The Man in the Checked Suit

High House, Seathwaite – pic from the High House website

I was supposed to be editing and formatting my latest short story yesterday, but got hopelessly side-tracked by history – and ghosts – instead.

It all happened thanks to a chat on Twitter. Someone asked if there were any maps of paranormal activity in our local area. Someone else replied. And before we knew it, there was a great conversation going on about all the various ghosts, hauntings, and general weirdness in and around Cumbria. One friend – @LakesStiles – mentioned some ghostly goings-on at an old farmhouse called High House at Seathwaite in Borrowdale, and kindly sent me some more information. And I was hooked.

The house was built in the mid-sixteenth century and occupied for generations by the same family, the Braithwaites, who farmed the land or worked in the local ‘wad’ (graphite) mine. At some point in the late nineteenth century it was ruined when a tree fell on it during a storm, but it was then rebuilt and refurbished by the K Shoes factory in Kendal, as a bunkhouse where their employees could stay for some ‘R and R’ in the glorious scenery.

Since then there have been several accounts of ghostly activity at the house, with guests kept awake by a strange figure appearing in the dormitory or making off with their rucksacks. My inner cynic says this might have more to do with an opportunistic thief than a ghost. But one account mentions him vanishing through a wall which is a little less mundane – and there are various mentions of a ‘man in a checked suit’ which is definitely quite original. I’d be interested to know more about this natty apparel, which might help to date its wearer to a particular era. To me it says 1920s, but I’m no expert and would be keen to know if anyone knows anything more.

In the meantime, the history of High House is all too fascinating; there’s a whole page of it on the bunkhouse website and I spent a happy hour… or two… reading my way through pages of Braithwaites and their various accomplishments, as well as accounts of the building itself, its architectural eccentricities, nearby archaeological excavations – and of course, the local weather. Seathwaite is well known as the wettest inhabited place in England and averages over 130 inches of rain a year. No wonder there are so many streams, tarns, lakes and rivers nearby!

If you don’t mind losing an entire hour (or more), head to the High House website to read this amazing story for yourselves. Sadly, there’s no mention of the Man in the Checked Suit, but if you buy the book it mentions, there’s a whole (if brief) chapter about it in there!


  1. I had this bookmarked then Chrome went and switched itself off. I thought I followed you anyway but maybe that was Tess? Anyway, lost and now re-found. I love the idea of the backpack thief who can walk through walls. I wonder what he does with his spoils?! As I’m sure you remember, I went to school near Kendal so the area is always of interest. Off to read about the Lancashire ghosts!

    1. Don’t worry about it – I lost track of your blog for a while too! Glad you enjoyed the ghosts, I’m hoping to post a few more tales between now and Halloween!

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