Haunted Castles

by frankbeswick

Britain has many castles and quite a few have spectral residents.

This article is a follow up to my article on spectres in the Tower of London, so having written about Britain's most haunted castle, I can now give readers a sample of some of the others.Britain has many castles and cathedrals, but it is the castles that are haunted,mainly because unlike cathedrals they are not places of peace. Some stories of spectral occurrences are fictitious, but some are sober and at times well-attested.

Photo courtesy of pixel 2013, of Pixabay

Western Scotland

It is hard to dwell in Britain without some time visiting a castle, and even harder to live here without seeing one, be it ruined or intact.In my conurbation we have only one. the partly reconstructed Roman fort of Mancunium, but we tend to visit castles on holidays, not that castle visiting is our main activity. We have visited Harlech,Conway and Rhuddlan in Wales, Bamburgh in North East England and Eilean Donan [pronounced illian donan] in Scotland. My son spent some time working  at Threave in Scotland near Castle Douglas, a village which takes its name from the home of a mediaeval warlord, Archibald the Grim, of the Douglas clan. This was not a man you would like to meet. A paranormal researcher once tried to spend a night on  the lacustrine island on which the castle stands, thinking that he cold tolerate the whispered sounds that are heard there. After a few hours the frightened man radioed for the boat that took him to safety. But my ever prudent son never went near the castle!

Eilean Donan at the Kyle of Lochalsh stands on a tidal island at the confluence of three lochs. It has a natural charm of its own, but there is a ghost story attached to it.During the 1719 Jacobite rebellion some 46 Spanish troops were stationed in the castle, but when the Earl of Moray captured the castle for the king he had all the surviving Spaniards beheaded and displayed the severed heads on spikes placed on the walls.Claims have been made that a ghostly Spaniard carrying his head has been seen in the  castle gift shop.I can accept a ghost,but heads tucked underneath their arms is an image that owes more to popular fiction than reality.

James Bond fans will have seen Duntrune Castle in Skyfall, for the final scene was shot there.It is known for the legend of the phantom piper. The story goes that during the English Civil War Colkitto, a Macdonald chief fighting for the king, captured the castle from the Campbells and placed a garrison there headed by his piper,but the Campbells soon retook the castle and slaughtered the garrison, except for the piper.This was partly in honour of the piper's status,  but also to use him.

When Colkitto was returning and his boat was sailing up Loch Crinan the Campbells ordered the piper to play the welcome tune, so that Colikitto would think that the castle was still in  Macdonald hands and walk into a trap. The loyal piper started with the welcome, but as his chief's boat approached he changed to the warning music, and Colkitto sheered away. The piper's captors took their revenge by cutting off the piper's hands, leaving him to bleed to death. Years later in the nineteenth century builders renovating the castle found under some flagstones the skeleton of a man whose hands had been severed at the wrists. So here archaeology supports folklore.Since then there have been reports that a ghostly piper has occasionally been seen at Duntrune.

 

Windsor

Windsor is the oldest continuously inhabited castle on Earth and it has its own complement of ghosts. Let's get rid of one immediately. Herne the Hunter, legend says, was a huntsman falsely accused of theft by his foes and driven to suicide. His spirit roams Windsor Great Park seeking souls. But he never existed, for Herne is a version of Cernunnnos [Hernunnos] the ancient pagan woodland deity, an antlered pagan deity sometimes conflated with the Devil by Christian clerics. His pagan associations are supported by his association with The Wild Hunt, when pagan deities were believed to rampage across the landscape,a phenomenon which exists only in myth.

But there are spooky tales of monarchs in the grounds of the castle dating from the 1060's. In 1820 King George the Third's body  was still lying in state at Windsor when the Captain of the guards looked up to the window  from which the ailing king, even in his infirmity, used to take the salute from his guards.To his surprise he saw the late king standing there. The officer gave the gave the signal to salute, and the troops obeyed. The king returned the salute and then was gone.He was saying farewell to his guards.

In 1895 lieutenant Carr Glynn on duty in the castle saw a woman in black who strongly resembled Queen Elizabeth the First, whom he knew from portraits, who silently walked past him and entered the library. Intrigued, he followed her. There was only the librarian  there and there was no other entrance or exit.He asked the baffled librarian who and where the woman was, but the librarian had seen no one. Glynn was convinced that he had seen the ghost of the deceased queen.

Duty in the Great Park can be onerous, and in 1906 a soldier encountered a group of strangers.Their having failed to respond to the challenge gave him no alternative but to shoot, but while the men's leader shuddered a bit at the bullet's impact they approached.The soldier went in with his bayonet,stabbing the man, only for them to disappear.Despite a search being launched no men were found and the soldier got three days confined to barracks, quite unjust! I cannot believe that the soldier was lying, why would he lie, but what had he encountered? 

The Park at night can be disorientating and night duty is not enjoyed.In 1927 a guard shot himself on duty, and for some time soldiers spoke of encountering their dead comrade at night. Whether this still happens I know not.

The last incident was a young soldier of eighteen who had hallucinations as he stood alone in the darkness of the Great Park. When he failed to radio in to base  a patrol found him unconscious.He had fainted in terror when a statue appeared to move.The explanation of this tale is that the older soldiers like to play tricks on the younger ones and had been"winding him up" with ghost stories before he went on duty.Some naughty lads there! The army put him on the sick list and withheld his name from the press. 

Wales

Chirk Castle is one of the fourteen castles constructed under Edward the First  to subdue the Welsh. Located in North East Wales it has a ghostly repertoire, but nothing harmful or menacing. At times a woman in black Victorian attire is seen on the staircase, and a happy looking man in brown occasionally is visible. Footsteps are sometimes heard in the Long Gallery,but the most widely reported phenomenon is a  sense of being touched by small,childlike,ghostly fingers. While there is one tale of a woman's being scared by a ghostly manifestation in a bedroom that she was visiting on a tour no harm has ever been done.

In South Wales two stately homes built to resemble castles give ghost tours. Margam Castle boasts the ghost of a gamekeeper murdered by a poacher and also is where orbs, travelling points of light have often been seen. Margam is built adjoining the remains of a mediaval abbey destroyed at the Reformation,and while ghostly monks are not seen such places are often sites where hauntings take place.Craig y Nos has made good business out of ghost tours.

Since being a child I have loved Gwrych  Castle, a two hundred year old stately home built like a castle, as I have happy memories of when it was a pleasure park.I last visited it sixty five years ago.There is but one ghost attached to it, which I have never seen.Go to the following site: pinterest.co.uk121808354894626294 where you will see a photo of a woman standing at a window. The interesting thing is that in that disused castle the room that she was in had had its floorboards taken up so there was nothing on which she could stand.Some believe that the figure is Winefrid Countess of Dundonald, who loved the castle and lived there during her life.

I have never seen a castle ghost, but as a young boy we were visiting Rhuddlan Castle in Wales. While my parents enjoyed  a rest I was running around the ruined keep. Then I decided to cut through the keep itself. In the middle I stopped in fear, for I  felt that many eyes  were surrounding me,looking down from the walls.I was the focus of intense gazing. I fled back to my parents. I saw and heard nothing, but we are aware when we are being looked at.I visited the castle again several times, but never again had the same experience. I don''t know what to make of the experience.Did I genuinely experience something or  was it a panic attack? Psychology can explain some things, but too often it explains away with an easy  nostrum. All  that I will say is that sixty or more years after the event it is still vivid in my mind.

Updated: 08/11/2020, frankbeswick
 
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Veronica 4 days ago

Frank, I leave that ......
for you to decide .....

frankbeswick 4 days ago

Are you so scary?

Veronica 5 days ago

When I was working at a local Tudor mansion, I wore a Tudor maid costume and the organisers had a model of me at the upstairs window at night like a ghost looking out . This was done to scare any possible intruders.

frankbeswick 5 days ago

A recent case involved a woman who photographed a deserted house, only for one of the photos to reveal a child's face at an upstairs window. The picture of the ghost went viral, but someone who knew the house revealed that the absent owners had placed a doll in the window to make it appear that someone was at home.

frankbeswick on 08/14/2020

Useful information.

blackspanielgallery on 08/14/2020

When light passes through such things as screens or dirty windows in the case of old buildings, it undergoes diffraction, causing what could look like an image and light mixes from different parts of the screen. Also, old windows have glass that has settled so as to make things look wavy due to the glass having different thicknesses. Over a century or more glass flows like a viscus liquid, and not evenly. Different effects of light can look like a ghost in a receptive mind, which is why people see images in windows. Others claim to see saints or Jesus. I see images on the news and look for possible optics laws to be in play, and they often well could be the reason for the image.

frankbeswick on 08/14/2020

Ghosts are sensationalised. Gwrych Castle is to be used for filming a popular TV entertainment programme, and a sensationalist newspaper, The Sun, declared that the castle is stalked by the ghost of the Countess of Dundonald and that the show's participants may get a ghostly visitation. The word stalked is hardly apt for a harmless figure occasionally seen standing at a window! But it sells newspapers.

blackspanielgallery on 08/13/2020

Let me just say before we go too far astray here that I just added an article on my retirement.

Veronica on 08/13/2020

BSG. Enjoy your retirement.

frankbeswick on 08/13/2020

Scotland's term starts mid August, England's starts 1 September.


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