As I've mentioned before, Wales has produced many of my favorite ghost tales, and the following is a wonderful example of the breed. From the "Paducah Sun," October 31, 1983:
Conwy, Wales - The ghost of a knight bent on revenge supposedly stalks a bedroom.
The moans of a young doctor he swore to kill are said to issue from deep within walls.
A mysterious child appears, only to vanish.
It's all part of the haunted heritage of Plas Mawr, a stone-walled triple-storied manor house with 365 windows and 52 doors that's long been a landmark in this castle-town on the Irish Sea. Some of the ghostly goings-on are recounted in the guidebook to the house, built in 1577. The rest is happily told to visitors by Leonard Mercer, curator of the dwelling now headquarters for the Royal Cambrian Academy of Art. Mercer's story about the mystery child is the spooky stuff of which Halloween is made.
"Two or three years ago, a woman who visited the house became visibly upset," he began.
"She suddenly saw this girl dressed in blue in the reception room and claimed that what she saw was herself as a child."
Shaken by the child who uttered not a word, the woman went for her husband, who was in another room. The couple returned. The girl was gone. About three weeks later, according to Mercer, another woman said she, too, saw a small child, dressed in blue. Again, witnesses were summoned. Again, no girl. More sightings were reported, one by a teenager who worked for a while at the old Elizabethan house hung with paintings and adorned with ancient antiques.
"She saw this figure go by one day and looked to see a girl dressed in blue, with a blue hat.
"She thought it was my daughter, Sharon, but Sharon wasn't in the house," said Mercer.
He says neither the first woman nor the second woman to report sightings knew each other. Nor did the teen know the women.
"They were independent sightings," said Mercer. "But in all cases, the description of the girl was the same. She was dressed in blue and appeared to be about three or four years old."
So who or what is the ghostly girl? The age may offer a clue. The knight's pregnant wife was holding their three-year-old child when she slipped and fell down some stairs, causing a doctor to be summoned to the house. That ghost story is told in the guidebook, which says it happened in mid-November toward the end of the 16th century.
The knight a descendent of the fierce Welsh warrior-prince Owain Gwynedd, had been away at war for six months. His spouse was in the watch tower of Plas Mawr, hopefully scanning the horizon for any sign of his return.
The knight did not know she was with child.
Darkness had descended the woman ventured down from her lofty station. She stumbled and fell, seriously injuring herself and the little girl.
Immediately, the housekeeper had them brought to a bed in the Lantern Room and sent for the family doctor, an elderly, experienced physician. The doctor came and left, telling the housekeeper to keep a close watch over the woman and her child.
Later, the housekeeper became worried and called for the doctor again. He wasn't in. His young assistant, Dr. Dick, was available and came instead. The guidebook says Dr. Dick possessed "a highly nervous temperament" and was doubtless excited about such a dangerous case. Alarmed, he decided to fetch the old doctor. The housekeeper refused to let him go, bolted the door and sent another man.
"In a short time, after momentarily expecting his return, she became aware of an awful stillness in the Lantern Room," says the book. A storm swirled around the old gray stone house, adding more eeriness to the episode. The housekeeper called out through the door. There was no reply. Then she heard heard heavy footsteps cross the banqueting hall and ascend the stairs.
It was the knight, who just then arriving home, brushed the housekeeper aside and rushed into the room. The dying embers of a fire in the hearth and a flickering lantern exposed a terrible sight. The little girl was dead on a couch by the window. Her mother was dead on the bed, a baby, prematurely born, lay dead beside her.
"Who has been here?" the guidebook says the knight pleaded.
"Dr. Dick is somewhere in the room," the old woman replied, tears streaming down her cheeks.
Enraged, the knight drew his sword. But Dr. Dick was nowhere in sight.
"Leave me, leave me! I'll never leave this room again until I've been revenged on Doctor Dick. Daylight will tell the story!"
With that cry, the knight pushed the housekeeper out of the room.
"He shut the door and paced the room heavily for hours with repeated exclamations of sorrow and anger, till at last, with one wild cry of bitter anguish, he expired at the foot of the bed on which his dead wife lay," quoth the guidebook.
When the poor housekeeper opened the door at daylight she saw the lord, his lady and their children, all dead. The windows were shut tightly, too, but still no Dr. Dick.
"He may have tried to escape up a chimney or through various passages from the chimneys that run throughout the house," said Mercer. "He may have become lost or overcome with smoke and died. At any rate, he was never seen again."
Yet the the guidebook says on "stormy nights when the wind and rain, thunder and lightning are fightinh for mastery with each other, the tormented moans of poor Dr. Dick may be heard coming from within the walls.
And why didn't the old doctor come back? The man the housekeeper sent for him "was seized by a press gang and hurried off to a vessel in the harbour, which immediately put to sea."
He didn't return to Conwy until 50 years later. Only then did he learn what had happened that horrible night.