Chingle Hall: Haunted by What?
Chingle Hall in Goosnargh, a village near Preston, is claimed by some to be Britain’s most haunted building. It’s a 13th century manor house, largely rebuilt in the 1600s. It was once moated- you can still see the little bridge connecting the doorway to the land beyond the moat. It was previously open to the public but is now a private residence. Ghost hunters and paranormal investigators have been known to flock there to satisfy their curiosity and validate their claims. It is possibly linked to the Catholic martyr St John Wall, whose head may be buried in the grounds.
I wandered down the public lane that leads to it last week. Conscious that the residents are probably tired of people photographing their lovely home, I was rather discreet with my own picture-taking. A previous owner in the 1970s encouraged the visits of ghost-hunters; she is on record claiming that the house’s two priest-holes mysteriously and spontaneously caught fire and that the medieval Eleanor Singleton still shows herself. There are countless online tales of what people claim to have experienced.
As a Christian, I’m sceptical of these stories, but neither am I a materialist who only believes in that which is tangible. Furthermore, my own grandmother (a Christian) claimed to have seen ghosts at Lancaster’s Moor Hospital as does my mother (a non-Christian) in our family home in the 1970s-80s. It’s hard to disregard the retold experiences of trusted loved ones.
So what does the Bible teach of such hauntings? Are ghosts real? In a sense, this is an entirely pointless and misleading question. It’s like asking if someone believes in UFOs. Some people say they don’t believe in UFOs- after all, they’ve never seen little green men riding a flying saucer. But is a UFO a space ship? What if I merely mean an unidentified flying object? Someone throwing a stone at my head has created a UFO. Similarly, until we can define what a ghost actually is, we cannot agree or disagree with its existence.
Most people assume a ghost is the disembodied human being- their spirit minus their body. The separation of body and spirit does indeed occur at death; the body returns to the ground, and the spirit awaits God’s judgement at the resurrection, when it will be reunited with a body. But can dead human beings remain on earth minus their bodies? I’m afraid I’m not convinced.
“For the living know that they will die; But the dead know nothing, and they have no more reward, For the memory of them is forgotten. Also their love, their hatred, and their envy have now perished; nevermore will they have a share in anything done under the sun.” Ecclesiastes 9:5-6
The idea that dead humans remain at places like Chingle Hall, hovering around making visitors and residents alike feel uncomfortable and scared is simply untenable. Man is permitted to live once, and then face judgement. Humans have no unfinished business here on earth; their only business is facing the Judge to answer for their crimes. "When his breath departs, he returns to the earth; on that very day his plans perish.” Psalm 146:4.
Job 7:9-10, NKJV. “As the cloud disappears and vanishes away, so he who goes down to the grave does not come up. He shall never return to his house, Nor shall his place know him anymore."
Notwithstanding the fact that the book of Job, although divinely inspired literature, also contains the opinions of Job’s friends who sometimes err in their understanding of Shaddai, this passage seems to indicate that humans do not return from sheol to once more occupy their earthly homes. And why should they? Since 1260, how many occupants must Chingle Hall have had? Do they all have an equally valid claim to keep on living there after death? The place would be rather crowded.
No, ‘ghosts’ if they exist, are not current or former human beings. They must be something else. Here are some possibilities:
1) Most ghost-hunters wish to see ghosts; their fevered imaginations manufacture what they’re so desperate to see. Of course this doesn’t account for those who really don’t want to see them, but do!
2) Ghost stories and experiences make dullards appear more interesting; haunted houses sell more tickets than unhaunted houses.
3) Static electricity, which we know can affect a room’s temperature and cause our hairs to rise, may have some unknown effect which creates images of moving light.
4) The earth’s magnetic field, of which we know very little, is able to ‘record’ our emotions, rather like a tape recorder storing our voice. I may play a Jim Reeves record and hear his voice coming out of the speakers- it’s not him, but a recording. What if a ghost is a visual recording of that person’s emotion? Ghosts are never seen snoozing or digging cabbages or brushing their hair- they’re usually about to fight a battle or looking for a dead relative- events which are emotionally charged. What we see is essentially a film of a former person’s life.
5) Ghosts are real spirits, but they’re not humans.
Although theories 1-4 may contain truth, the latter is, I think, the more likely. We know the devil and his angels were flung down to the earth. We know their chief tactic is to deceive humans and distract them from the gospel:
"And no wonder, for Satan himself masquerades as an angel of light. It is not surprising, then, if his servants masquerade as servants of righteousness." 2 Corinthians 11:14-15.
Leviticus 19:31 forbids people from contacting spirits ‘Give no regard to mediums and familiar spirits; do not seek after them, to be defiled by them: I am the LORD your God’. What harm would there be in contacting grandma to ask her where she hid the family silver before she died? None- unless that which claims to be ‘grandma’ is fact someone or something else.
Although this is the answer I’d probably go for, it does have some difficulties. Spirits in the Bible do not occupy houses- they occupy people. It’s almost as though these fallen, unclean spirits crave the comfort of a body. Somehow, Chingle Hall simply cannot offer the average spirit the standard home life these creatures have come to expect.
Either way, I was not afraid when I approached Chingle Hall. Even if it is the abode of fallen angels which I seriously doubt, we need not fear. There is more spiritual power and authority in a Christian's toe nail than there is these ‘ghosts’: Luke 10:19 “Behold, I give you the authority to trample on serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy, and nothing shall by any means hurt you."
"For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord." Romans 8:38-39