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LauraGransnet (GNHQ) Thu 04-May-17 11:19:04

Sussex roots: spooks and memories

Have you ever encountered paranormal activity? What are your memories of it and how did it make you feel? Novelist Lucy Atkins talks about her experiences with the ‘spooky’ and how they came to have a powerful effect on her and her writing.

Lucy Atkins

Sussex roots: spooks and memories

Posted on: Thu 04-May-17 11:19:04


Lead photo

Do you believe in ghosts?

When I was a teenager, growing up in a village near Lewes in East Sussex, I had a friend whose house was very different from everyone else’s. For a start, it had about five times as many bedrooms. It also had tall iron gates, a long, tree-lined driveway and a haunted Minstrel’s Gallery. This place - which I now know to be a Victorian Gothic Manor - looked very grand on the outside, imposing with its tall grey flint walls; but the inside told a different story. The house was in a state of collapse.

My friend’s family was not landed gentry. Far from it. Her father, a drinking man, keen on the races, had won it in a bet. It was crumbling and damp, with rattling casement windows and no heating, and there was no money to fix anything. I got the sense that nobody cared; the family was breaking down and that house was not just physically gloomy, but unhappy and troubled. I felt, instinctively, that it was not just the container of the family’s sorrows, but - somehow, inexplicably - the source of them.

As a teenager, I would go there from time to time and marvel at the grandeur of the tall iron gates and that long driveway; climb the sweeping staircase to what is, in my memory, an endless procession of dark and musty rooms, with damp plasterwork, old quilts, a pervading cold and flitting shadows. Of course, that sense of haunting was thrilling for a teenager. I remember one party - 20 drunk 14-year-olds screaming across the unkempt lawns, only to end up crammed into the (surprisingly tiny) kitchen, too spooked to venture any further into the house.

My friend confided to me once that she sometimes had a ‘visitor' at night. She would wake in the small hours to find a shrouded old lady sitting on her, pinning her to the mattress.

My friend confided to me once that she sometimes had a ‘visitor’ at night. She would wake in the small hours to find a shrouded old lady sitting on her, pinning her to the mattress. She would be paralysed when this happened, unable to even cry out. This terrifying apparition, she was convinced, meant to choke her.

The friend and I lost touch when I went off to university. Her life, I heard, did not unfold as happily as mine. The family did break up and the Manor was sold. But 30 years on, I found it still lodged in my mind, that huge, neglected flinty beast in its idyllic spot beneath the South Downs. It became a key setting in my novel, the perfect symbol of how a grand and imposing façade can conceal rotten secrets. And my friend’s ‘night visitor’ came to life again in my book.

I still long for the Sussex countryside – the chalk paths up to the South Downs, pheasants panicking across country lanes in the mist, and the beauty of my hometown, Lewes, slotted between the hills. I live in Oxford now, and people tell me I’m lucky but I still dream of moving ‘home’ when the children leave. I did go back to the old Manor while researching my novel. I went up to the iron gates and peeked through, catching a glimpse of grey flints. I thought about going up the drive and knocking on the door, introducing myself, explaining my mission. In the end, I didn’t dare.

Lucy Atkins’s novel, The Night Visitor, is published by Quercus and is available online and from all good booksellers.

By Lucy Atkins

Twitter: @lucyatkins

inishowen Tue 09-May-17 09:47:54

I went on a tour of Cork jail in Ireland with my husband. It's been closed for many years and is supposed to be haunted. Hangings took place there. As we walked round I was frozen in fear. I hated being there. At the end we'd stopped to sign the visitors book,when I felt a hard shove on my back. I turned around and there was nobody there. We walked out into the sunlight and I started telling my husband above the shove. Suddenly I was shoved again and almost stumbled to the ground! Very very creepy.

Royandsyl Tue 09-May-17 14:51:10

This sounds exciting. I live in a 1660's magnificent house. It is now divided into 4 flats. When I came to live here in 1986 one of the residents told me not to go down into the cellar after 4p.m. as she had seen a ghost as the front door of this magnificent mansion house and it had disappeared down the cellar. I am not afraid and often go down the cellar looking. We residents often hear very loud banging noises but are still looking. One of the residents left because his young daughter was always talking to a man sitting on the edge of her bed! It all sounds spooky. I live alone now, my husband died 9 years ago. I am not afraid but I do go to the spiritualist church sometimes.

Bluebe11 Tue 09-May-17 17:58:48

We moved to this large country house and I am in the Granny annexe. I kept sensing that I was not alone, kept seeing things out of the corner of my eye etc but didn't say anything to my daughter as I didn't want to freak her out.
One night she went upstairs about 9.30pm to ask her 8 year old son, why he was not in bed fast asleep, she had heard him moving about. As she went in his room he had lined all his teddies etc up on the bed and was counting them. When she asked what on earth he was doing he replied " that person with the bag keeps coming in here, so I'm just counting all my toys to check that none have been taken" !!

1974cookie Tue 09-May-17 18:24:06

Many years ago,n the 90's I worked in an old hospital which started out as Psychiatric Hospital in the 1900's. There was a huge main building with several smaller buildings in the massive grounds.
When I started work there, the site accommodated all fields of Nursing including Medicine. I worked on a ward for elderly people which was on the top floor.
My colleague and I were leaving one night after working a late shift. As we walked down the stairs, we heard heavy footsteps behind us. Thinking that it was a Porter, we both turned to say hello. There was no-one behind us.
My colleague was absolutely panic stricken, grabbed my hand and literally dragged me down the stairs. I felt however that there was nothing bad happening and told my colleague so. However, bless her heart, she was not going to leave me alone. She was scared out if her wits.