Illustrated Christmas Ghost Story: The Mistletoe Bride

For this year’s first festive tale we visited Bramshill House in Hampshire for the tale of the Mistletoe Bride. The house is rumoured to be the most haunted in Britain, with a whopping 14 resident ghosts! These include a Green Man, a Knight in Armour, a Tennis Player and a Ghostly child. If you check out the video I cover all fourteen of them!

The focus of our story today, however, is on The White Woman. This ghost is said to haunt the Fleur de Lys room and harbours a particularly tragic tale. One set at, and often recited during, Christmas time. Read on for a festive fright to get you in the Christmas spirit for, well, Christmas spirits!

Ghost Stories at Christmas 

The tradition of telling ghost stories on Christmas Eve was a hugely popular one during the 18th century. A newly formed middle class with extra time on their hands would need a way to pass dark, cold nights. Nights where anything could be imagined to lurk in the corners of fire lit rooms. Nights where all the family are gathered around the fireplace for warmth. Dicken’s ‘The Christmas Carol’ is clearly the most popular of these festive tales. Another author of note is M. R. James whose tradition of Christmas Eve storytelling at Kings College is a famous one. As are his tales, such as “Whistle and I’ll Come to you My Lad”. 

The Misteltoe Bough

This tale begins in Christmas 1727. Anne Cope has just married Hugh Bethell of Yorkshire. Anne is the eldest daughter of John Cope of the aforementioned Bramshill House. After celebrations drew to a close, and before retiring, Anne proposes a game of Hide and Seek. Her guests permit her a five minute head start after which they will hunt for the new bride in her hiding place. Minutes pass and the bride is deemed to be quite the champion. Hours passed and the guests grow concerned. There is neither head nor hair of the bride to be found. Hours turn to days, days to years. Rumours spread that the bride regretted her marriage to Hugh immediately. That she ran away rather than face a life with him. Hugh, however, never gave up on the search for his bride.

We now fast forward to fifty years since the mystery of the vanishing bride on Christmas Day. Hugh is searching the house, as he often did, for clues to her disappearance. He finds himself in the attic. Hugh taps an oak panel that revels a previously unseen door. Through the secret entrance lies a chest. Within the chest, the answer to the mystery. A grisly sight! A skeleton, wearing a wedding dress and clutching a bouquet of mistletoe. Inside the lid, the scratch marks of a poor soul attempting to escape her claustrophobic tomb.

It is said today that Anne’s ghost walks the Fleur de Lys room of Bramshill House at night. Hugh is believed to be responsible for another spirit. That of a man, glimpsed staring at the chest where his bride had remained so close to him all those years.

Points of Contest

There are a few debated points within the story’s claim to authenticity. Beyond the obvious as to whether or not ghosts exist, that is! The story is associated with a number of stately homes in the UK although Bramshill House is the one deemed to be most credible. Although it is said that the chest that stands in the hall today is not the one from the story, the original best having been removed by an earlier owner of the house. 

It is also said that the tragic tale did not actually happen to Anne Cope or within the house at all. In fact, it is said that the ghost arrived to the house with the chest itself. The story of an entombed bride true but having already happened. The theory is that the tale pertains to Genevre Orsini, an Italian woman from a well to do family. Genevre too married her beloved in 1727, as Anne and Hugh did.  It is said that after Genevre died encased within the chest the chest was sold to an English man and brought to Bramshill. The ghost of The White Woman in this case is thought to be that of Genevre herself.

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Looking After Yourself and the #25spookystories Challenge

I recently posted on my instagram about both my joining in with the #25spookystories challenge and the importance of looking after yourself. Particularly at this stressful time of year. With that in mind, here is a reading challenge post. I’m taking the chance to take a break from writing about work. I am enjoying a moment to write about something else I enjoy besides my art.

The challenge does link in with my Illustrated Ghost Stories project though. This is as in far as they both celebrate the Christmas tradition of telling ghosts stories. Popular in the 18th century, I wish it would return! I always seek out a good scary Christmas tale in the TV guide each year. It is as Christmassy to me as watching ‘Elf’ or ‘Nightmare Before Christmas’. In the Victorian times on Christmas Eve, families would gather round the warm fire on dark nights. Then each would tell a tale. What a dream evening, right?

The #25spookystories challenge is ticking these boxes for me this year. There is no chance to go to listen to any storytelling event, nor have new Christmas Ghost Stories been filmed this year. Bah Humbug 2020! I am using the challenge to revisit traditional authors like Dickens and find new ones too. 

The 12 Strange Days of Christmas, Syd Moore

I started with this read and I loved it so much I read 8 stories in one go. When I really did intend to spread them out! I stopped myself at a tale set on Christmas Eve. I can wait to enjoy that closer to the big day. This anthology of tales is an absolute delight though. It has the Christmas Ghost Story spirit (pun intended) in a modern setting. The stories are all different but complimentary. Moore tells them with such great humour. If there was one wish I had it would be that I would like them to be scarier. However, I have enjoyed all the ones I have read so far. There are definitely some spooky ones in there too. I enjoy Moore’s ‘Essex Witch Museum’ series anyway, but to me these were even better.

Ghost Stories for Christmas, Charles Dickens

Dickens is a traditional author for this sort of exercise which is why I have included him. I find his ghostly tales quite hit and miss personally. Of course, the most famous Christmas ghosts of all came from the man. I have recently treated myself to a rewatching of the 2019 Christmas Carol remake starring Guy Pierce. It is a brilliant retelling. I still hope to catch The Muppet’s Christmas Carol before Christmas too. Dicken’s short ghost stories are, of course, not exactly in the mood of the muppets. Of the handful I have read this year so far I enjoyed ‘A Madman’s manuscript’ the most. That one reads a bit like Poe. With less humour than some of the others, this one tries to scare and unnerve you which I enjoyed.

Illustrated Classic Ghost Stories for Christmas by Seth

This range of books by Bibliosis are a new discovery to me this year. They are wonderful. I am obsessed! They are a collection of short stories illustrated and release annual by Seth. They take classic ghost stories and illustrate them in small collectors editions in an exceedingly modern style. A handful are released each year. They are just so enjoyable though and the stories that have been picked are excellent. I have 3 more on my list for the rest of the challlenge but this weekend past I read ‘How Fear departed the Long Gallery’ by E F Benson. A wonderful tale and Seth’s illustrations added atmosphere and great design to the book. I will definitely treasure each edition I have picked up. I will no doubt pick some more up before next Christmas too.

Ooooh I do love a good Christmas Ghost story. The challenge has been created by @notebookofghosts and I am so pleased to take part. She has even compiled some free Creative Commons stories which you can access on her website if you want to join in without spending money. 

If you have recommendations, give me a shout. I would love to hear them. The spookier, the better!