Steeped in myth and legend, castles have always been popular destinations for lovers of history and architecture. Anyone who has ever visited a castle cannot deny the ambiance and magic of these impressive relics of a time long-forgotten. While castles are fun to visit and often make stunning settings for enchanting events (castle weddings are a celebrity favorite), these ancient places are rife with stories of unspeakable crimes and horrific acts.
It’s called the Dark Ages for a reason. During medieval times, torture was a common practice. Castles were constructed to do more than simply house those in power; they were designed for imprisonment, torture and execution at the whim of whoever happened to be in power. Castle walls and grounds frequently bore witness to unspeakable and inhuman acts of cruelty, carried out with the intention of striking fear and terror into the hearts and minds of the people. Many deaths occurred at these places, but if you dare to take a visit to one of these creepy haunts, you may encounter some souls who are still very much alive…
Chillingham Castle, Northumberland, UKLocated deep in the English countryside, Chillingham Castle has been owned by the family of the Earls Grey since the 1200’s, Chillingham Castle has a reputation for being one of the world’s most haunted and most terrifying castles.
Several ghosts are said to reside here, the most famous being “the Blue Boy,” who haunts the castle’s Pink Room. At the stroke of midnight, cries of terror and pain can be heard emanating from a passage in the wall. When the cries fade, it is said that a halo of blue light would appear and the figure of a boy in blue would approach the bed. During a refurbishing of the castle, bones of a boy along with fragments of a blue dress were found in the wall…
Another ghostly resident of Chillingham is the ghost of Lady Mary Berkeley. It is said that you can hear the rustle of her silk dress as she walks the corridors in search of her husband, who ran away with her sister. Chillingham is also said to be haunted by the infamous torturer John Sage:
“It’s the home of the torturers. 97% of everybody who went into that castle didn’t come out. It’s a horrible killing machine.”
The Tower of London
With over 400 years of gruesome history of torture, violence, execution and murder it’s no wonder the Tower is considered to be one of Britain’s most haunted places in addition to being its oldest fortress, palace and prison.
One of the Tower’s most well-known ghosts is that of Anne Boleyn, the famous wife of Henry VIII who he had beheaded in the Tower in 1536. It is said that the ghost of Lady Jane Grey also is at the castle.
People have reported seeing phantom carriages, and dogs are even too afraid to go near the Salt Tower, where royalty used to be held before execution.
Edinburgh Castle, Scotland
Over one million visitors come to see the castle every year. Edinburgh is one of the UK’s most haunted cities. Built high upon a non-active volcano overlooking the city, Edinburgh Castle has a history of being attacked and rebuilt.
It is said that Edinburgh Castle is haunted by a Lone Piper, a headless drummer and other restless spirits like French prisoners from the Seven Years War and colonial prisoners from the American Revolutionary War.
The Lone Piper can still be heard playing in the secret tunnels underneath the castle. It is said that you can feel haunted presences in the dungeons, and even see a ghost dog wandering the castle’s dog cemetery.
One of the many homes of the Queen of England, Windsor Castle is said to have several ghosts. People have claimed to have seen the ghost of Henry VIII roaming the hallways, and to have heard his footsteps and painful groans.
Another Windsor ghost is that of the Saxon Hunter Herne, who threw himself in front of a stag in order to save the King’s life. His ghost is said to still walk the grounds and gardens with his hounds.
People have reported seeing Queen Elizabeth in the window of the Dean’s Cloister and in the Royal Library. Witnesses say she wears a black gown and a black shawl over her shoulders.
Other ghost sightings include King Charles, Anne Boleyn, and the ghosts that haunt the Long Walk.
Berry Pomeroy Castle
People claim the castle is haunted by the ghost of Margaret Pomeroy, who was imprisoned by her jealous sister, Eleanor, and consequently starved to death. Legend holds that the sisters were in love with the same man, and Eleanor imprisoned her sister out of jealousy.
Witnesses have seen a ghost known as the White Lady down in the castle dungeon, and she is thought to be Margaret’s ghost.
It is also said that the daughter of a Norman Lord was raped by her own father in the castle. Varying accounts of the legend say that either the girl or her father strangled the resulting child in one of the castles upper rooms. The Blue Lady is thought to be the ghost of the girl who was raped. Creepy!
Warwick Castle, England
England’s Warwick Castle is known for its haunted Watergate Tower, also known as the “Ghost Tower.” Warwick Castle is a breathtaking location overlooking the River Avon.
The most famous ghost said to haunt Warwick Castle is that of Sir Fulke Greville, who was stabbed to death in 1628 by his manservant.
It is said that the castle’s Watergate Tower, also known as the “Ghost Tower” is still haunted to this day by Greville and his manservant. According to legend, Greville’s ghost appears in a portrait that hangs above the fireplace in the study and then roams the Tower’s rooms.
Ballygally Castle, Ireland
Said to be one of the most haunted places in Northern Ireland’s County Antrim, Ballygally Castle is said to be home to a few ghosts. It is said that the ghost of one of the castle’s former residents, Lady Isobel Shaw, goes around knocking on doors of guests and then disappears when the guest comes to open the door.
The ghost apparently finds this very amusing. When alive, Lady Isobel Shaw’s husband locked her in her room where she starved. As a result of this cruelty, she jumped out the window and her ghost still haunts the place.
The ghost of Madame Nixon can also be heard walking around the hotel in her silk dress.
Dragsholm Castle, Zealand, Denmark
One ghost is that of a “gray lady” who is said to be a friendly ghost. The white lady is another of Dragsholm’s ghosts, said to have been a noblewoman who had an affair with a commoner and was consequently imprisoned by her father.
A skeleton in a white dress was even found in a castle wall during the 1930s. The third ghost said to haunt Dragsholm is that of the Earl of Bothwell, who was prisoner there for 5 years until he died. It is said that his ghost returns to the castle grounds riding in the court yard with his horse carriage.
Bran Castle, Transylvania, Romania
Vlad ruled Wallachia by terror during the 15th century, and his legend was the inspiration for Bram Stoker’s Count Dracula.
He got his nickname “The Impaler” because impalement was his favorite method of execution. Thousands of atrocious acts and grisly executions took place here.
Leeds Castle, Kent, England
Leeds Castle is haunted by a large black dog that is said to be an omen of death. The hound is said to terrorize the castle grounds. Many famous historic figures have lived here, yet none of them have ever been reported to haunt the castle.
These castles have been popular destinations for both amateur and professional ghost hunters, tourists and other curious people hoping to spot a real, “live” ghost. Some castles are available for event rentals or even overnight accommodations. So if you’re curious, take a trip to one of these ancient places, and stay the night…if you dare!