Haunted Harpenden: ghost hunter explores the town's spookiest sites
PUBLISHED: 14:54 01 August 2018
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A mysterious grey lady, a trio of ghostly monks and a 17th-century poltergeist are among the supernatural beings which haunt Harpenden.
Ghost hunter Damien O’Dell, 67, has been fascinated by ghosts since childhood and wrote a book, Paranormal Hertfordshire, exploring the county’s spookiest sites.
Two of the most notorious sites for paranormal activity in the town are pubs- The Silver Cup in St Albans Road and The Cross Keys in High Street.
Damien, who lives in Royston, said: “The main story at The Silver Cup was one landlord who saw the apparition of a lady in his bedroom, who smiled at him and disappeared through a wall.
“She’s called the grey lady and believed to have been one of the Archer family who owned the pub through many generations.”
Anthony Reeder, the pub’s current landlord, said: “It’s total nonsense. There’s not even a sniff of ghosts and I’ve been here on my own at whatever time of the morning.”
While The Silver Cup’s ghost sighting happened in the 1980s, The Cross Keys has been plagued by undead residents since the 1960s.
“The relief manager was woken by the sound of men talking downstairs,” Damien said. “He saw three men sitting around in monks’ habits. They turned to look at him and he ran back to his room and locked the door.
“It was thought that pilgrims would stay there on the way to St Albans. Various noises were heard from the cellar and, a bit more distressingly, people have heard the words ‘help me!’.”
Another haunted hotspot with a dark history is Rose Cottage near Church Green.
Damien said: “It’s a 17th century cottage. A young woman murdered her baby and then died by suicide. It’s a place for poltergeist activity. The tenants moved out as it all got a bit too much for them.”
According to the book Haunted Hertfordshire, by Ruth Stratton and Nicholas Connell, the ghostly woman floats around in a nightdress, moving furniture and searching for her lost child. A priest blessed the cottage, which apparently quietened the spirit for a short time before the noises began again.
Meanwhile visitors to the 16th-century Harpenden Hall in Southdown Road have been terrified by ghostly footsteps. Damien said: “The building has had many incarnations - it was a private home, it was a school and it was an asylum.
“Both the staff and visitors have reported phantom footsteps following them about the place. A ghostly grey figure has been seen gliding across the landing. Many of those sightings have been by children.
“Some cleaners will not work alone in the building.”
According to Haunted Hertfordshire, children have claimed to see a ‘funny lady’ up the Harpenden Hall stairs, wearing a long dress and with no feet.
Other local spirits include a ghostly old woman sitting outside a cottage in Leyton Road, and Ann Weatherhead, or ‘The Agdell Ghost’, who has been seen walking along Agdell Path after dark.
Damien is founder of the Anglia Paranormal Investigation Society (APIS), which formed in 2002 and has 30 members. The society investigates haunted places all over the country.
His interest in the supernatural stems back to his childhood, when he and his best friend saw what they believed to be the ghost of Sir Edward Burne-Jones, an uncle of author Rudyard Kipling.
The children saw a ghostly man walking through the garden of The Grange, a magnificent house which had been damaged by bombs during the war.
He said: “My friend and I looked at each other and we’d obviously both seen something at the same time.” He later attended an exhibition on Kipling which confirmed the building used to be Sir Edward’s home.
Damien is set to release his next book of true ghost stories, The APIS Files, in the autumn.
He also gives talks, entitled ‘The Adventures of a Ghost Hunter’. For details on how to book Damien for a talk, contact firstname.lastname@example.org