Another screaming skull haunting is associated with Wardley Hall, Lancashire. Roger Downes, the last male representative of his family, was one of the most abandoned courtiers of Charles II. One evening, when out with several of his companions, as rowdy and reckless as himself, he insulted a girl, and on being reprimanded by a tailor, he ran the unfortunate man through the body with his sword, killing him instantly. For this atrocious crime he was brought to trial, but thanks to his social status he was acquitted and allowed to go free, with the result that, instead of reforming, he continued his former abandoned career.
Time passed, and then came an evening when his sister and cousin Eleanor were sitting together in a lavishly-furnished room of Wardley Hall. A servant entered with a box, which had come all the way from London. It was addressed to Roger’s sister in a queer handwriting she did not recognize. Suspecting nothing, she opened the box and to her horror it contained the bloody head of her brother. On a piece of paper were written these words:
Thy brother has at last paid the penalty for his crimes. The wages of sin are death. Last night passing over London Bridge he engaged in another drunken brawl with the watchmen, one of whom sliced off his head and threw it into the river, whence it was rescued by an eye-witness and sent to thee as a memento.
When the sister had recovered from the shock the ghastly spectacle had given her, she had the head buried, but the next day, bearing all the horrible indications of interment and decay, it was back in the house, and every attempt to get rid of it was of no avail. Whenever it was removed such terrible screams resounded through the building during the night that the inmates were frightened to death, and glad to have the head back so as to be able to sleep in peace.
When, some time in the ’nineties of the last century, the skull was removed from its habitual resting-place and thoughtlessly put in another spot, albeit in the house, a storm arose in the neighborhood, creating such dreadful havoc that as soon as the cause of it was ascertained (or thought to be), the skull was quickly restored to its former home, when the weather once again became tranquil.
Wardley was some years ago, and I believe still is, the property of the Earl of Ellesmere, and according to hearsay the skull even now reposes in its old resting-place in a recess specially made for it on, or near to, a staircase in the hall.
How much truth there is in either of the skull hauntings I have mentioned is difficult to say. I imagine they both rest on somewhat slender foundations.
Tuesday, June 9, 2009
Screaming Skulls, part 2
(See Screaming Skulls part 1 and the first excerpt from Elliott O'Donnell's Haunted Britain, The Ghost of Anne Boleyn.)