Weird Suffolk: Wax mannequin used as tragic torment
- Credit: Archant
Only a dummy would ignore a curse linked to a haunted mannequin which threatened revenge on anyone that moved it.
But at the 16th century Hintlesham Hall near Ipswich, this is precisely what happened when a wax effigy was moved from its special resting place on the landing of the hall’s grand staircase against strict instruction.
However, before we arrive at the reason for the dreadful curse - the tragic story behind the strange statue and its staircase home. According to legend, generations ago the Lady of the Manor died, leaving a motherless little girl and a heartbroken husband who quickly found a new wife to cure his loneliness. She was a cruel stepmopther and, when her new husband went away, ill-treated and starved the little girl to the point that when her father arrived, she was too unwell to save and she joined her mother in heaven. When the facts of his new wife’s cruelty reached the ears of the Lord of the Manor, he was determined to torment her with endless remorse: he had a wax model of his daughter made which looked exactly the same as the moment that the poor girl died. It was then placed on the landing of the principal staircase of Hintlesham Hall in a glass box so that his wife would have to look at what she had done every single time she ascended or descended the stairs. As a final caveat to his will, he directed that the model should never be removed from its place, adding that if it were, a dreadful curse would fall over the house and the family within it.
In later years, the glass case was covered with a curtain, but left in its resting place. Mary Lewes, in her 1911 book Stranger Than Fiction: Being Tales from the Byways of Ghosts and Folklore, described the figure: “On the landing of the principal staircase of this house there might be seen, a few years since, a glass case covered by a curtain, which, if drawn, revealed the waxen effigy of a child, terribly wasted and emaciated, lying on her side as if asleep. “It was described to me as so realistic as to be quite horrible, and it is apparent that some very strong reason must have existed for keeping so unpleasant an object in such a thoroughfare of the house…covered in later years with a curtain, the effigy remained until a day arrived in quite recent times, when the family then in possession were giving a dance, and for some reason had the case containing the wax-work carried downstairs and put in an outhouse. “But mark what happened. That very night occurred a shock of earthquake violent enough to cause part of the house to fall down! Very likely mere coincidence; but as it might have been the working of the curse consequent in the removal of the case, it was though advisable to restore the grisly relic to its former position, where, as far as my informant knew, it may be seen to this day.”
Other stories haunt Hintlesham Hall. In Jennifer Westwood’s Haunted England: The Penguin Book of Ghosts, the author talks of the hall which was “gambled away on the days of Queen Anne by Henry Timperly” and in 1747 came into the possession of Sir Richard Lloyd and passed from him to his son and then his grandson, both of whom were called Richard Savage Lloyd.It was, apparently, one of the Savage Lloyds’ wives who starved her stepchild to death, but in this tale, the child was a boy and it was her ghost which haunted the great staircase and the library.
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The dummy modelled from the features of the murdered boy was, this tale continues, given the name the Luck of Hintlesham’ and was locked in the attic following its time on the staircase. It was said that if the effigy was removed, broken or harmed, the house would fall out of the family and disaster would swiftly follow – indeed, when the figure was removed from the staircase for a dance, it wasn’t long before the curse struck.
“But hark what happened!” wrote Lewes, “That very night occurred a shock of earthquake enough to cause part of the house to fall down!”
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Author of 1934’s Luck and Talismans, Charles Beard, stayed at Hintlesham and wrote about an eerie night where he saw the library door swing open “as though propelled by an invisible but purposeful hand” before it shut again. He wrote of the figure, which he thought was a waxwork funerary effigy: “I believe it was so removed at one time and the house was sold by Colonel Lloyd Anstruther.”
Restored and turned into a hotel by chef to the stars Robert Carrier and later owned by hotelier and broadcaster Ruth Wilson, paranormal investigators have heard footfalls and heard stories of guests at Hintlesham Hall who have seen ghostly children or who have woken in the night to see a little girl and then felt their pillow pulled from underneath their head.
No one knows where the haunted mannequin is today – could it still be hidden in Hintlesham’s attic?
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