Back in days gone by, the Breakfast room (a small lounge behind reception) was a cold and dark place. A draughty door in the far corner (see to left in the link above) let in cold air from the derelict conservatory, at the time a largely windowless room exposed to the elements.
Ghost hunters would gather in the Breakfast Room, using it as their 'base' between paranormal investigation sessions being conducted through the night on the upper derelict floors.
A common pattern of haunting was felt in the Breakfast room, particularly in the corner by the draughty door. This would sometimes rattle at night in the wind, but mostly this corner was just cold. Sensitive people would comment on the chill in this area; was it 'just' the wind coming through the open keyhole and under the door, or was it something more?
We would stuff old curtains against the door to keep out the draughts and in winter it was very cold - the Breakfast room would never really warm up even with the wood burning stove going.
Personally I have never felt anything in the Breakfast room and nor has Steve Graham, our resident paranormal investigator. More often used as a staff room in the early days, Steve and I would spend many a contented evening playing scrabble and polishing off the castle's unsold real ale, and neither of us picked up anything in the Breakfast room.
We did however pick up on some very loud sounds of people walking and indeed running around in the room above us, when we were in the Patti Bar. The room above the Patti Bar is the derelict 'States Room One'. It sounded as if a group of people had gained access and were charging and thumping around upstairs. This was late one night, as we sat in the Patti Bar with our real ale and scrabble board.
We both heard the very loud sounds, but tried to ignore them as neither of us felt that keen on investigating. Prompted eventually to have a look, in case it was some kids who had somehow got in, we found no one up there.
It was a winter night mid-week, with no guests in the castle at all, only us. Just one of several unexplained goings-on at the castle.
Eventually, as part of a slow restoration project taking years, the conservatory was restored, along with the neighbouring sports room and spa. The refurbished wedding reception room and conservatory now has underfloor heating, new windows, a new roof, and is a sun-trap in summer, while in winter it can easily be heated care of 60 kilowatts of trench heating and underfloor heating pipes.
These days the Conservatory is a source of warmth into the Breakfast room and even when the door is closed, there are no draughts and chills coming through from the Conservatory.
Mediums who would once comment upon the chills and 'presence' in this corner now feel nothing when in the Breakfast room. It is indeed, a warm and cosy spot, and when the log fire is lit, it provides a welcome respite from the winter cold of the unheated and unrestored derelict and draughty upper levels of this old castle.
Does this mean the ghosts all departed after this area was restored? Or does it mean that Mediums were over-sensitive to a natural phenomenon of cold draughts coming in from a room that was at the time more part of the 'outside' of the castle than 'inside'?
Could it be the presence of new life, new use, and new people holding functions and events and weddings in the Conservatory, drown out the atmosphere and memories in the fabric of the building?
Could it be that in our untouched unchanged and undeveloped derelict upper areas, the past has not yet been superceded by the present, and the spiritual world still has some presence?
Certainly the Conservatory has a most interesting past. While it is now a popular wedding reception room hosting up to 80 happy weddings a year, it was once a cold and austere room, a hospital ward for sick children suffering from TB.
There were in fact two childrens' wards in the TB era. As well as the Conservatory there was a second childrens' ward in what is now State Room Two (still derelict and with its original hospital bed lights preserved in situ) on the top floor of the castle. Many patients from the 1950's, getting a bit older now, recall their childhood years on the top floor of the castle.
The present layout of the upper rooms is more reflective of the period after the 1950's, when, following a cure for Tuberculois, the hospital became a hospice for old people.
As for the Conservatory, there are some rare pictures of it as a hospital ward on the Children of Craig y Nos blog - a blog dedicated to former hospital patients. Follow this and the you tube links to see a whole collection of photos. Or better still, spend some time alone in the Conservatory, imagining its past, and try and see and feel the room as it was 50 years ago, in your mind.
In its former use as a children's ward in the TB era, the young boys and girls would be placed in plaster body casts, so they were unable to move, often for a year at a time. They were wheeled out of the Conservatory onto the outside terraces, which were raised higher at the time to facilitate the wheeling out of the hospital beds. We since lowered the terraces back to their Victorian era levels, as you can see on our Conservatory Restoration page here.
The patients were left outside in all weathers and temperatures, as it was considered fresh air was good for TB patients. Rubber blankets would be placed over them to keep them dry when it rained or snowed.
Richard Felix of 'Most Haunted' detailed how, in days gone by, the patients would be wheeled out on to the terraces, and often left out overnight in temperatures that would plunge as low as minus 7 in winter. The next morning the nurses would wheel in the patients that were still alive; the dead ones would be wheeled off to the morgue.
I read somewhere that the death rate from TB at Craig y Nos was up to 80%. I am guessing now, but once its 20 year period as a hospice is added to its 40 years as a TB hospital, it is possible up to 6,000 people passed away at Craig y Nos.
It was once said by the locals that you arrived at Craig y Nos on a stretcher, and left in a coffin. Nowadays our guests arrive in horse drawn carriages and limousines, dressed in their wedding dresses and finery, and leave the very next day!
This interesting past has not affected our wedding bookings, as the young have no memories of the past, and many of our weddings are not 'local' anyway. But some older, local people may be disinclined to visit the castle, even now.
Our interesting past, coupled with the undeniably high death rate at the castle when it was a hospital, has made us very popular with ghost hunters. Even lay visitors can pick up on a lot of the undisturbed past of this building in the derelict upper areas of the castle.
I do wonder, if ever we get around to restoring the upper floors, whether this too will detract from the sense of presence that still pervades these rooms. As we haven't got the £1.5 million required to restore these levels, they are likely to remain popular with ghost hunters for some decades to come.
I personally have had an experience on the old staircase, the long one going from first to second floor of the castle, which is known to be a very active area. But I do believe once this area is restored, such experiences will be fewer as our susceptibility and receptiveness diminishes, for modern changes of use and crowds of regular B&B guests will one day change the energy in this as yet untouched and unrenovated part of the building.
For once guests move in and the rooms are restored to a new B&B use, as en-suites, the ghosts may move on. Until they do, these undisturbed upper areas of the castle remain frozen in time, and offer plenty of unexplained experiences for the more receptive and 'serious' ghost hunter.