In 1923, Miss Edna Hilton, an American socialite married Captain Denzil Cope, heir of Sir Anthony Cope. The young couple moved to Bramshill Castle in Hampshire, England. This was an ancient home which harbored a terrifying ghost story.
It was built by Lord Zouche, an adventurer and statesman. His close friend was William Cecil, Queen Elizabeth's minister. Among his other acquaintances was Francis Bacon, the Earl of Leicester, the Earl of Essex and Sir Walter Raleigh.
The house was built in the form of an E, with a statue of Lord Zouche in full armor at the entrance. Throughout the years the family accumulated treasures in the form of pictures, furniture, old plate and beautiful metal-work. Inside its wall are said to be secret chambers.
It cost Lord Zouche so much money to build the house that eventually it passed into the hands of the Copes, an ancient family. However before this time a beautiful daughter from Lord Zouche's lineage was promised to Lord Lovell in marriage. The date was set to coincide with Christmas celebrations which were known to be marked with great merriment.
The great house was filled with guests, most of them from the noblest houses in England.
A sumptuous Yuletide feast was served as musicians played up in the minstrels' galleries. The most luscious meals were served accompanied by the most succulent delicacies for dessert.
After the dinner the bride grew weary with the merry-making, and among the younger guests proposed a game of hide and seek. The first to hide would be the bride, and the man that found her would be rewarded with a kiss.
She hid and they hunted and hunted. For several hours they sought her, marveling at how clever she was to hide so well.
Guests and servants eventually searched the house from top to bottom. The hours passed, and none could find her. Some wondered if perhaps the young bride ran away from her husband.
Days turned into months and then years, and the bride was never heard from again.
Lord Lovell never believed his young wife deserted him, and he knew she did not return to him because she was unable to do so. His whole life was spent in looking for her, and her father in order to accomodate his son-in-law allowed him to stay in the castle.
Lord Lovell grew old, but he never stopped looking for his bride, and most considered him a harmless madman.
Fifty years after his short marriage, he was running his hand over panelling in a room on the top floor. He hand came across a spot on carved woodwork, and the panelling sprung open. Inside stood an ancient oak chest, bound in iron. It seemed like a secret place to store important documents in.
With anguish and excitement making his old heart thump he found a tool and broke open the chest.
Inside was his lost bride; a skeleton inside her wedding gown now stained with age. Her hand was raised in her last desperate attempts to gain her freedom. Perhaps she had known the chest would make a secure hideaway, not understanding that once inside she would not be able to open it. The smell of her decomposing corpse would have been carried away by a nearby chimney, and being situated on the top floor not many would go up there.
Once this mystery was solved Lord Lovell died shortly thereafter.
As the story goes, the newly wedded Mr. and Mrs. Cope moved to Lovell Castle in Oxfordshire, and it seems the Mistletoe Bride followed them there. Phantoms appeared to guests and manifestations were witnessed by family and staff.
Edna was quoted saying, "The chest in which 'The Mistleote Bride' was found is shown to visitors at Bramhill House, Hampshire, the residence of Sir John Cope."
As the new Mrs. Cope she was the owner of the famous chest, and many were curious to know if she would hear what many who had stayed in the house heard, which was the moans of a woman in terrible agony. Also muffled sounds like a person beating on the interior of a wooden chest.
One of the stories concerns an English socialite who paid a visit to the castle. Afterwards she told this story to a friend, "During the night I had a most terrifying experience. Shortly after midnight I was awakened suddenly with a sensation that I was not alone in the bedroom. Then from behind the ancient oak wainscoting I heard noises of light, hurrying footsteps. What followed was even more terrifying. I heard moans of the most heartrending kind and then strange sounds like hands beating upon a wooden partition. The moans so terrified me that I fainted away, and it was daylight when I recovered consciousness. I made an excuse for leaving the castle and hurried away."
Another visitor described that she had been awakened after midnight by the phantom of a girl dressed in a gown dating back three centuries, and she glided through the room, holding a candle.
Servants would give up their positions after having encounters. Some actually saw the ghost of the bride, and others said they just felt uneasy being there.
One of the retainers at the castle who left, said that in the stillness of the night he would hear the sound of bony feet clacking its way up the stairs to the attic. He could hear the swish of long skirts. All this would end with the sound of a thump like the falling of a chest lid. He heard this on several nights, he thought it was the bride reenacting what happened on her wedding night.
At one point there was dispute as to whether the story of the Mistletoe Bride took place in Bramshill Castle versus Minister Lovell Manor House which was the seat of the Lovell family. This house was known to have secret passages and chambers.
Research revealed another tragedy. One of the Lord Lovells participated in a rebellion against Henry VII. The rebels were defeated; Lord Lovell with the King's soldiers hot in pursuit took refuge at his ancient manor house. He told no one of his presence and hid in a secret passage. The soldiers searched for him unsuccessfully and eventually withdrew. However he had not told his family of his return, and he did not know how to use the mechanism which would release him. He beat upon the walls, but none heard him, and he died of thirst and starvation. Years passed and his family believe he died during the rebellion. His son inherited the title.
Twenty years passed and alterations were made in the house. The secret chamber was discovered, and Lord Lovell wearing his armor was found dead sitting before a heavy table.
Later a grandson of the one who perished trapped in the secret passage became the husband of the poor "Mistletoe Bride".
Stranger Than Fiction Stories by M.P. Pellicer