Haunted Chest of Stanbury Manor

by MJ Wayland

In March 1950, an auction at Stanbury Manor, Morwenstow in Cornwall brought an unusual item to the fore – a haunted chest. Sadly the chest did not raise its reserve price and after a desultory bid of £5, it was pulled from the auction.

The chest had for many years hit the headlines of the Cornish newspapers with associations with poltergeist activity.. The owner at the time, Trevor Ley claimed to have purchased the trunk from an antique dealer in Cornwall who complained that since she had it in her shop things would be thrown about without apparent reason. Intrigued with its reputation it was Trevor purchased it for his new home, Stanbury Manor.

Soon after arriving at the manor, the poltergeist began its work, Mrs Ley witnessed twelve guns from the armoury clattering across the floor – yet their restraining wires had not broken. When the chest was moved to the bedroom, pictures repeatedly crashed to the floor, Mr Ley was in fact hit by one when he was sitting in a chair two feet from the wall.

The Leys decided to lay the ghost and called in a spiritualist from Lostwithiel, the exorcism was apparently successful and no trouble occurred after. Another spiritualist from Bude claimed that during trance that the ornate carvings on the chest related to a girl called Susannah whose siblings, and ultimately herself was was killed by her uncle in Western Germany. The chest was described as made of “cedar wood and undoubtedly very old. The carvings show a distinct propensity for dismembered and headless bodies”.

Sadly we do not know what happens next to the chest – Trevor said at the time he would leave the chest in the Manor, which he also sold in 1950. While researching this case I was again saddened to see that many websites and books had misquoted the original newspaper articles relating to the haunted chest, by claiming that the haunting was at the manor and not attached to the chest as originally reported.

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