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 though 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 told during, Christmas time.

Ghost Stories at Christmas 

The tradition of telling ghost stories on Christmas Eve was hugely popular 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 “The Signal Man” and “Whistle and I’ll Come to you My Lad”. 

The Misteltoe Bough

This tale begins Christmas 1727. Anne Cope has just married Hugh Bethell of Yorkshire. Anne is the eldest daughter of John Cope of our discussed 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 his bride.

Fifty years since the mystery of the vanishing bride on Christmas Day and 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 tomb.

It is said that Annes 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 stories claim to authenticity. Beyond the obvious 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 lady in this case is thought to be that of Genevre herself.

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Illustrated Ghost Stories 2. The Screaming Skull of Burton Agnes Hall

For the second video I covered the bizarre phenomenon of Screaming Skulls. A distinctly English folklore there are tales of human skulls the owners of which have requested them to remain in the places they inhabited in life. It’s believed to be linked to Celtic beliefs about the importance of the head. Some believed the skulls to be a good luck heirloom to be passed down for generations to ensure the fortune of the family. In this video we looked at three tales of screaming skulls.

Anne Griffith, The Screaming Skull of Burton Agnes Hall 

Katherine ‘Anne’ Griffith was the youngest of three sisters living at Burton Agnes Hall, East Riding of Yorkshire. Daughters of Sir Henry Griffith, Anne was besotted with the building her father had done. She believed it to be the most beautiful house ever built. One day not long after the completion of the work Anne fell victim of a violent mugging, less than a mile from their home. Anne was brought home to the hall suffering from a blow to the head sustained during the attack. She asked her sisters to promise her that once she died they would remove her head from her body and keep it within the walls of the home she loved so much. Days after the attack, poor Anne died of her injuries. However the sisters broke their promise and Anne’s body was buried whole in the churchyard 

A week after Anne’s funeral the first strange occurrence was reported. A loud crash was heard in the hall, like that of a large piece of furniture falling over. On investigation no source of the noise could be found. A week later doors were heard banging violently throughout the home but immediately ceased upon investigation. After this many strange sounds were heard at the hall. Footsteps hurrying up and down the corridors. An unseen figure ascending and descending the stairs quickly. The inhabitants of the hall had become greatly unnerved by the occurrences.

A Grisly Sight

The sisters remembered their sister’s dying promise that they had broken and hastened to make good their word. Anne’s casket was exhumed and within lay a grisly sight. Her head had inexplicably removed itself completely from her body. Her body remained preserved and yet her head was withered and almost completely skull like. This strange sight convinced the sisters that Anne was the source of the strange goings on at the hall. They returned her body to the home and fulfilled their sisters dying wish.

From this day on whenever the skull was removed from the hall, more bizarre experiences were recorded. One tale accounts a maid throwing the skull from a window where it landed on a manure load below. To the shock of the maid and the Waggoner the horses pulling the load refused to move, despite all efforts, until the skull was removed. On one occasion some time later the skull was removed and buried in the garden by the hall’s current occupiers. A terrible wailing and screaming was heard throughout the property until the skull was brought back indoors. It is said tat Anne’s skull remains at Burton Agnes Hall, hidden within a wall so as not to scare visitors. 

As always you can find the Illustrated Ghost Story Videos on my Youtube channel and can support the project through my Patreon page.

Illustrated Ghost Story 1: The Gray Man

I thought it might be nice to start adding the stories that I’ve been covering on the blog so you guys can revisit them in the written format if it takes your fancy.

The first video tells the tale of The Gray Man of Bellister Castle. It is said that the ghost of the Gray Man wanders the grounds of Bellister Castle in Northumberland at twilight. An elderly man in tattered robes with a gruesome gash from forehead to chin and a bloody beard. A vision feared by all that has been suggested to sometimes be an omen of death.

The Tale of the Gray Man

The tale of the Gray Man begins on a stormy night at the castle. The Blenkinsops occupied the castle for some centuries. On this night an old minstrel arrived seeking refuge from the storm outside. He was granted refuge, but as the night wore on Lord Blenkinsop grew paranoid. He suspected that his unannounced visitor was a spy for his enemies. After entertaining his hosts the minstrel noted the change in the Lord’s demeanour towards him. He sensed that his welcome had taken an icy turn. The monsters decided that the cold of the storm outside was preferable to the frozen welcome of his host and fled the castle during the night.

A Grisly Demise 

Unfortunately for our poor minstrel, the Lord took his flight as an admission of guilt. Where the minstrel sensed danger and fled the Lord only saw a guilty conscience returning to the ones who had sent him. Enraged, the Lord set the dogs and his men on the poor elderly man. Accounts differ as to whether the minstrel was savagely torn to pieces by the Lord’s dogs, or that the dogs merely halted the man’s escape following which the Lord’s men captured him and hanged him from a nearby tree.

It has been some decades since a sighting of the Gray Man has been reported, and perhaps the Minstrel has found peace at last.As always you can find the Illustrated Ghost Story Videos on my Youtube channel and can support the project through my Patreon page.