Halloween: Haunted house 'reduced a rugby player to tears'

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Media caption,

What goes bump in the night at Llancaiach Fawr manor house?

A housekeeper burned to death and a six-year-old boy who plummeted 40ft to his doom - welcome to the 16th Century manor house that reduced an international rugby player to tears.

Llancaiach Fawr manor house claims to be one of the most haunted in the UK.

Dating back to about 1550, the house in Nelson, Caerphilly county, was built for Dafydd ap Richard. By the mid-1600s it had become a tenanted farm house and stayed that way until it was bought in 1979 by the then Rhymney Valley District Council, who decided to turn it into a museum.

So with 450 years, and no doubt many deaths within its four walls, what is it like to work in what is said to be one of Wales' most haunted houses?

Historical interpreter Lee Jessup, who leads ghost tours at the manor, said the home's most infamous previous resident was Mattie, a housekeeper who lived there in the late 18th and early 19th Century.

She is thought to have died after being burned in an accident and it is her bedroom that brings out strange reactions in visitors.

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Not the best place for a good night's sleep: Children's laughter has reportedly been heard at Llancaiach Fawr

"Many years ago we were visited by the South Africa under-21 rugby squad - they came to Wales to play friendly matches and exhibition matches," said Lee.

"We took them on a tour, as they went into Mattie's room, the captain - who must have been 6ft 8, he was an enormous fella - he just broke down in floods of tears with no explanation.

"As soon as he left the room again, he was fine - he was greatly embarrassed by it."

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Phantom menace: Lee Jessup's record is 15 people walking out of a ghost tour in fear inside 10 minutes

Another apparition said to be seen and heard is that of a young boy who was killed when he fell from an opening on the first floor on to flagstones below in 1906.

"He has certainly been experienced on ghost tours. I've never seen him, I've heard footsteps when somebody claimed to have seen him behind me," said Lee.

Working in a haunted house for 13 years means Lee has had his fair share of spooky sightings - including the figure of a hooded girl on the cellar steps while he was in the kitchen.

A couple of years after that close encounter, a woman on a ghost tour who claimed to be a medium said to him: "You know there's a girl who follows you around this house?

"I said 'really? Can you describe her?' And she gave the exact description of the girl I'd seen stood at the bottom of the cellar steps... it was spooky."

So how has working in what Lee says is "reported to be one of the most haunted houses in Wales if not the whole country" made him feel about the supernatural?

"I've always classed myself as an open-minded person. I believe people see things... I certainly believe what is termed the paranormal exists - I don't say I believe it's the spirits of the dead, I don't know what it is.

"I've experienced enough in this house to make me believe something exists."

Other spooky spots in Wales

Image source, Deirdre Shaw/Geograph
Image caption,
Sker House (pictured here in 1998) was originally a grange of Neath Abbey

Sker House

This 800-year-old mansion sits on the coast in Kenfig, Bridgend county.

It was made famous in the 1872 novel The Maid of Sker by R D Blackmore and is based on the story of Elizabeth Williams, said to have died of a broken heart after being locked in a room in the house by her father to stop her from marrying her lover.

Her spirit is said to haunt Sker, along with the captain of a ship which was wrecked on nearby Sker Point.

But these ghostly goings-on did not deter a private buyer from purchasing the house in 2003 after a restoration project.

Anyone hoping to get a glimpse of the spectre of Elizabeth Williams is out of luck - part of the sale meant the new owners had to open the house to the public for 28 days a year, but that arrangement came to an end in 2013.

Image source, Gareth James/Geograph
Image caption,
You might get more than one kind of spirit in this pub

Prince of Wales

It seems Kenfig is a haunted hotspot as this pub, just a few hundred yards from Sker House is another where ghost hunters would have a field day.

Landlord Dave Stone, 37, took over the pub three months ago, but in his short tenure has seen and heard things he cannot quite explain.

The Grade II-listed inn was built in the 1400s and has been used as a town hall, court house and a mortuary for sailors whose bodies washed up on nearby beaches.

"We've seen glasses fall off shelves, chairs turn around, laughter when there's no-one else in the pub," said Dave.

"One poor boy heard laughter in the toilets when doing night checks - a few days later he put a chair on the table, turned around and when leaving the room, the chair was facing a different direction.

"The lady who lives upstairs came down to make a cup of tea after hours and heard cutlery rustling, we watched on CCTV and saw nothing, but a split second before [the noise] you could see her dressing gown get pulled.

"I can't explain the dressing gown move or the chair turning round. The laughter could be misheard, items spinning could be a draft, I don't know - I'm open-minded, but not convinced."

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