The Sixth Annual Skate Guard Hallowe'en Spooktacular

It's the ghost wonderful time of the year! Hallowe'en has once again fallen upon us and all of you loyal Skate Guard readers know that means. It's time for a yearly Skate Guard tradition... The Annual Skate Guard Hallowe'en Spooktacular! This year, I'll be telling you a chilling true story that gripped newspaper readers during the roaring twenties. Dim the lights, light a candle and prepare to be spooked.


On the afternoon of February 15, 1922, Dorothy Parker sat in her parlour listening to a record on her gramophone, deciding whether to have kedgeree or sardines on toast for supper. A sudden knock on her door startled her, causing her to choke on her tea and clank it down so roughly on the saucer that she spilled some from the side. "Bloody hell," she thought to herself. "I did not even hear anyone coming up the path."

When Dorothy opened the door, she was greeted by a queer looking couple. The man was unusually tall with piercing dark eyes and was wearing a coat that appeared a size too big for him. The woman, well dressed in furs, looked down at the doorstep and appeared nervous and fidgety. The man explained he and his wife were newlyweds and he had seen her advert in the papers about a cottage to let. She thought it odd that they hadn't written a letter of inquiry first as it wasn't holiday season, but explained that the thatched bungalow cottage wasn't in New Forest, but was the nearby village of Woodgreen. He didn't balk at the price, and she was happy to have a few extra pounds to get her through the long winter months. She handed the man the key to the cottage, which was called Carpe Diem -  taken from Horace's "Odes" - "Seize the present; trust tomorrow e'en as little as you may."

Dorothy only saw the honeymooners twice over the course of the next week or so, but others had noticed them around the village, picking up supplies at the store and the like. The last time she saw them was on February 23, but she didn't think much of it, assuming they had gone to Salisbury. On February 24, John Phillip Legg, the proprietor of the Horse and Groom public house interacted with the couple. The man came in and purchased a bottle of port wine, but the woman waited outside. The proprietor later recalled, "He appeared to be normal, but the woman was strange."

On March 3, Dorothy arrived at the cottage and found the doors locked and curtains drawn. No one responded when she knocked at the door. Upon returning home, she expressed her concerns about this to her husband, who decided to telephone the police. When the police arrived at Carpe Diem, a constable climbed a ladder and saw the couple lying in bed through a window. Worried they might have taken ill,  the police forced their way in to the cottage and found the couple's bodies undisturbed in bed as if they were sleeping... but they weren't sleeping at all. They were dead as a door-nail. The March 7, 1922 issue of the "Western Morning News" noted, "Dr. Finnigan said that when he found the bodies on March 3 they must have been lying in the bed for a week. On either side of the bed was a wine glass, and at the bottom of the wine glasses was a thick red viscid liquid, which had evidently been drunk along with some port wine. Both bodies were healthy, and the woman was aged about 30. Witness believed that death was due to poisoning, but he could not say until analysis had been made of the stomachs. Apparently the couple had prepared for death. Both were facing the light, and the woman's arms were folded across her chest. He thought they both died in their sleep."

Dr. Finnigan believed the whole thing must have been thought out meticulously. The doors were locked from the inside and the cottage had been left in clean and orderly condition. The bottle containing the poison, along with several Scandinavian coins, a foreign tobacco pouch and a Black Watch badge were found in the fireplace. After some inquiries, the man was identified as twenty seven year old Arthur Vincent Quinn, a figure skating instructor at the Manchester Ice Palace on Derby Street, just off the main road in Cheetham Hill. Quinn had served in the Great War with the Black Watch in Salonika, and had suffered from malaria. His brother recalled recalled receiving a letter from him within the last month mentioning that he planned to "bring over a woman from Petrograd", but as far as he knew Arthur had never gotten married - a strange fact considering he'd given the names "Mr. and Mrs. Quinn" to Dorothy Parker. The papers ran with the Petrograd lead and announced the other victim was an unidentified Russian woman.

Only a handful of villagers attended the funerals. The two victims were buried in separate graves, and there was an hour and a half between both ceremonies. The woman's grave bore a nameless plate, as the Coroner from Southampton had stated the name should not be made public "as there was grave comprehension that a further tragedy might follow the disclosure." Hours after the funeral, the police released her name anyway... and guess what? She wasn't Russian.

Thirty six year old Lesley Hicks was the wife of Charles William Hicks, the manager of the chemical plant of a Manchester brewery company. Her husband had last seen her on February 15, the same day she checked in to Carpe Diem. She'd disappeared, leaving a note that read, "Please don't try to find me. When I tell you I have gone to V---- you will understand that it is impossible in any circumstances for me to ever come back." Mr. Hicks knew V---- as [Arthur] Victor [Quinn], a skating instructor that his wife had become acquainted with while taking lessons from him at the Manchester Ice Palace.

On March 31, 1922, a jury, the coroner, a few witnesses and a handful of reporters met for the inquest into the deaths of the figure skating instructor and his pupil. The inquest was held in the dining room at Carpe Diem, directly underneath the bedroom where the couple's bodies were found. It was all rather macabre. Dr. Finnigan, who had done the post-mortem investigation, read a report from the County Analyst, who had done a toxicological investigation of the substances found in the bottle found in the fireplace and the wine glasses. It was concluded that both Arthur and Lesley had been killed by an overdose of opium and prussic acid. Coroner P.B. Ingoldby remarked, "It seems to me these two unhappy young people realized they had come to the end of their tether, and there was no way out of the predicament they found themselves in." The jury reached a verdict of felo-de-se.

Today the New Forest area is considered one of the most haunted parts of Great Britain, for the sheer quantity of ghost sightings. They say that a young couple dressed in clothing from the roaring twenties have been spotted in the area from a distance at night, but when you approach them, there's not a soul in sight. Are these spirits a figure skating instructor and his pupil, earthbound as a result of their decision to commit suicide? If you have a chance to catch up with them, do let us know how that goes.

Skate Guard is a blog dedicated to preserving the rich, colourful and fascinating history of figure skating. Over ten years, the blog has featured over a thousand free articles covering all aspects of the sport's history, as well as four compelling in-depth features. To read the latest articles, follow the blog on FacebookTwitterPinterest and YouTube. If you enjoy Skate Guard, please show your support for this archive by ordering a copy of the figure skating reference books "The Almanac of Canadian Figure Skating", "Technical Merit: A History of Figure Skating Jumps" and "A Bibliography of Figure Skating":