Edenhall Hotel, Edenhall, Penrith, Cumbria, CA11 8SX
Edenhall Hotel, Edenhall, Penrith, Cumbria, CA11 8SX
THE SPIRIT IN THE MIRROR
Edenhall Hotel was originally an eight bedroomed house called Woodbine Cottage but it has been a hotel for some years. Once you are inside the hotel you will notice curious joins, as if the place has been stitched together from various parts. The truth is that it has been extended a lot over the years. At the very heart of the house is a steep staircase and the low doors and the very dark wood point to the this part being extremely old. In the small lounge by the stairs there is a fireplace with a dark wood surround. The wood is much scarred and the decoration Jacobean in style. There are no nails holding it together only wooden pegs and this central area of the house may well date from the mid 1600s. Upstairs the floors are slightly uneven and along the ceiling of the corridor there are green glass portholes through which you can dimly see skylights in the roof above.
The previous owner still lives locally. She told me that some years ago elderly lady stayed in the hotel. Without prompting, the lady suddenly mentioned to her that there were three ghosts in the hotel – two women and a man. She recalled that one morning shortly after that she and one of the maids went up to Room 38 to make the bed. They believed the room to be empty so they went in without knocking, only to apologise when they saw a figure standing there. They had hastily backed out and they looked at each other. The owner quickly asked the maid if she was sure the previous night’s resident had checked out. She confirmed that he had, so they knocked on the door. There was no answer. When they went in again there was no one there.
In November 1997 the Hotel was bought by two business partners. One of them, Richard Burton, set about converting the attics of the original house into bedrooms because he thought they would provide a good bolt hole – removed from the bustle of the hotel, but still close enough to be on hand if the situation warranted it. When he mentioned this plan to the locals in the bar one night, shortly after he had taken ownership, they gently tried to dissuade him; not saying anything about the attics, just suggesting that some other part of the hotel might be better as a bedroom for him.
He thought nothing of it and the work went ahead. The only slight hint that perhaps the attics were not the best place to find rest and relaxation came from one of the carpenters working on the conversion. All he said was that he always felt uncomfortable when he was alone working up there; as if someone were watching him.
In due course, the work was finished and Richard moved his bed into the left hand attic at the top of the stairs. The room is small and the ceiling slopes down on either side. There is a skylight and curiously small trapdoors in each of the walls. The trapdoors allow access into the rest of the hotel attics and then through to virtually all of the old house with a bit of clambering.
Richard only stayed in that room for five weeks and then had to move out…
Work patterns in the hotel business mean that often the best time to snatch some sleep is during the afternoon, between the times for preparing lunch and dinner. Often at this time of day, just when he was about to fall asleep, he would have the strong sensation that someone had walked past him in the room; he felt the air move as someone passed and looked up to see the door closing, though he had not been aware the door had opened. In fact most times he was pretty certain it had been closed. He said, “I never saw anyone but I had the strong visual image of an elderly, but still sprightly, old lady in a long Victorian or Edwardian apron walking past. I felt it was her full dresses moving by that caused the movement of the air. It didn’t matter whether it was night or afternoon, if I started to fall asleep, she was there.” It is hard to know who the elderly lady is. She has never been described as being hostile or unkind, merely watchful. It is possible that she was once a housekeeper at the hotel and even now likes to keep an eye on what goes on there.
Sally, now in her seventies, worked at the Edenhall Hotel for twenty years. In her day the attics were used as bedrooms for the bar staff. She remembers that they complained it was very eerie up there and she herself is in no doubt that the hotel is haunted. She only saw the ghost once. One day, she was climbing the stairs to the attic, and she saw a woman going up in front of her. She thought it was one of the maids called Irene, but when she got to the attic, there was no one about and certainly no one had passed her coming down.
But it wasn’t just in the attic bedrooms that a presence was felt. In the bar there was a large mirror on the opposite wall from the bar counter. Richard noticed that when he was talking to people standing at the bar, at any time of day or night, but particularly in the mornings when the hotel was quiet, he would see a reflection in the mirror as if someone was walking past him just at the edge of his vision. When he turned round, no one was ever there. In the end the mirror was removed. Richard wasn’t the only one who felt or saw something in the bar. Around the same time, one of the waitresses was alone there one morning. She looked up from her tidying and saw an old lady sitting in an armchair in the corner. She was surprised to see a guest but went about her work. When she looked again, the old woman vanished.
This ties in with what the previous owner told me; she knew nothing of Richard’s experiences, but in the course of conversation she said one day she had been in the bar when she saw a man in a suit walk across the room carrying a pint. When she turned round he was gone. Whoever the ghost in the bar is, nobody knows. He seems a respectable enough chap; all he wants is to be left alone to have a quiet drink. As suggested above, the tales of the haunting of Edenhall Hotel go back further than Richard Burton’s time. Room 25 is one of the smallest rooms in the hotel and isn’t normally let to guests unless the hotel is otherwise full. In fact it was previously used as a bedroom for staff. In the early 1990s, there was a waiter living in that room who suddenly left without giving a reason. When the room was cleaned out, it was discovered that he had put cloves of garlic against the windowpane.
In the course of my research, I contacted a young woman called Teresa who worked there in 1990. She told me that there was indeed a room that was known to be haunted. I wasn’t surprised to hear her describe Room 25. She said that there was a sunken bath in that room and behind it a mirror. A number of guests had told her that a white apparition of a woman would come out of the mirror when they were in the bath. Sometimes if guests woke in the middle of the night, they would find her sitting at the bottom of their bed, just watching them in the dark.
There were certain people who always requested to stay in that room because they wanted to see her. In the 1980s the local MP, later Lord William Whitelaw had aides who came with him to Cumbria from London. One of them in particular always stayed in Room 25. Teresa says he made no secret of the fact that he wanted to see the woman from the mirror again.
The mirror itself and the bathroom are fairly modern, but the bathroom appears to have been converted from a corridor. The wall behind the mirror is a new one but it is on the dividing line between the old house and the new one. It is well known that ghosts are often seen around boundaries of time or space – walls, doors, anniversaries, midnight or the division between summer and winter that we now call Halloween.