Blackberry Lane Manor, is this ancient Manor house built on private property, just off the road. It was this summer just gone, and Ireland had experienced it's first heat wave in about ten years. The heat was phenomenal for our region, hitting out temperatures nearing 30 degrees Celsius (an average day here is about 16 degrees Celsius), with wind.
My best friend Danielle and her boyfriend Jon and I were hanging out. Our friend Jamie called over to us while we were in Jon's uncle's home and suggested we go visit the 'haunted house' again. Himself and Jon had been but Dani and I hadn't, so we all agreed. Jamie got his girlfriend and we all headed over the bridge, which was on a road leading out of town (actually it's a back circular road that leads to the back of my area of town, nothing but posh houses by fields and a train station). Once over the bridge, we came to a field which was over grown and the grasses were thigh high. The gate to it was just at the bottom of the bridge, to the right. We climbed under the old gate and proceeded to cross the field. Ahead of us was nothing.
Halfway across Jamie and Jon turned left and headed over toward a line of trees which looked to lead us into a wooded area off the side of the field. I was excited and kept saying I couldn't wait to explore the house. ''Anything weird ever happen you guys in there?'' I asked. ''Rian be quiet,'' Dani almost whispered. I was amused that she whispered but in fact I was pretty nervous myself.
Once we crossed a shallow ditch at the edge of the field, we wandered into a small wooded area and saw a clearing. We followed a dirt path and out of nowhere, the Manor house loomed. Grey stone, long windows, and the roof seemed to have disappeared, leaving only the intact rafters. The house had been eaten by a large fire in the eighties but still stood.
''I don't like this,'' Dani moaned as we stood looking at the house. ''I don't feel good, let's just go.'' We stopped outside the front door, which was missing but led into a porch not even three foot inside the main door when two large double doors, a lot like oversized shutters met to act as a kind of screen door to the main door on the inside. Judging by the architecture, it was possibly three hundred years old, built in the very distinct late 18th century style you'd see in Manor houses throughout the country.
I stepped inside first, and paused. It was dark inside, due to the shutters being closed over the glassless windows in all the downstairs rooms. The stairs were still intact and were covered in rubble. The front room to the right was met by the elements because the front wall on that side had crumbled when the first floor (in Ireland we have ground floor, and then first floor) had caved in, we guessed during the fire because the entire room was obscured by brick and large stone fragments.
Jamie filed past me leading into a very long narrow corridor which led to the very back of the house. I walked behind him, stepping over bricks and pieces of doors, fragments of doors which creaked beneath our weight. Dani followed behind me, tugging my shirt. After I stumbled into a piece of burned timber on the floor Dani turned and ran back outside.
''Here. Look in there, it leads down to the basement,'' Jamie pointed to a door opposite what was clearly a kitchen (the counters, and a refrigerator still there). ''Cool,'' I said, and just because I was bravest, I slowly made my way down the stairs. They were stone and very cold, as were the stone walls. As I got down deeper and the stairs curved around a bend, I could make out nothing.
I stepped into the complete darkness of the cellar and waited for my eyes to adjust. In fact, as I studied the walls, there was a portion of light seeping in from what must have been some kind of air vent carved through the stone. I could barely see the grass by the side of the house obscuring the light. ''Is there anything down there?'' Jamie called. ''No, there's a few bits of things lying around, and a door face down on the floor in the centre of the room,'' I called back, at the same time nearing the door. With my toe I tried to flip it over. It too was burned. I came to realise that it was actually attached to the floor, and had curled slightly upward due to the heat from the fire. I opened it and my mouth just dropped. ''It must go down another storey underground!'' I yelled up. ''There are more stairs down here!'' ''What?!'' Jamie yelled down, and I could hear his sneakers slap slap slapping the stone stairs. He stumbled over a piece of brick on coming down into the cellar and found me in the dark. ''See?'' I said, pointing. He smokes, so he took out his lighter and we both carefully made our way down. It led into a tunnel and we started egging each other on. I took the lighter off him and let him trail behind me. It was all brick, but it was black with soot. Eventually after maybe fifteen or twenty seconds of walking down the tunnel we emerged into a larger cellar which had two large boilers at each end. There were what I think used to be wine racks from floor to ceiling on one wall, which made me think the boilers weren't there to begin with (who the hell puts boilers in a wine cellar after all?). The door at the other side of the room was jammed and we couldn't open it. Coming right up behind me, Jamie put his hand on my shoulder and whispered loudly ''Here, come in here. Come with me'' and he brushed past me to the left, and i watched him turn down another short tunnel. I could see light at the end, in the room beyond it and followed. When I got into the room, Jamie was gone. There was only one exit, and I was standing in it. Whoever I followed wasn't Jamie and was now not in the room I'd followed them into.
I raced back through the tunnels and up into the main cellar, up the stairs and into the house, making scared whimpering noises like a girl the whole way. My heart was thumping. By the time I got to the stairs, Jon came running, almost jumping down the main stairwell, bolting out the door in front of me. Jamie and Dani were all ready outside looking flustered.
''Guys something just...'' I was lost for words. ''I heard a voice, I think I saw something.'' Jon was pale and panting heavily. ''What did it say?'' he asked, furrowing his brow. ''It said, something like 'Here, in here, come with me' or something, and I followed him. It, I don't know who it was'' I cried. I knew I hadn't imagined it, but saying it made it sound absurd. ''I heard that too!'' Jon cried. ''You couldn't have I was in the cellar under the actual cellar, the wine cellar I think,'' I said. ''You can't have heard it. I was two whole storeys underground. Jamie, I thought it was you and I followed right behind you- or it- you couldn't have turned back and tricked me, there wasn't room in the tunnel leading into that last room.'' ''When I was upstairs I passed by a bedroom and I heard someone say 'Come in here!' clear as day, and I saw someone walking around the room, but when I called for Jamie he was all ready downstairs and outside with Dani,'' Jon was shaking his head. ''Guys,'' Dani interrupted us as we started recounting the stories again. ''It's getting dark, let's go.''
Jamie on the other hand looked horrified. ''What?'' ''I didn't tell you guys something, but someone died in that house,'' he said. ''You mean like in the fire?'' Dani stared wide eyed and I began to feel like Jamie was messing with us. ''No, she was one of the daughters of one of the owners, in the sixties. She committed suicide,'' he said. ''She climbed down these beams in the well out in the courtyard and hung herself half way down.'' ''Oh get real, Jamie. Come off it,'' I moaned. Suddenly becoming cynical all of a sudden, even though still not doubting what had just happened us.
We then followed Jamie around the side of the house, down a small little avenue where the trees grew into each other over our heads and Dani and I were shocked to find some kind of guest house still standing behind and to the left side of the property. Behind that, creating two little courtyards, were stables and a barn. So there was one courtyard behind the guest house, made up of the house on two sides and a wall of one of the stable buildings while far off on the opposite side, where Jamie led us under a pagoda covered by branches and ivy, we came out into a small courtyard at the back of the Manor house, surrounded by a high stone wall with a gate and a blocked backdoor into the house. In the centre was the well. When Dani and I peered over the edge, we saw all the beams going across at angles all the way down. You could literally throw your legs over, balance on one, crouch to sit on it, and jump down to the next, all the way down as it was not too wide, but wide enough to climb down.
We left that evening and I when I got home I told my Dad where we'd been. He's a politician and also works for an auctioneers firm so he knew the abandoned Manor house I meant. I told him not what Jon and I had experienced, but what Jamie had told us.
''Oh yeah,'' he nodded. ''A girl did hang herself in the well. They were well known, her father was a very violent man. Not a nice character at all. They all died though, he died there alone in the end if I'm right. But your friend's telling the truth, the girl hung herself down there. It was terrible. Then the place went up in flames about twenty years ago,'' he said.
I actually looked up the newspapers kept in the old archives of the library and on a disk in the archives they had all front pages that held any kind of interest. I looked over it one on the computers in the research room. The incident was actually on a small section of the back of one cover page for 1964.
Who Jon saw in the bedroom and who I had my little run in with down in the cellars I'm not sure. I got the impression mine was male anyway, and maybe a young male at that, and Jon's was almost identical to mine and his occured right after mine, by the time I'd come out of the cellars.
It's the only kind of haunting I've ever witnessed. I have not been back there since, and apparently the county council approved planning permission for a large hotel on the premises. Demolition is supposed to start before Christmas this year.
I don't know, but I sure don't plan on staying in it when it's built.