Russian Cultural Centre, Valletta
Sir Oliver Starkey (Born around 1523 – Died around 1583-86) was one of the last English Knights in the Order of Saint John and was present during the Great Siege of Malta in 1565. He was Latin Secretary to Grandmaster Jean Parisot de Valette* (Born 4 February 1495 – Died 21 August 1568, Malta), after whom Valletta is named.
Prior to the Order’s move to Valletta in 1571, Starkey** lived near the Auberge d’Angleterre in Birgu, (Città Vittoriosa – Victorius City). His home in Valletta was close to St. John’s Co-Cathedral, on Merchant Street at the corner with St Lucia Street and it is this building that has acquired a reputation of being haunted. The following brief extract is from the Times of Malta (16 March 2009). ‘Another house said to be haunted in Valletta is that which belonged to La Vallette’s secretary, Oliver Starkey. Guests living in the house, which is now The Russian Cultural Centre, in 1990 said they were woken up at night by the sounds of cutlery and voices talking as if a banquet were taking place right in the living room. One of these guests was Elizavetta Zolina who was the director of the Russian Cultural Centre and who was staying in the house with her husband in 1993. A neighbour told off her husband because the parties they had been holding at their house were too noisy. It was then that Dr Zolina and her husband realised that what they were hearing at night was linked to the supernatural and the story was made public in The Times of September 10, 1996.’
I have not seen this article from 1996, but Joseph Attard refers to it in his ‘The Ghosts of Malta’ (1997 Reprint with additions). Dr Zolina and her husband came to believe that the building was being haunted by Sir Oliver Starkey and set about trying to find out as much as they could about him. They discovered that in his Will he left money to pay for masses to be said for the repose of his soul. They in turn started to pay for masses to be said for Sir Oliver and this apparently calmed down the haunt like manifestations, so much so that they no longer feared the ghost.
* Jean Parisot de Valette was the 49th Grandmaster of the Order of St John.
**Sir Oliver Starkey was Grand Prior of the Order of St. John in England from 1578.