This century house in Bury St Edmunds next to the Cathedral incorporates parts of the walls of the old St Edmunds Abbey dissolved during the Reformation.
Over the years they have been periodically occupied as well as having stood empty at times in the 1940s and the 1980s and also in the 21st century. Long reputed to be haunted, they are undergoing renovations, fuelling speculation that there might be a resumption of paranormal activity.
During the 1940s sound like footsteps were reportedly heard echoing through some of the houses which were then unoccupied by persons outside listening at the door. Because of their construction they have often needed renovation work, having a history of sporadic occupation over the years.
In March 1946 it was reported that an apparition of a woman in grey was seen by three people. A Mrs Stephenson Adams who lived alone in a house on the Abbey ruins at Bury St. Edmunds, Suffolk, has been told by three people that they have seen a ” ghostly figure in grey walking through her home”. But Mrs. Adams was not perturbed, having been told when she went into the house that it was ‘spooky’. She had never seen the apparition she says, but first sensed it in 1941 when she was awakened in the night by something touching her face. Since then her son had seen a ghostly figure in grey as had others.
In the early 1980s a lady named Miss Sussex living in one of the houses told me that she heard sounds of people in the large downstairs room at night that sounded like people breaking in to hold a party. She had been told that the room had ‘been used for hosting dances and balls’ during the Victorian and Edwardian eras. Some renovation work had started at the time on the property, conducted over 1982-83.
Bury St Edmunds is just one of a number of reputedly haunted sites showing a long-established pattern where renovation work has seemingly stimulated a ghost. At the Queen’s Head Inn in Blyford, Suffolk noisy phenomena over 1969-70 followed after structural alterations were made and a passageway discovered. Joan Forman wrote “It Is only since these alterations that manifestations have occurred”; she considered buildings could hold old memories and emotions.
Hoar Cross Hall, Staffordshire
At Hoar Cross Hall in Staffordshire, originally built in 1871 a haunting may have been revived after renovation work was undertaken in the early 1970s. The property had been purchased in 1970 from the Meynell Trust by Mr. and Mrs. Bickerton-Jones with the intention of opening it to the public and holding mediaeval style banquets. Shortly after they moved into the Hall with their three young children. Extensive renovations started of the old property. According to Andrew Green in Phantom Ladies (1977) soon after the new owners saw a young girl dressed in Victorian style clothes in one of the upper rooms.
Believing the youngster was one of their own daughters ‘dressing up’, they took little notice. However, a few days later they saw the girl again in the same room and Mrs. Gwyneth Bickerton-Jones was puzzled as to why the same clothes had been chosen for the game. She called her daughter’s name and was astonished when the figure of the child vanished in front of her.
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Whilst strange noises may often be ascribable to physical aspects of a dwelling e.g. subsidence, contracting floorboards, loose tiles, faulty pipes and central heating, cracks In walls etc, etc, visual apparitions are much harder to explain.
Dr Peter McCue considers that even modest DIY projects in old buildings may unleash a haunting (see Renovation Hauntings Fortean Times 268). This ties up with the ‘stone tape’ theory of hauntings, though as researcher Maurice Grosse (1918-2006) used to point out there Is no evidence that stone acts like a tape-recorder.
In other cases renovation may bring a cessation to a haunting. A fire in June 2012 gutted the 16th century Cupola House and there was substantial rebuilding afterwards, an almost complete reconstruction of the interior. The Cupola House had a long tradition of ghostly phenomena, with first hand reports received particularly over 1998-2006. But since the fire there has been nothing unusual reported in the ten years since.
Green, Andrew (1973) Our Haunted Kingdom
Green, Andrew (1977) Phantom Ladies.
Forman, Joan (1974) Haunted East Anglia.
McCue, Peter ‘Renovation Hauntings’ Fortean Times No. 268 Nov 2010.
Murdie, Alan (2008) Haunted Bury St Edmunds