Robbie first contacted me in 2005. He telephoned me out of the blue from a hotel in Blackpool where he was filming the video for his song “Advertising Space.” He said he liked a book I had written and was thinking of spending a night in a haunted house. “Do you know any?” he asked.

I spent a week sending e-mails: “Dear Lady, I’ve read that, if the portrait in your drawing room is moved, a ghost is apparently disturbed and manifests itself. Recently I have been contacted by the pop star Robbie Williams who would like to spend a night in a haunted house and so I wonder whether he and I can pay a private visit.”

I expected not to hear back from anybody, but, in fact, once I invoked Robbie’s name, owners of country piles started flinging their ghosts at me as if they were their debutante daughters.

“One of the guest bedrooms is definitely haunted by a young woman called Abigail who was starved to death by a monk in 1732,” e-mailed one baroness. “Robbie is more than welcome to spend the night.”

I was surprised to find how widespread the belief in ghosts was among the aristocracy. One hundred percent of the people I contacted responded instantly to say their houses were definitely haunted and Robbie was more than welcome to spend the night. Then Robbie e-mailed to say he didn’t really have time to spend the night in a haunted house after all.