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Sandringham House’s ghost: “…a wheezing sound that resembles a grotesque lung breathing in and out…”

‘Tis the night before Christmas and all through Sandringham House, it’s the spirits that are

stirring along with the mouse. At the Royals’ festive residence of choice, which stands on a 20,000 estate in West Norfolk, Christmas is a busy time of year: for the undead. Each Christmas Eve, Royals and staff alike wait in anticipation for a visit from someone that many people don’t believe exists – but in Sandringham’s case, it’s not Santa Klaus they’re waiting for, it’s the House’s phantoms.

Sandringham House, pictured in 1934. CREDIT: George Plunkett

On December 24, it has been widely reported that Christmas cards are scattered over the

floor by unseen hands, blankets are tugged off beds in the middle of the night and

‘something’ invisible breathes down the maids’ necks. This most magical of nights is when it is said the paranormal activity begins, lasting around six to eight weeks.


Some say the ghost is a nun who once seduced a monk on the site and whose shame tethers

her to Earth, others that the phantom is a young man who used to light lamps at Sandringham. Footsteps have been heard in the deserted corridors of the housekeepers’ quarters and an

unnamed member of the Royal family once revealed to author Joan Forman that a female

guest was allocated a bedroom where, at 2am, she witnessed a ghost.


Joan Forman wrote a number of books about the paranormal, including The Mask of Time

(about timeslips), The Haunted South and The Golden Shore, a book about first-hand

experiences of near-death and death-survival. She also wrote Haunted East Anglia, in 1974 (a classic) and two books about the Royal residences and their ghostly inhabitants: Royal Hauntings and Haunted Royal Homes.


Forman relayed the tale told to her by the Royal who said she had slept badly at Sandringham and woken at 2am to find the room brightly-lit. The door of the bedroom suddenly opened, and in came a young man carrying a long pole who walked around the room, pausing every few moments to reach up the wall with the pole as if lighting or extinguishing long-since-lost candles.


When Queen Elizabeth ordered alterations to the old kitchens at the House, it was reported

that the activity increased throughout the house: paranormal researchers have long believed that disturbances can increase when there are alterations to a building.


The library at Sandringham is said to be one of the most active areas. A young Prince Charles and his former valet Ken Stronach were said to have fled in terror from the library after a deathly cold descended and they felt that someone – or something – was behind them. Housekeeping staff have seen books flying from the shelves as if flung in anger and the

hands on a broken clock in the room are said to move by themselves.

The library at Sandringham House. Date and photographer unknown

In 1996, Royal workers Shaun Croasdale was in the cellars when he saw a familiar figure

wearing his trademark blue apron next to him: it was Tony Jarred, the Queen’s favourite

steward. Jarred had died the year before. Jarred died at the age of 60 after dedicated service to the Royal family for 38 years and it was said the Queen had known him his entire life, and according to a royal insider, was very fond of him and took comfort from knowing that he was still around.


Royal biographer Kenneth Rose’s diaries claimed that the late Queen believed in the ghosts

at Sandringham and that she had ordered a religious service in a bedroom there when staff

told her it was haunted. The room in question was where the late Queen’s father, King George VI, lived before his death in 1952 which several members of the housekeeping team refused to enter, claiming it had a resident ghost.


Rose wrote: "Prue Penn [the Queen Mother’s lady-in-waiting] tells me that at Sandringham

in the summer, the Queen invited her to attend a little service in one of its rooms conducted

by the local parson. The only other person present was the Queen Mother.


"Some of the servants had complained that the room was haunted and did not want to

work in it. The parson walked from room to room and did indeed feel some sort of

restlessness in one of them."


He added: "This the Queen Mother identified as a ground-floor room which had been

turned into a bedroom for George VI during his last months. So, the parson held a service

there, not exactly of exorcism, which is the driving out of an evil spirit, but of bringing

tranquillity.


"The congregation of three took Holy Communion and special prayers were said, I think for

the repose of the King’s soul in the room in which he died. The parson said that the

oppressive or disturbing atmosphere may have been because of Princess Diana: he had

known such things before when someone died a violent death."


One of the most unsettling accounts from Sandringham was from a footman who saw

something terrifying in his bedroom, which was in an area that housekeepers were

frightened to work in alone. This part of Sandringham is said to be where lights turn themselves on and off, footsteps are heard walking down empty corridors and doors are heard opening and closing.


The poor footman given a room in this wing spoke of seeing something that looked like a

large paper sack making a chilling noise, “…a wheezing sound that resembles a huge,

grotesque lung breathing in and out.”


Prince Christopher of Greece, is reported to have once seen the veiled head and shoulders of a woman reflected in a mirror while staying at Sandringham. A few days later, he went to visit Houghton Hall and saw a portrait of the woman he had seen in his bedroom: it was Lady Dorothy Walpole, the famous Brown Lady of Raynham Hall.


The Royal ties to Sandringham date back to 1893, when the house was given as a wedding

gift by King Edward VII (then The Prince of Wales) to his son and new daughter-in-law the

Duke and Duchess of York (later King George V and Queen Mary). Before this, the property had been lived in by Prince Albert Victor, the eldest son of Edward VII, until his death aged 28 in 1892 from influenza.

Photograph of Prince Albert Victor, taken in January 1892 just a month before he died.

Some say that it is Albert Victor who supposedly haunts the halls of the royal home. The eldest son of King Edward VII and Queen Alexandra and a favourite grandson of Queen Victoria, he was once named as a suspect in Jack the Ripper’s Whitechapel murders. (With no solid evidence whatsoever, it must be noted).


The first theory was that the Prince had contracted a sexually-transmitted disease from a

sex worker which had spread to his brain and caused him to go on a murderous, vengeful

rampage. The second was that Albert fell in love, had a child with and secretly married a Catholic girl in Whitechapel and that in order to protect the Royal name, agents of the family murdered anyone with knowledge of the Prince’s secret child. Regardless of groundless theorising, Albert’s life was filled with links to scandal, illness and rumours about his intellect, mental health and sexuality.


In late 1891, Edward and Alexandra, despairing their son – next in line to the throne – would

never marry or produce an heir, ordered him to propose to Mary of Teck, a minor Princess

within the Royal family who he scarcely knew. The wedding was planned for February 1892, but by January of the same year, the Prince was dead, a victim of the influenza that killed thousands in Britain. He died the day before his 28th birthday at Sandringham.


Queen Alexandra kept the room in which he died as a permanent shrine, his hairbrushes

and shaving kit ready for him, a fire burning in the grate during the winter months.

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