Friday, 6 October 2006

What did they see?

Perhaps it has something to do with the psychics who were invited into the Parsonage by Cornelia Parker so that their voices could be recorded for her current exhibition Brontëan Abstracts. It is now possible to listen to their conversations on headphones which are installed in several rooms. Quite a few visitors cross Church Street after their tour of the Museum to take a look at the Matt Lamb exhibition - Spirits of the Brontë Sisters - which fills the School Room.

The fact is that some of them may have seen a ghost, or think they have, according to the eminently down-to-earth Peter Ashton, the man in charge there. He emailed the following:

Wednesday was a quiet afternoon at the Sunday School Room until a man in his forties exited the gallery at speed. I managed to intercept him in our coffee bar area to ask what had occurred.

He told me that he had been in a room at the back of the building (my guess is the room displaying the umbrellas although he did not wait around long enough for me to confirm this) where he had seen a ghost. The only description I could get from him before he tore away was that he had seen an elderly woman dressed in very old fashioned clothes including a studded collar. With that he was off down Church Street.

Twenty minutes or so later a younger man, in his late twenties, with a baby, commented on leaving that he had had a most unusual experience in the umbrella room. Whilst in the room the atmosphere turned 'crepuscular' - his choice of word. He said that nothing of any malevolence occurred, just a damp mistiness.

As far as I am aware the men were not connected. They entered the building separately and had no contact whatsoever with each other.

At no time whilst we were open did anyone answering the description of the ghost come into the building. I checked security etc and visited the umbrella room and other rooms immediately after each report and saw/heard/felt nothing untoward.

At the time when these events occurred the vicar's husband and a friend were working in the Sexton's house next door. Whilst they didn't see the first man they had the chance to chat with the second one.

Maybe the spirits which Matt Lamb believes he lifts out from his paintings are making their presence felt !

Peter - pictured here in the place where the ghost allegedly appeared - wonders whether anybody else has experienced anything similar.

Richard Wilcocks adds:

There has always been a connection between the Brontës and the supernatural, which could perhaps be dismissed as a bit of an irrelevance, or seen as something really significant or set into a historical context.....they did live in a parsonage next to a graveyard after all. Serious papers have appeared on Rochester's voice coming into Jane's mind (influence of Swedenborg?) and then of course there's the young girl at the window in Wuthering Heights (Emily haunted by tragic Maria and Elizabeth as she wrote?) and more recently the Ouijah game which popped up in the second episode of the current television version of Jane Eyre.

My first reaction to Peter's story was to ask him what a studded collar looked like. Was the spectre some kind of Victorian punk rocker? He replied that he did not have time to ask the man for clarification (he is an ex-police officer incidentally) but he speculated that the collar was studded with jewels. That rules out Charlotte then.

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