With up to 120 ghosts, Aberglasney House in Carmarthen is one of Wales’ most haunted properties, JAN McDONALD reports
Aberglasney House, once abandoned and derelict, plays host to thousands of happy visitors during the daytime, but what happens when darkness falls is something else entirely.
This old manor house has the reputation of being haunted by between 90 and 120 ghosts! This, to anyone’s logic, seems extreme, but it is perhaps for this reason it has become one of the most investigated locations in South Wales.
One paranormal phenomena dating back many centuries in Wales is the ‘Canwll Corffe’ or Corpse Candle. This phenomena presents itself as a flickering light resembling the flame of a candle and is seen as an terrifying omen of death, appearing over the house or room of someone whose death is imminent and moving slowly to the churchyard or burial place. The corpse candle is one of Aberglasney’s most enduring legends.
Back in 1650, one of Aberglasney’s housekeepers witnessed five such lights hovering around a freshly plastered room, later to became known as the Blue Room. The room at the time served as a bedroom for five house maids, all of whom went to sleep there one night and all were found dead the following morning, killed in the night as they apparently breathed in toxic fumes from a charcoal fire that had been left burning all night. The corpse candles had been a deadly accurate omen of the five deaths.
In the 1930s, the five girls are recorded as making another appearance. Ivy had overgrown the outer walls of the Manor and workers were brought in to cut it all down. The window of the Blue Room had been completely covered in the rampant ivy and as it was cut back, the worker was greeted by the sight of five girls in Victorian clothing looking back at him.
The corridor where the door to the Blue Room is situated has also provided witnessed phenomena. From the courtyard below, many have seen a procession of flickering lights like those of a candle flame, drifting silently past the windows in that corridor.
Since the tragedy many owners have believed themselves the victims of a curse that settled over the Manor that night, many purchasing the manor as a family home to be passed down the generations, but all found themselves having to sell the estate for various reasons, usually financial disaster, or remaining childless with no-one to inherit the manor. Whilst not uncommon in those times for children to die in infancy, it seems that owners of Aberglasney have had more than their fair share of ill luck as their children died, couples remained childless and old and young alike met sudden deaths or came to financial and spiritual ruin.
In 1803, an East India Company surgeon, Thomas Phillips, bought Aberglasney and apparently still lives there! Appearing to gardeners and tradesmen at various times of the day or night.
Death and decay took their toll over the centuries and Aberglasney, once beautiful, gradually fell into such brooding decay that it became abandoned and derelict. Since the late 1990s, Aberglasney has been restored thanks to a trust having been set up, and along with the manor, its ghosts have awakened too.
It is common for builders carrying our restoration work or structural alteration to witness paranormal phenomena as the fabric of the house is disturbed. Builders carrying out work on what was now an empty shell of the house often witnessed the ghost of a young girl in the basement where she appeared to be cooking.
Disembodied footsteps are often heard in the cloisters, but it is behind the Manor in Pigeon House Wood where the most frightening phenomena occur. Following the path from the manor to the wood there is a spot where visitors often feel a sudden sensation of terror and freezing cold. Subsequently a medium was consulted and she reported sensing that someone had been chased through the wood and killed by a bullet on the same spot that was the focus of the phenomena.
With so much premature and sudden death and a catalogue of bad luck, Aberglasney House still has the pervading atmosphere of melancholy when the sun goes down.
JAN McDONALD is the author of the best selling Mike Travis Paranormal Investigation series of novels. She lives on the Welsh Borders, where folklore and legend abound and the tales of ghosts and things that go bump in the night are commonplace. You can contact her via her Jan McDonald Author page on Facebook and @JanMcDonald1 on twitter where she’d love to hear from you.
I live just a few miles from Aberglasney and am very familiar with the story of the “corpse candles” and the death of the maids. However, I think it unlikely that they were the spirits in Victorian dress as their deaths were reported to have taken place in either the seventeenth or eighteen centuries. The Blue Room was also one of the main rooms of the house – the maids are thoyght to have perished in one of the servants’ rooms in the attic. Of more contemporary interest might be the ghost of a man in the costume of a “Cavalier” in the grounds which are open to the public as one of Wales’s best-loved gardens Several visitors have congratulated the staff on the excellent “re-enactor” they met in the gardens who had told them all about the early history of the house. Of course, Aberglasney does not employ any such person! Those who have seen this ghost say that he doesn’t appear to be a phantom but a living breathing human being – seen in broad daylight.