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The haunted book a terrified family gifted to one of our most haunted houses

a photo of a large long slim leather bound book with a chunk taken out of its cover

The haunted ledger, now residing at Preston Manor in Brighton© Royal Pavilion and Museums, Brighton & Hove

The haunted book that now resides at Brighton’s most haunted house, Preston Manor

A family in Kent donated this ‘haunted’ book to Brighton’s most haunted house, Preston Manor, in 2015 after being plagued by spectral visions and ghostly visitations.

The 1915 shop ledger, which was found bricked up in a jeweller’s wall in Brighton’s East Street during a demolition in the 1980s, was donated by Josephine Benyovits, who lives in Maidstone but grew up in Hove.

It was discovered by her father, Tony Benyovits, in 1988 when he was demolishing the Shorland Fooks shop which closed in 1984. But when he took it home the sinister book caused both father and daughter to suffer what they believe to be a number of “spirit visitations”.

Josephine reports that images appeared in her rug, including a group of men, women and children and a soldier with a horse. She says that one of the spirits told her that the ledger must be returned to Brighton for the centenary of its first entry – in December 1915 – prompting a call to the city’s spookiest site, Preston Manor.

“At first we weren’t sure whether we’d take this apparently ordinary, 100-year-old shop ledger”, said Venue Officer Paula Wrightson. “But the family impressed on us quite how scared they were of having the book in their keeping. When I had a phone conversation with Josephine she seemed petrified.”

The book contains seemingly ordinary entries listing the jewellery sold from the shop which used to occupy a row of shopfronts in central Brighton.

a photo of a ledger entry with writing in it

Inside the haunted book. © Royal Pavilion and Museums, Brighton & Hove

a photo of a woman holding a large open book

Paula Wrightson with the haunted book © Royal Pavilion and Museums, Brighton & Hove

 

When Wrightson eventually agreed to take the book, which has a battered leather binding with a large chunk missing from it, she asked the family deliver it to Preston Manor, which they did “immediately from Kent”.

“It sat on my desk for a couple of weeks,” she added. “During that time I had a meeting with a spiritual medium who was taking part in an event here, and she said she felt the book had ‘bad things’ emanating from it.

“For me personally, the most interesting aspect of the book is that the entries show what was sold in the shop exactly 100 years ago. But it remains to be seen whether there’s more to it than that.”

Preston Manor has its fair share of ghosts and a reputation for spectral activity and unexplained phenomena dating back to its days as a private home in the early Victorian period. The most famous is the Lady in White who was said to be related to an ex-communicated nun whose body was eventually found buried underneath the patio.

A Grey Lady is also said to glide down the stairs and disappear into the wall while over the years hands, bodies and unexplained visitations and whisperings have been experienced by staff and visitors alike. Over the past decade it has hosted regular paranormal-themed tours, talks and events, continuing a trend started in the 1880s when séances were conducted in the house.

Is there a clue in the ledger entries?

Entries for Tuesday December 7 1915
Miss Baines 4 Madeira Villas brown antique cabinet frame 8/6 (8 shillings and six pence)
Miss H Butler writing indecipherable 2/9
Miss Fanshawe silkette blotter and ? case 2/6

Entries for Wednesday December 8 1915
The Rev G Stewart Newbury the Rectory Fittleworth 50 thin ladies VC and 50 gents VC 3/6 and 3/6
J H Wainwright Esq. 6 Grand Avenue 1 ? leaf money-case 3/6 and one velvet money-case 3/6
Mrs Baines 41 Medina Villas torch and ? box and torch and post and ins for box 6 18/6 and 5/6

venue

Preston Manor

Brighton & Hove, East Sussex

Delightful Manor House, powerfully evoking the atmosphere of an Edwardian gentry home both ‘Upstairs’ and ‘Downstairs’. Explore over twenty rooms on four floors, from the superbly renovated servants’ quarters in the basement to the attic bedrooms on the top floor. Adjacent to Preston Park, the house also comprises picturesque walled…

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