David Lewis Paget
The Naked Lady Of Houghton Hall - Poem by David Lewis Paget
Houghton Hall had been derelict
Since the Roundheads came and went,
They said that it couldn't be restored
No matter how much you spent,
But I loved that place and its spacious grounds
So I went against advice,
I paid a pittance and thought I'd get
A part of it looking nice.
It still had the stately central stair,
It still had the marble floors,
It needed a bit of the lead replaced
But still had the cedar doors.
The windows needed a scrub and clean
Were original pebble glass,
It soon was done though my Bank was lean
And I moved right in, at last.
There wasn't much furniture at first
To muffle its ancient walls,
My footsteps echoed around the floors
Of its entry, rooms and halls,
It was only then that I saw her walk
In the gloom of a winter's night,
And found I'd bought, along with the Hall
A ghostly woman in white!
She glided along the balustrade
Came steadily down the stair,
I stood well back in the entryway
Pretended I wasn't there.
Then she stopped and grabbed at the bannister
And let out a dreadful wail,
It seemed to swell from the hounds of hell
And I felt myself grow pale.
She seemed to fade on the stairway there
And her wailing went as well,
The hair stood up on the back of my neck
For I felt she'd come from hell.
So I asked around with the village folk
If they knew, they said they might,
And for a bribe of a drink or two
Described the woman in white.
It seems she had been Lord Houghton's bride
When the Roundheads came to call,
And Ireton's men had shot the Lord,
He told them to kill them all.
She died on the central stairway there
She died from a single shot,
While the Roundheads plundered the ancient hall
With her corpse left there to rot.
I felt for her, yes, I really did
It was such a gory tale,
But it got too much when at night I hid
For she came each night to wail.
My eyes were haggard, I couldn't sleep
I was feeling so uptight,
And then I came across the cupboard
That clothed the woman in white.
The cupboard stood in an upstairs room
That I hadn't quite restored,
I hadn't bothered for in the gloom
The damp had swollen the door,
And in a drawer was a pile of clothes
So old, that she kept for best,
And there preserved with a bullet hole
Was the very same woman's dress.
I took the dress and I hid it well,
Then waited for her that night,
Till she came stumbling down the stair,
She did, the woman in white.
But there was no sign of the dress on her
Just camiknickers in silk,
And pain and sadness were in her wail
Though her skin was white as milk.
A week went by and she still came down
That stairway to keen and wail,
So I went back with my sleepless frown
And I hid it, without fail,
The camiknickers, the stockings, shoes
And I left that cupboard bare,
Invited a crowd from the local hunt
To come, to stand and stare.
And she came just once on that fateful night
She was naked and serene,
Then she saw us all in the entryway
And the woman stood and screamed.
If you need to get rid of a troublesome ghost
You must cause some slight mishap,
She never came back down the stairs again
Once we all just stood, and clapped.
20 January 2015
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