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HAUNTINGS AT HOUGHTON HALL


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Ghosts at Houghton Hall

WHITE LADY OR BRIGHT LIGHT?

ENJOY this story on a cold October evening with a slice of warm pumpkin pie and hot cup of cocoa .... and remember, the rustle outside is only the leaves blowing on the autumn wind...

The following article was published in Sign Post in October 2003 and as the 'Haunted Houghton: Heritage Map Vol II' in 2004. Copyright © Books of the North 2002 - 2009.
If you have had a ghostly encounter, please get in touch.

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It is thought that the ancient Houghton Hall was built circa 1575. It is therefore not surprising that I have heard many firsthand accounts of sightings of a ghost which haunts the former YMCA building - the white lady.
Copyright © Books of the North 2002 - 2009.

It is possible that she is a Victorian lady, the spirit of Elizabeth Elliot, daughter of one time resident Sir George Elliot. The tales suggest that Elizabeth died in a horrendous fire at the Hall which may explain why her spirit is in limbo, lingering about the Hall’s many buildings and floors.
Copyright © Books of the North 2002 - 2009.

Houghton Hall on fire in 1862

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Houghtonian Andrew Acton recently shared his encounter with the ghost:

“I was a member at Houghton YMCA for a long time, since the mid 1970s. We used to play hooky from school and go along on an afternoon. Around 1983, we were playing table tennis on the top floor. My friends Wayne, Mandy, and Linda were there, because we played for the YMCA team. The lights dimmed
slightly and the ball seemed to stop above the net. There was a glow coming from it.
You can imagine we ran like Hell to get out of the top floor!”

One logical explanation of the white lady offered to me by local man Rowland Storey, who suggests that the ghost is simply moving light caused by headlights from distant vehicles driving down the A690 near Rainton.

But Andrew Action was not convinced with this explanation. He said:

“If a ball can stop in mid flight, about six inches from the top of a table, and above the net, I wish it was car lights that would explain it but I don’t think so.” Copyright © Books of the North 2002 - 2009.

Car lights also do not explain the ghost of Captain Robert Hutton, who died on August 9th 1680. Captain Hutton was a noted puritan and had no wish for a Church burial. He was buried in the grounds of Houghton Hall along with his horse and dog! In the mid 1900s, Ted Martin, retired manager of Houghton Colliery, recalled that when his family lived in Houghton Hall in 1896, the ghost of Captain Hutton haunted a bedchamber which was always kept locked.

Houghton Hall in 1900
Houghton Hall as a social club
Houghton Hall today
The Hall in c1900
As a Social Club
The Hall in 2007

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Another haunted room was the boardroom, as Tracy Smith’s recollections from the early 1980s show:

“I first started going to the YMCA in the early 1980s with my friends Mandy and Linda. The wife of the man who ran the YM had many
encounters on the top and bottom floors, but never the middle floor. The boardroom is definitely haunted; once I was sitting in there next to the fire and a little boy, whose
mother was in the bridge project, came in and said to me, while bouncing a ball: “Who’s that man?”
There was nobody else in the room!”

Since 2001 the Shipman family have resided in Houghton Hall, converting the near-derelict and neglected building into a comfortable home. Liz Shipman claims that although there is a presence in her home, it is a peaceful one.

 

Article and research by Paul Lanagan, local historian

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Houghton Hall, Hall Lane, c1815

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PAGE UPDATED: 04/03/2011

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