Robert & Eleanor Northmoor were twins who lived in the house in 1862. A tutor was hired for them, Mr Sanderson (they called him privately ‘Mister Sandy’) and he mistreated them, beating them, and eventually killed them with strychnine. (Mr Sanderson was actually Nicholas/Godfrey, the undying villain of our story.)
Discovering the Story
Two of the player characters had stayed in the house as children – at different times. So we decided that Robert & Eleanor had been their invisible friends. To get that across, we sent both players an MP3 on a USB stick as part of their briefing; it was labelled ‘a recurring dream you’ve had since you were a child’. That MP3 was a montage sequence of the children playing with the player.
We also included references to Eleanor & Robert in some of the correspondence.
In the house, there were two bedrooms that had been the children’s room and the school room. In those rooms were old children’s toys, building blocks, slates, notebooks and drawings, some of them referencing the ghosts in the house and Mr Sandy.
In a child’s book of rhymes, written much later, this was found.
Mr Sandy beat them good,
With his cane of knotted wood.
Bob and Ellie cried and cried,
But no one heard them, then they died.
Listen well, oh children young,
Listen and just bite your tongue,
Heed your teachers, adults too,
Lest this fate should fall to you.
Work hard, study, say your prayers
And when they tell you – go upstairs!
Naughty tots who misbehave
Will end up in an early grave
You might grow up both fit and strong
And if God wills it, live for long.
But should you shirk or answer back
He’ll send an angel dressed in black.
The children only ever appeared as audio… you could hear them laughing, playing, singing, and then hiding, being scared. They referred to their two ‘friends’ amongst the player characters by name. They screamed in fear. They sobbed in the dark. They asked for help.
A music box in the room occasionally played without anyone being near it.
Occasionally the toys moved around, and the rocking horse rocked without anyone on it.
Behind the Scenes
As an over-18s event, we couldn’t have children present, but we borrowed two children belonging to friends of ours for a weekend and made lots of recordings that we then edited down.
The rocking horse gag was laughably simple – a bit of fishing wire.