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Ghost of a Masturbating Monkey Haunts a British Estate (Really!)

Ghost stories in England are ten pence a dozen. Haunted buildings claiming to be “the most haunted in England” are almost as common. Stories of animal ghosts? Unless it’s a horse being ridden by another ghost or pulling a haunted carriage, those are pretty rare. And, except for the occasional succubus/incubus ghost seduction or the “I married a ghost” story, tales of ghostly sex acts are also unusual. Put those all together and you might get the story of an English estate claiming to be one of the country’s most haunted whose list of ghosts includes a masturbating monkey. Too unbelievable even for England? Try too true!

“The ghost of a randy monkey haunts the halls of a grand English country estate – where romantic spook-hunters flock to tie the knot. Titillated tourists can often hear the saucy spectre laughing while masturbating in Athelhampton Hall in Dorset, near Dorchester.”

Athelhampton House (Attribution: MilborneOne at the English language Wikipedia)

In these times of coronavirus lockdown, people lament vacations missed and dream of future excursions. Some apparently even wish to visit Athelhampton Hall, a still-beautiful 15th century estate in Dorset, near Dorchester. The first part of the manor was built in 1485 by Sir William Martyn (remember that name) and, although it has changed hands many times through the years, Athelhampton Hall still contains some of its original medieval furniture, Elizabethan carved panels, ornate ceilings, and Tudor period artwork. And ghosts.

“Athelhampton House was said to be haunted as far back as the 1850s and is considered among the most haunted houses in England.”

The “Unsolved Mysteries of the World” podcast found reports of a ghost of a woman roaming the halls with the obligatory (for England) name Grey Lady. A dark shadow seen by many is believed to be the ghost of a monk while the wine cellar is haunted by a wall-tapping ghost named Cooper. One-time sightings include a two-ghost sword-fighting duel waged in the Great Hall. That’s an impressive ghost total, probably making Athelhampton Hall worthy of inclusion on a list of most-haunted places in England, but these pale apparitions pale even further when compared to the estate’s most famous ghost — Martyn (told you the name would come back), the masturbating monkey.

“Sir William’s great hall is superb, with timbered roof, linenfold panelling, minstrels’ gallery and armorial glass in the windows, showing the family crest, a chained ape, which is believed to have been a family pet..”

The monkey ghost story has roots in real history. The Martyn family crest definitely shows a chained monkey and the family graveyard has at least one stone depiction of poor Martyn. The most popular version of the monkey’s demise is that a Martyn daughter (he had two daughters, both named Elizabeth) since William had only sons) was distraught over a broken love affair, locked herself in her room and took her own life – not realizing that the monkey who was also infatuated with her had followed her into the room. No one seemed to have noticed either one missing for days until both were found, with poor Martyn dead of starvation. A different version of the tale has Martyn being accidentally entombed in a wall and dying there. Martyn’s ghost has been reported seen by many swinging from the from the rafters, and heard by many more scratching on the walls. Most say Martyn appears to be a friendly ghost monkey. What’s missing from these stories and sightings?

St Mary’s church, Puddletown – the Athelhampton Chantry restoration 
cc-by-sa/2.0 – © Mike Searle – geograph.org.uk/p/3744213

The masturbating part! No one seems to be quite sure where that came from. Perhaps the legend of scratching got misinterpreted from the walls to the primate’s privates. Or it was a way to show the ape’s infatuation with the girl. Or an attempt to explain why the monkey ghost is always in a good mood. Or it was just adding a common monkey behavior to an uncommon monkey ghost story. Whatever the case, it’s novel enough that it pops up frequently in English ghost collections and on ghost tours, especially and strangely those for honeymoons and romantic escapes, which is probably why it popped up recently on this writer’s feed.

Not that I’m planning a romantic visit to see the masturbating Martyn Monkey ghost anytime soon. And no, surprisingly, I don’t think The Masturbating Monkeys would be a good name for a band. Just an interesting ghost tale.

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Paul Seaburn is the editor at Mysterious Universe and its most prolific writer. He’s written for TV shows such as "The Tonight Show", "Politically Incorrect" and an award-winning children’s program. He's been published in “The New York Times" and "Huffington Post” and has co-authored numerous collections of trivia, puzzles and humor. His “What in the World!” podcast is a fun look at the latest weird and paranormal news, strange sports stories and odd trivia. Paul likes to add a bit of humor to each MU post he crafts. After all, the mysterious doesn't always have to be serious.
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