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Ritoban Mukherjee

The screaming skull of Burton Agnes Hall

April 2, 2014 | Comment icon 2 comments

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If you are a resident of England you may have been to, or at least heard of, the famed Burton Agnes Hall, an Elizabethan manor house that dominates the village of Burton Agnes near Driffield in East Yorkshire. But what you may not have known is the fact that trapped somewhere behind the walls of this historic building is said to be a possessed human skull along with the ghost of a headless woman known as Owed Nance.


During the period 1601-1610, old Sir Henry Griffith financed the construction of a splendid manor house in the East Riding of Yorkshire in the village of Burton Agnes. Sir Henry had three daughters, the youngest of whom was named Anne Griffith. Initially, Anne would take strolls around the manor during its construction, enthusiastically watching the gorgeous Elizabethan building take shape and slowly growing obsessed with it.

One day however she was attacked by some thieves in a nearby park who hit her on the head with a stick prior to fleeing. A few villagers found her and left her in her sisters' care who immediately took to her nursing. Knowing that her end was near, she made one last wish:

"Sisters," she said, "never shall I sleep peacefully in my grave in the churchyard unless I, or a part of me at least, remain here in our beautiful home as long as it lasts. Promise me this, dear sisters, that when I am dead my head shall be taken from my body and preserved within these walls. Here let it forever remain, and on no account be removed. And understand and make it known to those who in future shall become possessors of the house, that if they disobey this, my last injunction, my spirit shall, if so able and so permitted, make such a disturbance within its walls so as to render it uninhabitable for others so long as my head is divorced from its homo."

Her sisters agreed to her final yearn.

The Request is Denied
Anne succumbed, but her sisters failed to keep the promise made to her. Finding it impossible to mutilate the corpse of their beloved sister, they had her buried at the Burton Agnes church. Soon after, the manor of Burton Agnes was haunted by "strange moaning and weird sounds". The servants refused to work any longer. Plagued by the hauntings, the two sisters decided to dig up Anne's corpse and abide by her dying request. As they unearthed the body, they were surprised to find the skull already disinterred and rendered devoid of flesh. The already perturbed ladies had the skull placed back inside the hall and peace was restored.

Deadly Decisions, Hauntings Relapse

One day a skeptical maid servant wrapped the skull in a piece of cloth and threw it onto a passing wagon carrying manure. Eerily, the horses trembled and found themselves unable to move the wagon even an inch. The wagon stood still until the maiden admitted her misdeed and restored the skull.

Again during a later period, when another occupant of the Burton Agnes Hall and a relative of Sir Henry Somerville Boynton buried the skull in the yard, wails and cries resumed and they were forced to restore the skull again.

It is believed that at some point in time an occupant of the manor had the skull bricked up in a wall so that it may never again be removed. Although the current location of the skull is unknown, it is believed to reside hidden somewhere behind the very walls of the manor.

In one of the many rooms of the haunted house stays a portrait of Anne Griffith and strange occurrences are reported in its vicinity. On one instance a certain John Biltons had been attempting to spend a night at the Hall when his candle was suddenly blown out as he was trying to observe the portrait. He was unable to light it again despite repeated attempts. The same night, he was met with weird and violent noises that convinced him that the house was haunted. Many witnesses have also reported seeing the specter of a headless woman haunting the building's halls.

The legend of the Screaming Skull isn't unique to the Burton Agnes Hall either - similar reports have surfaced from Bettiscombe Manor in Dorset, Wardley Hall in Greater Manchester, Warbleton Priory in East Sussex and others. Is this just a legend spread wild, or could there be some truth beneath it?

We may never know for sure.

My name is Ritoban Mukherjee. The paranormal and morbid are my hobbies. I am a student and the author of a spooktacular paranormal and occult blog named All About Occult. Do visit my blog for bloodcurdling articles on morbid mysteries, dark religions, urban legends, aliens, afterlife, haunted locations and parapsychology.

Comments (2)

Recent comments on this story
Comment icon #1 Posted by HollyDolly 8 years ago
Oh I've heard of it,it's quite famous.There are other ones too,also in England like at Bettiscombe manor,etc.
Comment icon #2 Posted by Angelicon 8 years ago
This was one of the stories I read as a kid in an old book about hauntings in England. Always been quite interested in it.

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