Under the waters of Lake Thirlmere, on its north-west side, lies the village of Armboth along with several farms on the shore of the original lake, Thirlmere having been appropriated in the late nineteenth century by the Manchester Water Authority and the valley flooded to form a reservoir.
Secluded in woods by the lake stands the old manor house of Armboth Hall, which has been invested with an eerie reputation. The first writer to mention the haunting of Armboth appears to have been Harriet Martineau in her Complete Guide to the English Lakes (1855). She writes:
Lights are seen there at night, the people say; and the bells ring; and just as the bells all set off ringing, a large dog is seen swimming across the lake. The plates and dishes clatter; and the table is spread by unseen hands. That is the preparation for the ghostly wedding feast of a murdered bride, who comes up from her watery bed in the lake to keep her terrible nuptials.
Subsequent authors added to the story. Mackenzie Walcott in 1860 said that the dog who seems to emanate from the lake is a Black Dog. By the time that A. G. Bradley came to write Highways and Byways in the Lake District (1901), the ‘ghostly wedding feast’ was attended by other neighbourhood ghosts: ‘Among other gruesome guests at these entertainments the Calgarth skulls are supposed to have put in an appearance, being back in their niche, no doubt before morning.’ But by his day, the haunting had come to an end. The house had been acquired by the Mayor and Corporation of Manchester, since when all had been quiet.
This did not prevent the story of Armboth Hall, or House as it is now more often called, being reworked by twentieth-century writers. As it now stands, the story says that, many years ago, the daughter of the house was about to be married. The wedding day was set for 31 October, though the older people in the neighbourhood shook their heads and said that no good could come of a Halloween wedding. The wedding feast was to be held at Armboth House, and family and servants were making ready when a man brought the tragic news that the bride’s body had been found in the lake. She had evidently been half-strangled before being thrown into the water to drown. Soon after that, the family abandoned the house, and for years it stood empty.
Neighbours were accordingly astonished one Halloween to see lights shining in its windows. Two men went to investigate and, standing outside, heard sounds of water being drawn from the pump, heavy furniture being moved, and the clatter of crockery. Looking in at a window, they saw that a long table had been set for a feast and chairs arranged for guests. None were to be seen, however.
Realizing that it was the anniversary of the bride’s murder, the two men were unnerved and went home, concluding that they had witnessed preparations for her wedding feast. Sounds of revelry and eerie music continued coming from the lighted rooms, until all of a sudden the lights went out and there was silence. Later occupants of the house said they would often be disturbed by bangings and thumpings, and the sound of breaking crockery.