The great author and investigator Peter Underwood gave the following answer to what inspired him to get involved in the paranormal field. “Probably seeing what I (and my mother) took to be the ghost of my father the night he died suddenly when I was nine years old; and learning that there was a famous ghost story associated with my grandparent’s home, Rose Hall, where I often stayed during holidays. There was a so-called “haunted” room‚ and often people who had read about the historic ghost called at the house and asked to see the room and hear the ghost story. When I was staying there my grandmother would delegate me to do the honours and, very much tongue in cheek, I would tell the story to scores of strangers. And very often they would say words to the effect “Well, we’re not surprised because we’ve got a ghost!”.
The story of the ghost at Rosehall appeared in Catherine Crowe’s ‘The Night Side of Nature’ (1848) and repeated in ‘The Haunted Homes and Family Traditions of Great Britain’ by John Ingram (1897), though neither of them actually named the 17th century house. The following account by a professional gentleman resident in London appeared in the two aforementioned books.
“I was, some few years since, invited to pass a day and night at the house of a friend in Hertfordshire, with whom I was intimately acquainted. His name was B , and he had formerly been in business as a saddler, in Oxford Street, where he had realised a handsome fortune, and had now retired to enjoy his otium cum dignitate [leisure with dignity] in the rural and beautiful village of Sarratt.
“It was a gloomy Sunday, in the month of November, when I mounted my horse for the journey, and there was so much appearance of rain, that I should certainly have selected some other mode of conveyance had I not been desirous of leaving the animal in Mr. B ‘s straw-yard for the winter. Before I got as far as St. John’s Wood, the threatening clouds broke, and by the time I reached Watford I was completely soaked. However, I proceeded, and arrived at Sarratt before my friend and his wife had returned from church. The moment they did so, they furnished me with dry clothes, and I was informed that we were to dine at the house of Mr. D , a very agreeable neighbour. I felt some little hesitation about presenting myself in such a costume, for I was decked out in a full suit of Mr. B’s, who was a stout man, of six feet in height, whilst I am rather of the diminutive order; but my objections were over-ruled; we went, and my appearance added not a little to the hilarity of the party. At ten o’clock we separated, and I returned with Mr. and Mrs. B to their house, where I was shortly afterwards conducted to a very comfortable bedroom.
“Fatigued with my day’s ride, I was soon in bed, and soon asleep; but I do not think I could have slept long before I was awakened by the violent barking of dogs. I found that the noise had disturbed others as well as myself, for I heard Mr. B, who was lodged in the adjoining room, open his window and call to them to be quiet. They were obedient to his voice, and as soon as quietness ensued, I dropped asleep again; but I was again awakened by an extraordinary pressure upon my feet; that I was perfectly awake I declare; the light that stood in the chimney-corner shone strongly across the foot of the bed, and I saw the figure of a well-dressed man in the act of stooping, and supporting himself in so doing by the bed-clothes. He had on a blue coat, with bright gilt buttons, but I saw no head; the curtains at the foot of the bed, which were partly looped back, just hung so as to conceal that part of his person. At first, I thought it was my host, and as I had dropped my clothes, as is my habit, on the floor, at the foot of the bed, I supposed he was come to look after them, which rather surprised me; but just as I had raised myself upright in bed, and was about to inquire into the occasion of his visit, the figure passed on. I then recollected that I had locked the door; and becoming somewhat puzzled, I jumped out of bed; but I could see nobody; and on examining the room, I found no means of ingress but the door through which I had entered, and one other; both of which were locked on the inside. Amazed and puzzled, I got into bed again, and sat some time ruminating on the extraordinary circumstance, when it occurred to me that I had not looked under the bed. So I got out again, fully expecting to find my visitor, whoever he was, there ; but I was disappointed. So after looking at my watch, and ascertaining that it was ten minutes past two, I stepped into bed again, hoping now to get some rest. But alas! sleep was banished for that night; and after turning from side to side, and making vain endeavours at forgetfulness, I gave up the point, and lay till the clock struck seven, perplexing my brain with the question of who my midnight visitor could be; and also how he had got in and how he had got out of my room. About eight o’clock, I met my host and his wife at the breakfast-table, when, in answer to their hospitable inquiries of how I had passed the night, I mentioned, first, that I had been awaked by the barking of some dogs, and that I had heard Mr. B open his window and call to them. He answered that two strange dogs had got into the yard and had disturbed the others. I then mentioned my midnight visitor, expecting that they would either explain the circumstance, or else laugh at me and declare I must have dreamt it. But, to my surprise, my story was listened to with grave attention; and they related to me the tradition with which this spectre, for such I found they deemed it to be, was supposed to be connected. This was to the effect, that many years ago a gentleman so attired, had been murdered there, under some frightful circumstances; and that his head had been cut off. On perceiving that I was very unwilling to accept this explanation of the mystery for I had always been an entire disbeliever in supernatural appearances they begged me to prolong my visit for a day or two, when they would introduce me to the rector of the parish, who could furnish me with such evidence with regard to circumstances of a similar nature, as would leave no doubt on my mind as to the possibility of their occurrence. But I had made an engagement to dine at Watford, on my way back; and I confess, moreover, that after what I had heard, I did not feel disposed to encounter the chance of another visit from the mysterious stranger; so I declined the proffered hospitality, and took my leave.
“Some time after this, I happened to be dining in C Street, in company with some ladies resident in the same county, when, chancing to allude to my visit to Sarratt, I added that I had met with a very extraordinary adventure there, which I had never been able to account for; when one of these ladies immediately said, that she hoped I had not had a visit from the headless gentleman, in a blue coat and gilt buttons, who was said to have been seen by many people in that house.
“Such is the conclusion of this marvellous tale as regards myself; and I can only assure you that I have related facts as they occurred; and that I had never heard a word about this apparition in my life, till Mr. B related to me the tradition above alluded to.
Still, as I am no believer in supernatural appearances, I am constrained to suppose that the whole affair was the product of my imagination.”
In Saratt there is a Rosehall and Rose Hall Cottage as well as Rose Hall Farm. Rose Hall Farm had its origins as the manor of Rooshall. For the purposes of the map below I am pinpointing an area around Rosehall Farm and will amend it when the actual house is identified.