Stories

Susannah York.

Experiences with the supernatural in old houses are not exclusive to male actors. The beautiful Susannah York, who came to public notice exuding sexuality in Tom Jones (1963) and participated in a controversial nude lesbian scene in The Killing of Sister George (1968), physically bumped into the supernatural while playing Margaret More in A Man For All Seasons I (1966). She explained:

My husband, Michael Wells and I were looking for a new home. One of our friends owned a rambling, sixteenth-century mansion in Essex. He wanted to sell it and invited us to go and look over it with him and, if necessary, stay a few days to get the feel of the place. So Michael and I went there after a day’s filming and arrived at about eleven at night. It looked marvellous, just the sort of home we were looking for. One of the most attractive features was a moat surrounding the house – on which some black swans were swimming – and a drawbridge that provided the only access to it.”

When Susannah and Michael went to bed that night they were convinced they had found their dream home. Somewhere they could literally pull up the drawbridge and keep the world at bay. But about 3 am. Susannah sat bolt upright in bed:

I had no idea what had awakened me, but I felt so wide awake that I got up and went out into the long corridor off which all the bedrooms led. Suddenly this awful feeling crept over me. I couldn’t see anything or anyone, but I had the feeling that some other force was present. I was unable to move. I just stood there scared out of my wits. I tried to scream for Michael, but I fainted. I learned later that I fell and knocked over a vase and the clatter awoke my husband. He carried me back to our room, but it took him over half an hour to revive me.”

By the following morning, Susannah had decided she must have had a bad dream. She and her husband were still keen on buying the house and decided they would return during the next break from filming.

Again they returned at night – and once more Susannah grew edgy and irritable:

Suddenly, I knew what was bothering me. It was the moat. I realized the drawbridge was the only way in and out. I had a horrible thought of being trapped in the house with the drawbridge not working – and having to jump from the window into the moat with the black swans. We left the place immediately and later Michael telephoned the owner to tell him why we did not want to buy it. When he explained why, the owner said, “Susannah must have met the ghost. It’s the ghost of a girl who was trapped in the house when the drawbridge wouldn’t work. She jumped from a window into the moat and was drowned…’”

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