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?