The Everett Family Ghost Revisited

Everett Family Ghost Revisited

Christopher Francis, the eldest son of Henry and Mary Ann Francis, married Emilie Jane Everett at All Saints, Wickham Terrace, Brisbane on 27th December 1870. Emilie was the daughter of Arundel Everett and his wife Georgiana, nee Dunkerton. 

Mystery, real or imagined, surrounds certain events in the lives of Arundel and Georgiana Everett. Strange events that do not appear to have been satisfactorily explained.

Much of the information I have obtained about the early history of the Everett family is based on letters written by Arundel Everett’s eldest daughter, Amelia Smith, to her sister Emilie Francis in 1908, and Emilie’s daughter Sylvia, who was inquiring about family history in 1913. Amelia’s letters were based on her memories as a child in England and of stories she was told by her “Aunt Jane”. Amelia believed that the family name was previously spelled Everatt, but it appears to have been given the spelling Everitt in some records. Alternative spelling of names is not uncommon in old hand written records.

It seems that Simon Peter Arundel Everett was born in 1820 at Bruton, Somerset, the eldest son of Robert Everett and his wife, who was formerly Anne Read. Robert was the second son of Nicholas Everett. According to Amelia, Robert’s elder brother, Joseph, inherited the family home called “Wyck” or “Wick”, Robert inherited a Tannery in Bruton from his mother, and John, the youngest, went to America. She also believed that Simon Peter Arundel Everett was the godson of the Earl of Arundel and was named after him. She said the Earl was a close friend of Robert’s. (This has not been confirmed. While family legends often contain an element of truth, they may not be strictly accurate).

Arundel Everett married Georgiana Dunkerton who appears to have been born at Castle Cary, Somerset, in 1815, so she was about five years his senior. In those days it was probably considered inappropriate for a man to marry a woman who was older than himself, so the difference in their ages might have been the reason for their daughter Amelia’s comment, many years later, that so few family records had been kept, prior to them coming to Australia. In one of her letters, Amelia revealed that Arundel Everett came out to Australia about 1857. This was his second attempt. It appears that his first attempt ended when he was shipwrecked on the coast of Ireland. Georgiana and the girls followed two years later. Georgiana and their six daughters are said to have arrived in Australia on the “Esmirelda” in time to see the Burke and Wills expedition depart from Melbourne with all the razz-a-mataz of a carnival, on 20th August 1860. That would place the arrival of Georgiana and the girls during 1860.

Everett next draws attention when newspapers of the day reported that George Williams and Frank Britten were each sentenced to fifteen years’ hard labour, the first to be spent in irons, for robbery under arms on November 5th 1862. The two villains held up the Bathurst Mail, when Arundel Everett was robbed of £6, and Owen Malone of £990, the property of the Bank of New South Wales.

Family legend surrounds the Everett family as a result of the curious story of the Everett Ghost. Curious, not because the ghost story itself is remarkable, but because there were those who said it was true. The story was written by one of Emilie's sisters and printed in Melbourne by the Echo Newspaper.

Here is the story as it appeared in The Echo, Tuesday, October 19, 1880 

A Haunted Castle

by a Lady Resident in Sydney.

What I am about to relate occurred some fifteen years ago, when I was little more than fifteen years of age; and yet, child as I was, I have never forgotten that dreadful time, or what happened. My father held a rather high position in the Royal household, and, when my story commences we were living in town, but he was on the look-out for a nice country villa, where we girls - for there were five of us - could be allowed more exercise than we could get in London. One day, looking over the list of houses for sale, he saw one that he thought would do very nicely. We immediately went to the village where it was situated, and liking both the house, the furniture - I had forgotten to state that the house was furnished - and the price, he bought it at once.

However, as the place had been unoccupied for several years, it needed repairing very much. It was named 'Rose Cottage'- doubtless, from the number of wild rose-bushes that were straggling everywhere around it - but its popular name was Hayes's Castle

It will be difficult for me to describe it. It stood some dozen yards or so from the road with rather grand front and side entrances. Each had a handsomely-carved marble porch and broad marble steps. If one thing caught the eye more than another, it was the number of large crosses fixed here and there about the place. There was a very big wooden one over the front gate; there were smaller ones at each gable of the house; and there was another over a small gate which led from the premises into an adjacent churchyard, and which could be easily seen from the front of the house. All the crosses were of wood, painted black. The churchyard enclosed a dilapidated old church, and the graves in it were in the same condition. Both the church and the cemetery had been unused for years, and it seemed as if our house had at one time been an adjunct of them.

The house was a very large one, and might be said to be in two distinct portions, save that there were doors leading from one to the other. We occupied the west portionm which gave an abundance of room. The outer doors leading into the east portion were locked and barred when we took the house, as were also the inner doors leading into it. There being no necessity for using that portion, these doors were not opened by us when we went there to live. The house was a three-storied one, with vaults underneath, as we subsequently discovered. With regard to the inside, I need only say that the rooms on the basement story were large and stately, as was also the flight of stairs leading to the upper premises. There were some twenty-five rooms in the part of the house we occupied. The furniture was old, very substantial, elaborately carved, and all, apparently of one design. The house, as I have said, stood in a large garden, and on the east side there was a large fir plantation. In both, signs of years of neglect were paramount.

The repairs being made, we went down to the house, and were delighted with all the first appearances. Papa had slept in the house the previous night, and I recollect hearing mamma ask him how he had slept. He replied, "I could not sleep, somehow - there were so many strange noises. I fancy I have bought more than I intended to do, in the form of rats and mice."

Of course, directly after our arrival, we girls were scampering all over the place. It was certainly the most wonderful house we had ever seen, and the only thing that interfered with our pleasure was the inability to get into the east portion of the house. We slept well for the first night, and were too tired to allow of certain indistinct noises we heard disturbing us. The following morning we were up early, and spent the day in roaming over the place. At night, we went to bed as usual. I may here mention that we all slept on the first story. I had as companions in my room, which was a very large one, my three elder sisters - Minnie, Lois, and Joy. Emilie, my yougest sister, slept with the nurse in another room. The servants' apartments were on the top story. On going to bed, we talked over the events of the day some time and then sank into slumber. We must have been asleep some time, when we all seemed to awake at once, and listening for something. I know that, before we noticed anything definite, we were frightened, and whispering together.

We each felt a dread of we know not what. The blinds were not down and the moon was shining brightly into the room.

Suddenly we heard steps, as if someone were coming up the steps slowly. Oh! it seemed an age, and every nerve of our poor bodies was strained to catch the faintest sound. But nothing, not even the wind sighing through the ivy outside, nothing but the step coming nearer and nearer up the stairs could we hear. At last it stopped, and at our door, stopped a minute, and then the door slowly opened, and in came a man all in white. We could not move, nor scream, nor turn away; we each had to look on that dreadful man. Each of us was absolutely without power to move our eyes from this apparition. Was it man or spirit? To this day I cannon t tell. It was tall, dark and thin, with long black hair, big black eyes, no hair on the face. It seemed as if it had a surplice on. One hand held a common brass candlestick - a candle in it, that in those days was called a dip. It was lighted, the wick long, and the flame flaring from side to side. The other hand was held out, as if about to catch hold of something.

This thing came into our room, paused inside then slowly went to the table, each step audible to us. It set down the candle and looked out of the window; then turned, went to the bed where Minnie and Lois were, looked at Minnie; then walked round to Lois, and put out that bony hand, gently lifting the clothes, then replacing them, looked at her fixedly; then turned, went to the table, took up the candle, looking at Joy and myself as it passed, and went out of the room, closing the door; and the step slowly and solemnly went down the stairs again and then the sound was lost.

Even though that dreaded figure was gone we dared not speak nor move.  Scarcely did we know that the moon went down, and day was just beginning to peep into the window, before I dared to turn my head. And so we passed all through the long hours of that never-to-be-forgotten night.

When day came, and we were not heard talking and laughing as usual, Mamma came to see if anything was the matter with us and she found her children apparently dumb, rolled up under the bed-clothes; nor could she get one of us to speak for some time. And after the dreadful horrors had been narrated, and we were told we must have been dreaming, and that there were no such things as ghosts, and that it was naughty to think of them, we were taken down to breakfast. Papa was then told, but he laughed it off.

Mamma said, "Well it is strange. You see the children tell the same thing."  I may mention, that Mamma afterwards told us that our visitant had appeared in their room the same night.

That day papa went to London, and in the evening returned, bringing with him his brother and sister - Uncle William and Aunt Mary. That night we children were consequently allowed to sit up later than usual, but went to bed about ten o'clock. Aunty had brought us some cakes and toys which we took up to bed with us. Minnie, however, my eldest sister, had gone to bed earlier, and her share of the good things was left on a table in the hall.

What immediately follows was told us by mamma the next morning. It seems that our elders, after we went to bed, were having a discussion on some subject, and about eleven o'clock papa rose, lit a candle, opened the door for the purpose of going to the library to get a book which would give some information on the points at issue. In a second or two, he returned, saying, "Did you hear that?" They replied in the negative; but, on listening, they heard noises, as if the house were alive with moving inhabitants. Uncle William said he would go, took the light, and went bravely to the library door, but there he stopped, for all the noises seemed to be concentrated in that room.

At last, papa said, "It is very foolish of us. I will take the poker and creep in with bare feet." Suiting the action to the word, he again went softly to the door, but again hesitated on turning the handle. Uncle William decided the matter, however, by coming quietly behind and pushing him in. Not a living or moving thing was seen in the room, and apparently, everything was in its usual orderly state.

No more strange noises were heard that night, and soon after, they retired to bed.

We all slept soundly in our room that night; and if our intruder of the previous night paid us another visit, we were unconscious of it.

It was scarcely daylight when we told Minnie of the things for her downstairs, and she immediately went to get them. She was just about to take them up, when she heard a sigh close by her, and a rustling of silk, as it seemed. Looking round, frightened, she saw a lady looking mournfully at her who, when she saw she was seen, disappeared by the side of the stairs; and thereupon Minnie ran screaming up to our room, and fell fainting on the floor. Mamma and the nurse came running in and found her in that state; and, after recovery, she told us what she had seen.

At breakfast, aunt suddenly said, "Did either of you come into my room last night?" Hearing a negative on all sides, she continued "Well, I would not occupy that room again on any consideration. For more than an hour, someone was walking up and down in it, sobbing and sighing, and the curtains were moved to and fro; and in the morning I found the door wide open. I believe this house is haunted."

"But didn't you see any one?" asked papa.  "It is strange you should hear sounds like that, and see no one."

"No, I looked, but I saw nothing."

It may be imagined that we now began to feel very nervous and uncomfortable. Aunt said she would go back to town, and would not be persuaded to stop. She agreed, however to send down Aunt Etta to pay us a visit, and to say nothing of the strange things that had occurred.

About eleven o'clock in the morning we were all out in the garden, excepting Mamma and Emilie. Mamma told the girl to go to the schoolroom and fetch her book.

Emilie trudged off, but came running back, and whispered to Mamma, "Man gone upstairs."

"Nonsense, Emilie," was the reply, "It must have been nurse."

On Emilie adhering to her first statement, Mamma went upstairs, but could find no one there. On coming down, she re-questioned Emilie, who persisted that she had seen a man, and described him as being "a big man with big eyes."

That evening, Aunt Etta came; and still ignorant that there was anything strange about the house, occupied the room in which Aunt Mary had slept, or rather tried to sleep, the previous night. Soon after all in the house had retired to bed, Mamma was awoke by Aunt Etta calling at her door, "Georgie, Georgie, there is some one in my room. Let me in."

When mama opened the door, poor aunt repeated that there was some one in her room; and, in fact, told the same tale that Aunt Mary had told, only that she had jumped out of bed and ran out of the room, the door of which, she said, her visitor had opened. Papa got up and went to the room, but saw nothing.

I may mention that on that day mamma had given orders to the servants to take some old paper from the walls of the schoolroom, with a view to having it re-papered. This room was on the ground floor, and on the eastern side of the part of the house occupied by us. On the morning following Aunt Etta's fright, the servants began, accordingly, to strip the walls. In doing so they exposed a door in the eastern wall, securely locked. Papa was called, and summoning two or three neighbours, he proceeded to force open the door. Having succeeded, it was found that the door led into a narrow passage running between the two portions of the house. Lights were procured, and all present entered the passage, and followed it along a few paces, when they came to a flight of about twenty stone steps leading downwards.

On going down these steps, the party found themselves in a large vault, and a horrible sight presented itself to their view. The floor was literally strewn with bones...human bones; nothing besides but human hair of both sexes. There was one door in the vault, which was also bolted and barred. This being opened, a room was discovered, than which nothing more strange could be imagined.

Its walls, floor, and roof, were of the whitest marble. In each of the four corners, a bronze figure of a woman, life size, each of which held its hands clasped in front of it, holding a small lamp of the same material.. Besides the door there was no window or outlet of any description, but in one corner was the form of a woman - a corpse, in an apparently complete state of preservation. The corpse was lying on its side, with its hands clasped together. On touching it, it crumbled into the finest dust. "Beyond what I have described, there was nothing in this most beautiful room."

Of course, after this discovery, we gave up all idea of continuing in the house.

The truth of this story I will vouch for, and there will be many who if they read it, will recognise both the scene and the events I have told of. I have not tried to embellish the truth in any way, and have omitted a good deal which would, had I inserted it, have made the tale much more sensational, though not the less a record of facts. Our family left England almost immediately after, and I have never heard the real history of Hayes's Castle.


 To the author's comment, "Of course, after this discovery we gave up all idea of continuing in the house” ... one might answer, "and who could blame them."

A strange thing about the story is that the author mentions her sisters, and perhaps the other family members, by their names. One would think that if it was just a piece of fiction she would have selected different names. Then, when I mentioned the ghost story to one of Emilie’s granddaughters, she said that her mother had said that the story was true.

Another perplexing reference to the story came in a letter to Mary Suttor written by her sister-in-law, Mary Ann Francis, dated 22nd June 1880. Mary Ann wrote, ... "also in the parcel is a short Ghost story entitled 'Hayes’ Castle', written by a sister of my daughter-in-law, all she writes in it is true and happened to the Everett family."

If there was any publicity surrounding the discovery of the hidden rooms, it is likely that London papers would have made some mention of it back in the early 1850’s, but I have been unable to find any reference.

So, is there any truth in the story?

Knowing the names of the Everett children, and the names they assumed as children, it is not hard to identify the authoress of the story as Elizabeth Agnes, the fourth daughter. Amelia (Minnie), was the eldest; Annie Read Eloise (Lois), was next, and Georgiana (Joy), next, with Emilie, the youngest at the time. Their Mother's name was Georgiana (Georgie), and the children did have an Uncle William, Aunt Mary and an Aunt Etta, (Their father's sister, Henrietta).

After I first wrote about the ghost story, one of Emilie's descendants advised me that she had a watercolour painting of "Rose Cottage", by A. Dickins. It is the painting reproduced with this article. Annie Dickins was formerly Annie Read Eloise Everett, Lois in the story.

So, one of the Everett sisters, Elizabeth, residing in Victoria, wrote the ghost story about 1880, while another of the sisters, Annie, living in Queensland, painted the site of the haunting, probably a decade or more later.

Fact of fiction? It's all part of the mystery of the Everett Ghost Story.

Arundel Everett did not live to see his daughters married. His body was found on the road from Nanango to Toromeo, Queensland, on 23rd April 1867. The place where his body was found was about seven miles from Toromeo. The inquest held the next day described Duncan Simon Everett, contractor, as 5ft 4in, light hair with grey beard. He had been staying for a day or two at a hotel at Nanango and had told one of the witnesses that he had fallen off the roof of a house he had been building. He was walking from Nanango to Toromeo, and stopped for a short time with James Holt, a miner, and six men in his company, who were resting beside the road. Everett proceeded his journey and was found dead or dying some time later, when Holt’s party caught up with him.

Some injuries on the body were attributed to his supposed fall from the roof. Cause of death was unknown, possibly exhaustion or heart disease ... No person suspected ... No one accused ... No suspicious circumstances.

Is it possible that the disturbed Ghost of Hayes’ Castle finally caught up with Arundel Everett on that lonely stretch of Queensland road?

He was buried at the Burnett Cemetery at Nanango. It is not known whether the name Duncan was one of Everett’s christian names, was assumed, or was recorded in error at the inquest. A Brisbane newspaper at the time recorded the Obituary of Arundel Everett at Nanango.

Georgiana Everett died on 15th May 1891, and was buried at Toowong Cemetery, Brisbane. Her estate was left to her daughter, Matilda Sophia MacDonald, a widow. Her other daughters were recorded as Amelia Smith, Annie Read Dickins, Elizabeth Agnes Doyle, Emilie Jane Francis and Bertha Isobel Harding. Another daughter, Georgiana Adele Williams, predeceased her mother in 1881.