Cumber House in Northern Ireland has a well-earned reputation as a very haunted place, says guest writer MARY McLAUGHLIN
In the picturesque Faughan valley in the county of Derry/Londonderry, Northern Ireland, there is a quiet village, an ordinary village. Rural and docile with tight knit clusters of homes, and meandering leafy roads. It feels peaceful, old, and familiar. This ordinary feeling begins to drift away as you drive out of the village towards the forested townland of Cumber.
It is here in this pretty place that you will find the famous Cumber House. But, famous for what? Cumber House is a place famous for the deeds of the living and the lingering presence of the dead. Stories abound from this imposing grand old home. To understand the stories, it’s important to learn the history.
History of Cumber House
Cumber House is a beautiful imposing stately home, built in 1830s by Major John Hamilton Brown. The country park and woods which surround the house were once part of the Leckey Brown estate approx. 4958 acres, as was the old church and cemetery approx. half a mile from the house, where the family are buried. The land was originally church owned, and was bequeathed initially during the Plantation of Ulster in the 17th century.
The Census of 1831 for the Derry/Londonderry area shows Cumber House as having listed 1 family made of 4 males, 3 females, 6 male servants, 4 female servants all living in the house itself. In spite of assumptions, the religions of the household staff were mixed, and contained at least 3 Roman Catholic workers.
George Hamilton Brown died in 1848 and was succeeded by his eldest surviving son, Thomas Richardson Brown, as the oldest son, William, had died young. Thomas Richardson Brown died in 1882 and was succeeded by his oldest son, John Hervey Knox Brown. Cecil Hamilton Lecky Brown, of the Grenadier Guards, and also in place as the Queens High Sheriff for the area, was the last Brown heir to live in Cumber House, and he passed away in 1929, unmarried and without children.
During World War 2 the house served as a billet for Allied forces. Derry/Londonderry was of huge strategic importance during WW2, and allied forces and air force and navy were dotted across the countryside in numerous bases. Training camps were held in the intense terrain of the Sperrin Mountains to prepare troops for being sent to the front lines. How many never seen those beautiful Sperrins again.
So who haunts Cumber?
Ghosts and Hauntings of Cumber House
The most famous story is the story of old Mr Brown, confused it seems for Cecil. But, as you will learn the villain of the tale could not be Cecil, as Cecil died unmarried and childless. Why is this an important fact? Read on and you will see.
One of the Browns had a reputation for abusing his position of power and wealth and was not liked.
Local legend says that the parish priest was conversing with a groundsman on the estate, unknowingly within earshot of one of an employee loyal to the family. (So we know it’s not Cecil.)
The priest said he was confident that Old Brown was now burning in the depths of the fires of hell. The staff member carried the news straight back to one of Brown’s sons who found the clergyman and dragged him by his collar into the house. He demanded at gunpoint that the priest immediately take back his statement or prove there on the spot the Old Brown was indeed cast into the pits of hell.
Terrified the priest clambered to his feet, rolled his trouser legs up, drew a circle on the floor, and dropped onto his bare knees in frantic prayer. Initially nothing happened, and the young Mr Brown cocked his gun, the priest prayed even more frantically, shaking and crying, no doubt in fear of his own death.
Then in a flash the image of Mr Brown appeared from beyond the grave surrounded by lilting flames, but totally unharmed. The priest ran from the house and refused ever to return.
It is believed the reports of paranormal activity in the house began shortly after this. In time another cleric was brought to the house to rid it once and for all of this restless and malignant soul. During the exorcism the spirit is said to have fled form the house and was banished into a large tree in the garden.
From this tree scratching, scraping and moaning sounds were reported. There is no way of knowing which tree is the one from this story, as the house is surrounded by beautiful mature trees.
Many paranormal occurrences are said to have been witnessed at Cumber House, and it’s a regular haunt for investigators.
Scraping sounds, intelligent responses to questions in the form of knocks or visible equipment interaction, light anomalies, the piano in the hall is said to play unattended.
Visitors to the house report the sound of running footsteps on the stairs, childlike voices, tugging at garments etc. Disembodied voices have also been recorded.
It has indeed earned its reputation as one of the most haunted houses on the island of Ireland for good reason.
MARY McLAUGHLIN is a paranormal investigator and founder of The Spooky Doll. Mary hails from Ulster and she will not rest until she has explored all of the spooky sites it has to offer.