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Skeleton of a priest

This is an extract from 'The grown-ups wouldn’t like it, adventures in several countries and many languages' by Delia Despair about ghostly stories told on Halloween night by the principal of the School of Domestic Science at Cuckfield Park in the 1960s. But don't expect any historical accuracy here! Sleep well tonight!

On the night of Hallowe’en we went into the Girls’ Common Room. All the lights were turned out and we sat in the firelight while Miss France told us stories of ghosts at Cuckfield. She was a good story teller and we were enthralled.

She told us that in the time of Queen Elizabeth I the Catholic family who had lived at Cuckfield Park had hidden a priest in a secret chamber. Then suddenly they heard the Queen’s soldiers arriving so they left in a great hurry forgetting about the priest, and nobody knew he was there. About a hundred years later someone accidentally found the entrance to the chamber. “They pressed a part of the panelling, the door swung back and out fell the skeleton of the priest,” said Miss France with relish. We shivered and drew nearer to the fire.

Another story was that of a young bride whose husband was cruel to her. She was desperate to get away from him but she could not escape. Eventually she had a baby and was so unhappy that she drowned herself and the baby in the lake. "To this day her ghost haunts the passages here," said Miss France with satisfaction.

We roasted chestnuts in the fire while she told us about the avenue of lime trees, and said that every time a member of the family was about to die there would be a thunderstorm and one of the trees would come crashing to the ground. “And now,” she said, “There is only one tree left standing. ” We went upstairs to bed with a mixture of excitement and horror. Sally and I thought of trying once again to find the entrance to the priest’s secret chamber in the panelling of our bedroom but then we thought we didn’t really want to in case his skeleton was still there and fell out on top of us.


'The grown-ups wouldn’t like it, adventures in several countries and many languages'

by Delia Despair, Mereo Books 2014. Available at Amazon £13.99

You may enjoy Delia's blog at

Contributed by Malcolm Davison.

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