England, with such a lengthy recorded history, has an abundance of ghosts and spooky stories to amuse and mystify anyone interested in the paranormal. One of the friskiest spirits about is reported to be that of Sir William Langhorne, who died in 1715.
He was born to a well-off London family in 1631, and although he was trained as a barrister, there is no evidence he ever practiced law. He inherited shares in the East India Company when his father died and became a Baronet in 1668.
After working in India, where he had been the Agent for Madras, he returned to England in 1680, and purchased the estate of Charlton House, located in South East London, in the Borough of Greenwich. He was anxious to have an heir to whom he could leave all the wealth he had accumulated.
His first wife was Grace, the Dowager Viscountess Chaworth. She lived less than a year after the marriage, and her death, in 1700, added even more to Sir William’s wealth, but he was still without a child.
In 1714, he was 85 years old and still desperate for an heir. He married a seventeen-year-old girl, Mary Aston. Unfortunately, he died two months after the wedding, leaving no direct heir to his fortune. The Baronetcy became extinct at his death and his fortune went to a nephew, Sir John Conyers.
Sir William’s body is buried on the grounds of Charlton Parish Church, but some say his spirit still wanders through the rooms and hallways of the mansion where he lived the latter years of his life. Stranger still, he is still looking for a young lady to give him an heir.
Girls staying on the premises overnight have heard the doorknobs of their bedrooms turning, but no one enters. Other young ladies have had their backsides pinched by invisible fingers. Does Sir William still haunt the mansion looking for a fertile bride?
Over the years, other ghostly occurrences have been reported at Charlton House. Staff members’ belongings mysteriously disappeared, only to reappear later in a different place. The elevator was heard creaking as it went up or down of its own volition. A gray lady has been seen walking towards the walled garden carrying a bundle which resembled a baby.
During restoration work, the mummified body of a baby was actually found in a fireplace of the old mansion. It is believed to be the child of a servant, who was either stillborn or dispatched in panic by its terrified parent.
Today, Charlton House, the beautiful Jacobean Manor House in Greenwich, is available to rent for wedding receptions, parties, conferences or club meetings. The interior has been restored and it reflects once again the elegance it possessed in Sir William’s day. The walled garden has been replanted, and there is a tea shop, “The Mulberry Bush” in the foyer, which is open to the public on weekdays.
Guided tours can be arranged for groups in advance, but overnight visits are not permitted. Perhaps it has been decided that Sir William’s and the other spirits’ antics are just too stressful on visitors’ nervous systems.