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June 22, 2005
The world might have thought they were seeing things when Bangladesh turned the Australians over at Cardiff on Saturday, but that is nothing compared to the apparitions that have confronted the Aussies themselves. They have reportedly been spooked by the legend of 700-year-old ghosts at their ancient hotel in Durham.
"Scare dinkum - Aussies caught by the ghoulies at `haunted' hotel," was the predictably mocking headline on the back-page of The Sun, after it was reported that the squad had endured a sleepless night at the Lumley Castle hotel, the historic building that towers over the Riverside Ground in Chester-le-Street.
"I saw ghosts. I swear I'm telling the truth," Belinda Dennett, Australia's media officer, told The Sun. "Several of the players were uneasy although a lot of them in the morning said they were fine ... but maybe they were just trying to be brave." Shane Watson apparently wasn't one of them. According to the paper, he was so terrified he had to sleep on Brett Lee's floor.
Dennett elaborated on the ghostly goings-on in unnerving detail. "I closed the blind in my room before I went to bed. But when I was woken at 4am by my phone, the blind was up again. I looked out of the window and saw a procession of white people walking past. It was amazing, very scary.
"Then I returned to bed and the blind went up again - and there was someone looking in through the window. I know I wasn't dreaming because I wrote down the message from my phone and the time. Certainly, when I started to tell my story, a lot of them didn't want to know the details."
Dennett later toned down her remarks, telling Sky Sports that she might have exaggerated a fraction. "It's very different to any hotel we've been at before, so it was initially a bit of a surprise. I know what I thought I saw, I think perhaps the shadows and the moonlight were playing tricks on my mind."
But Lumley has had previous in the spooking stakes. Local folklore says the hotel is haunted by the ghost of a 14th-century aristocrat who was murdered by Catholic priests. The hotel is where the lady of the manor, Lily Lumley, was reputedly thrown down a well by a pair of priests when she rejected the Catholic church. The hotel is full of dark corridors and the medieval atmosphere is enhanced by the staff dressing in period costume.
In 2000, West Indies stayed there during their back-to-back matches against England and Zimbabwe in the NatWest Series, and three of the squad were so scared that they booked out and stayed elsewhere. The rest might have wished they had as well - West Indies lost to England by ten wickets on the Saturday, and the following day Zimbabwe chased 288 with six wickets to spare to dump them out of the tournament.
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.