Imogen Swinhoe’s Ghost Haunts English Home

The Despards moved into their house in April 1882. Two months later, daughter Rose was getting ready for bed when she heard someone pushing against her door. When she opened it, no one was there.

Next, Rose looked toward the stairway where she saw a tall lady dressed in black who began to walk down the stairs. Rose returned to her room and was positive she had seen a ghost. She decided not tell her family about the apparition until she could prove its existence.

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Investigation of Swinhoe’s Ghost Begins

Again, Rose saw the ghost in the same hall. She followed her downstairs to the living room. The phantom stood by a large window, then went to the house’s back door where she disappeared.

Rose’s older sister saw the woman in black one evening before dinner. She wondered who the “nun” was, but didn’t ask.

Rose wrote letters recording her encounters with the ghost to a friend. She had fastened thread across the stairs after everyone went to bed, gluing one end to the wall and the other to the banister. Twice, she saw the apparition pass through the thread without disturbing it.

Old lady ghost

One of the family dogs, a Skye terrier, ran along the upstairs hallway, wagging its tail in greeting. It jumped up in the air, then suddenly fled with its tail between its legs. Later, Rose tried to touch the ghost, but every time she was close enough to reach her, the specter moved away. When Rose trapped her in a corner, the apparition vanished.

When Rose told her father about the ghost, he was surprised to learn that their home had one. The next day, a neighbor stopped by to ask why the family was in mourning.

He had seen a tall lady in a black dress, wearing a bonnet and a veil that covered her face, crying in the Despards’ backyard. Rose and Despard decided to research their home’s history.

Ghost Identified as Imogen Swinhoe

Mr. Swinhoe built the house in 1860. His first wife died and he began to drink. His second wife, Imogen, tried to stop his imbibing, but when she failed, she decided to join him.

Their marriage was miserable. Imogen left him in 1876. Soon, he died in the house. Imogen died two years later.

Imogen Swinhoe

Rose interviewed Imogen’s stepdaughter and learned that her favorite room had been the living room where her specter was seen most often. Swinhoe died in July, his first wife, in August, and Imogen, in September.

The apparition was sighted most frequently during these months.

Last Sightings of Swinhoe’s Ghost

Four years after the ghost first appeared, Edith, one of Rose’s sisters, was the last person to go upstairs. As she walked down the hallway, two of her sisters said that they had heard some odd sounds a few moments earlier. They opened their doors and saw a candle flame go down the hall by itself.

As the trio stood in the hall, they heard footsteps approach them, walk between them and felt a cold breeze as the steps passed by. Rose contacted the UK’s Society for Psychical Research about Imogen’s ghost. The case was reported in its journal.

Haunted house

There have been sighting of Imogen’s ghost since then. The strangest series first happened in 1956. A man living in a house close to the former Despard home woke up one night and saw a woman clad in black Victorian attire crying into a handkerchief. He cried out in alarm and she vanished.

Later, the weeping ghost was seen walking down the staircase and wandering about rooms. People are convinced this is Imogen’s ghost. The mystery is, if true, why she moved.

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