Tristan Redman grew up in a house full of unexplained happenings. In his childhood bedroom on the third floor of a Victorian home in London, lamps flickered and moved on their own. He left home, went to university, and met his now wife, Kate Dancy – a close friend who became something more during a visit to the family home (they hooked up in that possibly haunted bedroom). He forgot about the strange things from his youth until his family invited Kate’s family over to the house for dinner. Kate’s grandad, rosy cheeked and wearing a beret, walked into the house and said: “My mother was murdered in the house next door.”
Kate’s great-grandmother Naomi Dancy was a pioneering doctor who was murdered in December 1937: she was shot in both eyes. Her brother Morris was a war veteran with shellshock, gradually going blind, who – so the family story goes – killed his sister in a fit of rage and envy for her beautiful, seeing eyes.
Naomi’s husband, John Dancy, known affectionately in the Dancy family as “Feyther” (an eccentrically posh version of “father”) was confronted by Morris soon after, but escaped death in a daring tale of bravery – dropping to the floor, switching off the lights, flinging himself backwards down the stairs. (Morris then killed himself in the bathroom.) It’s not the only incredible story about Feyther: he went to Cambridge on a scholarship, became a brilliant magician in the Magic Circle, wrote a number one pop song, and became a spy for the British government.
In this strange and intimate series, Redman delves into his wife’s family history to see if there’s more to this rather fantastic story, and speaks to other people who lived in his family home before and since, some of whom report seeing a “faceless woman” at night. Is Naomi trying to tell them something from beyond the grave? This show is at its best when it’s less focused on literal ghosts, and more focused on the secrets that haunt so many ordinary families – and asks: is it always better to know the truth?
This article appears in the 07 Dec 2023 issue of the New Statesman, Christmas Special