Visit England’s most haunted locations
To get scared in style this Halloween, Fabian Pountney checks into the most haunted locations.
Halloween seems like an unusual holiday, with today’s celebrations hugely popular in America, yet its origins date back to the Celts who inhabited Britain thousands of years ago. ‘Samhain’, on 31 October, originally celebrated the ghosts of the dead returning to earth. Today, the festival is called Halloween and marked by people – especially children – dressing up in scary costumes and knocking on people’s doors to ask for treats.
In order to celebrate this holiday in a truly English way, we’re showing you some of the most haunted stately homes and historic locations that you can visit (if you dare). A lot of these places used to be castles or houses for the rich and powerful of England, and many have their own (surprisingly gory) history.
Hampton Court Palace, Greater London
The most spectacular place on our list, this Tudor landmark is allegedly haunted by many ghosts and apparitions, including two of Henry VIII’s six wives, who can be seen wandering the corridors and staircases, screaming and groaning. Other phantoms live in the palace too and the Haunted Gallery is said to be the location of many sightings. In 2003 a ghostly, faceless figure dressed in period clothes was captured on CCTV, opening and closing a fire escape. Hampton Court Palace has many other reasons to visit, including a maze, beautiful gardens and, nearby, Bushy Park with its free-roaming deer. There are also tours and exhibitions – look out for special events around Halloween.
Athelhampton House, Dorset
At more than 500 years old, this giant stately home was the property of some of the most powerful people in England. Legend has it that two ghostly figures duelling interrupted a woman relaxing in the Great Chamber, but when she reported this to the owner of the house, he had no recollection of ever seeing them. Other ghosts include Cooper, a spirit who lives in the wine cellar, and the most famous ghost: a pet ape who died, trapped in a secret passage. It has allegedly been heard scratching on the walls, trying to escape. The house offers a picturesque setting and beautiful gardens, centuries-old English furniture and year-round art exhibitions in its dedicated galleries.
St Briavels Castle, Gloucestershire
Over the centuries, this moated castle, built by King John, has been a hunting lodge, a court and a prison. Visit and you’ll find what has been called the most haunted castle in Britain, now transformed into a youth hostel. There’s good reason for that title, too, with a huge number of ghosts and paranormal activity reported in the castle, from a crying baby to a knight in shining armour. These ghosts have been said to interact with visitors, too. In the scarily named Hanging Room, some visitors have reported being pushed around by a dark apparition that appears in the doorway. You can, if you’re feeling brave enough, spend the night in one of the haunted rooms where ghosts tug at your covers, wake you with screams or pin you to your bed. If you’ve had enough of ghosts, there are many different, less spooky ways to enjoy the local countryside. Take the family cycling in the Forest of Dean in the Wye Valley, explore the 4,500-year-old Clearwell Caves or visit Slimbridge Wetland Centre – the UK’s largest – to spot stunning birdlife in the reed beds and soaring in the skies.
Hever Castle, Kent
It seems that Henry VIII’s wives often turn into ghosts and the ghost of his second wife, Anne Boleyn, haunts her childhood home here in Kent. You’re likely to see her on Christmas Eve, roaming the grounds of the castle, built in 1240. If you’re lucky (or unlucky, depending on your point of view), you might see two ghosts marauding the ancient galleries of the castle – one loud and unhappy ghost who can be heard groaning and banging and a spectral horse galloping up and down. The castle has Halloween half-term events (19-31 Oct) for families and you’ll also find a Japanese tea house and boating lake.
The Guinness Book of World Records calls this the most haunted village in Britain and there are 12 ghosts that allegedly live here. Highlights include a screaming man, a hanged schoolmaster and the mysterious ‘Red Lady’. Avid ghost hunters are urged to visit the Black Horse Inn, where the staff can give you advice on the area and tell you about the pub’s own history of hauntings. Interestingly, Pluckley was used for many of the scenes in the ’90s British TV series The Darling Buds of May, which was set in the 1950s, and fans of the show may recognise some of the buildings featured.
London based? Here are the top 7 haunts found in the capital