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Beginnings: The Brandon House Hotel

This post is by Steven Rumbelow.

The Brandon House - The house today shows most of the rooms with the curtains closed 24/7, space rental signs and a general rundown appearance.
The Brandon House – The house today shows most of
the rooms with the curtains closed 24/7, space rental signs and a general rundown appearance.

My Mother and Grandmother decided when I was about two years old to take out a lease on a huge, old Georgian House at the centre of Bristol. It proved to be a successful attempt to drag the family out of poverty after my Grandfather deserted the family when he ran off to South Africa. He did this after becoming a multimillionaire with the sale of his successful chain of Rumbelow’s stores.

The Brandon House Hotel became a regular stop for celebrities like Cliff Richard, Lulu, TV stars, filmmakers, all the biggest Wrestlers of the day and a number of professors because of its proximity to Bristol University.

When we first moved into the house, I was sick with whooping cough and I remember it well because the fumes of renovation made me sicker and I was put on a camp bed in the kitchen. Whilst laying there at night, I would stare out at the light in the hallway, a bare bulb, and that is when I remember the sight of my first apparition in that house.

Although I knew nothing of cavaliers, I saw a cavalier take shape out of the streams of light from the light bulb. He turned and looked at me, removed his plumed hat and did a deep bow in my direction. I remember smiling because he was a welcome relief from the illness. I told mum about it and she didn’t think much of it. We were soon to learn that this was one of several anomalies that regularly haunted that house.

Once the house had been converted to a hotel, it was not unusual for guests to flee in the middle of the night, especially if they stayed in room number eight or anywhere on the top floor. Cleaners refused to clean on the top floor and I would help my mother clean and change bedding up there to the accompaniment of the room radios, lights and water taps being turned on and off. Guests also regularly complained about that kind of activity in every room and their watches and clocks not working properly.

The house provided a number of regular occurrences, many of them on a daily basis:

  •  A loud cough in one’s ear located anywhere in the house and several times a day.
  • A shadow creature in room number eight.
  • The Cavalier.
  • A smoking man on the top floor who was perverse and would turn lights on and off and wake you up in the middle of the night by bending over you. The smell of tobacco always pervaded the rooms.
  • The front door and inner door would open every day at noon unless the doors were locked.
  • Poltergeist activity on all floors and in all rooms.
  • Compasses didn’t work properly there.
  • Certain rooms became dark and heavy during the day.
  • Watches and clocks couldn’t keep time.
  • Strange smells.
  • Sounds of people in pain.
  • Lights, radios and faucets turned on and off in the presence of witnesses.
  • Visual anomalies included a large eye that would be seen at night in the dark and other peoples’ auras would become visible to people who had never previously been able to see auras.

My mother was great at turning it all into a joke. She would refer to the cougher as “’Ol’ Joe” and laugh every time it happened. Because of this, I was rarely scared by the events until the night that we decided to sleep in room 8. There was a shadow creature in that room and it was terrifying. Since then, I’ve come into contact with shadow creatures a few times. They are strange anomalies that I don’t much like but I have found that there are writings in works like The Tibetan Book of the Dead that offer very good advice, “Accept them for what they are, low forms, and rise above.”

The experiences at Brandon House were so rife that the family investigated the history of the house. They discovered that it had been built on one of the hanging sites that used to be on a hill overlooking the city of Bristol way back when. It was easily visible to the townspeople and the bodies would be left hanging until they fell from the ropes due to advanced decay.

My mother also started a nightclub there; the first proprietary nightclub in Bristol called The Triangle Club. She converted the cellar of the house to accommodate a ‘beat generation’ sort of cellar environment. We never experienced anything in the club. However, it was built over a well, which made sense later on as I discovered that water wells, holes, caverns and geophysical disturbances under haunted sites seemed to add to paranormal phenomena through extreme EMF spikes that would have an effect on the pineal glands of those living on the sites.

 The red doors lead to what used to be the Triangle Club. The proximity of the University tower is still clearly  visible.

The red doors lead to what used to
be the Triangle Club. The proximity
of the University tower is still clearly

My mum and Grandmother became tired of running the house and decided that they’d made enough money and sold out in the mid sixties. A local entrepreneur, Harry Harris, bought the business and we moved out. Two weeks later, Harry called and wanted to go back on the deal. There had been some violent reactions to his wife who was very spooked by the events and evidently, she was attacked by a number of flying plates while they were moving in. My mother suggested a more symbiotic arrangement with less dramatic reactions but Mrs. Harris was not willing to go back into the house again. Harry turned the club into a coffee bar and I would often visit there with my friends, socially. Harry would talk about the hauntings all the time.

In retrospect, until I was old enough to travel the city on my own, the hotel was my whole life. It was my playground and the place where I would act out films I saw at the cinema or on TV. The hotel was downtown and because of that, I had very few friends within walking distance and those who were close tended to be spooked out by the house. That isolation shaped my ability to write and, for sure, my ability to observe, which is essential for both investigation of phenomena as well as the ability to see behavior in society. This, combined with a sense of play and fantasy, were essential roads into my career as a director. The ghosts, of course, helped shape my interest in mysteries.

Years went by and I’ve visited the house and looked at it from the outside a few times. One time, in the nineties, I knocked on the front door and the person who came to the door said it had become a rooming house for students. The club had become a burger joint. The house was dark, drab and deteriorated. The woman who answered the door was obviously depressed and worn down by what I can only assume was the activity in the house. She was not interested in talking about the events in the house. She looked scared when I broached the subject so I stopped asking. One day I would like to return there and do a thorough investigation on camera.

To read more about Steven’s work with the paranormal please visit

Next from Steven Rumbelow: The Strange Case of the Much Maligned Luminescent Orb

Steven Rumbelow
Steven Rumbelow was born in Bristol, England, and has been a director in the entertainment industry for decades. He began in theatre in London and then started on films. His career has been a melange between media productions and theatre ever since. Rumbelow runs his own production company in Toronto, Ontario, Canada, Renegade Motion Pictures, which produced "Beyond," a paranormal series that Steven directed.

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5 thoughts on “Beginnings: The Brandon House Hotel

  1. Ooooo! I love this article. It could explain so much about how your formative years influenced your career choice, no? Did it? Did the famous guests inspire you to find your profession? And did the ghosts from your childhood influence you gravitating towards a series like “Beyond”?

    Also, I’m thinking your mum and Grandmother must be very interesting ladies. I got a smidge of a sense of them from your article and found myself curious to know more about them. They sound like strong, centered, yet fun ladies!

    And the shadow person…that particularly got me because the house I grew up in had one. Scared the bejesus out of me. He never did anything, but he always felt menacing. I have been fascinated by such “beings” ever since.

    THANKS for such a great share, Steven. Very much looking forward to what’s next.

  2. Thanks Courtney you’re really kind –

    There were definitely a lot of elements of life at Brandon House that were formative and influential on my later interests in the paranormal and my need to tell stories through performance media.

    Being an only child, raised in a big old house in a downtown environment, forced one to find fulfilling ways to play without other kids. It wasn’t a place where other kids were living in the “neighborhood”. So the conditions forced you to be super inventive. One of the things I loved the most was finding an isolated part of the hotel and acting out scenes from films I’d scene the week before. Of course it would always lead to new stories on the theme and within a couple of years I was getting great marks for writing in English class.

    You’re right… my Mum and Nan were incredible entrepreneurs, very strong women, fun-loving and huge into family. With two strong women there were often pyrotechnic arguments but we were never short of love.

    The hotel and the nightclub left me to my own devices a lot… which suited me fine. Mum by way of making up for time spent on business would give me every Saturday when we’d do quality time and I’d get to choose what happened during the day. I always wanted the same thing… morning at the zoo, fish and chips for lunch and the latest film at one of the local cinemas in the afternoon. Then Nan and my grandfather would take me to a different film on Thursday nights. So those two films and things I’d seen on TV in the week became the triggers for play.

    Nan also used to love telling tales of days gone by as we’d drive the 30 miles home from seeing relatives once a month. The twisted branches of the trees caught by the headlights as we’d drive through the countryside. Misted windows, Nan telling tales of witches and giants lit by the green lights of the dash board. My grandfather often pretending the car was a spaceship or a flying saucer… going up and down through the gears as the “ship” dodged asteroids.

    Mum was also a big fan of theatre, opera and Jazz. I found live performances had an almost magical quality. Then when I was 8 y/o Mum brought me an antique collection of Shakespeare. I tried to make sense of the strange language but the original engravings completely captured my imagination… especially of Macbeth with the daggers and the three witches. I even learned how to draw from those engravings. Smile. So many things conjoin to form a human being: social, environmental, behavioral. I was lucky with all of them.

    I was also the illegitimate son of a World Champion wrestler. I enjoyed and excelled in contact sports on teams for Rugby and Boxing. It was a way of me saying I’m not a mamby-pamby artist. So I learned the ethic of competition and team work.

    The result was that I became England’s youngest professional director from the age of 17 until I was 21. By the time I was 24 I’d adapted and directed over half of Shakespeare’s tragedies and had my first feature film under my belt. I remain acutely aware and grateful for all those conditions of my upbringing that evolved my abilities as a writer/director as well as my curiosity for finding answers.

  3. I loved reading your article above on your history in the Brandon House. I, too, am filled with curiosities for finding answers to the unexplainable or supernatural. What caught my attention immediately was when you said, “that would have an affect on the penial glands of those living on the sites.” Do you mean that you yourself experienced through your body? I would love to know more on what you meant by my paraphrasing you.
    Thank you so much!

  4. Ah, Ashley! What a huge subject is evoked when talking about such a small object as the little Pineal Gland. I sometimes call it the “psychic gland”.

    It’s responsible for a great deal of well being within the body but in terms of phenomena the most important is its regulation of Melatonin. The Pineal gland is greatly influenced by environmental conditions, especially certain peaks in EMFs.

    It was first observed by Earthquake researchers that during the three days before earthquakes animals and human in the area become “unstable”. Animals start freaking out and running away and humans report seeing things. Different research teams in Japan and California sought to get to the bottom of it as a way of discovering a way to predict earthquakes. They interviewed about 70 locals between the two studies. If memory serves about 70% of those studied professed to see ghosts during those times and of them about 60% saw dead relatives. This led to more investigations and what they discovered was crucial to paranormal research.

    1. The Pineal Gland was disrupted by the movement of Tectonic plates before an earthquake which would create electromagnetic spikes and by teasing the Pineal Gland would elevate levels of Melatonin production within the brain. That inspired us to do some further research.
    2. The human eye has less rods and cones than say a cat’s eye which has more rods and cones so it can see better in the dark. Aside: we all know about how cats and dogs respond to seemingly invisible things… perhaps because they see more of the spectrum than humans do.
    3. Melatonin allows the human being to see better in the dark. Could this be a reason for humans to see spirits prior to earthquakes?
    4. We started to ask questions about major haunted sites being built over geophysical disturbance areas or wells or subterranean caverns with moving water… all of which can produce EMF spikes. A number of parapsychologists have observed this to be the case. Dr. Barry Taff has found this to be the case with many of his most famous cases. He has also noted certain psychological conditions to be conducive to recipients awareness of phenomenal events.

    Now I have no idea whether EMF spikes create a better vehicle for psychic events or not but it is clear that they create a heightened perception of events that could be around us all the time.

    Incidentally, at Brandon House, when my mother was having the basement floor lowered for the night club, they found an ancient well that had been covered over.

    Great question. Thanks.

  5. hola yo me he leido las cinco novelas y me gustan mucho sobre todo la ultima las huellas imarlobbres no estoy de acuerdo en absoluto en que se vea lo que va a ocurrir un saludo

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