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Bride-and-Seek: an urban legend and the origins of a Ghost Bride

5 min read

After a lavish wedding in a stately mansion, members of the wedding party play a game of hide-and-seek. It isn’t long before everyone is found. Everyone, that is, except the bride.
This urban legend is also known as “The Lost Bride,” “Bride-and-Go-Seek,” “Ginevra,” “The Mistletoe Bough,” “The Mistletoe Bride,” “The Bride in the Oak Chest,” “The Bride in the Trunk”, depending the version you heard….

As story goes, a young woman was about to get married, and she decided she wanted to hold the wedding in the backyard of the large farmhouse where she grew up. It was a beautiful wedding, and everything went perfectly.
Afterward, the guests played some party games, and someone suggested hide-and-seek so they could get the children to play too. It wouldn’t be hard to find a place to hide around the house.
The bride wanted to make sure that she won the game and, when no one was looking, she slipped inside the house. She ran up to the attic, found an old trunk and hid in it, where no one could find her. Her new husband wasn’t worried, though, he figured she must have just gotten tired and went inside to rest and so everyone went home.
However, when the groom looked around the house, he couldn’t find her anywhere. He and her parents filed a missing person case, but she was never found.
A few years later when her mother died, the woman’s father went to go through his late wife’s things that were collecting dust in the attic, and he came to an old chest. The lid was closed, and the old lock was rusted over. When he opened the lid, he was literally terrified to see his daughter’s decaying body. When she hid there, the lid had closed, and the rusty parts of the lock had latched together, trapping her there until that moment.

According to another version of the same story, back in ’75 a young couple, both 18, decided to get married right after high school. The father of the bride lived in Palm Beach in a mansion and was able to afford a big wedding for them. Thus, they got married, and the wedding was perfect.
After the wedding, they had a big reception in an old building, and everyone got pretty drunk. When there were only about 20 people left, the groom decided that they should play hide-and-seek. Everyone agreed, and the groom was “it.”
After about 20 minutes everyone had been found except the bride. Everyone looked everywhere and tore the whole place apart looking for her. As a result, after a few hours, the groom was furious, thinking the bride was playing a terrible trick and eventually, everyone went home.
A few weeks later the groom, having placed a missing person report, gave up looking for her and heartbroken he tried to go on with his life.
Three years later a little old woman was cleaning the place up. She happened to be in the attic, saw an old trunk, she dusted it off, and, out of curiosity, opened it. She screamed, ran out of the building and called the police.
Apparently, the bride had decided to hide in it for the game of hide-and-seek. When she sat down, the lid fell, knocking her unconscious and locking her inside. She suffocated after a day or so. When the woman found her, she was rotting, her mouth in the shape of a scream.

And there is others and others and others versions, more or less similar. Even though one of the (several) variants of this story takes place in modern-day Palm Beach, Florida, this legend has at least 200 years old, probably more.
Probably, the earliest version found in print is an anonymous newspaper article published in 1809 entitled “A Melancholy Occurrence“, that It opens with the announcement of a “singular and calamitous event” in Germany, an incident “long involved in the deepest mystery.” It ends with the discovery of a crumbling skeleton in an old, forgotten trunk in which a newlywed bride had inadvertently locked herself and “miserably perished” years before.

However, the best-known version is an English ballad still sung at Christmastime on both sides of the Atlantic, “The Mistletoe Bough“, written by such as Thomas Haynes Bayly and set to music by Sir Henry Thomas around 1830.
It is said that Bayly took his inspiration from “Ginevra“, a rendition set in the palace of an Italian nobleman by the British poet Samuel Rogers, who included it in his volume Italy, a Poem in 1822. Rogers made an interesting admission in the endnotes of that book: in poor words, while he believed the tale to be based on fact, “the time and place are uncertain. Many old houses in England lay claim to it.

Among those old houses are Minster Lovell Hall in Oxfordshire, Marwell Hall, Hampshire, Bramshill House, also in Hampshire, Tiverton Castle in Devon, Exton Hall, Rutland, and probably the list goes on. In any case, each of the locales boasts a ghost story based on the same legend. The ruins of Minster Lovell Hall, for example, have long been reputed to be haunted by such as white lady, identified by locals as the restless spirit of “the mistletoe bride.”
A supposedly spirit that was even mentioned in a New York Times article dated Dec. 28, 1924:

The neighbors believe that a wailing figure carrying a light which is said to flit in and out of the castle is the ghost of the bride of one of the Lords Lovel, who was suffocated on her wedding night. As the story goes, she hid in an old oak chest during the festival in a game of hide-and-seek, and the lid shut, her young Lord finding her body some hours later.

Some 70 miles away, the halls of Bramshill House (now a Police College) have been said for at least 150 years to be haunted by an identical apparition, as noted by George Edward Jeans in Memorials of Old Hampshire, 1906:

Bramshill has indeed a ghost, the “White Lady,” who haunts the “Flower-de-luce” chamber immediately adjoining the gallery, and she may have been concerned with the tragedy of the “Mistletoe Bough,” which tradition attaches to Bramshill.

In any case, and strangely enough, despite this legend is so popular in so many places over so long a period, there’s no historical evidence that any such event ever took place….

Images from web – Google Research

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