The Maid did it?


The Maid did it


The following reports come from The Woking News and Mail starting

19th May 1911.




            During the past week Woking has been much excited over strange stories of weird noises in a gentlemen’s house situated in one of the best parts of the district. On many occasions during the past fortnight unearthly screeches, yells and mysterious thuds have resounded throughout the house, the inmates of which are at a loss to account for them.

            Two representatives of the ‘News and Mail,’ who called upon the occupier on Tuesday, had an interesting talk with him, and were also lucky enough to hear the strange noise which has so astonished, if not terrified, the household. The residence judging from its appearance is about the least likely of all houses to harbour a ghost. A pleasant, roomy, modern house, standing amid fine trees, with here and there lilac and fruit trees in full bloom. It looks as little like the ancient, woebegone haunted house of tradition as it would be possible for a dwelling to be, and so far the ‘ghost’ itself has forsaken all ghostly precedents by persisting in making its manifestations only by daylight.


The noises have nearly all occurred in the hall, which is a particularly wide one, with a balcony running round it on the level of the first floor. Fearful groans and screeches, says the occupier and his family, have been heard in mid air in the hall.

            “It started,” he said, “a week last Thursday with a screeching in the hall. The maid was in the kitchen, and she heard it, and told us, but I believed it to be all nonsense. On the next day she said that she would not sit in the house alone, and my son, a boy of about 12, stayed with her, and he also heard it, about mid-day. Then they told us again, but I did not believe even then, and told them they had been dreaming.  On the next morning (Saturday week), at about a quarter past seven, we heard a most awful howl at the same time as the boy walked past, I remarked that the boy was making an unearthly row. My boy and the girl came rushing out shouting. “That’s the noise,” but I then said it was the boy outside.

Afterwards I was in the hall, and then I heard a screech just over my head. After that it was heard several times, and it kept on increasing in frequency. Last Wednesday it was heard 19 times. On Thursday and Friday it was again heard, and they say that something strange happened today.”

Asked as to what the sound was like, the gentlemen said it was just like a woman shrieking and crying out.



The Rt Hon. Gerald Balfour had expressed himself interested in the phenomenon, and has visited the house. He was not, however, favoured by hearing the noise. Mr. Balfour expressed the option that many cases of so-called ghostly phenomena were simply due to the contraction of furniture or ironwork through heat, which, in many cases accounted for mysterious sounds.

Mr Elliott O’Donnell, the well known investigator of the supernatural, whose strange experiences have become familiar to magazine readers, was communicated with, but he was unable to come to Woking and investigate the matter.

Questioned as to whether he thought the noises might not be due to owls or other birds lodging the eaves, the occupier of the house said at 10.30 p.m. on Saturday a policeman was reported to have seen a huge owl flying near the house. The maid had been to the police station, and an inspector had made inquiries into the matter. A through search was made, and although it was discovered that owls might easily find their way into the house, no trace of their presence could be discovered.

One other incident was related to our representatives. A fine bull terrier dog is kept in the house, and on one occasion the animal was walking across the hall, when suddenly it stopped short as if it saw something, and then, with a dismal howl, bolted into an adjoining room.

The governess, who lives with the family, informed our representatives that, after having been quiet since last Friday, the happenings had resumed that (Tuesday) morning. Mysterious tappings at the window were heard, and two bells in the house rang loudly without any apparent cause.

The Maidservant also stated that strange thuds on the stairs were heard, as if someone were being dragged down them. These sounds, she says were accompanied by deep groans.


Many and strange are the theories put forward to account for the occurrences. One gentleman talked learnedly of his disbelief in ghosts but thought it possible that some past occupier’s brain, under the strain of fear, pain or our violent emotion might have given off waves of thought which were now causing such manifestations! Another good neighbour favoured the owl theory, and suggested that part of the roof should be taken off in order that a proper search might be made.  He was a builder, by the way. Then someone else suggested that wind had got into the water pipes, and gave the opinion that they ought to be taken out. He happened to be a plumber.

A curious statement, for which many people in Woking vouch, is that a man who occupied the house possessed great natural powers as a spiritualistic medium, and could make heavy oak tables more about without effort.


Our representatives were conducted round the house in the hope that a solution of the mystery, might be hit upon. After passing through a maze of disused attics, a small room was gained from which opened a dark passage which runs all round the house under the eaves. It was in this that it was supposed owls had made their home.

Whilst the party were examining the passage a curious shrill cry rang through the house.

“That’s the row”, said the gentleman, and the party made their way to the hall with all speed. Here the family were found gathered, the maid being in a state of apparent terror.

“A groan generally follows,” someone said.

But no groan followed this time, and although search was made for possible practical jokers, or birds, nothing to explain the noise was found.  The sound came from the hall where nearly all the noises have been heard. At present no satisfactory solution of the mystery has been found, but possibly some person with an intimate knowledge of the calls of owls and other big birds might be able to say definitely if he heard the noise whether it could possibly come from a bird or not.

On Wednesday the strange cry was heard seven times, and we are informed that bells rang in a most unaccountable manner.


The story carried on in the next weeks Woking News and Mail 26th May 1911







Woking’s daylight ‘ghost’ which has aroused curiosity all over the country, owning to the wide publicity given to the mysterious affair by the London press, has apparently ceased its operations for the time being. The cause of the strange sounds in Mr. G R. Holroyds’s residence on the outskirts of the town has, however, so far baffled all investigation.

Last week loud wails and shrieks were heard daily, and on Saturday evening piercing cries broke forth. This happened at about 10.30 p.m. and threw the family into almost a state of terror, for it looked as if the ‘ghost’ which had hitherto confirmed its manifestations to the daylight, was about to commence its work in the night, when naturally the inexplicable sounds would be far more nerve-trying to the day. On Sunday, at midday another loud cry was heard, but since then not a single sound that could not be accounted for has been heard.


Mr. Holroyd told our representative that since the uncanny affair had been made public, his house had been besieged by large numbers of people all anxious to hear the strange sounds, and all perfectly certain that they could supply an explanation.

One gentleman who arrived at the house towards eleven o’clock on Saturday evening, questioned him as to the sounds, and then requested that he might be allowed to stay in the hall all night, in the hope that something unusual might occur. This the occupier declined to permit.

“I am as far from any solution as ever”, remarked Mr. Holroyd to our representative. “Everything possible that we could think of has been suggested, but there was nothing to account for the sounds. Some have put them down to owls, but the cries are not those of owls, I am sure. They are more like human screams.


That there are more things in heaven and earth than dreamt of in our philosophy few of us doubt. Whether the sounds in the Woking house are to be accounted for by some simple and very material cause, or whether their origin lies deeper than that is a debatable question, but a suggestion made by a young lady, who is employed as governess to the occupiers children, is decidedly interesting.

“If there is anything at all in spiritualism,” she said, “I should certainly think that the noises are due to some person in the house being unconsciously a medium, through whom occult forces are acting. I do not by any means believe in spiritualism, one this thing shakes one’s disbelief in ghosts. What the explanation is we cannot tell, and it does look as if there is something deeper in it all.  


Since accounts of the phenomenon appeared in various newspapers, Mr. Holroyd has been deluged with letters from all parts of the country, giving advice as to ways and means of solving the mystery.

One writer said that he was perfectly certain that the sounds were made by owls another was ‘perfectly certain’ that they were due to the hot water pipes, and yet another urged that the floor should be taken up, stating that a hedgehog had by some means become imprisoned beneath the floorboards, the animal would emit terrible cries. Another writer related that in a case within his knowledge a family had been greatly scared by screams and cries, which afterwards ceased. In the course of time the floor of the house was taken up, and the dead bodies of a cat and several kittens were then found.

But by far the most starting suggestion of all was that of an anonymous correspondent, whose letter was received on Wednesday evening. The writer stated that he or she was certain that a murder has been committed at the house, and urged the occupier to call in the police without delay, and have the floor taken up, and a thorough search made. No importance, however, is attached to such a suggestion by anyone acquainted with the house.

The occupier and his wife and family, with the governess, now occupy only two bedrooms, so thoroughly unnerved have the women folk and children become, that the children are naturally afraid to sleep by themselves.

Mr. Holroyd has never from the first believed in a supernatural cause of the strange sounds, and being a cool and level headed man, he has quietly sought in every way to try and elucidate the mystery. Thinking that there was a possibility the wooden or iron structure of the house might be affected by changes in temperature, he took careful note, and discovered the interesting fact that the shrieks were far more frequent and intense when the weather was hot than when it cooled down.

But, against the theory, he must place the experience of the last few days when, though the weather has been very hot, not a single cry has been heard.


To the Editor

We have received the following interesting letter from Mr. Holroyd:—

Dear Sir—as I hear a report is being put about that ‘the ghost’ has been found. I am writing to contradict this unless it has been found by some outsider, in which case it is strange that the particular person has not informed us. I hear that some have tried to make out that the noises have been caused by the maid, and others that they made by my son.

I state emphatically that I can prove this is not the case, and if I come across anyone making such a statement I shall place the matter in my solicitor’s hands, and make him or her answer for the statement in the proper place. It has been heard on several occasions, when neither has been in the house, nor even on the premises, also when others have been in their company.

Personally I do not believe in ghosts, and I feel quite certain these strange noises could have a very simple explanation as is generally the case in such circumstances.—Believe me, yours faithfully.


The next edition 2nd June 1911, just said no more sounds had be heard since last Sunday week. There is no solution to the mystery.


Next week 9th June 1911. There was a statement from Mr. Holroyd stating that the maid was only employed temporarily in emergency. The maid was find in the house on her day off. Questioned by Mr Holroyd and the owner of the house (rented property) she left his employ. He considered the matter at an end.

The maid called into the offices of The Woking News and Mail. She told the paper that she believed the sounds were caused by humans. She confirmed she had left Mr. Holroyd’s employ.


This is the end of the mater there are no further reports.

Many questions arise from this case.


  1. Do Owls made sounds in the day.
  2. What was the Maid doing on her day off?
  3. How if she was guilty, how did she make the sounds?
  4. Why the turn around from defending the Maid to totally blaming her ?
  5. What was the role of the landlord. Could it have something to do with the Hill Side case at Egham. In 1904 The Daily Express carried an article about the renter of this house, the poet Stephen Phillips leaving because it was haunted. Both parties were successfully sued for “Slander of Title” by the Landlord for damages of £200.00. He said he could not rent the property because of the publicity. The Daily Mail and The Light ran the story again in 1906, and both got sued again..

      Could the threat of court action caused everybody to try and close the case down, and the         maid took the blame?