Posted in Blogtober

Blogtober Day 10: Top Ten Haunted Locations in the UK

The UK is filled to brim with spooky spectres and tales of haunted houses, castles, pubs and more. Here are my top ten haunted locations in the UK, some of these I’ve been to already and some I’ve got on my bucket list of places to visit.

1. Hampton Court Palace, London

This is one of my all-time favourite haunts. This is because it’s a beautiful building with an extensive history… and a thriving ghost population. There’s a Grey Lady who’s been spotted on a staircase, phantom screaming along the Haunted Gallery and who can forget the chilling CCTV footage of a hooded spectre opening and closing two huge fire doors?!

2. The City of Edinburgh

Edinburgh is a city bubbling over with history and hauntings so I decided to wrap the whole city up as one spooky location. At Edinburgh Castle, there are reports going of a headless drummer boy. In Mary King’s Close, there is a whole stack of toys left for Annie, the ghost of a little girl said to be just one of the ghosts that haunt the abandoned streets beneath the city. And, most sinister of all might just be the spirit George Mackenzie, a persecutor of Covenanters, who has been known to attack those who venture to his “Black Mausoleum” in Greyfriars Kirkyard.

3. 30 East Drive, West Yorkshire

Unlike most of the other spooky sites on this list, 30 East Drive looks just like your average family home. It’s the terrifying reports of the Black Monk that put this house on the map. Some of the activity seemed quite innocent, from puddles of water appearing in random places and odd things being moved around. At his worst though, the Black Monk was said to have slashed photographs and even dragged a young girl who lived in the house up the stairs by just her hair. Despite exorcism attempts, spooky goings on are still reported to this day.

4. Chillingham Castle, Northumberland

Considered England’s most haunted castle, Chillingham has quite a few stories to tell. One of the most famous comes from a spirit known as the Blue Boy. This particular ghost was said to been seen as orbs and even full-body apparitions until renovation work on the castle uncovered the body of a little boy in a blue outfit concealed in a wall. After this discovery the Blue Boy’s spirit seemed to have found peace. However, more recent reports suggest he’s back to his old ghostly ways once again.

5. The Village of Pluckley, Kent

With at least 12 ghost cases alone, Pluckley was given the title “most haunted village in Britain” by the Guinness Book of Records in 1989. There’s a Red Lady who haunts the local graveyard, a highwayman who hides in the trees and phantom horses are sometimes seen riding by.

6. Tower of London

This brutal site of imprisonment and execution spanning centuries of British history undoubtably has a spooky aura. Two of the most compelling ghost sightings are the Princes in the Tower, likely murdered by their ambitious uncle Richard III in 1483, who have been seen to walk through the walls and former queen of England, Anne Boleyn. Anne has been spotted in multiple places by various witnesses walking headless in the grounds.

7. Pendle Hill, Lancashire

Pendle Hill has been considered a creepy location ever since it became the epicentre of one of England’s most infamous witch trails way back in 1612. The testimony of nine-year-old Jennet Device led to the guilty verdicts of ten people accused of consorting with the Devil. This included her own mother, sister and brother. After her entire family were executed, Jennet’s name pops up in the record books once more. She herself was tried and executed in 1634 on the grounds of witchcraft.

8. Aston Hall, Birmingham

The ghosts of Aston Hall date back to its first ever owner, Sir Thomas Holte in the seventeenth century. Holte was a cruel man who locked his daughter in her room for 16 years for wanting to marry a man he thought below their social standing. Her soul is said to still be trapped in the house to this day, along with that of Holte’s housekeeper and houseboy.

9. Bodmin Jail, Cornwall

This is an incredibly spooky building with a gruesome history. A formerly overcrowded prison and public hanging site, Bodmin Jail is a place of sadness and fury. Not all who were locked up here where thought to be guilty though. After Charlotte Dymond was murdered on Bodmin Moor, local boy Matthew Weeks was found guilty for the crime despite no evidence. Charlotte is believed to still roam the moors, possibly because her true murderer was never convicted.

10. The Town of Tenby, Wales

Tenby in Wales is a beautiful seaside town but it does have quite restless history of paranormal stories. From witches to fairies, a ghost walk in Tenby is truly fascinating. One of the most frightening stories might just be the ghost ship that was stopped by Tenby residents one spooky evening.

Thanks for reading! Have I missed any great ones? After all this talk of haunted houses, I think I’m in the mood for a good Halloween movie so bye for now!

Posted in Blogtober, History

Blogtober Day 8 : The Spooky Mystery of Shakespeare’s Missing Skull

For today’s Halloween-themed Blogtober post I thought I’d share one of my favourite spooky mysteries with you. This is the story of Shakespeare’s missing skull.

William Shakespeare’s body is buried in Holy Trinity church in Stratford-upon-Avon. However, an archaeologist investigation for a 2016 Channel 4 documentary using ground-penetrating radar suggests that his skull is not.

Rumours started circulating that the grave was missing a head after an 1879 magazine report claimed his skull had been removed by trophy hunters nearly a full century beforehand. But, other than some obvious disturbance and repair work on the stone itself, there was no clear evidence to back this report up.

That was until the documentary, however. The archaeologists discovered that beneath the ledger stones of the Shakespeare family were several shallow graves and at the head-end of the Bard himself’s resting place, it seems as though the grave had been filled in to support the weight of the stone. This suggested the grave really is missing the head after all and the team concluded that the grave had indeed been disturbed.

One of the most unnerving details about this whole situation is that, despite having died nearly 180 years before the magazine article claims the skull was taken, his epitaph seems to have seen the grave robbing coming:

Good friend for Jesus sake forbeare,

To dig the dust enclosed here.

Blessed be the man that spares these stones,

And cursed be he that moves my bones.

There have been attempts to reunite the skull with the grave but the problem is that the location of the skull is still a mystery to this day. There are multiple theories are to where the skull might be but these have all led nowhere so far. The biggest dead end came from a mystery skull in St Leonard’s Church in Beoley. Allegedly another old magazine article claimed the Bard’s skull had ended up in Beoley after the grave robbers who stole it were unable to sell it. When this lead was followed up by the documentary, it turned out the skull was that of a 70-year old woman and not Shakespeare at all.

One much more wild theory was that the skull was stolen by Dr Frank Chambers and sold to Whig politician and Gothic author, Horace Walpole. Walpole is perhaps best-known now for Strawberry Hill, a “Gothic castle” he designed to house his collections of art, miniatures, ceramics and more. Could it be that Shakespeare’s skull was another one of his collector’s pieces, the phrenological answer to literary genius? It’s probably just a far-fetched story but it is a compelling one.

Considering how far science has come, it would now be possible to get a DNA match on Shakespeare’s real skull so maybe it will turn up one day. As for the identities of those who stole it in the first place, I don’t think we’ll ever discover who they were. It would be fascinating to know if the curse England’s most renowned writer placed upon them ever came back to haunt them though… after all, there are more things in heaven and earth than are dream of in our unique philosophy.

Bye for now!

Posted in Blogtober, History

Blogtober Day 2: The History and Origins of Halloween

Nowadays (although maybe not so much this year), Halloween is all about dressing up, trick-or-treating, scary movies and scream parks but it wasn’t always this way. Pumpkins weren’t even the original vegetable of choice for Jack-o’-lanterns! Read on to find out how Halloween came to be the spookiest festival on the calendar.

Samhain and the Earliest Origins

Halloween is often thought to have its earliest origins in the ancient Celtic festival of Samhain, which is still celebrated by Pagans and Wiccans to this day. Samhain marks the end of the harvest season and the move into the darker and colder part of the year. Coming in at the midpoint between the autumn equinox (Mabon) and winter solstice (Yule), Samhain is believed to be the point at which the veil between our world and the Otherworld is at its thinnest. This Otherworld is the realm of mystical beings such as fairies and possibly even the land of the dead.

The Samhain festivities would usually last around three days and involve a mixture of feasting, guising and the lighting of symbolic bonfires. Over time, as Christianity was brought to the Celtic lands, some believe All Saint’s Day was introduced as a Christian alternative to the Pagan festival. All Saint’s Day is celebrated on the 1st November with All Souls’ Day, a festivity about remembering and honouring the dead, following the day after.

Trick-or-Treating and Halloween Costumes

Our fondest Halloween traditions of dressing up and going door-to-door asking for food dates back several centuries.  The British tradition of mumming, whereby an acting troupe would use mime to act out a scene for cash, was commonplace at many yearly festivities. Although, you’d be more likely to see the mummers at Christmas than Halloween back in the Middle Ages.

Another theory as to the origins of trick-or-treating comes from the idea that when the veil to the Otherworld is thinned out and the spirits come trooping through, they can be kept at bay by leaving offerings of food out for them. Alternatively, the custom might have developed from the old tradition of souling. This was when beggars would go house-by-house asking for soul-cakes to eat over Allhallowtide.

As all of these traditions and early stages of the Halloween we know and love today evolved, going to houses in Halloween costumes for treats carrying Jack-o’-lanterns were brought into the fray in the nineteenth century. The concept of the Jack-o’-lantern originated in Ireland and quite possibly took its name from the folkloric figure of Stingy Jack. This infamous drunkard made a deal with the Devil so that he would never have to go to Hell but, being too sinful to enter Heaven, his soul was destined to roam the Earth forevermore with only a candle in a turnip to light his way. That’s right, the earliest Jack-o’-lanterns were made from turnips. The pumpkin version popular today comes from North America.

From Then to Now

Our current Halloween traditions have taken a strange route through a pretty tangled historical web. And, as so many of these stories come from rural parts of the UK and Ireland where local customs weren’t well-documented, all of these ideas about where our Halloween traditions come from are mostly theories based on what facts historians do know for certain. It’s likely our current ways of celebrating the season, like pumpkin carving and dressing up in costumes, come from a mixture of all of the above. In a way though, isn’t there something wonderfully mysterious about the fact that we don’t really know exactly how the spookiest season of them all came to be how it is today?

Don’t forget I’m going to be posting Halloween-related content all month so come back tomorrow for Blogobter Day 3!