The Ash Manor Ghost is a curious haunting that occurred in England in the 1930s and was solved by psychical researcher Nandor Fodor. The case demonstrated how underlying psychological factors of the living can create, or at least contribute to, an apparent ghostly manifestation. It also provided one explanation as to why some individuals are haunted at a particular site and others are not. The case was one of Fodor’s most famous, and helped to establish his reputation and his theories of the psychological underpinnings of some hauntings. His detailed account of the case is included in his book The Haunted Mind (1959).
Ash Manor House, located in Sussex, was built in the 13th century during the time of Edward the Confessor. Over the centuries, much of it was destroyed and rebuilt, but a portion of the structure still survived when Mr. and Mrs. Keel (a pseudonym assigned them by Fodor) purchased the property and moved in on June 24, 1934. They were unaware that the house had a reputation for being “shady,” or haunted, although two previous owners had lived there for 13 and seven years respectively without disturbance.
Shortly after the Keels moved in with their 16-year-old daughter and their servants, they began to hear strange stamping noises in the attic, as though someone were walking on floorboards despite the fact that the attic had none. Then, at approximately 3:35 A.M. on November 18, 1934, Mr. Keel was awakened from a deep sleep by three heavy bangs upon his bedroom door. He got up and went down the hall to his wife’s bedroom, and she confirmed that she also had heard the noises. They were at a loss to explain them.
The next night at the same time, Mr. Keel was awakened by two violent bangs upon his bedroom door. The third night at the same time, he was awakened by one bang. The Keels suspected something supernatural was afoot.
Mr. Keel went out of town and returned on November 25. Nothing happened in the house during his absence. On the night of his return, he had a feeling of ill boding. His room felt unnaturally cold. He tried to stay awake, but he fell asleep around 3:00 A.M. Shortly thereafter, he was awakened by a single violent bang on the door.
He sat up, and standing in the doorway was, as he described later, “a little oldish man, dressed in a green smock, very muddy breeches and gaiters, a slouch hat on his head and a handkerchief around his neck.” At first Keel took the man for a servant; he questioned him but got no response. He jumped up and grabbed the man by the shoulder and was astonished to see his hand go straight through him. Mr. Keel evidently fainted at that point.
He then found himself at his wife’s bedroom, babbling incoherently. Mrs. Keel raced out for brandy, and came upon the little man, still standing in the doorway of Mr. Keel’s bedroom. At first she saw only his feet and leggings, then the whole figure. She observed a red kerchief around his neck and a pudding basin hat upon his head. His face was red, his eyes were “malevolent and horrid,” and his mouth was open and dribbling. He stared at her stupidly. She thought he was a vagrant who had gotten in the house. She attempted to strike him, and her fist went through him. Mrs. Keel ran.
The green man, as the Keels called him, made more appearances, usually to Mr. Keel. The family also heard more knocks and footsteps, which they attributed to the ghost. The man frequently appeared in front of the chimney in Mr. Keel’s room, which led Mrs. Keel to suspect that something was hidden inside the chimney wall. She also found that she had the power to make the ghost vanish by touching it, but that Mr. Keel could not do the same. Once, the specter raised his head, and Mrs. Keel could see that his neck had been cut all the way around. She concluded that the ghost was a murder victim, and speculated that it was his skeleton that was hidden in the chimney.
The manifestations were distressing to the Keels; their servants were so frightened that they quit their jobs. The Keels attempted to get help in “laying,” or exorcising, the ghost by advertising in the newspaper. Two individuals claimed to be able to do the job but did not succeed, and a priest brought in to perform a formal Exorcism only exacer bated the disturbances. Another two lay exorcists claimed the house had been built upon a Druid circle, and that the priest had riled up an evil force from it. In January 1936, an amateur photographer took a photograph of the landing at midnight, which showed a cocoon like shape. However, the photograph was inconclusive as proof of a supernatural presence.
In July 1936, Fodor became involved in the case at the invitation of a writer who was including the Ash Manor haunting in a book about ghosts. Fodor arrived to find the Keels visibly strained and fearful of publicity that would harm their social reputations. He stayed at the house and took photographs, and slept in the haunted room. But no ghost manifested to him either visually or on film. Nor did he hear any phantom footsteps or bangs.
At that time, Medium Eileen J. Garrett was living in England, and Fodor invited her to join him at Ash Manor. She arrived on July 25 with an American friend, Dr. Elmer Lindsay, and her daughter, also named Eileen. Garrett received the clairvoyant impression of a man who had been imprisoned and had suffered a great deal. He had a secret. He was a half-brother to either Edward IV or Edward V, and had started a rebellion. He was tortured because of some papers that had to do with the succession of one of the Edwards, and was left crippled as a result. The chimney may have been the hiding place of these papers.
That evening, the investigators entered the haunted room. Garrett went into a trance, and her Control, Uvani, spoke. Uvani gave this explanation for the haunting: ghosts manifest when an atmosphere of unhappiness enables a spirit to draw energy and revive its own sufferings. “Haven’t you discovered that these things only happen to you when you are in a bad emotional state, physically or mentally disturbed?” Uvani said. “Don’t you realize that you yourself vivify this memory?” The control went on to say that in the early 15th century, a jail had existed near the house, where many unhappy souls had lost their lives and lingered about. Anyone living in the house who was “nervously depleted” would give out energy which would attract a ghost, who would use the energy to build itself up “like a picture on the stage.” (See the apparitions theories of G. N. M. Tyrrell.)
Uvani announced that he would permit the ghost to possess Garrett. Her features changed; the Keels said her face looked like that of the ghost. In speaking through Garrett, the ghost identified himself in an apparent medieval English accent as “Charles Edward.” He claimed to have been robbed of his lands by the “Earl of Huntingdon” and betrayed by a former friend, “Buckingham.” He had been separated from his wife and son and left to rot in jail. His son, he said, was fighting for an “ungrateful king,” but when pressed to identify the king he gave an evasive reply. He asked the witnesses to help him wreak vengeance upon his enemies.
Fodor and the others informed the ghost that he was dead, and pleaded with him to give up his desire for vengeance, which would enable him to join the spirits of his wife and son. The ghost reluctantly agreed to do so. He departed, unwillingly, and Garrett returned to normal consciousness.
The haunting was far from over, however. Twentyfour hours later, Fodor was informed by Mr. Keel that the ghost had reappeared in his doorway, only this time he was trying to speak. Mr. Keel seemed smug that the exorcism had failed. The ghost also manifested to another medium who knew nothing of the events; the medium’s control advised Dr. Lindsay to conduct another Séance at Ash Manor for purification.
Fodor then conducted another session with Garrett, but without the Keels. The ghost once again pleaded for help in getting vengeance. Uvani announced that the Keels had used “this poor, unhappy creature” in order to embarrass each other, and that they did not genuinely want the ghost to leave. The control also said that if the unhappiness in the house persisted, the house would become truly haunted and unhappy for future tenants.
Fodor at last felt he was closing in on the solution to the situation. Mrs. Keel confessed to him that her husband was homosexual, and that a great deal of tension existed between them. Fodor felt that the ghost provided distraction that prevented the tension from breaking out into the open.
Mr. Keel acknowledged that what Uvani had said was true. But now he felt the ghost was possessing him. Fodor suggested it might be identification with the ghost due to the shock of the exorcism. Whatever the cause, after Mr. Keel made the admission that he was hanging on to the ghost, the phantom departed and was not seen or heard again.
A scholarly investigation of the statements made by “Charles Edward,” as well as handwriting he did through Garrett, was inconclusive. The ghost’s apparent medieval English diction was deemed not authentic. Nor could any information be found to establish his historical identity.
In analyzing the case, Fodor considered the argument that the ghost was purely an invention of Mr. Keel’s subconscious mind, which Garrett, as a psychic, had simply “borrowed” in the Séances. However, some of the haunting phenomena at Ash Manor seemed truly paranormal, especially the fact that the ghost had been seen and heard independently by several persons, and had also been sensed by the family dog. Fodor concluded, “It may be that those who put themselves in an unguarded psychological position, in a place filled with historical memories and traditions, do, on rare occasions, come into contact with a force or an intelligence other than their own.”
- Fodor, Nandor. The Haunted Mind. New York: Helix Press, 1959.