The Hidden Body
Chambercombe Manor near Ilfracombe, in Devon, is haunted by the ghost of a tall, smiling lady dressed in grey. Many visitors to the house have seen her and others have heard strange noises and seen objects move about. It is the ghost of Kate Oatway who died a violent death, but what is even more horrid is what was done to her body!
A hundred and fifty years ago, the Manor was occupied by a perfectly ordinary farmer and his wife. One day the wife was going to market and she asked her husband to do some repairs to the thatched roof. He wasnâ€™t terribly keen on the idea but did look at the roof to see how much work needed to be done. As he peered up, he suddenly found the outline of a window that heâ€™d never noticed before. He leant a ladder against the wall and climbed up to have a look. Sure enough, there was the sill and there was a bricked-in window. Very puzzled, he counted the other windows along that wall and, as he expected, they matched the number of rooms in his house. So which room did this window belong to?
He decided to explore further. He went into the house and started examining an interior wall that he estimated should be very near to the mysterious window. Soon he realised that there must be a hidden room. Just then his wife returned from the market and together they broke down the interior wall. Sure enough, behind the wall was a small room which theyâ€™d never known existed.
Rather nervously, they climbed through the hole theyâ€™d made and started examining the room. It was fully furnished and decorated, but covered in thick layers of dust. In the middle of the room was a four-poster bed surrounded by faded and mouldy tapestries. The farmer stepped forward and nervously started to pull back the tapestry curtain. Suddenly, the material completely crumbled and dropped to the floor in a cloud of dust. The couple sprang back in horror at what they saw!
Lying on the bed was a skeleton! Completely white and shining!
If you visit Chambercombe Manor today, you can see the hidden room, which kept its dreadful secret for many hundreds of years. You can also discover the truth behind the ghostly haunting by Kate Oatway, because it was her body that was bricked up in that room.
That part of the Devon coastline is dangerously rocky and, in olden days, was very treacherous for the passing ships. Many were the wrecks washed up along the shore, which although very unfortunate for the crew, passengers and ships owners, was very fortunate for the locals because of the booty they could steal from the wrecked hulls. To make matters worse, certain wicked men used to play tricks with lights, so that unsuspecting captains would be fooled into thinking they were sailing into a safe harbour, when really they were being led straight onto the rocks.
One such man, who was well known for his wrecking tricks, was a gentleman called Alexander Oatway. He was a rich landowner who, at the time of this story, was living in Chambercombe Manor. One stormy night, when the wrecking â€œlightsâ€ had lured yet another ship onto the rocks, â€œWreckerâ€ Oatway, as he was called, joined his band of helpers on the beach to see what they could salvage. What he didnâ€™t know was that his seventeen-year-old son, William, had become suspicious of his fatherâ€™s activities and had followed him down to the shore. As he stood on the beach, horrified by the sight of the wrecked ship and his fatherâ€™s actions, he suddenly heard a voice crying for help. Scrambling over the rocks he came across a half-conscious girl. He carried her back up to the Manor and nursed her back to health.
â€œWreckerâ€ Oatway was very angry! This Spanish girl, who had been washed overboard from the wreck, was an eyewitness to his evil deeds. He swore the girl to secrecy then gave up his ownership of the Manor and moved to Plymouth. He sent his son to Tavistock to keep him out of the way.
William became a successful businessman than, one day, he met the Spanish girl again at a dance. They fell in love and, shortly afterwards, married. Although he enjoyed living and working in Tavistock, his ambition was to return to Chambercombe Manor. He couldnâ€™t afford to buy it, but when he heard that it was vacant, he eagerly took up the tenancy.
By this time he had a lovely daughter called Kate and, as the years went by, she became even more beautiful,
One day she met an Irishman called Wallace, who was the Captain of a pirate ship. They fell in love and, when they were married, Wallace took her off to his home in Dublin. She was very sorry to leave her parents, but promised that one day she would come back and visit them.
The years passed happily for William Oatway and his wife although he never raised enough money to buy the Manor. There continued to be wrecks along the coast, but William was a law-abiding man whose only interest in the ships was, if he could, to help the Captains and their passengers.
One stormy night he went down onto the beach as usual to see if there were any ships in distress, and for the second time in his life he heard a cry for help. Scrambling over the rocks he once more found the body of a young woman. But this time the woman was in a very bad state, as sheâ€™d been bashed and thrown savagely against the rocks by enormous waves. William took her up the Manor but she died that night. As he and his wife prepared her body for burial they discovered a money belt strapped to her waist. Unable to help himself, William saw that here were enough jewels and gold coins to enable him to buy his beloved Manor, so he took the belt off the body.
The next day a shipping agent called at the manor to see if they knew anything of a missing passenger off the wrecked ship. William, thinking about the money belt heâ€™d stolen, denied all knowledge of the woman. But when he heard the womanâ€™s name he was overcome with horror and grief. Filled with shame, he walled up her body in the secret room then left the Manor never to return.
The name of the woman passenger had been Mrs. Catherine Wallace! Heâ€™d robbed the dead body of his own daughter, Kate!
Itâ€™s no wonder that Kate Oatway haunts the Manor where her own father had committed such a dreadful deed!