sjhstrangetales

THE PHANTOM BABOON OF BASINGSTOKE

Posted on: December 18, 2017

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I thought I’d do this one as a bit of fun for Christmas week, as I’m quite fond of this quirky little tale.  There seems to be only one source for this particular haunted house story, and that’s legendary Irish ghost-hunter Elliott O’Donnell, who had some quite extraordinary brushes with the paranormal (including a claim that he was nearly throttled by a ghost in Dublin).  Well either that or he was simply a good story-teller, it’s up to you which slant you take.   O’Donnell’s prolific career as a writer and a ghost-hunter spanned from early Edwardian times to the 1950s.

Back in the 1840s, in a village near Basingstoke, stood a house called The Swallows.  It was a substantial rural property, standing in its own two acres of land.  The house had been standing empty for quite some while, when a Mr Bishop of Tring finally bought it in 1841.  Things were kick off at The Swallows almost immediately.

After being in residence for barely a fortnight, Mr Bishop found two of his servants giving notice that they wanted to leave.  Their reasons for doing so was that they claimed the house was haunted … by either a big cat or a big baboon.  They said they had constantly seen this peculiar creature creeping down the staircases and passageways.   Even more alarmingly than that, they also said they had heard the sound of somebody being strangled.

Naturally news of all this spread like wildfire through the village, and crowds of people descended on the house to see if they could witness anything.   Vigils were kept, and one night, at about midnight, several of the vigilantes were keeping watch in the courtyard when they witnessed something quite astonishing.  What appeared to be the forms of a huge cat and a baboon rose up from the closed grating of the cellar underneath the old dairy, rushed passed them, and disappeared into a dark angle of the walls.   These extraordinary creatures were also seen afterwards by other witnesses.

Early in December 1841, Mr Bishop heard terrified screams, accompanied by hoarse jabberings, coming from the top of the house.  He rushed to the top of the building, only to be greeted by silence.  By that time, understandably, Mr Bishop had had enough of the house, and put it up for sale.  He was lucky enough to find a buyer fairly quickly, a retired colonel.  However that gentleman was also scared out of it, and he too left the property in 1842.

The house seems to have been pulled down soon after that, and the land was used for cottages.  Unfortunately the haunting continued, and the cottages soon became uninhabitable.  The cottages too were eventually demolished, and the land was converted into allotments.

No one seems to have any idea what could have been behind this haunting.  There is some rumour that the property had previously been the lair of a notorious highwayman (when aren’t they notorious?), and he had died after falling through a floor into a vat of oil.  I’m not quite sure where the baboon and the big cat fit in, although there has been some vague speculation that they might have been his pets.

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