Isabella Robinson haunts Belhurst Castle.
Known as the “Lady in White,” the ghost of Isabella has been seen by many, was photographed by at least one (I’ve seen the photo), and inspired Belhurst’s “Legend of Isabella.”
The stories I’ve researched vary. The account given in Belurst Castle’s pamphlet, “The History of Belhurst Castle,” says that Isabella was married to William Bucke, an honest man who was both treasurer and manager of London’s Covent Garden where Isabella performed in the 1800s. David Sakmyster’s account in his book, The Belhurst Story, claims that Isabella was Bucke’s mistress, and a dishonest William Bucke ran off money he stole from Covent Garden. What both agree on is that the two traveled to Geneva, New York and settled on the property that is now Belhurst Castle.
Another item both accounts agree on is that Isabella and William knew they would be pursued and found one day, so Bucke built tunnels beneath the property to provide an escape route. The sources also agree that the couple was tracked to Geneva and were close to being apprehended when the two fled to the tunnel that led to Seneca Lake. This is where their demise is different.
In Belhurst’s telling, when they escaped through the tunnel and reached Seneca Lake, Isabella was swept away by a huge wave. William grasped Isabella and the two were pulled into the depths of the lake, drowning in the icy waters. Locals still insist that, in the dead of night, they’ve seen the couple walking hand in hand on the property.
David Sakmyster’s research led him to a story in which Bucke installed a mechanism in the tunnel that would cause it to collapse when set in motion. This would crush the pursuers as they chased the couple, killing them. When they reached the tunnel’s end with its opening to Seneca Lake, Isabella dropped her torch and stooped to retrieve it. He told her to leave it and hurry to the boat he had waiting. He felt a breeze as she passed and activated the mechanism. But Isabella had not passed him and was killed in the collapse of the tunnel.
During a stay at Belhurst Castle, David and his wife, Amy, saw the Lady in White on the lawn below their window. That prompted him to research the history of Belhurst Castle and the Legend of the Lady in White.
Whenever we visit Belhurst Castle, I ask staff if they’ve had any ghostly encounters. Most shrug and say they don’t believe in that sort of thing. But one person told me about feeling the air turn cold. Another, when asked, said, “I’ve got something better. I’ve got a picture.” Pulling out his phone, he scrolled through his photos and showed us a picture a woman had taken of her husband in the castle. When the couple looked at the photo, two ghostly figures were on either side of the man. One, a woman in a ball gown, one a figure in costume sitting at the table.
This fascinating legend is the inspiration for much of The Cavanaugh House and its sequel, Buried Secrets (due out in August). I have always loved a good ghost story. Add riches, a journey across the Atlantic to escape, and secret tunnels, and you’ve got me hooked. And writing.
How about you? Have you had ghostly encounters?
The Cavanaugh House is available on Amazon in three formats: Kindle ebook, Print and Audiobook