With Halloween on the horizon, we explore some of the island’s most notoriously spirited places and spaces, including a private home occupied by a ghost who makes a bait of answering the telephone.
- It would certainly be a bit annoying being evicted from your home having already paid next month’s rent, especially if it were so pleasant a seat as Winton on the North Shore in Devonshire. But when you’re forced out by nothing less than a ghost, even the staunchest heart might well cry the tears of Niobe. Yet more than one family has fled from the straying spirit of Kitty Love Dill.
The late author of Bermuda’s Favourite Haunts, “Mac” Musson, and the rest of her family left Winton relatively unscathed after staying there just eleven months from December 1964 to the following November. “We just couldn’t get any sleep at night,” she once told Bermudian writer Thomas Vesey. “Even after the first week I began to notice something, though I didn’t believe in ghosts when I first moved in. There were sudden temperature drops in the house—even in the dining room—which couldn’t be explained away as drafts.” And then she heard reports of people seeing eerie lights drifting up and down the stairs and the story of the woman who glided through the dining room. She began to be a bit concerned when her son was awakened one night by someone tapping on his shoulder. There was no one there. Then, looking around the room, he made out the misty shadow of a woman standing at the doorway, and as he watched, it faded softly into the darkness.
What is more, the ghost has been known to answer the telephone. On one occasion Musson was expecting a call from Sister Jean de Chantal of Mount St. Agnes. The phone rang but when Musson’s daughter answered, there was no reply. Shortly afterwards it rang again: a startled Sister Jean was on the phone with an astonishing tale to tell. She said that when she had dialed a couple of minutes before, an unfamiliar voice answered. “Is this Winton?” asked Sister Jean. She was told clearly that it was. Yet she was told that neither her sister nor her niece was at home. Puzzled, Sister Jean hung up and tried again. This time her niece answered…yet there was absolutely no one who could have answered the phone earlier.
Through many generations of bewildered Winton residents, the legend has been passed down that the ghost is that of Kitty Love Dill. The wife of Captain Thomas Dill, Kitty lived in the house over two hundred years ago. There are many strange tales told of this remarkable woman, and at least half a dozen involve her seeing a wraith—the image of a person immediately after their death. One night she awakened to see her son, a sea captain like his father, standing clearly before her. Water was dripping from his hair, and he vanished soon afterwards. It later transpired that his ship, and all aboard her, had been lost.
- Yet another old Bermuda house which is said to be haunted is Spithead on the shores of Granaway Deep in Warwick. Indeed, the grounds of Spithead have the distinction of being walked by the spectres of two people. The house was originally the home of the famed privateer Hezekiah Frith and used as a store for his booty. In 1800, however, Hezekiah returned with a trophy of a more valuable kind—a beautiful young Frenchwoman whom he had carried off from the ship L’Augusta andstowed secretly away in the carriage house (now a separate dwelling called Spithead Lodge), where the kidnapped beauty died. Since then, it is said, she wanders lonely and confused around the house.
- In 1956, Spithead Lodge was occupied by the distinguished playwright Noel Coward, who boasted that he had encountered the girl on numerous occasions, and in fact maintained a charming relationship with her. Another dramatist, Eugene O’Neil, lived at Spithead in the late 1920s, and his wife, with unshakable confidence, claimed that she had seen the spectre of the solitary French lass. Legend has it, furthermore, that old Hezekiah himself can be seen pacing the waterfront impatiently on a blustery evening, waiting for the weather to change so that he can put to sea once more.
- Admiralty House
- Though the building is in disarray now, few can forget Admiralty House, which for three hundred years proudly overlooked Clarence Cove in Spanish Point. From 1962 until 1974, it was the residence of “Bubbles” Burnard, quartermaster of the Bermuda Regiment for many years. He told how on several occasions he and his wife would hear noises at night. On getting out of bed they would see the ghostly shadow of an old mariner, drifting through the main hall in full admiral’s regalia. The Burnards weren’t the only people to have seen the old salt, for the groundsman at the time, Mr George Tucker, had seen him, too, and many visitors to the house confirmed his story. Originally a private home, the building became the permanent residence of the appointed admiral from this station in 1816, eventually passing into the hands of the Bermuda Regiment. Today, Admiralty House is nothing but a derelict shell of its former self. Where the old admiral has gone one can only guess, but Clarence Cove abounds in caves and underground passages which may well harbour the phantom seaman.
- Government House
- Legend has it that if you hear the swish of a heavy skirt on a moonless night at Government House, you’ve been visited by a ghost looking for her revenge.
But do not be afraid, for it’s not you she’s looking for. According to Bermuda’s Favourite Haunts, the ghost is the wife of one of Bermuda’s earliest governors. After suffering a lifetime of both physical and emotional abuse at the hands of her husband, she remains on the property, looking for him and ready to make him pay.
- Gibbs Hill Lighthouse
- Several lighthouse keepers have reportedly had encounters with spirits at Gibbs Hill. One such man, Michael Dolding, recalled an evening when he was at the top of the lighthouse administering to a mechanical issue. Though he was sure he was the only one there, he heard the unmistakable sound of footsteps climbing the spiral staircase. Even his terrier, Beans, sensed an intruder and barked and snarled at the invisible presence. Once Dolding had made his way back down to ground level, his suspicions were confirmed. He had indeed locked the lighthouse door after he went inside, rendering it impossible for anyone to have got in. After that, Dolding never again entered the lighthouse without the company of another.
- The Cathedral of The Most Holy Trinity
- A visiting couple received the shock of their lives when a tour of Hamilton’s Cathedral resulted in them being visited from beyond the grave.
It was a warm day, and the couple were taking in the history and architecture of the grand city church. After a while, the husband decided he wanted to take a look around the grounds. When his wife finally joined him, she caught him deep in conversation with a wall! She approached her husband and suggested to him that perhaps it was time to go, worried that Bermuda’s heat and humidity had exhausted her husband to the point of delusion. On the contrary, her husband was elated to introduce her to his new acquaintance, a gentleman who told him he was working on restoring the cathedral after a fire that took place in 1892, almost one hundred years prior.
- Built in 1710, Verdmont in Devonshire was once the home of the Joell family who lived there until the property was purchased in 1951 for the Bermuda National Trust. While there are many stories of ghostly appearances at Verdmont, one in particular stands out to John Cox who was giving a tour of the property to a lone visitor in August 1982. After directing the woman to the attic, Cox retired to the drawing room when, all of a sudden, he heard the woman gasp loudly and take to the stairs quickly. When he asked her what was the matter, she told him that she had seen a man in the attic who appeared before quickly fading away. Visibly shaken, she left the property and did not return.
It seemed that the same man appeared to the first curator of the Trust, Lillian Fox, when she was doing some light cleaning in the attic. While she noted that the figure was not clearly defined, she was sure it was that of Spencer Joell who had resided at the house until the 1940s.
- A story involving the poor treatment of an enslaved woman relates to the old house Bel-Air on Cobbs Hill. In 1958, the Helen Hayes Repertory Theatre visited Bermuda and taking residence at Bel-Air, they conducted regular workshops and theatre training. At times there were as many as twenty staying at this grand home, the property of Lydia Moncure Robinson.
From the moment they arrived they encountered an aura of hostility, and before long were encouraged by the atmosphere to hold a Ouija board session. This turned out to be more than just a diversion when repeatedly the Ouija board appeared to be working. Finally, they decided to take notes, and in this way every letter spelled out on the round polished dining room table was faithfully recorded. Though the words and letters were very much jumbled, they managed to make out occasional sentences. This enabled the Americans, who had no knowledge of Bermuda’s history, to establish that they had made contact with a female from the eighteenth century. When they asked her why the house had such an atmosphere of unease, she revealed through the board that an enslaved man had been horrendously tortured and consequently had cursed the house and all who lived in it.
One of the strongest proofs that the Ouija board contact offered was this: the man had taken what she called “de shinnies” (an early term for jewellery), and as a result his right hand was thrust into a lime kiln. She even revealed the location of the kiln at the southeast corner of the property. The drama group, along with the estate agent for the property, went to the southeast corner and found nothing but a flat lawn. When they dug a few feet, however, they came across the remains of a lime kiln. During the rest of their stay of several months, the occupants were never again able to bring back the female they had contacted.