RICK HALE looks at the haunting of The Rookery in Farnborough in Kent, one of Peter Underwood’s most interesting investigations, in his continuing series Trailing Peter Underwood
In the spring of 1988, Peter Underwood came across a newspaper article detailing an unusual haunting in a house on the outskirts of London.
According to the article, Mary Knox-Johnston, mother of famed yachtsman Robin Knox-Johnston, was experiencing strange activity in her house in Farnborough, Kent as The Rookery.
Peter Underwood wasted no time in writing to the elderly woman asking if he and his colleagues from the prestigious Ghost Club could come and spend a night in her house.
She wrote back and was all too happy to allow the learned group of ghost hunters into her home.
And on a Friday evening, they arrived and discovered the claims were not only true but far more was going on than anyone could have anticipated.
Interviewing witnesses is key
Any good ghost hunter knows that interviewing the witnesses is key to any proper investigation.
It’s a way to gain perspective on the activity as well as revealing anything that could potentially be less than true.
The lady of the house launched into her story, one night shortly after she took possession of the house in 1963, she was awakened by a most unusual sound.
Coming from outside her door in the hall, she could hear what sounded like swords clashing and voices raised in the heat of battle.
When she gathered the courage to peek her head out the door all she found was a dark and quiet house.
Mrs Knox-Johnston knew what she had heard and although it unnerved her, she was determined to not allow the sounds to scare her off.
From that moment on the activity in the house intensified and went beyond mere unexplained sounds.
Objects seemed to take on a life of their own and would move about the house as if guided by unseen hands.
Odd scents would overwhelm people in certain areas of the house. And frightening apparitions, including that of a young boy we’re seen by visitors lurking about the shadows of the house.
Peter Underwood and his colleagues could only speculate who these entities were and why they were causing so much trouble for the kindly old lady.
Mrs Knox-Johnston did a little digging of her own and uncovered some interesting historical facts. She made some inquiries in the area about her house being haunted and learned her ghosts may be of a very old vintage.
She learned that three Cavaliers were ambushed by Roundhead troops.
Knowing their lives were on the line, the three men drew their swords and put up one hell of a fight.
This story of cavaliers and Roundheads caused a great deal of consternation for the group of ghost hunters.
Through historical research it was discovered the main part of the Rookery was built in 1729, nearly a century after the civil war.
And other parts of the house were added much later in the 20th century.
This fact could only mean one of two things, either a much older structure once existed on the spot.
Or the events leading up to the capture of the three cavaliers was somehow attached to the land upon which the Rookery sat. A not altogether uncommon thing in psychical research.
More details were discovered about the dates of the cavaliers.
The three men survived the battle only to be executed by hanging from a tree that still stood on the property.
Locals in the area tend to avoid the tree as they believe it to be cursed and it gives off a feeling of deep despair.
And if that wasn’t strange enough, several unexplained car accidents have happened around the tree.
Mrs Knox-Johnston, herself, has claimed that she crashed into the tree after her car was commandeered by a mysterious force that took over her car.
Thankfully, she escaped injury from the accident, but her car was beyond repair.
Strange activity at The Rookery
Although Mrs Knox-Johnston appeared to be the primary experiencer in the house; several other people witnessed the strange activity in the Rookery.
The two sons of Doris Crawford, were awakened in the middle of the night by the clashing swords and were so frightened they couldn’t go back to sleep that night.
As the investigation progressed, investigators catalogued the sounds of footsteps and voices that seemed to come from nowhere and everywhere at the same time.
With all the activity, Peter Underwood decided it was time to hold a seance. Perhaps a medium could give the entities inhabiting the house a voice.
As the seance unfolded, three entities came forward. One of the ghosts claimed to be associated with the house but it was hard to make sense of what he was saying. The words came out in an unintelligible jumble.
The second claimed to be from ‘long ago.’ while the third claimed to be a Roundhead who said he perished by the tree where all the terrible car accidents occurred over the years.
When the entities in the house stopped communicating, Peter Underwood decided the investigation was over. And after bidding their farewells, the Ghost Club departed.
Five years later, Peter contacted Mrs Knox-Johnston and asked if there was any recent activity to report.
Happily, the elderly woman replied that her ghosts appeared to all be quiet and there was nothing more to report.
Whatever, or whomever, haunted the Rookery appeared to finally be at rest.
My thoughts on this case
It would seem that The Rookery was home to two different kinds of hauntings, Stone Tape and intelligence that survived the death of the body.
The sounds of clashing swords and voices were more than likely recorded in the physical environment and played back at the appropriate time.
Believe it or not, this really is the most common form of ghostly activity.
And second, the entities that communicated at the seance were the ones probably moving objects and appearing to the living. This could also explain the appearance of the little boy.
I myself have experienced both forms of haunting at a number of locations.