It's time for this blog to tackle some really serious issues - is there, or is there not, a spirit in the house? Or Hanworth House to be more specific?
Well, I have pondered this since the day I first walked through its grand doors 5 months ago. First there were stories from past tenants. These stories were divulged over the weekly Friday at 4 drinks. Perhaps the stories were a little enhanced after the second drink, but regardless, they were divulged!
Tenant D of HH told of how a hand passed down her side the first night she slept in a bed at HH. Tenants M and C of HH told my favourite story. When I first arrived at HH, there were call buttons in each room (a throw back to its time as a hospice). Tenants M & C of HH told how these went off at night if noone else was in the house - a different room each time. But, the biggest revelation about the call button story was made by our Sensational Sparky HH.
He assures us that no electricity was connecting those call buttons to the main electrical switch! So just what did make those call buttons go off when everyone was out of the house?
OK, enough. This is just not like me. I am not really a very spiritual person. So I thought, apart from the delight in the story telling of these tales, I was not convinced... However, as time went on, I must admit that I have been swayed.
It started the day we moved in. Maybe it was the house, maybe it was the hallowed halls.
How brilliant was this shot of the hallowed halls, captured by Josh Bakkum recently?
Anyway, I had one clearly articulated plan for the house and, almost immediately after moving in, I realised it was all wrong. HH was just perfect the way it was. The story it told of the Heath family, the hospice it became, the aged it cared for within its walls in its later years - when I called Builder HH and Architect HH to the house on Day 2 and announced that I had changed my mind and it had to be preserved as it was - as well as the anticipated sighs (well I do maintain my perogrative as a woman to change my mind!), the boys really could not react as they wanted to. Because, at that exact moment of my announcement, one of the hallway doors, which was closed, simply opened.
Ok, maybe it was the wind but my bet is that the HH spirits (good spirits as they are) had spoken.
Then there was the tale of our neighbour's dog Leon who ventured onto the premises one day in December. He just disappeared. There were tears, the whole neighbourhood was summoned to find him. Leon, they say, is a stupid dog and, even if he was scared, he would not move. Great I thought! There are a thousand places he could hide under HH and I would have to live out the rest of my days with the burden of being responsible for the loss of the most beloved family member.
After a very very traumatic time (which seemed like 24 hours to me), Leon was finally found - enjoying a sausage no less at a BBQ down the street! However I did have illusions that it could have been like a Picnic at Hanging Rock saga, poor Leon never to be seen again and his mysterious plight the subject of tales passed from generation to generation for years to come.
Thankfully it was not - Here is a shot of the happy reunion (Leon front and centre!)
But there was one place in HH where the story of the spirits was well and truly alive and kicking. HH has many cupboards :
There was one for blankets (I guess these days we might call it the linen cupboard) but back in the old days it was the Blankets cupboard.
This my favourite
How many hairdressing supplies must HH have had to warrant an entire cupboard of devotion?
But these were not my problem. No, my problem was a much deeper and more serious one - this was it!
Contained within were two very old and very sinister looking wheel chairs. I think they were twins. They used to spook me. They had been untouched for years and gradually, as we inhabited HH for a longer time, each time I garnered the courage to open the door just a little, the wheelchairs would move towards me. "It's the breeze way" Builder HH would proclaim as I dared to share my tale.
Ok, he was probably right. But I am telling you, when the film crew who are doing the documentary filmed this cupboard, I am not joking, the front wheelchair came all the way out and the crew just ended up screaming and wondering if I had put the wheelchair up to it.
I certainly had not! The was the renegade chair... I give you exhibit A.
So, in the true spirit of asserting our presence in the house, I telephoned my good friend the High Priest of HH (he is a real priest - despite the fact that he turned up at Husband HH's Mad Men themed birthday of note last year in the full regalia of Father Gill from the series - we had to reassure our friends he actually WAS a priest!). So High Priest of HH fast tracked a special trip to Brisbane to de-spirit and bless the house.
This was not simple affair. First we had to secure a candle - tick !
Then secure a bowl to hold the holy water to bless every room ( well aware of the fact there were in excess of 25 rooms, I chose a big bowl!) - tick!
Then finally we needed an icon - Mamma HH loved St Anthony (we can talk about that another day) but, as I felt rather inappropriate bringing a male saint into the home of HH, I found amongst the drawers when I was cleaning out a dresser, a rather old, but loved, icon. I did not know who she was.
However, of course the High Priest of HH did know. She turned out to be St Rita. And, whether a coincidence of not, St Rita of Cascia was an Italian Augustinian nun (Mamma HH was also Italian) - St Rita was a widow (after havied married at an early age and proving to be a model mother who made efforts to convert her husband from his abusive behaviour). She was canonised on May 24, 1900 (when Hanworth was 36 years old, and at a time when HH was moving from being a private home to a hospice for elderly impoverished women).
Was it coincidence (or fate) which brought this icon to us? St Rita is known to be the patroness for abused wives and mourning women - I wonder how many of them were cared for in the confines of Hanworth House?
Invites were dispatched.... Food was prepared (by Miss HH no less)
and guests assembled for what was to become a moving and very reverent acknowledgement of the pain and suffering of so many (as embodied in the wheelchairs) and a hope that the house may become a happy home to many in the future.
High Priest to HH extracted the wheelchairs from the cupboards in true theatrical fashion - and then we proceeded to the dining room to toast the De-spiriting, to toast friends and toast high hopes for HH's future!
But before you ask - of course there was champagne - fabulous fabulous magnums of Pol Roger vintage 2002 - House of Pol being a personal favourite of mine.
We ate and drank whilst the High Priest of HH recounted many humorous anecdotes of times past and amused the assembled masses to no end!
After the event 4 significant events occurred:
Number 1 - Husband HH summoned up the courage to finally rid HH of those wheelchairs
Number 2 - The despiriting event was such an occasion the gorgeous Faux Fuschia wrote about it on her blog (thanks FF hope you don't mind if I stole a couple of shots from you!) - Read the Faux Fuschia blog post here
Number 3 - I rang the High Priest of HH after the fire to ask why even his despiriting expertise failed to protect our beloved Hanworth from further misadventure. His answer deserves an entire blog post of its own!
This was the dining room where the blessing was held post the fire.
And here they enjoyed a cosy, stress-free existence even through all the jack hammering and renovations, throughout the fire - and they were still there today when I last checked. PA HH has named the room in their honour! They did save the dining room after all as I have told you before! So I will let them stay as a symbol of my gratitude for a little longer!
So, after hearing all of this, do you think there are spirits in the House of Hanworth? You be the judge! I'd love to hear your thoughts...