SCAPLEN’S Court Museum in Poole’s old town has long been believed to be haunted.
Local storytellers often cite the tale of Agnes Beard, a maid murdered in the late 1500s who still walks the courtyard. Visitors claim they feel a male presence in an area known as the Solar Room, and staff members have heard footsteps when they know no-one else is there.
Last month the museum contacted us after the image of a human figure was captured on CCTV when no-one was there.
Look closely around the 01.33 mark to see if you can spot the orb going across the floor
In time for Halloween, a team of brave Echo journalists decided to spend a night vigil at the Medieval building, joined by local psychic Robert Broadhurst-Browne.
“Before I even entered, I visualised a man with a tall hat from the Civil War period,” said Robert. “Almost immediately I felt the presence of children here. Then I saw a shadow move across the CCTV screen.”
It looked as though we were in for an interesting night.
“Who’s up in that first-floor room?” Robert asked when we were in the courtyard. “I just saw a woman pass the window.”
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Robert believed her name was Margaret Brooks, and that she was a nurse from the 1800s.
He also felt her presence in the scullery, along with an old man crying and “plenty of children”.
He thought there was something bricked up in the wall here, too – possibly a cat, a practice not uncommon in the olden days to ward off evil spirits.
This seemed like an ideal spot to set up our night-vision camera, to see if we could record any paranormal activity on film.
In total darkness, most of us began to see little lights randomly flicker in the corner of the room. Could this be our eyes adjusting to the darkness?
Robert insisted we take a photograph in this corner, and at the exact time our camera picked up an orb – said to be the beginnings of a ghost manifestation.
Another place apparently full of spirit activity is the area currently set up as a classroom.
Watching over proceedings, according to Robert, was a tall, skinny man of the 1700s, “sitting in the corner with a tall top hat”.
“He looks like Abraham Lincoln. I’m getting the name Gabriel and he was a schoolmaster who had an affair with a married teacher.
“Her wronged husband is also here and he is very agitated.”
The psychic also picked up on a child called Patrick who was about six years old and died of whooping cough, together with twin girls aged around nine.
Two other more modern-day phantoms were felt – a man who died of a heart attack and someone named Michael who was “coming through from the pub next-door where he was stabbed”. But it was one room in particular – The Solar Room – in which Robert was particularly interested.
“Oh dear. There’s a man here who isn’t happy about us being here. His name is Joseph and he is linked with religion. I feel very uncomfortable here. It feels like murder.
“I feel this was at one time a meeting place. I can smell beer and hear chat.”
Could this be why we all saw a red light moving in the room, like the end of a lit cigarette?
Just as one of the team was convinced they saw a man in a doorway, Robert said: “There’s another male presence here. His name is Cedric, and he’s a Roundhead from the Civil War era.”
When Robert asked if any spirit could make themselves known, a moan went around the ceiling. Possibly the wind...
Museum assistant Jackie McGuire said: “For many years, people have sensed a man’s presence in this room, and it was also the room in which the CCTV camera picked up the strange figure last month.
“During the Civil War Scaplen’s Court was known to be occupied by Roundhead forces, and many initials and dates from that period are scratched on the old stone fireplace in the Solar Room.”
Jackie told us that the building was once the George Inn, possibly explaining why Robert picked up on the beer and chat.
She added: “We think there is the ghost of a woman in the toy room (where Robert saw a ghost in the window from the courtyard). Sometimes you think you see her out of the corner of your eye.”
When we presented our findings to Poole Local History Centre, they said: “Transcripts of the Municipal Rents mention a Mr and Mrs Brooks in 1824 and Joseph Brooks in 1824/5, but provide no definite link with Scaplen’s Court. “We do believe one of the occupants may have been a schoolteacher.”