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British Ghosts

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Borley Rectory 1892

Borley Rectory

Borley Rectory was built in 1863 but it was not until 1927, when the Reverend Smith’s wife discovered in a cupboard in the house, a brown paper package containing the skull of a young woman, that trouble started. The servant bells began ringing although their cords had been cut, unexplained lights were seen at the windows and footsteps were heard. Mrs. Smith also saw a ghostly horse-drawn carriage. So unnerved were the Smiths that they contacted a daily newspaper and asked to be put in touch with the Society for Psychical Research. The SPR were interested and sent their own investigators to the scene.

Harry Price arrives

Meanwhile, the newspaper arranged for Harry Price to visit the Rectory. Immediately he entered the house, objects including a vase and stones were apparently thrown and alleged spirit messages were tapped out on a mirror frame. Mrs. Smith was suspicious of Price, for when he left the house, this new phenomena ceased. The Smiths left Borley Rectory in 1929 and they were eventually replaced by the Reverend Foyster and his wife and daughter. They reported to Price that the paranormal activity continued. Mrs. Foyster said that she had been thrown out of bed and that her daughter had been locked in her room. Writing had also allegedly started appearing on the walls. The SPR’s investigators suspected that Mrs. Foyster had something to do with it. She later admitted to not having been totally honest about some of the paranormal events but of having used them in an attempt to cover up her own activities. However, she insisted that some of the reported phenomena was genuine.

House’s reputation established

After the Foysters left in 1937, Price continued his investigations at the house. He recruited students to spend time there and to make notes on what they observed. By this and other methods, Harry Price was able to obtain enough material to write three books, including the one that made both he and Borley Rectory famous, The Most Haunted House in England.


The rectory was destroyed by fire in February 1939 allegedly after a spirit message was received at a séance saying that it would be. However, the séance took place in March 1938 and the insurance company which investigated the blaze determined that it was deliberate.


So, what are we to make of the haunting. Even the SPR was unable to separate the facts from the fiction invented by Harry Price. But surely the Reverend Smith would not seek help from the SPR without a very good reason for doing so. Alas, we are unlikely to ever know the truth.





Raynham Hall Ghost – Brown Lady

The first reported appearance of the Raynham Hall ghost was in 1835 when a Colonel Loftus, who with a number of other people, was a guest for the Christmas celebrations, saw the figure twice. He described her as an aristocratic looking woman wearing an old-fashioned brown dress, hence the name by which she has come to be known, the, ‘Brown Lady’. Colonel Loftus saw her so clearly that he was later able to make a sketch of the apparition. However, it appeared to the colonel that her eyes were not just vacant, they were missing. Where her eyes should have been there were empty eye sockets and her face glowed with an eerie light.

The next sighting of the Raynham Hall ghost of which we have a record was by author and respected naval officer, Captain Marryat while he was also a guest at the house. He, along with two companions, saw the apparition which he said smiled at him, ‘in a diabolic manner’. Now Captain Marryat was, by all accounts, a very brave and level headed British naval officer. So his next action seems to be rather out of character. He fired at the Raynham Hall ghost with his pistol. What he was doing carrying a loaded weapon while a guest in someone’s house, I have no idea. It has been suggested that he thought the ghost was a smuggler! Whatever the reason, the ball made not the slightest impression on the shade and passed through her, embedding itself in a door. It is not known whether the good Captain was ever again asked to be a guest at Raynham Hall.

There is a report that the son of Lady Townsend, who owned the Hall at the time, saw the figure in 1926. He said that she looked like a portrait that was hanging in the Hall of Lady Dorothy Walpole, the sister of Sir Robert Walpole, first Prime Minister of England. Lady Dorothy was certainly a tragic figure who had been locked in the hall by her husband when he discovered that she had had an affair before they married. She died at the age of 40 in 1726, officially of smallpox. However, there were suggestions that the real cause was a broken neck from having been pushed down the Grand Staircase.

Then in 1936, two photographers were taking pictures of Raynham Hall for a magazine when one of them spotted, ‘an ethereal, veiled form’, descending the stairs. The photographer took the cover off the camera lens for about 6 seconds and his assistant activated the flash. When the glass photographic plate was later developed, the image of the ‘Brown Lady’ could quite clearly be seen. That is their story of how the picture came to be taken, at least! There has been more than one investigation of the Raynham Hall ghost to ascertain the truth behind the figure. However, it is unlikely to ever be known as she appears to be ‘camera-shy’. Since the Brown Lady was photographed, there have been no further reported sightings.




Edgehill Ghosts

Perhaps the reason that the Edgehill ghosts haunt the scene of the battle is that it was such a pointless loss of life that achieved nothing.

The Battle It was 23 October 1662 and it was the first real fighting of the English Civil War. The Royalist Troops were marching to London in support of the King and the Parliamentarian troops intercepted them at Edgehill, half-way between Banbury and Warwick. The heavy fighting went on for three hours and both the Royalist and Parliamentarian armies suffered heavy losses. The Parliamentarian troops withdrew to Warwick Castle but for some reason the Royalists did not push on to London and so both sides could be said to have lost.

Ghostly Armies The Battle of Edgehill didn’t end when the smoke cleared and the dying had taken their final breath. In the weeks that followed, the terrible carnage was often heard and seen re-enacted. In the night sky above Edgehill, the phantoms of the fighting soldiers were observed by several very reliable witnesses. King Charles I, was so intrigued by the reports that he sent a Royal Commission to investigate. They too saw the ghastly spectacle and even recognised some of the protagonists, including Sir Edmund Verney, the King’s standard bearer. The re-enactment continued to be repeated for some time and some people travelled for miles to watch it. Eventually, the appearances became less frequent until they ceased all together.

Edgehill Today However, to this very day, people report hearing sounds of battle and feeling very uneasy in the area of Edgehill, particularly around the anniversary of the battle.

Incidentally, as a result of the Royal Commission’s investigation, the Public Record Office officially recognises the Edgehill ghosts. They are the only British phantoms to have this distinction




Highgate Chicken Ghost

The Highgate Chicken Ghost really must be one of the oddest ghosts to haunt our shores. A phantom frozen chicken! I kid you not. The story is that in early April 1626, during a bitterly cold spring, Sir Francis Bacon was driving through Pond Square in a horse drawn carriage, with his friend Dr. Witherbone. They were discussing alternative methods of food preservation other than salting. Perhaps the fact that the day was so cold made Bacon suggest that maybe refrigeration could be used. Dr. Witherbone laughed at the preposterous idea. Bacon decided to test his theory there and then. There were several farms in Highgate chickens could easily be bought. So one was obtained and when it had been killed and cleaned, he packed it with snow and put it in a large sack with yet more snow around it. The world’s first frozen chicken.

Whether the experiment was a success or not, alas poor Bacon probably never knew. He caught a chill from running around in the snow and this soon turned to pneumonia. On the 9th April 1626, the man who said, ‘It is natural to die as to be born’, did just that and is buried in St. Michael’s Church, St. Albans. But it is not the ghost of Sir Francis that is to be seen around  Pond but that of the Highgate chicken ghost.

Soon after these occurrences took place, there were reports that a semi-plucked chicken had been observed running in circles at the Pond and had also been seen in the lower branches of a nearby tree. When anyone approached, it vanished into thin air. It would be reasonable to assume that this was some April Fools Day story if the chicken hadn’t been seen in more recent times. During the Second World War, Air Raid Wardens often saw the fowl. One of them even tried to capture it. It vanished through a wall before he got anywhere near it. About the same time, someone was in Pond Square when they heard what sounded like an invisible  coach and horses. The sound stopped and he saw the chicken, half its feathers gone, running around in circles. He was no more successful than the Air raid warden in getting catching the bird.

The ghost was seen again in January 1969 and in 1970 it quite put the dampers on the romantic embrace a couple where having in a doorway close to the pond.




Roman Ghosts

Hear the word ‘ghosts’ and it is not Roman ghosts that you think of, I would wager. But that is exactly what these York ghosts are. They were clearly seen in February 1953 by an apprentice plumber called Harry Martingale as he worked in the cellars of the Treasurer’s House. A procession of Roman soldiers, ghosts dating from the 4th century. Harry’s account was as follows. He was standing on a ladder when he heard what he described as ‘a tinny trumpet call’. At first, he thought that the sound must be coming from the road above him. However, he heard the sound several times and each time it appeared to be closer. Suddenly a smallish Roman soldier, carrying a sort of trumpet and wearing a kilt, appeared through the wall. A rider on a large horse followed. They walked across the cellar and disappeared through the wall on the opposite side of the room. Not surprisingly, Harry fell off the ladder to the floor where he crouched in terror. Next followed about 20 more Roman soldiers. All had dark complexions and seemed very dirty, dishevelled and despondent and looked at the ground as they marched. They were dressed in green tunics with plumed helmets and they carried short swords and spears. There was nothing ghostly about them, they appeared quite solid.

But the oddest thing was that the Roman ghosts appeared to marching on their knees. It was only when they got to part of the floor that had been dug away that Harry realised that they were actually walking on the original Roman road that was beneath the cellar floor. Eventually, the soldiers had followed the horse through the wall and Harry left his tools and ran. The first person he saw said to him, ‘You have seen the Roman ghosts, haven’t you?’. Harry’s account was at first dismissed as there were various particulars of his description that didn’t fit with accepted history. For instance, Harry said that the soldiers carried round shields rather than the more traditional square Roman shields and that they laced their sandals up to their knees not their ankles. However, it has only been recently discovered from excavations at Hadrian’s Wall that in the 4th Century, auxiliary troops carried round shields and they did lace their sandals just as Harry described. At the time of Harry’s encounter, it was not even known that auxiliary Roman soldiers had ever been stationed in York. Although the Treasurer’s House is open to the public, the cellars are not. In one way, this is a shame. However it may be that this will have the effect of preserving the Roman ghosts for posterity.

links of interest

The first is to an interview with Harry Martindale, the gentleman who saw the spectres. The second is the official York Treasurer’s House link.




Windsor Castle Ghosts

The Windsor Castle ghosts are probably the largest regal of Royal spectres to be found in any one place in the entire world. This is only fitting for the castle that is, according to the official website for Windsor ‘the oldest and largest occupied castle in the world and the Official Residence of Her Majesty The Queen’.

Henry VIII ghost
The first of the famous Windsor Castle ghosts is King Henry VIII. He is not seen but he is heard in the Cloisters, groaning and dragging his ulcerated leg which was the eventual cause of his death. King Henry is buried at Windsor Castle, in a vault in St. George’s Chapel with his third wife, Jane Seymour. In the same vault are the mortal remains of King Charles I who has been seen in the Canon’s house and who is said to look exactly like his portrait.

Queen Elizabeth I ghost

The youngest daughter of Henry VIII, Queen Elizabeth I, haunts the Royal Library. Her high heels are heard on bare floorboards and go across the library and into an inner room. Her spectre has also been seen at a window in Dean’s Cloister where she always wears a black gown with a black shawl over her shoulders. Elizabeth is not buried at Windsor but at Westminster Abbey, so maybe she just likes it here. It is her spirit who has allegedly been seen by a member of the Royal Family.

King George III spectre

King George III is buried here and he was confined to a room below the library during his periods of ‘madness’. He would watch from a window his troops drilling on the parade ground. Guardsmen have occasionally been startled to see his face still looking out through the window. One of the non-royal Windsor Castle ghosts that is sometimes seen in the Long Walk is a guard who shot himself in 1927. Apparently, in life, he was a very unhappy man. However, it looks like he might have found happiness in death that he couldn’t in life as his phantom has been seen smiling.

Hern the Hunter

Of course the most famous of the Windsor Castle ghosts is Hern the Hunter and he actually haunts Windsor Great Park. The story is that he was a huntsman to King Richard II. The King was out hunting and injured a stag. The enraged animal turned on the king and Hern, in order to save his sovereigns life, threw himself in front of the charging beast. As he lay dying, a wizard appeared and said that the only way to save Hern’s life was to cut off the stag’s antlers and to tie them to Hern’s head. This was done and Hern recovered and became, not surprisingly, a great favourite of the king. Unfortunately, the other huntsmen were jealous and, in order to keep the peace, the king reluctantly dismissed him. Hern was devastated and went into the forest and hanged himself from a great oak tree. And it is in Windsor Great Park near where the tree once stood that he is supposed to be seen, usually when England is in dire trouble. He has antlers on his head and is covered in chains.

A modern day sighting

Some people have suggested that Hern is one of the Windsor Castle ghosts that is just folklore, perhaps a distant memory of the Celtic god, Cernunnos. However, in 1962, a group of youths found a hunting horn in the forest and blew it. Immediately, the call was answered by another horn and the baying of many hounds. Then Hern himself appeared with the antlers on his head and riding a black horse. Not surprisingly, the youths ran for their lives!




50 Berkeley Square

At one time the house at 50 Berkeley Square, London, was the home of George Canning who was a British Prime Minister. However, it is not for this that the house was notorious in the mid 1800’s, but for the number of deaths for which its alleged haunting was responsible. There are numerous stories of death connected with the house, the two most famous of which are these.

Story 1

A nobleman, Sir Robert Warboys, heard of the alleged haunted and scoffed at the very idea of ‘ghosts’. His friends dared him to spend the night alone in  the haunted room and Sir Robert happily accepted their challenge. The landlord was horrified at the idea but finally agreed to the proposal on two conditions. The first was that Sir Robert would take with him a loaded pistol. The second was that he would use the bell that summoned the servants if he required any assistance. Shortly after midnight, the servants bell gently rang. After a short pause, the bell started furiously ringing and, as the landlord and the man’s friend rushed up the stairs, a shot was heard. They dashed to the room and flung open the door. Sir Robert was cowering in a corner, absolutely petrified, his eyes bulging from their sockets. He was totally unable speak and died shortly after from shock.

Story 2

What the entity that Sir Robert saw looked like, but not what it was, might be explained by the second story One Christmas Eve, two sailors on shore leave being unaware of 50 Berkeley Square’s evil reputation saw the, ‘To let’ sign outside the empty house and, being very drunk, decided it would be a good place to spend the night. The ground floor rooms were rather damp so they chose a room on the second floor. They were woken by the sound of heavy, purposeful footsteps coming up the stairs accompanied by a horrific smell. The door was flung open and there in the doorway was ‘a shapeless, slithering, horrible mass’. One man managed to squeeze past and ran to get help but the other was trapped. When the sailor returned with a policeman, they found the body of the other sailor. He was impaled on the railings outside the house, his face contorted in fear. He had either tried to escape the ‘thing’ by climbing outside and had fallen. Or he had jumped from the window in an attempt to avoid the terror. Or he had been thrown to his death!


Those who accept that the oft repeated stories of 50 Berkeley Square are true, have tried to find an explanation for the haunting. The two most common theories both suggest a form of ‘residual energy’ as being the culprit.

The first theory states that the cause was that a Mr. Dupres confined his violently insane brother in an upstairs room from where his groans and screams could clearly be heard in the neighbouring houses. The door to the room was very rarely unlocked as it was unsafe for anyone to enter the room and there was a small hole through which food and water given to the unfortunate man.

The second theory however, points to a certain Mr. Myers who thought that 50 Berkeley Square looked an ideal place to rent as a matrimonial home for himself and his soon to be wife. However, at the last moment, his bride-to-be jilted him and he swore that he would never allow another woman near him. He took to locking himself away in one room during the day and only come out at night when he would wander about the house by candle-light. It was said that after his death, his ‘room’ had a terrible and chilling atmosphere.

The house today

Whatever the truth about the place, 50 Berkeley Square is now quiet and houses the offices of a respected antiquarian booksellers. Ironic to think that some of the books with which they deal will in all probability have been written about their premises at the time when the haunting was at its height.



Chillingham Castle Ghosts

Most of the Chillingham Castle ghosts are not the literally, ‘tortured souls’, that one might expect to find given the atrocities that went on there. Built over 800 years ago to stop the Scots from invading England. Anyone captured would find themselves in the Dungeon with its Torture chamber, the floor of which slopes to allow the blood to drain away. There was no escape except death and prisoners made marks on the walls, which can still be seen, counting off the days until this merciful release from their unendurable suffering. If a prisoner was really unlucky then he came in for the attention of John Sage.

John Sage

This cruel and sadistic torturer, who died about 1200, has often been seen wandering around the castle. He used to take great pleasure in his grisly work, even devising new and ‘improved’ methods of inflicting pain on his victims. During the three years he held the job, he is said to have tortured to death over 7,500 people and killed several hundred others in various ways. At the end of the war with the Scots, wanting to rid the castle of the prisoners, he rounded up the Scottish adults and older children being held and burnt them to death in the court-yard. He then took an axe, which can still be seen, and hacked to death the smaller children in the Edward room. The chandelier in that room sometimes swings by itself and people report a foul smell and strange atmosphere. John Sage’s undoing was when he accidentally strangling his girlfriend as they made love on the ‘torture rack’ in the castle dungeon. Unfortunately for John Sage, his girlfriend’s father was a Border Reiver who said that he would gather a great army and attack the castle if Sage was not put to death. John Sage was publicly hanged from a tree in the castle grounds in front of a very large and enthusiastic crowd. And as he slowly died, people cut off pieces of him as ‘souvenirs’. So ended the life of a truly detestable man.


Radiant Boy or Blue Boy

The most famous of the Chillingham Castle ghosts was the ‘Radiant Boy’ or ‘Blue Boy’. The sound of a young child in absolute terror or fear would be heard at the stroke of midnight in the Pink Bedroom coming from a point where a passage had been cut through the 10 foot thick walls. The sound would suddenly cease and the wraith of a young boy, dressed in blue and surrounded by a bright aura would approach the old four-poster bed. In the 1920’s, building work was being carried out and the bones of a child were discovered along with scraps of blue bones were discovered. These were interred in the local graveyard and the Radiant Boy ceased making his appearances. However, people who sleep in the bed in the Pink Room, report that one wall of the room still lights up with bright flashes of blue light.

Two lady ghosts

A Chillingham Castle ghost who can be seen today haunts the ‘Inner pantry’. She is very frail and dressed in white, hence the name by which she is known. A watchman who slept in the room to guard the silver that used to be store there, saw the woman whom he assumed to be a guest. She asked him for water and as he turned to get her some, she disappeared. It has been suggested that the reason the spectre was so thirsty was that she had been poisoned. Lady Mary Berkeley is another Chillingham Castle ghost. She is not seen but the rustle of her dress is heard by visitors or they feel a sudden cold chill as she endlessly searches for her husband. He scandalised the area when, in the 1600’s, he seduced and ran off with his wife’s younger sister. Poor Lady Mary was left all alone in the castle with just her small baby girl for company.

Visit or stay!

As can be seen, the ghosts at Chillingham are not frightening but are quite ‘ordinary’ spectres. Probably a very good thing as Chillingham Castle Ghost tours can be arranged by prior arrangement with the castle management.

For those who want longer in which to ‘soak up the atmosphere’, Chillingham Castle rents out holiday apartments, some of which are in the actual castle building itself. Chillingham Castle website




Pluckley – Most Haunted Village in England

Even though some say that the number of Pluckley ghosts is not quite as many as has been reported in some places, the ‘Guinness Book of Records’ is happy to credit the place as being ‘the most haunted village in England’.

Fright Corner Ghosts

The area now known as Fright Corner at Pinnock Crossroads, is the site of two Pluckley hauntings.

The Screaming Man

This is the most famous of all Pluckley ghosts. The terrible screams that are heard in the area of the Brickworks belong to a man working there who was smothered to death when a wall of clay collapsed on him.

The Highwayman

The method favoured by highwayman Robert du Bois for ambushing his victims was to hide in a dead hollow tree and jump out as they came past, presumably with the highwayman’s cry of, ‘Your money or your life’. Unfortunately, du Bois didn’t know when to stop and his hiding place became local knowledge. Villages decided to take matters into their own hands and ambushed the ambusher. He was killed and the phantom form of the long since vanished tree is seen and pinned to it by several swords is the image of du Bois lifeless body. Watercress Woman The other ghost here is to be found near the Pinnock stream. She is an elderly gypsy watercress woman who is thought to have burned to death when her clothing caught alight when she fell asleep while smoking her clay pipe.

Phantom Coach and Horses

This spectral vehicle has been seen by several people at various places around the village including at Pinnock Crossroads. The coach is pulled by either two or four horses and seems to have last been reported as being seen in the mid 1990’s

Pluckley’s Haunted Church

The Church of St. Nicholas, is the centre for several hauntings. Bangs are heard from beneath the church and, at the same time, flickering lights are seen inside the church. It has been speculated that this is caused by the unquiet soul of Lady Dering, who was buried within seven coffins in what would have been a futile attempt to preserve her body from decomposition. Maybe she is not happy that her mortal remains have, ‘gone the way of all flesh’. Lady Dering, if it is indeed her, also appears in the churchyard as either the Red Lady or the White Lady. Another ghost to be found within the church is a woman who, from the clothes she is wearing, appears to be from the mid 20th century.

Pluckley’s Haunted Pub

As can be imagined, any place with the title of the most haunted village in England is very popular with ‘ghost hunters’. And one place that they often can be found is the haunted ‘Block Horse’ pub which was built in 1430.  One spectre enjoys moving and hiding things and has even locked the landlady out of the pub several times. Ther is also a room upstairs which dogs refuse to enter and where a young girl saw someone she described as being, ‘a nice lady in a red dress’.

Phantom Schoolmaster

The unusually named, “Dick Buss’s Lane” recalls the miller who once worked in the area. And it was here in the 1800’s that the body of a schoolmaster was found hanging from a tree. He had committed suicide by hanging himself. The ghost of the man hanging from a phantom tree, was seen in 1965 by an author. He said that the ghost was wearing trousers that had stripes and an old coat.

Well, these are the main Pluckley hauntings. If you are in the area, it may be worth a quick visit. Even if it is only to have a drink in the Black Horse pub But take care when you go as the village banned Halloween celebrations.

by cnkguy
British Ghosts

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