The haunting of Meonstoke House, a Hampshire mansion that holds a history of paranormal activity, especially where dogs are concerned. This is the first-hand account of the previous owners Mr & Mrs Warner.
It is widely believed that dogs are particularly sensitive to psychic presences, and the fact that dozens of paranormal witnesses have mentioned that their pets have shown signs of extreme agitation sometimes before they themselves have had an experience of the supernatural adds substance to the theory. But no account of animal sensitivity is more dramatic than that which took place at Meonstoke in 1975-76.
Meonstoke House is one of those homes that house lovers dream about: the central block was built in 1713 as the rectory in an architectural style so elegant that one wonders why it was ever abandoned. A southern wing added in 1870 maintained the lines of the original structure, but an addition in the arrogant 1920s strikes a slightly discordant note. This vanishes however as one stands on the terrace overlooking the formal lawns and garden that fall gently away down the slopes of the Meon valley to the lake below. Inside, the rooms have the grace and space and proportions of an age that moved more leisurely so that it had time to regard the home as a thing of beauty and not merely a convenience living unit.
In November 1975, when Alan and Valerie Warner moved in, they brought with them their family pet, a 3-year-old English sheepdog named Wanda, which they had had since a puppy and whose behavior was impeccable in every way. She had traveled widely with the family to their cottage in Somerset and to the homes of friends so that she was familiar with strange surroundings and treated them all with the phlegmatic calm characteristic of the breed. But the moment she crossed the threshold of Meonstoke House, she became berserk, dashing to and fro in great agitation. The Warners were surprised at her unprecedented and almost hysterical excitement but assumed that it must be the unaccustomed situation that was upsetting her and that in a few days at most she would be her normal self.
But Wanda's behavior steadily deteriorated: during the day she cried constantly and she scratched at the door to be let out, and once outside she howled dismally to be let back in. Immediately inside, she began her restless padding up and down. At night things were even worse: all through the hours of darkness, she prowled about the house, rejecting her familiar bed and blankets, and refusing to lie down.
By the morning she was exhausted. When she was confined to the hall - a huge room more than 40 feet long - she became almost demented. Although she was perfectly house-trained, she became filthy in her habits, and after three months of desperate efforts to find an answer, the Warners, sadly and reluctantly, were forced to ask their vet, if he could find her a good home. Some days later, in a completely strange farmhouse with a family, she had never met before, Wanda reverted to her previous perfect behavior.
An odd sequel occurred a few weeks later when Alan was in the village pub. One old man on learning that he was the new owner of Meonstoke House asked if he had a dog, and how it behaved. When told of Wanda's extraordinary activities the old man said, "I've known that house for well over fifty years, and no one has ever been able to keep a dog there - they all go wild..."
With Wanda gone, the whole affair seemed settled - and then the front doorbell began mysteriously to ring on its own. On the first occasion, early in 1976, Valerie and her 15-year-old daughter Joanna were alone in the house when there was an imperious and urgent peal on the bell. Joanna answered it, but there was no one in the large porch outside: assuming that some village boys were playing a joke, she closed the door and stood immediately inside ready to swing it open the moment the bell was touched again. A few minutes later the desperate clangor began again as if someone had a message of immense importance, and while the sounds were still in the air Joanna hurled open the door. Outside there was nothing but the blackness of the night and the moaning of the wind in the trees.
Three more times in the next twelve months came the peremptory summons, twice when Valerie was alone in the house, and once when she was with her 16-year-old son. In the latest incident, in February 1977, the bell rang five times during the evening, but every time the door was opened the sounds ceased. It may be a coincidence, but on each occasion, the bell has sounded like this the front door has been locked as well as fastened, as if whatever was outside resented that a corporeal body could not enter.
One other peculiarity of Meonstoke House is the small door on the first-floor landing from the original building of the nineteenth-century wing which refuses to stay closed at night no matter how carefully it is fastened. The carpeting seems perfect, and of its own accord the door does not swing in either direction. During the daytime, too, it stays firmly closed or open.
Meonstoke House seems to have had a relatively uneventful history, as indeed it should as the home for most of its life of prosperous country parsons - though even in ecclesiastic circles, particularly in the eighteenth century, no one was ever quite sure what went on behind the austere but beautiful facade of house and profession.
Perhaps the only time the building really stepped outside its regular and orderly role was in the early years of the twentieth century when there was a derailment on the single-track Meon Valley Railway line which ran a few hundred yards behind the rectory. As Meonstoke House was the nearest shelter, the casualties were brought across the fields and placed, one assumes in the great front hall.