“In 1947, I became involved in

the first official investigation into a haunting,”

“It all began when I spotted a paragraph in a national daily stating that two members of Luton Area Assessment Committee would be spending a night at a haunted house…”

1947 clipping from The Woburn Reporter depicting the rear of Woodfield house in Aspley Guise.

“It is said that some two hundred years ago a house on the site was occupied by a girl and her father.”

“The girl had a secret lover, who used to come to the house whenever his sweetheart’s father was away.”

“One night the girl’s father returned unexpectedly, and in a panic the pair just had time to secrete themselves in one of the large cupboards in the pantry before the father entered.”

“Unknown to them, however, the father had seen the guilty pair through the window and watched them enter their hiding-place.”

“In his anger he pushed a heavy table and other furniture against the cupboard door, imprisoning the couple, and left them there to die.”

“Some time later the notorious highwayman Dick Turpin is reputed to have broken into Woodfield, and accidentally discovered the bodies of the girl and her lover...”

Richard Turpin was an English highwayman whose exploits were romanticised following his execution in York for horse theft.

“Shrewdly guessing that he had stumbled upon some ghastly secret, he agreed to remain silent on condition that he could use the house as a hideout…”

“To this the father agreed, and the bodies were taken from the cupboard and buried under the floor of a cellar which was reached from the room in which we held a number of seances.”

“The hoofbeats of Turpin’s horse have been heard galloping down the hill, towards the safety of the house…”

“…and his form has been seen dismounting and hurriedly entering the grounds at a spot no longer used as an entrance…”

“I contacted the relevant committee member, and it was agreed that Tom Brown and I would join in the ‘investigation’.”

“The Luton Committee had considered a claim that the value of the house had accordingly depreciated.”

(The landlord was concerned that potential tenants were scared to stay there due its reputed haunted status,)

“A professional medium, Mrs Florence Thompson, and her assistant Peter Craven were also invited.”

Mrs Florence Thompson

Peter Craven



“We arrived at the lonely hundred-year-old house called Woodfield in Weathercock Lane, Aspley Guise.”

Woodfield, Aspley Guise

‘Eight people sat with linked hands in a darkened room at “Woodfield”, Weathercock Lane, Aspley Guise, at midnight on Friday, trying to contact spirits which are reputed to haunt the house…’

The Woburn Reporter
September 30th, 1947

Left to right: Leslie B Howard (back mostly to camera); Peter Underwood; Peter Craven; Tom Brown (in background behind Craven); Mrs Florence Thompson; Councillor H W Richards; Dr D J West; George Kenneth.

 ‘The night passed uneventful except for one brief interlude. This was when the medium went into a trance.’

 ‘In a distressed voice she began repeating:

“You're killing me… let me go... want to get away…” ’

The Woburn Reporter
September 30th, 1947



“A second visit to Woodfield took place a fortnight later.”

“This time I arrived at the house at 8.15 p.m…”

“…and again I thoroughly examined the twelve-roomed house from attic to cellars.”

“I verified that the pantry cupbards were in fact large enough to secrete two people…”

‘When a second séance was held…[last] Friday night…two members of the circle claimed that they saw the ghostly face of an old man moving about the darkened room…’

“It was an awful greyish colour. I was quite startled”, said Mr. Peter Craven, assistant to Mrs. Florence Thompson…’

The other member of the circle who claimed to have seen the face was Mr. A. P. Underwood*, of Westholm, Letchworth, who is gathering material for a book he intends writing on haunted houses.

The Woburn Reporter
October 14th, 1947

*Underwood’s first name was actually Alan, but he went by his middle name, Peter.

As well as his recollection in No Common Task, Underwood first publishes a full account of this investigation in A Host of Hauntings (1973)  - which was reprinted in Nights in Haunted Houses (1993), having included the historical backstory in the Gazetteer of British Ghosts (1971).

Was Thompsons’s assistant Peter Craven responsible for creating the illusion of the face of the old man?

“Although the Committee was ‘satisfied on the evidence that the place was haunted’, the affair did not end conclusively and the appeal was withdrawn…”

“There can be little doubt that the seances were unconvincing…”

“The landlord later tried again to get the rate-assessment reduced, and claimed that people still heard the sound of galloping hoofs down Weathercock Lane and saw a phantom horse disappear through a hedge.”

“He added that a ghostly white lady had also been seen at the top of an embankment there. but his appeal was dismissed as ‘devoid of merit and without point or substance’.

“The loss of the appeal was included in a BBC news broadcast, and provided one of the few occasions when a reputedly haunted house was mentioned seriously in a news bulletin over the air.”

Woodfield in the 1990s