrote the family ghost story used names that easily identified the members of the family involved. I would have thought that, if the story was fictitious, she would not have used the names of her sisters, aunts and uncle. It just seemed a bit odd, but I still did not imagine that there might be any truth in the story.
Then, in a different collection of family letters, I discovered a letter, dated 22, June 1880, written by Mary Ann Francis. She was writing to Mary Suttor and sending her a parcel in which she enclosed a copy of the ghost story. In her letter she said, "Also in the parcel is a short Ghost Story entitled 'Hayes' Castle', written by a sister of my daughter-in-law, all she writes in it is true and happened to the Everett family."
The next surprise was when one of Emilie's grand daughters told me that her mother also said that the ghost story was true. Then, after I had written about the story on my family website, another piece of the puzzle materialised. Another relative produced a watercolour of the haunted house, painted by one of the other daughters of Arundel Everett.
Could the family ghost story really be true?
The death of Arundel Everett, some seventeen years after he and his family fled from the haunted house, may be the final act of the mystery. His body was found on the road from Nanango to Toromeo, Queensland, on 23rd April 1867. The place where his body was found was about seven miles from Toromeo. The inquest held the next day described Everett, as a contractor, as 5ft 4in, light hair with grey beard. He had been staying for a day or two at a hotel at Nanango and had told one of the witnesses that he had fallen off the roof of a house he had been building. He was walking from Nanango to Toromeo, and stopped for a short time with James Holt, a miner, and six men in his company, who were resting beside the road. Everett proceeded his journey and was found dead or dying some time later, when Holt’s party caught up with him.
Some injuries on the body were attributed to his supposed fall from the roof. Cause of death was unknown, possibly exhaustion or heart disease. No person suspected. No one accused. No suspicious circumstances.
Is it possible that the disturbed Ghost of Hayes’ Castle finally caught up with Arundel Everett on that lonely stretch of outback Queensland road?
The thing I enjoy most about researching family history is finding out how people lived their lives in the past and why decisions that changed their circumstances were made.