User Submitted Stories

Arreton Manor and the haunted helmet

We (a family of five) were on the last day on our holiday on the Isle of Wight. Having seen the day's weather forecast (a bit of a mixed bag), we decided against the beach and looked for something inland. Arreton seemed like a good choice, as not only does it have a Manor House, but also there are several child-centred activities in the neighbouring craft centre.

When we arrived, I was pleased to find that a tour of the house was available as part of the entrance price. However, my wife and children weren't that interested in a tour, so we decided to have a bite to eat and then go our separate ways for a while - Me to 'do the visit', and they, some brass rubbings. After our lunch, we split up and I walked around to the front of the house and joined a queue of about twenty or so other souls waiting for the guide.

The three quarter-of-an hour tour was confined to only part of the ground floor as Arreton Manor is apparently still occupied by its owners. So to make the tour last the allotted time, our amiable guide not only gave us a potted history of the house, but also embellished the occasion with several ghostly tales. As I'm not part of the 'Spook-Hunting' fraternity and I have always been somewhat of a sceptic in this area, I listened to these stories with a sense of amusement rather than being on a fact-finding mission.

After about twenty minutes or so, we moved into the third room of the tour (the oldest part of the house, above the under croft) and we were all invited to hold a sword (a copy of one used by El Cid), and try on a reproduction civil war helmet. The guide first moved around the party with the sword, and we all 'had a go' with it. The helmet was then offered for us to try on. Several commented on its weight, others noted how small it was; apparently, children as young as eleven often fought in the civil war.

When it came to my turn, I dutifully lowered my head, and our guide placed the helmet. I was expecting to offer the usual embarrassed smile/thoughtful look/witty comment one tends to do in these situations. Instead, the moment it touched my head, I was aware of noise coming from the within the helmet. The sound could best be described as an excitable gathering of people in the open air - no one was shouting, but the many voices seemed to be almost competing with each other. The din was then bellowed over by what I retrospectively think might have been perhaps a 'Muster Call' to men at arms - it said stridently, "Aye-ee!" The voice was male and seemed to be very close by, and possibly had a west country-type of brogue. The cacophony then continued as before.

At this point (it must have only been a matter of seconds since putting it on my head), our guide began to remove the helmet, and I remember looking at it and hearing the sounds disappear as it was being carried to the person next to me - it was as though the sounds were actually being produced not in my mind, but in the helmet itself (perhaps through a pair of hidden speakers, I thought). I glanced around the room to the others, and it was perfectly obvious that I had been the only one to have heard anything - as nobody else had batted an eye-lid, or seemed to be aware of anything untoward following my 'anointment'. To say I was taken aback would be an understatement. I know now that I should have immediately said something to somebody, or held the helmet to my head, but I was genuinely dumb-struck for several moments.

The remainder of the tour flew by, as I went through several possible permutations. Perhaps the helmet did have speakers in it, perhaps I had momentarily nodded off and dreamt it, perhaps I was going mad?

I had a quick chat with our guide when we were leaving the building, but he confirmed he hadn't heard a thing when he had placed the helmet on my head, so I left it at that - By then I was starting to feel a bit uneasy and embarrassed by the whole matter, so I decided not to pursue it any more and drifted off into the hazy summer sunshine. I later told my wife and children of my experience, and now I'm telling you.

I would like to return to Arreton sometime, and I now know that they take in B and B guests. This time however, I'll keep the helmet on for a bit longer!

Steve Foulds.


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