As Valentine’s Day approaches, CHRISTINE MILLER looks at five real-life supernatural tales of ghostly romance
Alive or Dead ?
Our first ghostly romance story comes from Hull, or more specifically the River Hull. The year was 1892, and one Robert D’Onston Stephenson was engaged to a young woman named Louise. For reasons unknown, however, their engagement was broken off.
On 26th August, Robert and Louise took their final walk together as a couple when, just before midnight, they discovered Barmston Drain. Louise made Robert promise that they would meet here on the same date each year so they could at least stay in touch. Robert promised that he would meet her here, each year on 26th August, on the toll of midnight – provided he was still alive.
“No – alive, or dead”, Louise asserted.
Somewhat confused at this proclamation, Robert agreed to her unusual request.
The next year, despite being on crutches Robert hobbled to the same spot and met with Louise at the Drain, on the stroke of midnight.
However, it is in 1894 when things start to get a bit, well, peculiar.
Robert recalled on that night hearing the clock strike midnight and witnessing Louise’s small frame moving past street lamp upon street lamp, and heard alongside it the distinct tapping of her shoes, which grew ever closer.
As she neared him, she seemed strangely oblivious to her ex-lover’s presence; that is, until he stretched his arms towards her for an embrace. To his horror, her figure passed straight through him – however she immediately stopped and turned to him, silently but distinctly mouthing the words “alive or dead”.
The next day, Robert got in contact with Louise’s relations who confirmed her demise some months earlier. Apparently delirious in her final hours, she would repeat “alive or dead, shall I be there?” much to the bemusement of her tentative relatives.
Robert Stephenson became a writer for the Review of Reviews and it is in this that he published the tale of his spectral encounter with Louise.
(As if this story wasn’t unnerving enough – the very same Stephenson has been suspected of being Jack the Ripper).
A Tragic Escape
Goodrich Castle in Herefordshire became a Royalist stronghold during the Civil War and it is during this time that Alice Birch, whose uncle was a Parliamentarian, and her lover Charles Clifford, a Royalist, were forced to hide in the castle as Cromwell’s men relentlessly attacked from the outside with 200Ib cannon fire.
It dawned on the increasingly terrified couple that the castle may not be able to withstand further bombardment, and so they made the decision to flee on Clifford’s horse. Somewhat miraculously, they managed to escape the castle without being noticed by the surrounding troops.
They were still far from safe, however.
Due to particularly bad weather, the river in which they wished to cross had become dangerously swollen. Having little other choice, they began to slowly manoeuvre their way into the frigid, rapid waters on horseback. The horse quickly lost its footing and it, along with the couple, were washed away to their deaths.
Both their spirits have been seen – on occasion when the weather is particularly foul – soaked to their skin, pleading with their phantom horse to set into the river. Some have also seen Alice and Charles late at night; their ghostly figures staring forlornly at the battered ruins of Goodrich Castle.
A Crime of Passion
Dobbin’s Inn in Carrickfergus, Northern Ireland, has quite the grisly past; in the 1700s it was the location for a sinister crime of passion.
The pub has a secret tunnel which runs all the way to the nearby Carrickfergus Castle, and the then landlord’s wife, Elizabeth, would use it to sneak to see her lover, a soldier, who would wait impatiently in the abandoned corridor for her.
The couple’s love affair was doomed to end at the hands of Elizabeth’s husband however, who upon finding out of his wife’s affair, took a sword from the bar and slashed his wife to death.
Next, it was her unsuspecting lover’s turn to meet his maker.
Elizabeth’s husband lingered in the dark tunnel anticipating the young man’s arrival. He didn’t have long to wait, and on seeing the soldier he charged at him, brutally stabbing him to death.
It seems that in death Elizabeth is unable to rest and her spirit is said to be frequently spotted roaming through the pub, as if looking for something – or someone.
Lovers – Even In Death
The legend of Mary, Queen of Scots and Lord Bothwell has it that in October 1566 Mary was in Jedburgh in Scotland, some 50 miles from Hermitage Castle, when she heard the news that her purported lover, the Earl of Bothwell, had been fatally injured in battle there. She fled to him immediately, apparently covering some 59 miles in a single day, such was her tremendous desire to see him before he succumbed to his injuries.
Both the ghostly lovers have been spotted strolling through the grounds of Hermitage Castle, hand in hand.
Although, with that being said, Mary’s ghost is alleged to frequent almost every building or stately home she had even the briefest of dealings in – she appears to be one well travelled spirit indeed.
Veremont House which once stood in Shooter’s Hill, London was said to be home of the ghost of a rather angry female ghost. Even the famous Elliot O’Donnell is said to have had dealings with the phantom.
The story goes that it was the early 1900s and Bertha Rungate was upset that her love interest Philip, whom she had desperately attempted to woo, was in fact infatuated with none other than Bertha’s own governess.
In an overwhelming fevered fit of jealousy, Bertha murdered Philip and hid his body in the basement of the house.
When Bertha died she was unable to rest; her apparition was seen many a time and allegedly O’Donnell also had the (mis)fortune of encountering her hate-filled ghost: –
“Down, down, down it came, until at last I could see it – a white, evil face surmounted by a mass of black hair. The eyes were the most alarming feature – large, dark, very lurid, very sinister – and they were fixed on mine with a mocking leer.”
O’Donnell even claimed that Bertha’s spirit led him to the sight of where she disposed of Philip’s body.
When his remains were eventually given a Christian burial, all sightings of Bertha simply ceased.