Halloween at Highclere Castle
I have been writing about recipes at Highclere from our old books and letters and was thinking about this time of year, about all the pumpkins and of course Halloween. In actual fact, October 31st, “All Hallows Eve” or “Holy Day”, really began as an evening to give comfort, to reflect on those who have died and to remember them. In my imagination, however, Halloween is about ghosts, shrouded figures and disturbed souls rather than those at peace. Working alone at the top of the Castle in the archive room and remembering all the ghostly tales I abandoned trying to concentrate. I had not written many words so gave up, leaving somewhat hurriedly to go downstairs, switching as many lights on as I could.
The next day, I was making everyone laugh, relating how I had decided to let all six dogs sleep with me in my bedroom that Halloween night since my husband , Geordie, was away. The dogs were all quite thrilled as we made our way along the corridors. They have no idea about any superstitious date but as I drew the curtains, they happily sprawled out.
During the night however they turned and got up, whimpering as they presumably dreamt of happy games of tag, and leaping into ponds. I certainly did not sleep particularly well and had just drifted off when Scooby-doo (who is well named) decided to leap on top of the bed wanting an immediate cuddle.
I ended up swopping ghost stories with Pat, our decorator who was telling me about the passage and stairs where she and her father saw a ghost, (a woman) and the heavy doors, that although shut, swing open. Most of the staff have a story or two, Diana our Head Housekeeper has spotted a few spooky goings on and John, our Castle Manager, regularly hears footsteps walking along a corridor when locking up at night. Les makes sure to let any new staff know about the ghost behind the old tower door. You must knock before going on up to give him time to leave. I had a priest ask another ghost to leave and wish him well on his way, and that seems to be a bit happier.
My husband is quite unaffected and pragmatic, but does inquire very so often if we need another priest or whether we are managing. He certainly will not have 6 dogs upstairs!
Julian Fellowes has not yet introduced ghosts in Downton Abbey – we have had deaths, murders, or suicides and plenty of illness. Perhaps there is time yet?
I was immediately intrigued when I read about the archive room “at the top of the castle”. Could you tell us more about this room in a future blog, and perhaps post a photo? As a researcher, I can only imagine what it must be like to do your research and writing in that space (sigh…).
Yes, yes please elaborate about the archive room. I would so interested to hear of all the wonderful items and information housed at Highclere. If I had access to such wonders, I am sure I would be obsessed and would not be seen until I had absorbed every tidbit of history housed there!
Dear Lady C.,
Enjoy your blog so much from across the pond.
Anytime you need a clergyperson to come in and encourage a
send-off to the spirits that can’t seem to vacate the castle,
I would be delighted to come in and do a jolly exorcism.
I do understand about the comfort of the dogs’ presence!
Happy Guy Fawkes!
Donna T. Deal, Pennsylvania
I believe the dogs would be the first to detect a “presence” in a room. Enjoyed this post. The dogs are so sweet, and you are very brave!
In the US the holiday involves dressing in costume and lots of candy collecting for the little ones. A fun time of year.
Trick or treating works best in towns and some osf my sisters dressed up adopting more of your customs!
Hello Lady Carnarvon…
I so enjoyed this blog posting… and I always enjoy seeing photos of your “puppies”!
I do have a question. You wrote that you were writing about Highclere recipes.
Does this mean that they are going to be incorporated in a forthcoming book, perhaps??? That would be wonderful! To read about a recipe and to learn of the history surrounding it, would be fantastic reading.
Stay safe in the Archives room!!! :0
I am indeed collecting and testing recipes – from 1811 til today!
Dear Lady Carnarvon,
Your excellent writing continues to delight this American, and now I know that you have a delicous sense of humor as well. Six dogs! They’re adorable. We have but one–whom my husband teasingly calls an incorrigible substandard Pit Poodle! Acutally, he’s a darling black Standard who follows me everywhere I go (I write at home)–even to the bathroom. He’s a marvelous companion with a bellowing bark. So were there any ghosts around, I’m sure they’d take flight with one booming utterance from my dog. Our other Standard used to sing with me (I’m a professional Bach singer). I could not so much as utter a note, when he would throw back his head and howl like a Banshee. It was quite embarrassing to realize that his high notes were higher than mine! I am imagining that if your canine sextet saw a ghost, there would be quite a howling uproar at Highclere! =] Maybe this is why Lord Carnarvon doesn’t relish them in the upstairs quarters. I think they’re all adorable. I agree with your reader that it would be marvelous if you would consider publishing some of the Highclere recipes. It would be delightful to know if you, yourself, enjoy cooking. My husband does our cooking, because he says he likes to eat. I’m thinking if I were to do the cooking that he would, indeed, need a priest for prayer or else more dogs to consume my culiinary concoctions! =] All my best, Lady Carnarvon, for a lovely autumn at Highclere. No doubt all the Downton filming is complete now, and you have your house back. We Americans await impatiently to view season five. I am not reading any spoiler alerts.
I very much enjoy cooking and sitting down to eat together with friends and family. I think it draws together the sense of a family, and the conversations and laughter are key. Tonight we are 26 to dine in the Dining Room and I have just been struggling withe placement!!
Hello from the States!
As soon as I scrolled down to the last photo I noticed the orb. Although there are different explanations for them, I’ve always believed in the theory that it’s representative of a spirit being present. Probably what Scooby Doo felt!
Thanks for sharing. I truly enjoy your stories and photos. Would love to see your archive room also!
What a funny post! I imagine your dogs didn’ t wonder why they were to sleep in your bedroom but no doubt they did love this special treat!!! But having myself a labrador, I know they are very noisy when sleeping, so with 6 dogs, I understand why you didn’t sleep well….
Hope to come and visit Highclere castle one day…
Corinne from Toulouse (France)
Dear Lady Carnarvon, I also think You are very brave! Here in Sweden it’s getting more and more popular with Halloween, but many people (except children of course) don’t like it. We are used to a calm day, remembering your relatives who has gone to the other side or where ever they have gone, lighting candles etc. Your dogs are so beautiful!! But I understand, six of them in the bedroom can be a little bit much. We have two in our bedroom. That is more than enough!! All the best to you and your family Lady Carnarvon
We’ve had five dogs at tops… love yours! We had a cat whom we are convinced saw ghosts at our old house… so I can understand wanting the dogs with you on Halloween.
Greetings Lady Carnarvon 🙂
This was my favorite blog ever. I also bury myself in dogs here…but since my husband moved back to England (from the states)…I get to have them every night. Way better to snuggle with than he ever was! 😉 I’m glad you got to sneak them upstairs for the duration! Happy Campers for sure! Loved the photos….
I will be coming to England on the 16th of this month, for a week. Was so hoping I could get up to the Castle and do some sort of tour, but you are not open till the Christmas season.
We have Thanksgiving coming up here in the states..I’m in California…it’s a really nice Holiday. Then on to Christmas of course.
And now I better get back to work. Happy weekend to you. xoxox K and Misty Rose, Sir Barkley, Windsor, and Savannah Rose.
…Six dogs for sleeping companions? You’re my kind of Lady!
With every good wish,
I celebrated my birthday at Highclare last month. After arriving home I celebrated again with friends Jane and Tom who is a Brit. Jane and I exchanged gifts. Much to our surprise I gave her your book on Lady Catherine and she have me your book on Lady Almina. We laughed at our long time friendship of knowing what to give each other. I look forward to getting a book of your recipes next year .
How lucky you are to have so many dogs. I have Miss Maggie
In my previous house in Melbourne Australia we lived with a ghost and even our old dog shadow would look up and sit wagging his tail at what we knew was the ghost If I ever had to leave my eldest daughter at home on her own she always felt safe because she knew the ghost was there with her .
What a lovely post. I thoroughly enjoyed it and do not blame you one bit for having the six dogs with you! I would have done the same. I have one cat and there are times she looks past me with wide eyes and stares…kind of creepy and makes you think someone is behind you even though you know you are the only one in the house. Wishing you well and much enjoyment of the Autumn season.
Hello from Canada! LOVE the story today and the photos of your dogs. I have to ask…. One of yours looks like Isis from the show. Is that coincidence, or does your dog have a side acting job?
Thank you for the lovely, spooky post. I have to admit that when I am at our beach house in winter and my husband is away, I often hear the strangest sounds! The wind is the culprit I am sure, but I still have night lights posted at all entrances! I am really interested in where you do your writing as I am an amateur writer as well. I can just imagine you in the top of Highclere writing away. I am afraid I must have complete quiet in order to do the subject good service, but the dogs, of course are the exception. Such delightful company! Hope to hear from you soon!
Dear Lady Carnarvon,
I enjoyed reading your writing. To me 1 and 2 November are days of remembrance. Quiet and soft, thinking of the lovely and nice people we have met and known years ago … Trying to remember the ones who were very close, or very funny, or very special. But, in fact I do not need a special day to think about them. I have so many good souvenirs and can just see them all as they were when I need it. Just like a beautiful photo album.
And talking about ghosts, I have one who sometimes wakes me up during the night. When my husband – who passed away 5 years ago – heard him walking or moving from one side to another upstairs, he usually said “There he is back. I wonder where he went this time.” And we laughed and supposed all sorts of stories. I think he travels to one or other castle in the area or abroad as I am only living in a normal big house. Do ghosts prefer castles? Do you think some could be snobbish?
Thank you for the sweet pictures of the dogs. I have only one, a Belgian black shepherd. 12 years old and he is my best companion. And He never barks or howls when the ghost is present upstairs. Sign of confidence and that nothing bas will happen? He only howls when the telephone rings!!!
With mys best wishes.
Your ghost is proably keeping you company!!!
Maybe the ghosts are from the Pharoahs tombs that came to the house with the plunders of their death chambers!
Ooooh, Egyptian ghosts could be there! I didn’t get to see the exhibit when I toured Highclere in September, but I saw a traveling exhibit here in the U.S. a few years ago. I wonder what a ghost from that time and place would look like?
Love your blogs. Your style of writing is as if a friend shared a cup of tea in a lighted kitchen. Your dogs are darling! Your idea of looking at receipes in the archives of Highclere is intriguing! Perhaps this would be inspiration for an upcoming cookbook collection????
Dear Lady Carnarvon,
I visited Highclere castle in July 2011 with friends. We were so lucky to be able to buy tickets and enter into your beautiful home. We came, because of the Egyptian exhibition.
At that point I knew nothing about Downton Abbey …
When Downton Abbey started airing in Finland & Finnish TV, I saw your beautiful home, I stood up and yelled “I’ve been there!!!”
Highclere castle was one of the highlights of my holiday in UK. Hopefully one day I am able to return back to Highclere. Meanwhile I enjoy reading your lovely posts here.
Best Wishes, Marjo Koskinen, Helsinki Finland
I want to read your books soon. Your castle is marvelous. I hope some day would visit in your home.-
Downton Abbey is my favorite serie.-
Sincerelly, Lucy Amatti Wagner
Dear Lady Carnarvon,
This is the first one of your blogs I have read and I like that you do not mind opening up about your life. I do not celebrate Halloween but sometimes I think there are ghosts in my house too. What you did with your dogs was the right action to take in case of any ghosts. It was also very cute. If you publish the recipes you have found into a book, I would have my mother and I cooking and baking the recipes every day of the week. About Downton Abbey, maybe you should recommend ghosts to Julian Fellows so he can make Downton a little more spooky :). Just out of the blue, I wanted to say, I really admire you and your home Lady Carnarvon. I have read both of your books and it is quite nice you decided to open up to the world about the history of Highclere. It makes someone who loves history like me so much more fond of England and Downton Abbey. Thank you.
Thank you for allowing us into your home. Reading your stories gives the TV series Downton Abbey a genuine. quality. Keep writing your every day blog, much appreciated!!!
Dear Lady Carnarvon,
This blog post made me smile and I laughed when I saw the pictures of your dogs. They looked so happy at the prospect of their sleepover with you! I have a lab that looks very similar to yours and I can just imagine what your night was like with them in your bedroom. Mine sleep with me in my room every night and I have to holler at him from time to time to get off the bed. He can be a bed hog. But I know what you mean about them being a comfort and I certainly feel safer when mine is there!
Shadow, my black Lab, truly is my shadow and sleeps with me every night. I loved this post, too. I didn’t know about the ghost when I took the tour at Highclere. It was kind of spooky upon leaving through the downstairs part. I’m currently reading your book about Lady Catherine and will read about Lady Almira next. A cookbook would be wonderful!
Six dogs in the bedroom. Lovely.
If they were mine they’d all be jockeying for a spot on the bed. I’ve only got one now and he doesn’t snuggle at night. I guess I disturb *his* sleep.
My house isn’t very old by Highclere standards (1922) and isn’t haunted. I wouldn’t mind if it was haunted by my old dog, Caesar. I still miss him.
Hope at some point there will be a Highclere cookbook, maybe with some menus from historical dinners held at the castle with a few recipes for recreation.