The Martyn's Ape and other Ghosts
Location: Athelhampton Hall, near Puddletown
Most Haunted House in Dorset
Athelhampton is considered to be one of the most haunted houses in the county. A pair of duellists haunts the Great Chamber. They once interrupted a woman guest who was reading while relaxing in the Great Chamber. Annoyed at being disturbed by such an outburst, she asked the two young men to stop, but they both ignored her and fought on. The woman pulled continuously at the bell rope to summon one of the servants, but no one arrived. So, she returned to her chair. The duel continued until one was cut across the arm and they both left the room. When the lady told the owner of his unruly guests, he replied rather puzzled. "I can't understand what you are talking about as you have met all the guests who are staying here, at tea." Who the duellists are is not known, but they are believed to date back to the Civil War when Athelhampton had Royalist connections.
Adjoining the Great Hall is the wine cellar, where the sound of tapping is said to be made by the ghost of a cooper. Various members of the household have seen the Grey Lady of Athelhampton on many occasions. Mr Robert Cooke, the owner of Athelhampton, said that he once saw her in the early hours of the morning as she passed the through the walls of the East Wing from the landing to the State and Yellow Bedrooms. She was witnessed by a housemaid, who noticed her sitting in a chair of one of the rooms. Thinking she was a visitor, she told her politely that it was getting late and the house was soon to be closed to the public. The grey figure then rose and to the amazement of the housemaid, disappeared through the wooden panelling. The housekeeper also witnessed the apparition sitting in the same room and described her as wearing, 'a rather full, plain dress and a gauzy sort of head-dress, then she gradually faded away.'
Below: Most Haunted Series One, Episode One: Athelhampton Hall
The sound of the padding of a cat's feet on the bare boards of the Great Stairway, where once heard by Mr Cook during 1957. Aware that the gardener's cat had been unwell for the past few weeks, he decided to follow it, but the creature was nowhere to be seen. The next day Mr Cook mentioned the incident to the gardener and said that he was pleased that the cat had recovered from its illness. However, the gardener told him that the cat had been knocked down by a car and killed, while attempting to cross the main road, outside the house the previous week.
The sighting of the Black Priest was seen in daylight by one of housemaids. She was said to have been doing her usual chores when she became aware of footsteps behind her. Quickly she turned to see a distinct figure, which she described as a 'hooded monk, dressed in black, standing outside the bathroom door.' It is possible this was the ghost of a Catholic priest of the Martyn family.
Perhaps the famous of all the ghosts is that of a pet ape, which was accidentally, imprisoned the secret passage leading from the Great Chamber. Though never seen it is thought that the ghostly sound of scratching can be heard from the panels as the ape tries to escape.
Footnote: To find out more about Athelhampton's resident ghosts and the history of one of the finest 15th Century Houses in England visit ATHELHAMPTON HOUSE AND GARDENS