Haunted places in England throughout history
Whether or not you believe in ghosts or the paranormal, England has gained a reputation as one of the most haunted countries in the world. With the advent of camera phones, there is more evidence than ever that something is happening that science is yet to explain. Ghosts, goblins, elves and fairies are amongst just some of the supernatural entities that have plagued and perplexed English people throughout history. As you’ll find as you read on, there are many reputedly haunted places in England. We English are known for our obsession with the past and traditionally, our superstitions. Maybe it is these preoccupations that lend themselves to our interest in the paranormal.
I’ve always had an interest in the supernatural. It fascinates me. Whether this comes from early exposure to the original Ghostbusters movie back in the 1980s (bring on the new one!) I’m unsure. Certain subjects light up your brain and engage you and all aspects of the paranormal, hauntings and ghostly tales from English folklore keep me engaged. I believe there is enough out there to indicate that there is something happening – we just can’t yet explain it. I hope that science catches up and we will finally be able to explain poltergeists, shadow people, and the various unexplained happenings recorded throughout history. They may do, because scientists are investigating paranormal activity..
Haunted England through the ages
From the earliest writings available to study, we find mention of strange encounters. Looking to early England, the Anglo-Saxon English, don’t appear to have seen ghosts. Or if they did, there’s no mention of them in any of the surviving literature. They did have landwights and elves, however the available evidence says that the early English didn’t see them as otherworldly. Rather, they were accepted facets of the natural world rather than supernatural.
In the middle ages, ghosts were believed in, though these roaming spirits usually needed help. This was because of the belief in purgatory. Upon death, a soul would enter a place between that of the living and heaven (or hell) until they were absolved of their sins and could move on. Purgatory saw them roaming earth, sometimes interacting with people. If there was interaction, it was to ask for forgiveness, or for prayers to be said in their name – allowing them to move on to heaven.
The Victorian era
Victorian England was a hotbed of paranormal activity… or was it that the Victorian era English just loved a good frightening? Death was all around (I’ve mentioned more about this period in my blog about legacy) and yet science was suddenly able to explain so much. A lot of this technology seemed magical to ordinary folk and in a world filled with death and disease, the impossible suddenly seemed possible. Roger Luckhurst explains it best in his article, The Victorian Supernatural:
Every scientific and technological advance encouraged a kind of magical thinking and was accompanied by a shadow discourse of the occult. For every disenchantment there was an active re-enchantment of the world. Because the advances in science were so rapid, the natural and the supernatural often became blurred in popular thinking, at least for a time.
Fast forward to today and ghosts and the supernatural are part of our culture. Scary films depicting ghosts, demonic entities, vampires and more are money spinners as people flock to new thrills. People are running successful businesses ghost hunting – much of it on the back of Most Haunted, known for Yvette Fielding, Derek Acorah and their team exploring supposedly haunted locations. But what of the real world? The ancient in England has always seemed haunted – and there many places renowned for their hauntings.
Here are my top haunted places in England – ideal to visit if you’re looking for somewhere scary this Halloween..
My top haunted places in England
The ghost of Sir Fulke Greville is said to haunt the castle towers. Sir Fulke Greville was a poet, dramatist, and statesman who lived between 1554 and 1628. Greville was murdered by a servant, Ralph Haywood, who believed he had been cheated in Greville’s will. Greville was not murdered in Warwick Castle, but his London home – though his ghost is said to occupy the rooms of the Watergate Tower. Tales of the ghost of Sir Fulke Greville are, however, recent. There are much older stories of ghosts within the castle grounds. These include a grey lady that walks the corridors and that of Sir Guy of Warwick, a 13th century knight known for slaying an 11ft cow.
‘The Cage’, St Osyth, Essex
Reputedly so haunted its previous owner fled in fear, the building known as ‘the cage’ gained its name as it was once used as a prison where women accused of being witches in the 1580s were held before their trip to the gallows. Strange happenings are said to include items flying across rooms, blood appearing on a floor, doors slamming, a satanic goat like figure appearing on CCTV and a dark figure standing between the last owner and her son’s cot.
Dunster Castle, Somerset
The castle sits on a steep hill called the Tor. The Tor has been fortified since the late Anglo-Saxon period when a burgh was established there. The Normans constructed a motte and bailey castle here in 1086 with the castle modified from then on. Possible supernatural events here include an area where several skeletons were discovered in the 19th century, manacled by wrists and ankles in a deep dungeon, known as an oubliette, beneath the gatehouse – including a seven foot tall skeleton. Dogs are troubled here and refuse to climb the steps near to where the skeletons were discovered.
A grey lady is frequently seen around the castle by National Trust staff, most often on an Oak staircase where it has been said she vanishes through a wall. A man in green is also said to haunt the stable block, appearing and disappearing seemingly at will and frightening visitors to the castle.
The Jamaica Inn, Bodmin Moor, Cornwall
The inn was built to shelter those using the turnpike road from Bodmin to Launceston in the 18th century. The area was then (as it still is to a degree today) quite desolate and windswept, so the inn was an ideal place to take shelter when travelling through the area, particularly at night. It was also used, unsurprisingly, by smugglers. Ghostly happenings include the sound of horses hooves and the metal rims of carriage wheels on the cobbles outside when there is nothing to be seen, voices heard speaking what is thought to be old Cornish in otherwise empty rooms and a man in a tricorn hat and cloak who walks through closed doors.
Ye Olde Salutation Inn, Nottingham
The Salutation dates back to the 13th century and is said to have replaced an even earlier pub called The Archangel Gabriel Salutes The Virgin Mary. The pub is said to be haunted by Rosie, a young girl who was struck by a carriage in the courtyard. Rosie was then carried down to caves underneath the pub because she would be kept cool there until a doctor arrived. Sadly, she died before the doctor got to the pub. Three former landlords, coincidentally all named John are said to haunt the pub and on one occasion, a legion of Roman soldiers was seen emerging through one of the cellar walls, marching across and disappearing through the opposite wall by a member of staff.
The Black Gate, Newcastle-Upon-Tyne
The Black Gate was added to the Castle Keep at Newcastle between 1247 and 1250 to act as a barbican (a fortified gateway). Footsteps have been heard here when no one is present, there have been sightings of a spectral figure cradling a baby and a woman stands watching passers by from a balcony. Strange mists are said to materialise and there has also been poltergeist activity reported.
The Ancient Ram Inn, Wotton-under-Edge, Gloucestershire
The Ancient Ram Inn is well known and the location of many dark events over the years. Built in 1145 on what is said to be a pagan burial ground, this Grade II listed building is a former pub and current hotel. Of the terrible events said to have happened there, suicide, child sacrifice and black magic feature. Current owner, John Humphries, claims that demons and a witch reside within the building, a little girl has been seen wandering the corridors and orbs and other strange presences are regular occurrences.
Is reading about apparitions and hauntings not enough for you? I’ll leave you with this documentary, Ghosts & Witches of Olde England… happy Halloween!
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