ELHAS News - January 2017

Meeting Report January 2017

Our first meeting of 2017 set a new record for the number of people attending. An audience of 69 is the most we have ever had and was no doubt a testament to the popularity of the speaker Ross Horsley and the subject of his illustrated talk "The Ghost Stories of Lord Halifax". Ross is the manager of the local studies department at Leeds Central Library. He has worked at the library for ten years and thoroughly enjoys his job, not least because it affords him the opportunity to read old and often discarded books and discover stories and facts long forgotten. Ross began his talk by explaining that this was the starting point for this talk - the discovery of a book published in 1936 entitled "Lord Halifax Ghost Book". The connection between Lord Halifax and Temple Newsam sparked his interest and he soon found himself immersed in spooky stories, not only from the great houses in England, but also from across the channel in France. The book was a selection of vintage stories collected by Charles Lindley Wood, 2nd Viscount Halifax, and published two years after his death by his son Edward, who inherited Temple Newsam House in 1904.

Local legend has always said that there have been sightings of spectral figures over the years at Temple Newsam so it was natural for Ross to read the accounts of these from the book, including the well known story of "the Blue Lady" said to have inhabited Lord Halifax's room. He also read us an account from The Yorkshire Evening Post from 1923 when an intrepid reporter had spent the evening at the house in a vain attempt to gather evidence for some of the eerie tales. Sadly his efforts yielded nothing and he left the house at midnight disappointed in his quest. We, however, were not disappointed and the gruesome tales of things that go bump in the night had us on the edges of our seats and looking over our shoulders! A delightful interlude during the talk was when Ross recounted the story of the 'Mistletoe Bough' a sad tale of the loss of a new bride as a result of a game of hide and seek, which has been recounted in different forms over the years. Much to our surprise Ross included a clip from a silent film of the story released in 1904. Whilst his 21st century audience may have been somewhat blasé about the special effects in the film, it was easy to see how an early 20th century audience would have been enthralled and perhaps a little scared by what was portrayed in the film.

Ross ended his talk with a tale from Lille, France. This was another telling of an unsettling story which had been told by several people over the years and centred on an old building in the centre of Lille. This building had been a private house and eventually was used as a hotel. Tales have abounded about a young man being held captive in an iron cage in an unused garret at the top of the house. The story that subsequent visitors to the house told, many of them decades apart, was of being disturbed during the night by the sounds of heavy footsteps dragging across the floor of the empty room above. We were left to form our own conclusions about this creepy tale and all the other stories Ross had regaled us with. The interest this talk had aroused was evidenced by the number of people wanting to speak to Ross afterwards and describe their own ghostly experiences.

The next meeting on Monday 27th February 2017 will be an illustrated talk by Andrea Hetherington entitled "A Horrible Crime of Murder - Dark Deeds in 19th Century Hunslet" Come if you dare!!