In September 1953, Mr. W. H. Paynter, of Liskeard, a Cornish Bard and a Westcountry authority on “ghosts and haunted houses,” was making a business call to Launceston, when he noticed, with no small degree of shock, the demolition work in progress at Madford House. After thoroughly inspecting the remains of this one-time glorious mansion, which had been condemned as a dangerous building by the Borough Council, Mr. Paynter hurried to the offices of the ‘Cornish and Devon Post,; where he re-told an interesting story.
It was in 1947, Mr. Paynter stated, that he had first heard about mysterious happenings in Madford House, then occupied by Mr. And Mrs. G. Merry, and decided to investigate. On the night of December 15 that year he and two friends, Prince Birabongse (who was interested in the occult as well as motor-car racing) and Mr. Henry Maxwell (a London barrister, and nephew of Miss M. E. Braddon, Cornish authoress), spent many spine-chilling hours in the old house in an attempt to track down the alleged ghost which was said to cause the sound of hollow footsteps, occurring first in the cellar and then moving slowly up two flights of stairs, to fade away into a wall at the end of a corridor. Beyond this wall was said to be a priest’s hide-out, probably centuries old.
After an afternoon of surveying, chalking the floors, chalking the floors, cottoning the doors, and generally seeing to it that there was no chance of jiggery-pokery the three men settled down to a long and silent vigil. They stayed until well after midnight, but nothing weird or ghostly occurred, and eventually the bitterly cold weather forced the spirit-searchers to make a move. It was at this moment all three heard a noise which froze them to the spot — a cross between a sigh and a groan — eerie in the vast dark house. With commendable courage they located the room from which the sound came, and by this time they could also hear the rattling of a chain. The door was thrown open, Prince Bira flashed his torch, and there on the couch was — a massive Great Dane.
Later, they discovered that Mr. Merry had left the dog behind “on duty” while he and his family were out for the night.
“Imagine my surprise,” Mr. Paynter continued, “in re-visiting Launceston to find Madford House razed to the ground.” He said he had spoken to the foreman of the demolition squad, and the workmen knew nothing about the story of the ghostly qualities of the building, but in the course of their work they came across a staircase “leading to ‘nowhere’ which could easily have been the supposed priest;’s chamber.” Only that week they had removed the stairway leading from the cellar to what could only have been the old banqueting hall. In the cellar the workmen had found a “blocked tunnel.” This, Mr. Paynter contended, could have been the wine vault. The foreman remarked that he found nothing strange, such as old coins or trinkets, but the woodwork was as good as ever, no nails had been driven into the great oak beams, which had remained solid through the centuries, only wooden pegs being used to keep them in position. Mr. Paynter was presented with a carved oak head of a banister post to take with him as a souvenir.
As for the ghost? Well the mystery was never proved, but perhaps those wandering around Madford Lane at night may just need to keep a good look-out for themselves…………………………