In February 2012, Alan Smith took a painting along to the Antiques Roadshow. He was looking for an expert appraisal, but what he actually got was a brief brush with fame. After Smith had finished telling the world about his painting, his story made media headlines. It was a melancholy tale of loss, grief and eventual redemption.
Let’s face it, those are the stories that we love at Great British Ghosts. This one is sure to make your heart feel all warm and tender on a cold winter night. It’s important to remember that not all ghosts are baddies – some just want to go home.
Smith and his family have lived in Heale House for many years. For a long time, they were plagued by frequent visits from a ghostly apparition in a pale gown. She would appear on the landing of the house in the early hours of the morning, always accompanied by faint strains of Chopin. Sometimes, she would even appear at the foot of various beds. Though the residents were spooked by the visits, they never felt threatened by the ghostly woman. Instead, they were deeply struck by her mournful expression.
Some years after the family moved into the mansion house, Alan Smith was approached by the owner of a local junk shop who handed him an old painting. The store owner asked Smith to return it to its rightful home. It turns out that the figure in the painting was the same one that frequently roamed the house at night.
Smith was deeply intrigued by this coincidence, so he decided to do some research on the history of Heale House. He found out that the fifteen bedroom mansion had once belonged to a wealthy woman called Mrs Bell. Just before her death in the early 1900s, Mrs Bell was declared bankrupt and forced to sell all of her possessions – including her beloved painting.
Mrs Bell was the wife of an Argentine beef rancher. From the few records that exist about her, Smith managed to infer that she was a deeply cultured woman who must have had a lot of money at her disposal. The painting is thought to be the work of Cyril Roberts - a prominent Parisian artist. It depicts Mrs Bell sat wistfully at a piano in the drawing room of Heale House.
Smith hung the painting in the drawing room, where he assumed it used to hang. From that point on, the sad ghost of Mrs Bell was never seen in the house again.
The Smith family believe that she was waiting for her painting to come home. They even tried to bring her back using a Ouija board, but it looks as if the melancholy ghost is gone forever. On a sunny day, at the Antiques Roadshow, this spooky little tale had everybody enthralled. It just goes to show that not every paranormal activity is a frightening one. We might not always understand why they visit us, but that doesn’t mean that their presence has to be feared.
Sometimes, that thing that goes bump in the night is nothing but a man or a woman who just wants to go home – behind every spooky tale of haunting and horror, there’s a story of loss and humanity.