Saturday, 18 February 2012


As ghosts go, she was rather a cultured specimen.

The pale Edwardian figure made frequent visits to the mansion home of Alan Smith, always accompanied by the music of Chopin, according to the startled souls who bore witness.

Her interest in the house was a mystery – until the discovery of a long-lost painting that appeared to feature the very same person, sitting at a piano.

When the portrait was returned to Heale House’s drawing room, the sightings stopped.

Mr Smith was so fascinated he decided to investigate the history of the painting – and uncovered the sad story of the uninvited guest.

He identified the woman as a Mrs Bell, one of the 15-bedroom mansion’s previous occupants, who had been bankrupted and forced to sell all her possessions – including her beloved portrait – shortly before her death in the early 1900s.

Mr Smith said her ghost ‘would walk along the corridors and in the bedrooms, usually at about one o’clock in the morning’.

He continued: ‘She was usually wreathed in a blue haze and just drifted around – you couldn’t see her legs. Sometimes she would even arrive at the bottom of my bed in the middle of the night.

‘I thought there must be some kind of scientific explanation, but other people who visited the house were terrified – and they now believe she’s been put to rest because she got her painting back.’

Mr Smith’s family had seen the apparition many times at the house, near Bideford, Devon, before Mr Smith was approached by the owner of a local junk shop, who asked him: ‘Are you the master of Heales?’

She told him she had something that should be returned to its rightful home and showed him the picture, thought to be by Cyril Roberts, a prominent painter who was based in Paris.

The face was eerily familiar to Mr Smith and he quickly realised it depicted the woman his family had been visited by – and she was seated at a piano in his drawing room.

His research unmasked the subject as Mrs Bell, wife of an Argentine beef rancher who lived in Heale House in the early 1900s.

‘From what we know about Mrs Bell, she was a very cultured lady,’ said  Mr Smith.

‘It must have been sad for her to see all of her possessions sold.’
He confirmed that after the portrait was placed in the drawing room, ‘she never appeared again’.

‘We even tried to use a Ouija board to bring her back but it looks as if she’s gone forever,’ he added.

The story came to light when Mr Smith, 70, took the picture to be appraised on the Antiques Roadshow.
Source: DailyMail
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