Chillingham Castle is thought to be the most haunted castle in England but before exploring the ghosts, let us explore the history of this ancient castle.
Chillingham Castle is 12th Century; it is thought that the site was once a monastery; the Grey family stormed the castle in 1246. The castle became a base camp for the English during a conquering attack on William Wallace (1298) and he was captured by Edward I. William was sought after because he attacked the castle the year before, burning women and children to death at the local Abbey. Many other sieges took place at the castle but the castle always won. Battlements were added to the castle in 1344 by kind permission of King Edward III and therefore became a fortified castle.
The Grey family were made Dukes, Earls and were mentioned in William Shakespeare’s plays. Eight family members have been executed for high treason, the bodies were cut down from the gallows, still living and the entrails were cut out, the body was then cut into quarters. The heads were displayed on the city gates as a warning. During 1536 the castle came under attack but stayed defended eventhou it had to undergo repairs from cannon fire. During 1590 the main entrance was moved to where it is today.
Chillingham was often under attack during the Northumberland bloody border feuds as Chillingham often had royal visitors which included Henry III, Edward I, James I, Charles I (just before he was imprisoned), Edward VIII and James VI and apparently the present royal family still visit today. The Grey’s attended royal tournaments, court and 11 members of the family attended Henry VIII’s meeting with Francis I of France.
During WWI the castle was used for an Army Barracks and reports show that the officers were tearing out the wooden panelling to keep the fires burning. After the war the castle became in disrepair but was purchased in the 1980’s by Sir Humphrey Wakefield, his wife is a descended from the Grey’s. Since the restoration old secrets are being found, windows, fireplaces, stairways and the original floor of the solar and I am sure more secrets will unfold as more restoration is completed.
Lady Tankerville’s bedroom had some stones fall out of the wall and in the gap in-between the wall, two grinning skeletons were found of a boy and a man, but she always claimed the room was calm and peaceful. When the dungeon was opened a seated skeleton was found.
The Edward I room is the most ancient stateroom and has been restored to the 13th Century. In a secret compartment of this room, 125 Elizabethan documents were found, relating to royal successions of James VI of Scotland and some relating to the Spanish Armada, the earliest dating back to 1540, some of the documents are in the museum at the castle.
The castle Dungeon has a trap door in the floor and bones of a child can be seen in the vault below, prisoners would expect to have their arms and legs broken before being thrown down and then left to die from injury or starvation.
The Torture chamber holds Cages, Branding Irons, Mantraps, Chains, leg Irons, boiling pots, an Iron Maiden, stretching rack, nail barrel, spiked chair and thumb screws, not for the faint hearted, but really interesting.
Lady Tankerville (1925) wrote of many Ghost accounts at Chillingham Castle but of course we have new ghost stories since a lot of TV programmes and paranormal investigators have visited Chillingham.
John Sage the torturer is thought to haunt the torture room and so are some of his victims, even thou this is not the original area of the torture chamber! In the Topiary Gardens a phantom funeral is seen walking through the gardens. The courtyard has seen ghostly shadows of battlement, a re-enactment of drunken guards and sounds of marching and armoury are heard.
A frail white figure has been seen in the inner pantry and this figure asks for a glass of water, it is thought she was poisoned. Male voices are heard in the library from below but when you stop and listen the voices stop.
Chillingham has a walking portrait, several accounts say that the woman steps out of the portrait and follows them around the castle; many including children, nurses and visitors have experienced this. The ghost of Mary Berkeley is heard around the stairs and corridors, as she passes a cold chill is felt and she is thought to be still looking for her husband who ran away with Henrietta, Mary’s sister.
The most well known ghost of Chillingham castle is that of the Radiant Boy in the pink room. When midnight is chimed by the clock of Chillingham Castle, the moans and cries of a child in agony of fear and in pain is heard and as the cries die slowly down a bright halo of light appears and a figure of a young boy dressed in blue appears, surrounded by a light, the boy approaches anyone sleeping in the four-poster bed. Years later a skeleton of a boy were found in the walls, along with a blue dress, but the remains were buried in consecrated ground and according to Lady Tankerville the boy was not seen again, but in 2002, Sir Humphrey writes that the phantom has been seen again emerging from one of the high walls, in the north-west tower.
If you go to Chillingham, take a walk down the long drive to the main gate, find the hanging tree, walk the monks walk and visit the lake at night and you might find more Ghostly happenings than Lady Tankerville wrote about.
I personally have stayed at Chillingham castle 3 times now and I will give a very brief account of the main strange things that happened. The first visit was May 2003 and I stayed with 3 other people in the Dairy apartment. The apartment consisted of two levels, on the ground floor were the bedrooms and on the first floor was the kitchen and lounge area, both floors had doors to exit/enter and the two doors used different keys. One day two of us were running behind and agreed to meet the other two at the lake, but when we went to leave the key would not unlock the first floor door, it didn’t work on the ground floor either, we has used that key previously, so we had to sit and wait for the others to come back for roughly just over an hour. They tried the key and it didn’t work either (they had the key for the ground floor). We went and got the receptionist and she could not make it out, but gave us another key checking it, this key worked. I cannot explain this and probably never will be able to. We later found out this was a regularly occurance in this apartment. Now the locks have been changed on this apartment and it does not happen anymore. The other significant incident was a child’s crying caught on two Dictaphone’s when no one was in the apartment; there were no children in the castle at the time. Was it the blue boy? Maybe, I really do no know but the Dairy apartment is the opposite end of the castle to where the blue boy as been reported.
The second visit was in October 2003 and this time I stayed in the lookout apartment, with 3 other people, 2 of which included my children. This apartment is above the Grey room. My Daughter was woken by being shaken on the shoulders in the morning, amazingly she was not scared, and this was in the twin room. An old key was used as a trigger object and it had significantly moved over night. I slept in the double room and was woken up several times to banging noises and the sound of furniture being moved around, it sounded like it was coming from within the walls, I was not the only one to hear this, we could not explain what the noises were and why anyone would want to move furniture in the early hours, very odd. But on my 3rd visit, someone who had previous stayed in the Grey room, said they had heard what sounded like furniture moving around and thought it came from the Lookout apartment, I then told her about my own experiences in the lookout room.
The Third visit was in April of this year (2009) and this time I stayed in the Landseer apartment, which is next door to the Dairy apartment, I was sharing with 5 other people and the floor set out of this apartment is similar to the Dairy apartment. We had a temperature drop of –5.5C in 3 hours, which was place by the main door on the ground floor but no other temperature drops during the whole stay and the temperature recorders stayed in the same place, we ruled out doors opening etc. The same night a dice used as a trigger object moved, whereas the other 5 objects did not move. Footsteps were heard in the apartment at different times of day, banging noises. But the most interesting incidents that happened were to do with the doors, the locks in this apartment were a Yale lock, we all made sure the doors were locked when we left the apartment, but on the first day we came back and the ground floor door latch was unlocked, on the second day the same happened to the first floor door latch, odd as next door was the Dairy room where I had previously been locked in. I was sleeping in the Double room and noises were heard in here and my roommate saw a figure.
An hour before we left, we were handed the guest book and some of the comments were, unexplainable noises, locked doors being opened, figures seen in the double room. Needless to say I am planning on going back to Chillingham in 2010, this time in the Grey room but the castle can be deceiving, during the day it feels calm and tranquil, but come night the atmosphere changes, it deserves the honour of being the most haunted castle in England!
Copyrighted by Tracy Monger 2012