The Ghosts of Ham House

Myth and Legend

The Ghosts of Ham House

Ham House and Garden in Richmond is said to be one of the most haunted houses in Britain - home to about 16 ghosts including that of a duchess, her dog and a heartbroken servant.

This 17th-century home on the banks of the River Thames is owned by The National Trust, so it's possible to go ghost-hunting for oneself, or even join a Ghost Tour.

Cold spots, the sound of footsteps and an inexplicable scent of roses have been reported at the stately home. The central figure appears to be the restless spirit of Elizabeth Murray, Duchess of Lauderdale. She inherited Ham House from her father in 1655.

In life Elizabeth was ambitious and ruthless. She played a dangerous political game by being friends with both Charles II and Oliver Cromwell. Her aim was to guarantee herself a place of influence with whoever ended up in power.

She was equally strident in her personal life, taking family members to court if they crossed her.

When her first husband died suddenly she quickly married the recently-widowed John Maitland, 1st Earl of Lauderdale. Some speculated darkly about how the suspiciously close deaths of both her husband – and the Earl’s wife – facilitated Elizabeth’s rise further up the social ladder.

But, in the end, she ran out of luck. After the death of her second husband came financial problems. This, along with ill health, forced Elizabeth to confine herself to a single ground floor flat at Ham House.

Ghostly events seem to be concentrated there on the ground floor. Some visitors report a strange oppressive atmosphere in the room. Pets seem reluctant to enter. There is also a large looking glass dating from Elizabeth’s time that some people say they are too scared to glance into, inexplicably afraid of what – or whom – they might see staring back.

In addition, a woman in black, believed to be Elizabeth, has been seen on the stairs nearby.

But Elizabeth isn’t the only spirit to haunt Ham House. The ghostly screams of a suicidal young nobleman who fell in love with – and was rejected by – a servant girl have also been heard at the property. Visitors have also reported being mysteriously 'pushed' down the stairs and have seen the ghost of a spaniel wandering the first floor. 

The National Trust even state that the ghostly spaniel was the subject recently of a complaint from a lady who was appalled that the National Trust allowed dogs inside the house.

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