Nothing Calms the Heebee Jeebees Like a Good Cup of Tea

Beautiful victorian house with ghosts

UPDATE 6/9/2020 – Since writing this post, my friend Jayne discovered a blog post about the electrocution story. I reached out to the blogger, Caroline Kennedy, and she confirmed. She has a detailed blog post, Mickey Mantle, Mary & Me, about her time in school on that campus and what actually happened that day. Such a sad story, and one that had lasting effects on her. Visit that post to read more details.

But now back to my post (with corrections) I’ve always been a fan of ghost stores, hauntings, you know; stuff that makes your skin crawl, stories that make you keep the lights on at night. I’ve seen, heard and sensed a few ghosts in my lifetime, believe it or not. I even took a photo of a couple ghosts (I’ll be interested to hear what you see!).

person in dark room with a flashlight
Would you go looking for ghosts? I did!

In college I went to a lecture by Ed and Lorraine Warren. They were all over the Amityville Horror house, and many other haunted locations based on the photos they showed us. They were experts at ghost photography. We saw buildings with ghosts in the window, family photos with deceased relations suddenly making an appearance. I distinctly remember one photo that showed a young boy with his head down, taking a nap on his desk at school. If you looked closely you could see soldiers from different eras superimposed on his hair. He supposedly had a family history of war heroes and here was proof. Back then Photoshop wasn’t a thing, but Polaroids were easily tampered with. Still, it got me thinking!

an old polaroid photo
remember these pictures?

College is when I really started drinking tea as a way to relax. I don’t know that I lost a lot of sleep after that lecture, but it definitely had me falling asleep with ghosts on my mind.

A Haunting at School

When I saw the Warrens I was either a freshman or sophomore in college. I looked like I was around 11 or 12, and easy to scare, but I wasn’t. See evidence of my youthful appearance below!

me in my dorm

That is until 1980 when I arrived on campus in Arundel, Sussex, England. To set the scene, it was late January/early February and the weather was balmy. The campus had palm trees, a beautiful big formal rose garden with stone walls, and a huge lawn. Most of the buildings were centuries-old, having been part of the original Tortington property. And in front of the manor house, across the drive, was a small mid-century swimming pool. A few brave students were in there splashing around, but it was early evening and pretty cool out. I walked across the grass chatting with my friends when I suddenly felt what seemed like electric currents running up my legs. Not painful, but buzzy and odd.

an old gramophone playing a record

I made a comment about it, and my friends laughed a little, but the sensation seemed to grow. I needed to get off the grass! Once we walked back to the parking lot they told me. Back in the 50s, the place had been Tortington Park School, a private girls school. One day after a few of the girls had finished a synchronized swimming practice, Mary Lynham got out of the pool and was distracted by a cat running by as she was unplugging the gramophone they’d been listening to. Her wet fingers came into contact with the plug pins and she was electrocuted!  

Mary Lynham’s grave stone in the Tortington Park Chapel cemetery

Stranger still, there’s a little chapel behind the school, which had been turned into a theater. Behind the chapel was an old graveyard, and Mary is buried there. It’s a beautiful, sunny little spot with bluebells in the Spring, and even as late as 2001 someone was still leaving flowers on the grave.

Tortington Chapel, which eventually became our theater

One haunting not enough? How about a ghost for real!

We did a lot of exploring when I was in England. I knew it may be my only chance to wander with a backpack and friends, and still be okay with sleeping on a train station floor, or riding trains all night between Paris and Rome. We took bus trips to Wales, went to London almost weekly, and took day trips to nearby beach towns. I think it was on a trip back from one of these that my second run-in with a ghost occurred.

We took the train back to Arundel station, which is about a mile and a half from the school. It was raining, so while normally we’d walk back, it was night and there were a lot of empty fields and no sidewalks. We called a cab. When it arrived, the four of us jumped in for what we thought would be just a quick trip to the school. I sat in the front seat with the driver and we all started chatting. People in the area knew the college and definitely benefited from our presence. So they were usually friendly and interested. Suddenly, in the glow of our headlights, we saw a man walking along the road ahead of us. He appeared to be wearing a long brown robe. As we got closer it was easy to see that he had no shoes on, and had a rope tied around his waist. We all stopped talking.

a car driving down a dark road
A dark and rain soaked road, the perfect setting for seeing ghosts!

“Did you see that?” Our driver asked.

“Yea, that’s weird!” came a voice from the back seat. “He didn’t have any shoes on!”

Normally cab drivers dropped us off at the gatehouse and we’d walk up the drive, but our driver told us he’d be driving us straight to the manor house door. He also told us to go into the manor house and ask our night guard about the character we’d just seen. As he drove away I heard the cab driver call into his dispatcher. He was done for the night, don’t send him any more rides. He rolled up his windows and headed home, a bit more than spooked.

We thought it was strange but went into the house to ask the guard. He informed us that we’d seen “The Brown Man” a ghost that walks the road between the train station and Arundel Castle.

Arundel castle
Arundel Castle from outside the town.

The story goes that he was a monk from the Augustine Priory which was formed in the late 12th century. According to Wikipedia, this priory had a reputation as a house where errant monks were sent since it was felt they were undeserving of a more prestigious assignment. Well, walking around on a rainy night with no shoes, could be considered errant, right?

man's bare feet
do ghosts feel the cold rain of England?

Ghosts on a Ghost Tour – Surprise!

So, the photos of the ghosts. You’ve waited patiently so it’s only fair. My sister and I went to Niagara-on-the-Lake a couple years ago. If you’re looking for a fun getaway I highly recommend it. It was a “sisters-weekend”, and we booked a cute little B&B. We also got tickets to the Shaw Festival, and saw a show by a local playwright. To wrap up the trip we also signed up for ghost tour of the town. According to our guide, Niagara-on-the-Lake is filled with ghosts. Soldiers mostly, or jilted lovers, or jilted soldiers. They’ve even got names: Sobbing Sophia, Molly McGuire, Captain Swayze, and of course with the presence of Fort George there are children’s ghosts, more soldiers, and women who frequented the Officer’s Quarters. 

old stone fort
old forts are always haunted

As part of our tour, we stopped by a home that had been recently owned by the artist, Tricia Romance. The house is the feature image at the top of this post. Per our guide, this house has been a residence and an art museum. The guide didn’t know who the original owner was, who built the house, or why it was haunted. At the time of our tour, it was vacant and had been for quite some time. It was also for sale! We were told this was the strangest house on the tour. Why? Many people try to take a photo of the house and find that their cameras malfunction. Pictures come out overexposed or all black or the camera batteries just run down suddenly. Well, we bought into it and started taking photos in the dark… nothing seemed unusual, and no one’s camera malfunctioned.

The next morning, we stopped at Starbucks for coffee, then walked back over to that house again. Funny how much braver you are in the daytime. It was still scary looking, but beautiful. We started walking up the driveway then thought better of it. Our cameras were functioning fine, and we took our photos. Later, I looked at my sister’s photos compared to mine and noticed a very strange difference. In some of the windows of the house, I saw what looked like people. One is a woman with a dog, one is a man in a bowler hat. Then just seconds later in the same window it appears like someone is pressing a teddy bear up to the window. These are enlargements of the upstairs windows from two shots I took of the full house. Take a look at closeups of the photos and let me know what you see. 

A woman with a dog in the top left corner, a man tipping a top hat and perhaps leaning on the sill just below.
Same window just a few seconds later. It looks like a teddy bear being held up to the window

I’d say it was just bits of paper stuck to the window, but in fact, these two enlargements of the window came from two separate photos. It doesn’t look like a reflection either. And the photos my sister took at the same time show nothing in the windows.

A good cuppa would have been nice

On the night of the ghost tour, we got back to our B&B late. Everyone had gone to sleep. If we’d been home I definitely would made a nice cup of tea, to steady our nerves and to give us a chance to chat about the tour, the ghost stories. It was a nice filled with nervous fear, laughter and a few very funny events. We got startled by a little mostly white skunk that seemed to be following us on our walk. We’d keep seeing this little white thing float just out of range. Eventually he walked across the street and we recognized that skunky waddle. We also had a moment where everyone jumped and felt the hair on the back of their neck stand up. We we were listening to a ghost story told by our guide and suddenly we heard the gravelly howl of an old cat who had crept up behind us. It was a fun night that called for a cup of tea. So many months later I’m sharing these calming recipes with you!

Spicy Orange Apple Tea

If you’re making my Honeycrisp Whiskey BBQ Sauce, you’re already going to have the peels! Why not put them to good use?

Ingredients:

  • The peels and cores from 3 apples
  • 3 cups of water
  • Juice from 1 orange
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 1 tsp nutmeg
  • ½ TB candied ginger
  • 3 TB your favorite black tea (you can use decaf if you want to fall asleep)

Instructions:

  • Place all ingredients except the tea bags into a saucepan, and bring to a boil.
  • Once boiling, lower the heat allow to simmer, adding the tea for the last 5 minutes.
  • Strain the liquid into a small pot and enjoy it with a bit of honey.

Tea for a Summer Afternoon

This is more a recipe for a tea blend you can use as you’d like throughout the summer! It uses a floral base and then adds additional flavors. If you’re looking to purchase dried herbs and flowers for making your own tea, I’d recommend Pickety Place or Frontier Co-op. Both ship:

Ingredients:

1 part floral element (a combination or you can use one or the other):

Dried violets

Dried chamomile

marble pestle with flowers
so many flowers are edible and work well in tea

2 parts base element:

Dried red raspberry leaves or white tea leaves

Something to add color and a bit of sweetness:

A few TB dried hibiscus flowers

1 part cooling element:

Dried pineapple mint 1 part

Depending on how much tea you want to make divide up the parts according to the proportions outlined above. So for example:

1 part = ¼ cup

2 parts = ½ cup

With this formula you’d need ¼ cup floral element, ¼ cup cooling element, ½ cup base element, with a few hibiscus flowers added to the mix.

Once combined, store in an airtight container in a cool, dark place. Place a teaspoon or so of tea into a tea ball and pour boiling water over it. Allow to steep for 15-20 minutes. You can even make a large pot of tea and just strain it into cups. I haven’t tried it as sun tea, but it may be very good as well. It would also make a nice iced tea with a garnish of pineapple!

Springtime and Lilacs are Blooming

This was the tea I was so excited about last weekend when we went hiking. Lilacs were everywhere but being a state park we couldn’t pick any. I got home only to discover our lilacs were past their peak.

Lilacs at Maudslay State Park

I’ll have to wait till next year to try this one:

Similar to green tea, lilac blossom tea has a very organic grassy flavor. It’s mild and so simple to make! You can use both the lilac blossoms, and the leaves if you want.

Ingredients:

  • Lilac blossoms and leaves
  • Water
  • Honey

Instructions:

  • Place lilac blossoms and a few leaves into hot water and allow to steep for 5 minutes
  • Strain the blossoms out
  • Add honey and toss a few whole lilac blossoms into each cup to float on top and lend that noseworthy lilac scent.

Enjoy!

Tea is a personal thing. So are ghost stories. Some people don’t like either! I know I’ve stayed in several haunted hotels, heard ghostly voices and moans in my car, and even heard Alexa laughing like a little child in my dining room in the middle of the night a few years ago. I refused to get up in the night to use the bathroom for three nights running until it stopped happening. Months later I heard about a glitch Alexa experienced, and indeed I was one of those hearing children’s laughter in the middle of the night. But in general, I welcome spirits, and I welcome a good cup of tea!

tea with daisies
Nothing quite so bright as a cup of tea!