Lying at the end of a lane in the village of Goosnargh, near Preston in Lancashire, Chingle Hall might appear innocuous. The late Andrew Green noted that it had the appearance of another charming old farmhouse, yet it reeked of history. He wasn’t far wrong there. With Chingle, there is more than what there may initially seem. It is in fact regarded by many as the most haunted house in the UK. James Wentworth Day described it thus, “One of the best authenticated examples of a haunted house in England.”
Chingle Hall was erected in 1260 by the de Singleton family. It was then a ‘small moat manor house’ built in the shape of a cross. The house remained in the de Singleton family for three centuries. Lady Eleanor Singleton, whose ghost walks the house, was the last of the family to hold it. She had a short, brutal and tragic life. Born in 1568, both of Eleanor’s parents died when she was six years old and she was left in the care of two uncles. Her family regarded her as insane and locked her up in what is now the Priest’s Room. It has been claimed Eleanor was sexually abused by her uncles from the age of six and fell pregnant on numerous occasions. These often ended with stillborn babies. Four were born alive, but they were killed. Eleanor died giving birth to her last child, which had an enlarged head, when she was 18 or 20. Although other sources say she was murdered.
In 1585, the house passed to the Wall family as part of a dowry. Saint John Wall was born at Chingle in 1620. A Franciscan friar, he was the last Catholic Martyr in England, being executed at Worcester in 1629. The story goes that his head was taken on a grand tour of Europe, before being smuggled back to Chingle Hall and either buried in the gardens or immured in a wall. Another tale is that the head was taken to France, but brought back to England by nuns fleeing during the French revolution. This one also ends with the head being hidden somewhere in Chingle, although it has never been found. However, Wikipedia states that the head is still preserved and venerated at the Franciscan Friary of Douai in France, so who knows which is true. As well as having a well adventured head, John Wall is another famous ghost of Chingle.
Chingle, like other large houses also played it’s part during the Reformation. During the 16th century, differences of opinion regarding Christianity in general (ie Martin Luther), and differences of opinion on the sanctity of marriage in particular (ie Henry VIII), brought about the Reformation, or Great Schism. This resulted in Catholicism being outlawed in Britain. To continue as a practising Catholic meant death. Some stuck to their faith and came up with some ingenious ways to worship in secret. One of these involved large houses such as Chingle being used as the location for secret masses. Priests would travel the country incognito and would hide in specially designed hides, priest holes, built into the houses to evade the authorities. Several who were caught ended up being killed, like John Wall, for refusing to renounce Catholicism.
Chingle Hall has two known Priest holes. There might be more yet to be discovered. One hole is in the Priest’s Room, just above the chapel. Another is in a chimney breast. Secret masses were held at Chingle. When a priest was ready to deliver a mass, a lit candle was placed in a window to alert local Catholics that it was time to make their way over. The window can still be seen. Again, this particular period has contributed quite a lot to the ghosts and paranormal activity, which will be looked at in detail below, reported at Chingle Hall.
The Wall family owned Chingle until 1794, when it was purchased by the Farrington family, who then sold up to the Langtons 100 years later. In 1945, Chingle was rented by Mrs Margaret Howarth and her husband, who then bought it in 1960. Mrs. Howarth is remembered as a fairly lively character who loved Chingle Hall. She was open about the paranormal activity there and gave Peter Underwood details of many experiences. After Mrs. Howarth died, she left the house to her sister, Ann Strickland, who had lived there since Mr Howarth’s death. Unfortunately, Ms Strickland had problems keeping the place, and left. The house fell into disrepair, damaged by vandals and fire. It failed to attract any buyers until 1986 when it was bought and restored by John and Sandra Bush.
In an interesting twist, a new ghost has joined the menagerie of about sixteen in recent decades. A Grey Lady has been seen flitting about. One young couple passing by had heard about Chingle’s reputation and wanted to see it themselves. It was late, but they still knocked to see if they could have a look around. A little old lady answered and was very happy to take them on a tour, telling them all about the ghostly phenomena that had occurred. Happy, they then went to the local pub and mentioned to the barman that they had just been taken on a tour of Chingle Hall by Mrs Howarth. The barman replied that Mrs Howarth had been dead for a year. It is thought that Mrs Howarth is the Grey Lady. She and Lady Eleanor Singleton are the only female presences in an apparent ‘ghost monastery’.
Ghostly monks seem to be the most reported apparitions at Chingle. This is perhaps because of the strong religious ties Chingle had in the past. As has been mentioned, John Wall is known to be one of the ghosts, but it’s unclear who the other monks are – they can’t all surely be him. On one occasion, people attending a dog show being held nearby wanted to know where the local monastery was so they could visit. They were confused when they were told there was none, asking why they could see lots of monks walking about…
Several people have encountered monks appearing out of nowhere inside the house. Terry Whittaker, an author and radio producer, was recording the last in a series of ghosts and hauntings at Chingle Hall in the early 1980s. Very early in the morning, he was making some recordings in a room when he heard footsteps outside. He and one of his crew went into the corridor to see what was going on. The footsteps continued in front of them, but no one was there. However, they could see the floorboards spring as if someone was walking on them. Then in a corner, the figure of a monk appeared, remained for 30 seconds, before drifting off to the nearby priest hole. This was the only ghostly occurrence in the 12 weeks spent recording their radio programme.
Up until 2007, when Chingle was bought by new owners who decided to make it a private home, the Hall was popular with visitors. People would come during the day for tours, hordes of paranormal investigators descended to have a look about and groups would hold sponsored overnight stays to raise money for charity. Chingle Hall got a reputation as a place where something spooky was guaranteed to happen to visitors, and many experiences were reported. The most haunted parts of the house were considered to be the Priest’s Room, the John Wall Room and the adjoining corridor between the two called the Haunted Corridor. It appears that the Priest’s Room has the most activity. As well as strange apparitions, crashes, bangs and lights, the room had also been known to change appearance. One particular feature is a heavy chandelier that appears and disappears. One tour group admired the low slung chandelier in the Priest’s Room, only to be surprised to discover that it wasn’t there when they popped into the room a second time. Another apparitional piece of furnishing used to surprise guests on the staircase, who would be taken aback when the handrail on the left of the staircase they were using to climb the steps vanished. The banister had been moved over to the right at some point in the past.
The Priest’s Room was an upsetting place for women visitors, who would have to be taken out. They felt ill, upset and a general air of despair and oppression – perhaps tapping into the energy of Lady Eleanor Singleton? A particularly disturbing EVP of a scream was picked up a few years ago, that has puzzled, and upset, some people. Lady Eleanor also paid a visit to a group of people spending the night in October 1995 when they held a seance. The seance was conducted by Jason Karl, now a general all rounder in the field of the paranormal. Initially, the group were sceptical of anything happening, but changed their minds as the seance got underway. At first, some in the group felt an intense pressure on their backs. Karl called on Eleanor to give a sign. The group, one by one, began to smell lavender. Someone saw an outline of a figure standing by the circle, then, everybody began to sob uncontrollably. Disturbed, Karl broke the circle, upon which the group immediately stopped crying. They were left asking many questions after that night.
In another incident, a reporter, Paul Crone, was left too scared to go into Chingle Hall after going there to report on a group of nurses holding a charity night. They were sitting, perhaps in the John Wall Room, when one of the nurses saw a monk appear at the shoulder of one of her colleagues. She was terrified and unable to talk for 90 minutes afterwards. Crone also had a door slam on him not long after. The John Wall Room was also the scene of the adventures of two intrepid young ghost hunters allowed to stay over during the 1960s. The experiences of seeing flashing lights and hearing inexplicable noises was enough to put them off any other ghost investigations in future.
However, it seems the most striking events have occurred in the Priest’s Room. They are innumerable. One woman visiting Mrs Howarth witnessed poltergeist activity. As did two investigators from the Ghost Club in 1979. Just when they thought they were going to have a dull night, they were treated to the sound of bangs and scratchings around the room. The manager popped in to see how they were getting on and he managed to communicate with the spirit, thought to be John Wall. Another time, the apparition of a man with shoulder length hair was seen walking by the window, which is 12 feet from the ground! Yet another visitor and her son saw the outline of a robed figure standing in the same window when they were leaving – a figure that vanished when their car lights shone on it.
During the 1970s, a young New Zealand paranormal investigator spent some time at Chingle giving tours and generally chasing the sounds of footsteps heard regularly about the house. Once he was in the Priest’s Room when he heard sounds of bricks being moved coming from the open Priest’s hole. On looking in, he saw a hand moving a brick. The hand froze then disappeared. He also saw the cover to the Priest hole open and close by itself several times and saw lights moving about it. Bingham spent hours trying to record on tape and film the footsteps he heard and figures he saw around the house. But often it would be inconclusive or the film fail to develop. He was successful once, after setting up a camera in the John Wall Room and hiding next door in the Priest’s Room. He heard the footsteps start up and pressed a remote control to start the camera. At the end of the film, he caught the sound of the disembodied footsteps and the brief appearance of a shadow. Bingham had another hair raising experience when sitting in the dining room – he felt a pair of hands grasp him quite tightly around the throat. As Peter Underwood tells it, Bingham was by now quite a seasoned veteran of the ghostly, and wasn’t bothered in the slightest!
Despite most activity being centred around the Priest’s Room, the John Wall Room and the Haunted Corridor, other parts of Chingle Hall haven’t quite escaped the uncanny. Mrs Howarth would regularly smell or see smoke, resulting in her calling out the fire brigade on a few occasions. But no fire would be found. In the Great Hall downstairs, the ghost of a cat would be seen and heard crying when there were no live cats around. Ghosts (monks of course!) have been seen through the window of the entry porch, apparently floating in mid air from the waist up. This is due to the floors being higher in the past. A lady visiting Mrs Howarth had all her scepticism removed when answering a call of nature. She felt cold, and then it seemed like she was being watched whilst carrying out her business. She shot out of the bathroom, leaving the door lying open. When she returned with Mrs Howarth to investigate, the door was firmly closed and the bathroom back to normal.
The ghosts didn’t take a break when Chingle Hall was lying derelict before it’s restoration in the mid 1980s. Neighbours called the police when they saw lights in what they knew to be an empty house. The police saw the lights on arrival, and also the sound of talking and music. However, all was dark, quiet and empty when they went inside. Workmen carrying out the restoration were the victims of ghostly pranks. One plumber had spent a long time installing central heating, and ended up having to get a mate in to help. He and his assistant went to inspect newly fitted pipes, only to find they were gone. Thinking someone was at it, the plumber fetched the owner. Only to find, literally minutes later, that the pipes were back in place.
These days the new owners say Chingle is quite quiet. Although, Peter Underwood writes that the ghosts were particularly active at night if there were a lot of visitors during the day, likening it to a battery being recharged. But after over 50 years of antics, it’s doubtful the ghosts of Chingle Hall will go away that easily.
Chingle Hall Scream http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=59hOzOtl0Yg
The Phantoms of Chingle Hall http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jBT0b9vwV7s
Chingle Hall Ghosts Part 1 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2IDxvlB5Rv8
Chingle Hall Ghosts Part 2 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=46DCT2R6uXw
More Ghosts of Chingle Hall Part 1 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5fect9NzCos
More Ghosts of Chingle Hall Part 2 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3-Ikr4ScpJU
GHOSTS – Chingle Hall http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PXfvWNeckBg
Peter Underwood – Nights in Haunted Houses 1994, London: Headline
– This Haunted Isle 1986, Poole: Javelin Books
Andrew Green – Ghosts of Today 1980, London: Kaye & Ward
Our Haunted Kingdom 1974 Glasgow: Fontana/Collins