The carpenter imagined it was some kind of treasure which was hidden.
Mary's reaction to this piece of information was to write to the Mr. Sainsbury, who was
Lord Hillsborough's attorney, telling him what the old man had said, and suggesting that he might
think it worth his while to take up the floorboards and see whether there was any truth in the
story. But neither Sainsbury nor he landlady herself seemed sufficiently interested in what they
no doubt considered an idle tale.
Nor did Mary or her staff make any investigations, for she would certainly have recorded
in her 'Narrative' the finding of the thing that really was there under the floorboards all the time,
and cause-who knows?-of the terrifying haunting which then followed.
One night in the summer of 1770 Mary had just gone to bed in the yellow room and was
wide awake, when she heard the heavy plodding footsteps of a man walking towards the end of
her bed. She rushed from her room in terror into the nursery opposite, where the nursemaid,
Hanna Streeter, was with the children.
Accompanied by Hannah and candles, she returned to the yellow room, but there was no
one there. Nor was there any way by which an intruder could have got out of the yellow room
unseen. This alarmed and perplexed her very much, as she had heard the footsteps so distinctly,
being perfectly wide awake and her mind composed and collected at the time.
Nevertheless Mary refused to be frightened out of her yellow bedchamber, and even
though she could have easily have one of her domestics to sleep in the room with her, she
determined to go to bed there alone. She heard nothing more that summer.
When the chills of winter came to Hinton Ampner, she moved into the chintz bedroom
which was over the hall and was a warmer room. In this room she heard the sounds of music, and
one night three distinct and violent knocks, as though someone was hitting a door with a club.
During this winter she became aware of a strange and hollow murmuring which seemed to
fill the whole house. This was not a wind, for it was heard on the calmest of nights. It was a
sound, she said, such as she had never heard before, so eerie that she was unable to find words to
On the 2nd of April of that year-the sixteenth anniversary of Lord Stawell's fatal seizure-
Mary was awakened at two o'clock in the morning by the sound of people walking about in the
adjoining lobby. She got out of bed and listened at the door for twenty minutes or so, during
which she heard distinctly the sound of walking and a noise like something pushing up against the
door. Only when she was certain that her senses were not being deceived did she ring the bell for
her maid. Elizabeth Godlin came in immediately.
Mary continues the story thus: 'Thoroughly convinced there were persons in the lobby
before I opened the door, I asked her if she saw no one there. On her replying in the negative, I
went out to her, examined the window which was shut, looked under the couch, the only furniture
of concealment there; the chimney board was fastened, and when removed all was clear behind it.
She found the door into the lobby shut, as it was every night. After this examination, I stood in
the middle of the room, pondering with astonishment, when suddenly the door that opens into the
little recess leading to the yellow apartment sounded as if played to and fro by a person standing
behind it. This was more than I could bear unmoved. I ran into the nursery and rang the bell
there that goes into the men's apartment.'
Mary was still skeptical that the phenomenon was being caused by a supernatural agency,
for when her coachman, young Robert Camis, a big, stolid farmer's son, answered her ring, she
informed him that she was sure someone had broken in. It should be noted that the landing door,
to which Robert came in answer to her ring, was also locked and barred, so it was impossible for
anyone to get into her apartments, except by way of the windows, which were all shut and locked.
She let Robert in, armed him with a light and a stout stick and told him to go and
investigate. But there was no one there. The yellow bedroom, from which the disturbance
seemed to be coming, was bolted and locked as usual. Everything was in order. There was no
intruder, and no place where one could have hidden. After dismissing Robert, she went to bed,
but still heard the mysterious knocks. Other members of the household heard these noises.
Throughout the spring and summer of that year, the noises continued and increased, and
were heard by several members of the household.
With midsummer, the noises became well-nigh intolerable. The great humming which
Mary had noted before now seemed to be evolving into human sounds, articulate sounds, and both
she and Elizabeth Godin were soon distinguishing human voices. There were three voices, one
female and shrill and the other two male.
These three voices were conducting a conversation quite close to Mary and her maid, but
neither of them could distinguish any of the words which were said-an incomprehensible,
impassioned conversation, plucked from the past, and in some unfathomable way caught,
imprisoned in that house in a kind of unending echo. These strange noises went on often all
night, and continued until after daylight in the morning.
At night Mary's bed curtains rustled and it sounded as though some person was walking
up against them, and yet no one was there.
'I had taken every method to investigate the cause,' she wrote. 'And could not discover
the least appearance of a trick. On the contrary, I became convinced it was beyond the power of
any mortal agent to perform, but knowing how exploded such opinions are, I kept them in my
own bosom, and hoped my resolution would enable me to support whatever might befall.'
Her brother, Captain John Jervis, had just returned with his ship from the Mediterranean.
Though eight years older than his sister, there had always been a very strong bond between them,
but when he came to see her at Hinton she could not bring herself to tell him about the weird
things which were taken place in the house, even though the noises continued while he was with
her. But apparently he did not hear them on that occasion.
As light dawned on the day after he had returned to Portsmouth, even more violent sounds
began at Hinton. 'The most loud, deep, tremendous noise which seemed to rush and fall with
infinite velocity and force upon the lobby door adjoining to my room.' This was heard by both
Mary and Elizabeth, who was too terrified to speak.