Danny Robins Learns About The Tudor House Which Inspired The Cluedo Board Game That's Haunted By Its Former Resident
Photo: © David Webb Residential
With promises of more apparitions than ever before, Danny Robins gets stuck in to case 13 in this week's episode of 'Uncanny', the supernatural podcast that's gripping the nation.
With tales like Ken's story of hauntings in Room 611, the story of journalist Hannah Betts haunted childhood, and the gripping report of a haunting in the Highlands at Luibeilt, 'Uncanny' has dominated the paranormal landscape over the last few months. In fact on this site alone there has consistently been at least five pages related to Danny's podcast among the 20 trending pages for the last month.
Will this week's case, 'The Return of Elizabeth Dacre', prove just as gripping for fans of the paranormal? It has all the hallmarks of great a ghost story, an atmospheric location with loads of history, independent witnesses and multiple spooks.
In the episode, which is available on BBC Sounds now, Danny meets Grant, the former art director of a very well known international glossy magazine.
In the 1990s, Grant moved from Brighton with his wife and daughter into a historic home further along the south coast in the costal village of Rottingdean. The sleepy village has quite a glamorous past, in the 1930s it became a popular haunt for Hollywood celebs - the likes of Cary Grant, Bette Davis, Errol Flynn and Julie Andrews.
The stars stayed at an exclusive hotel, Tudor Close, created by property entrepreneur Charles Neville within a crescent of Tudorbethan-style cottages. The luxury hotel was so full of character, that it became the inspiration for the iconic board game, Cluedo, with first editions of the board game being called Murder At Tudor Close.
The luxury hotel was converted back into seven houses in the 1950s. Grant and his wife bought the end house, which still had the original hotel bar upstairs, and the lounge-dining room had originally been the dining room of the hotel. It had previously been owned by prominent local, Elizabeth Dacre, who died in the house a year before Grant and his family moved in.
The Grade II listed house changed hands again last year, selling for £1 million.
At the time he moved into the house in Rottingdean, Grant was working in Central London. He told Danny, "I would always get back to the village at quarter to seven each evening and one particular evening, I had got off the bus as normal." Grant described the village as being windswept and exposed to the sea on the edge of the cliff.
Grant recalled, "it was really, really bitterly cold, the wind was whipping up off of the sea. It was that kind of rain that cuts your skin a little bit." As he made his way through the village in these adverse conditions, Grant saw something odd outside the church. He said, "I saw an old lady sitting on a bench and she was sitting there on a completely inhospitable night."
Grant recalled being able to clearly see her, "she was in a very expensive camel coat, quite frail, with white hair, cut quite short, very finely detailed face," he said, "she was sitting there with her hands clasped, and she was just very gently rocking, looking directly ahead of her as she rocked."
Seeing an elegantly dressed elderly lady sat on a bench outside the church in the cold and rain struck Grant as being odd, but the next night he saw her again. He said, "she was there again and she was sitting in exactly the same place, dressed in exactly the same way and she was rocking again."
Grant was later able to identify this woman as the former owner of his house, Elizabeth Dacre, when a neighbour gave him a copy of Elizabeth's self-published autobiography with a photo of her on the cover.
Grant eventually got round to reading the book. He told Danny, "I got to the part where she said what she wanted to have happen when she died, and what she wanted was her ashes to be scattered around the bench where I had seen her sitting, the bench just outside of the churchyard, where her husband had been buried."
You can see Elizabeth Dacre for yourself in the photo below taken in 1966, which shows her entertaining friends in the house on her return from her tour to the West Indies.
Photo: © Brighton & Hove Stuff
The next strange occurrence happened in Grant's home. His daughter was playing in the hallway with a friend from school when they saw someone stood outside. Grant told Danny, "the front door itself is clear glass to just about waist level, and somebody was at the front door and they rushed to my wife to tell her that there's an old lady standing at the door."
Grant's wife dashed to the hallway only to find that nobody was there. He added, "there's absolutely no way that anybody could get to the door and get away from the door without being seen because of this long walk from the gate."
Grant then told Danny about another experience while he was in his daughter's bedroom looking out of the window into the churchyard of St. Margaret's, the same church where he'd previously seen the old lady sitting on the bench where Elizabeth Dacre wanted her ashes scattered. He said, "I could see that somebody was being buried, there was a funeral going on." Grant recalled thinking it wasn't ideal that there was a "fresh burial" right outside his daughter's window.
Grant continued, "so, I walked around to the back of the church to find out what was going on. There was nobody there. There was no funeral. There was no burial."
Danny tells us that one night, Grant and his wife invited a friend around for dinner to show off their new house. Grant said, "she was sitting on one of the sofas that faced the stairs and she turned to us as we were all sitting there and said, 'your grandmother's just gone upstairs'." There was of course nobody else in the house at this time. According to Grant, later in the evening the friend went unusually quiet and suddenly said, "the house is not happy. It's not happy with the situation. It doesn't want a family here."
The strange goings on continued. Grant's daughter reported seeing a black bird flying around her bedroom, and every night around 1am a motion sensor in the lounge would trigger the security alarm, despite the security company checking it and finding there were no problems with it.
One night, Grant went to check the room, "I opened the door into the lounge and what I saw was a room which was full of people having dinner, dressed for dinner. They turned they looked at me, I can remember vividly actually, that on the right hand side on the table nearest to me, there was a man sitting there and he was in a black tie and he had his hair grease back exactly what you would think for that period and he turned and he looked at me and I just slammed the door."
Danny tells us, "things are now happening so often and so overtly that the situation in the house is affecting the whole family's mood and the tension impacts most on Grant's relationship with his wife." They eventually separated and left the house, but even on the day Grant went to collect his belongings, his friend who was helping him move refused to enter the house, despite having worked as a camera man in war zones for CNN.
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What The Experts Think
As always, Danny was joined by two experts from the paranormal field. He first speaks to parapsychologist Evelyn Hollow about Grant's sighting of the old woman on the church bench.
Evelyn raises the question, "why would an elderly, well-to-do, beautifully-composed, striking woman be sitting out in terrible whether, so in the cold and the nighttime in that place? So she's immediately in violation of her environment."
Danny then asks sceptic investigator and blogger, Hayley Stevens, about how Grant identified the old woman as Elizabeth Dacre when he was handed a book with her photograph on the cover.
Hayley points out the unreliability of human memory, including when recalling and identifying people. She explains, "we see this happening where people are selected out of lineups, that an eyewitness swears they saw in a crime scene but actually they weren't."
Danny later asks Hayley about Grant's friend's sighting of the old woman on the stairs in the house. She says, "for somebody to come into the environment in which you yourself are having strange experiences, for them to then see something unprompted it is very unnerving."
The experts also discuss Grant's encounter with the dining room full of ghostly guests, a moment that Evelyn describes as being like a time slip.
Hayley isn't so convinced that time slips are possible and gives her own explanation, "potentially, this could have actually been some sort of dream state, because we do know that dreams can be affected by events that are making us worried and anxious, and we know that for Grant he definitely sees the house as somewhere where he is not welcome."
Danny ends the episode by asking listeners what they think of Grant's story, encouraging them as always to get in touch with their thoughts and theories.
More episodes of Radio 4's 'Uncanny' are available on BBC Sounds now and will also be broadcast on Saturday nights at 11:30pm on Radio 4.
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