Lulworth Camp’s Officers Mess in Dorset is teaming with paranormal activity, including a haunted vacuum, says ROBIN WHEELER
The British Army’s Lulworth Officers Mess bar in Dorset is an agreeable place. Descending the couple of steps into it gives the feeling of entering a cosy pub or club, a feeling enhanced by the items of military memorabilia that decorate the walls and windowsills.
This includes the Australian officer’s slouch hat, for example, or the US cavalry officer’s Stetson, not to mention the stuffed badger in its glass case. It looks and feels an unlikely place for a haunting, but nonetheless strange things have been seen here.
On an evening in 2019, I came into the bar to order a drink before dinner, to find the young girl on duty that night in the back where the ice machine and the sink are situated.
I waited while she bustled about, when suddenly the ‘Henry Hoover’ that was lying to the side of the bar burst into noisy life. I naturally assumed that she had flipped a circuit breaker back on, which had started the hoover up again.
So I was surprised when she rushed back into the bar, looked at me and gasped “Oh my God! I’m so glad you were here to see that!” It didn’t seem particularly worth seeing to me, so I just ordered a drink and went off into the Ante-Room to read a paper.
The next time I saw her in the bar, I asked her what she had meant by her remark.
She said “Didn’t you see? The hoover was unplugged!”
This naturally led me to ask her if such things had happened before – and they had.
The case of the haunted Henry Hoover
One evening she had come in to open up the bar and had put her bunch of keys on the bar top before turning her back to sort out the till.
When she turned round again after only a couple of minutes, the keys had gone.
She decided that the best course of action was to be firm, so stood there and said “I need those keys! I’m going down to the kitchen now, when I come back I want to find them back on the bar!”
Sure enough, on her return there they were where she had first put them.
On another occasion she had been discussing ghosts with someone in the bar and said “I don’t think there’s really a ghost here” at which point one of the candle-shaped bulbs in a bracket on the wall across from the bar shot out of its socket with a loud bang and fell to the floor.
These are of course all common poltergeist phenomena; but the bar it seems is not without its apparitions as well.
Ghosts haunt Lulworth Camp
One day the same girl was in the bar on duty – I think at lunchtime rather than the evening – when she noticed a man and a woman walk past the door to the corridor. They were in sports clothes (not noticeably old-fashioned) and carrying either squash or tennis racquets.
What struck her as odd was that whereas most people who walk past the bar almost always glance in, these two stared fixedly ahead, with serious expressions.
There are doors at the end of the corridor that make a noise when anyone walks through them and she waited for the familiar sound as they reached that point. But there was nothing.
The pair were entirely unfamiliar to her; the Mess staff always know who they have in the Mess either as permanent livers-in or on courses at any given time.
For that reason, neither she or Ollie, a male Mess Steward who had previously been an NCO in the Royal Tank Regiment, recognised an officer in what Ollie thought was outdated uniform when he too strode past the entrance to the bar.
“Has he signed in?” one asked the other; then each left by a different route, Ollie onto the corridor and the girl out of the back entrance, so that they between them they would catch him on the corridor. But their pincer movement closed on nothing – there was no-one there.
As with all ghost stories, an element of doubt remains – but it seems that the exuberant young officers on their troop leaders’ courses share their mess with the occupants of decades past.
ROBIN WHEELER: “Educated at Harrow and Cambridge, barrister, cavalry officer in the 4th/7th Royal Dragoon Guards, mature student in theology (BA, MA, PhD) and author of ‘Palmer’s Pilgrimage’ about the life of William Palmer of Magdalen. Military lawyer in the Army Legal Service then Full Time Reserve officer in a number of posts, currently a major and staff officer in the Headquarters of the Royal Armoured Corps. Now living the dream on the Isle of Wight and hoping to achieve ‘caulk-head’ status.