Ashes 2013: Alan Fraser visits Lumley Castle – Mail Online
The hotel in-spectre! Our man on a ghost hunt in one of Shane Watson’s old haunts
By ALAN FRASER
PUBLISHED: 22:54, 7 August 2013 | UPDATED: 13:20, 8 August 2013
The first time Shane Watson went to Chester-le-Street to play for Australia against England he was spooked by ghostly goings-on at a supposedly haunted 700-year-old castle turned hotel.
So much so, that the all-rounder vacated his own room in preference for some floor space in Brett Lee’s room. That was in 2005, when a Hot Spot-defying apparition destroyed the macho image of Aussie cricket and prompted some ghoulish sledging by Darren Gough in the day-night match that week.
‘Don’t worry, you can sleep in my bed tonight,’ the England fast bowler said tauntingly and, with accompanying ghostly pose, suggested that Watson could only play with the lights on.IDEO
Watson, the story went, was spooked by tales of the murdered Lily Lumley stalking the creaky floorboards of Lumley Castle Hotel, an imposing medieval pile standing on a hill overlooking the Riverside Cricket Ground.
I was rather hoping for an appearance from Joanna Lumley as I closed the door of Room 43, just a few yards along the corridor from the bedroom where poor Lily met her fate at the hands of a couple of priests.
The walk from reception would have tested the resolve of Dan Ackroyd, complete with Ghostbuster backpack: out of the main door, along the courtyard, back into the ancient building, past the well down which Lily’s body was thrown, along a badly lit dungeon corridor lined with busts of the likes of Julius Caesar and Cleopatra (eh!), up a grand staircase to another maze of corridors. No wonder a young Watson, wound up by the teasing of his elders, got into a state.
‘We get quite a few guests who think they see or feel something,’ said duty manager Nathan Cook. ‘Things that go bump in the night, hairs on the back of the neck, bright lights, orbs, silhouettes, double takes and someone or something pulling duvets from the bed. We do not actively discourage all the haunted talk.’
My room, he said with some relish, was on the corridor where Lily dragged her chains, so to speak. I put the ‘Do Not Disturb’ sign on the door, a request not so much to the staff as to a certain long-term resident.
I fell asleep thinking of Casper, Nearly Headless Nick, Banquo and Marley — Jacob, not Bob.
I woke with a start. A figure stood at the end of the bed. All I could make out clearly was a green cap, though he (or she) seemed to be bending over as if taking guard.
‘I am the ghost of Australian Cricket Past,’ a voice intoned.
‘You’re Steve Waugh,’ I replied. ‘You used to wear your baggy cap in bed. What do you want? I am not in any way related to Angus Fraser.’
‘Rise and walk with me,’ he commanded. ‘I have something to show you.’
‘I don’t want to get out of bed. Do you not have a DVD?’
The modern ghost comes well-equipped. He fed the disc into the machine and there was Sir Don Bradman scoring 254 at Lords in 1930; Michael Slater hitting England for 176 at the Gabba in 1994 and Terry Alderman taking six wickets at Lord’s in 1989. I fell asleep to Bill Lawry compiling 130, also at Lord’s, in 1961.
Suddenly, I was awake. A stocky little figure stood at the side of the bed within touching distance. Again the green baggy. ‘I am the ghost of Australian Cricket Present,’ a voice declared.
‘You’re David Warner,’ I replied. ‘I have nothing to fear from you. You’ve already lost the Ashes. You are punching below your weight and that’s saying something.’
I must have fallen asleep because I was aware of waking up again. This wraith was small, just a child.
‘You’ll be the ghost of Australia Cricket Teams Yet To Come, I suppose,’ I said confidently.
Not a word. But I thought I detected the cheeky smile of a young Shane Warne. Better not to be too cocky, I thought. You never know what the future might bring. Australia cricket teams to come might be nearer those of the past than the present.
I rolled over and gave a thought to the Total Abstinence Principle adopted by Ebenezer Scrooge. But only the briefest of passing thoughts. No need to get carried away, unlike Shane Watson.
So what did or did not happen in Lumley Castle Hotel eight years ago? ‘Shane got himself in a terrible state,’ said business development manager Samantha Buchanan-Robinson.
‘He was in a courtyard room, well away from where Lily walks. After a couple of nights on Brett Lee’s floor he asked for another room. All I had available was Room 46, where Lily was murdered.
‘I did not mention that at the time. Only after he thanked me on their departure and said he had slept brilliantly for two nights did I reveal that I had put him in the haunted room.’
And like Jimmy Anderson’s reverse swing, he never saw that coming.