A True Ghost Story – The Mystery Continued Long After the Haunting
A family mystery, about what some secretly regarded as a true ghost story, became part of my family research when the yellowing, fragile page of a newspaper dated Tuesday, October 19th, 1880, turned up in the old family records I was studying. I was trying to find out why people left their homes and families to emigrate to Australia. The Ghost Story presented me with a reason I had not previously considered, for one family's departure from the Old Country.
Family legend surrounds the Everett family as a result of the curious story of the Everett Ghost. Curious, not because the story itself is remarkable, but because there were those who said it was true. The story was written by one of the five daughters of Arundel Everett, and printed in Melbourne by the Echo Newspaper in 1880.
The story tells how the girls 'father bought a large house, referred to as "Hayes' Castle", in a village on the outskirts of London, which turned out to be haunted.
It tells how Uncle William and Aunt Mary came to visit and spend the night, but refused to stay longer as they believed the house was haunted. Another Aunt, Etta, fled her room in the middle of the night, in the belief that a strange presence had entered. One of the children, Emilie, who was the baby of the family at the time, saw a strange man on the stairs, and the older children also saw strange things that could not be accounted for.
After a very short time in residence, some renovations revealed the probable cause of the haunting. Human remains were found in secret chambers below the house. The family vacated the house immediately after that, and left England as soon as they could. That was the end of the ghost story, but not the end of family mystery.
The story made me curious, firstly because the daughter who wrote the ghost story used names that easily identified the characters. I would have thought that she would have used fully fictitious names, if it was just a 'story'. Then, a letter written by Emilie's mother-in-law in 1880 said that the story was, "written by a sister of my daughter-in-law, all she writes in it is true and happened to the Everett family".
One of Emilie's grand daughters told me that her mother also said that it was a true ghost story. Then, after I had written about the story on my family website, another relative produced a watercolor of the haunted house, painted by one of the other Everett daughters.
Could it really be a true ghost story?
For me as a family historian, the final act of the mystery concerns the death of Arundel Everett, some seventeen years after he and his family fled from the haunted house.
His body was found on the road from Nanango to Toromeo, Queensland, on 23rd April 1867. The place where his body was found was about seven miles from Toromeo. The request held the next day described Everett, as a contractor, as 5ft 4in, light hair with gray beard. He had been staying for a day or two at a hotel at Nanango and had told one of the witnesses that he had fallen off the roof of a house he had been building. He was walking from Nanango to Toromeo, and stopped for a short time with James Holt, a miner, and six men in his company, who were resting near the road. Everett proceeded on his journey and was found dead or dying some time later, when Holt's party came up with him.
Some injuries on the body were attributed to his supposed fall from the roof. Cause of death was unknown, possibly exhaustion or heart disease. No person suspected. No one accused. No suspicious circumstances.