Guest Author - Phyllis Doyle Burns
Probably some of the most popular folktales are those to do with hauntings and ghosts and there are no better hauntings than those found in castles which abound with myths and legends of the land. Because most castles were built to last practically forever there are centuries of spirits abiding within the thick walls and grounds of these beautiful and enchanting structures of old.
Time has only added to the legends and stories of hauntings in the ancient castles. Whether the stories are true or based on hysteria is a matter of individual thoughts and experiences. However, castles were not built just for the peaceful habitation of the lords and their families. Within the walls were often rooms or cells for imprisonment, torture and even execution -- which leaves hanging about a lot of unhappy spirits to ramble and roam the dark corridors and dank dungeons and the most intriguing of all, the "secret rooms".
Obviously, the first castle that would come to one's mind when thinking of hauntings would be The Tower of London -- for where else were there so many famous imprisonments, torture scenes, murders and executions in the dark ages? This place has a remarkable history of gruesome incidents. Anne Boleyn is the most famous of the ghosts that haunt the old fortress. Lady Jane Grey, another lost soul, is also said to be seen roaming about the castle.
Reputed to be one of the world's most haunted castles is Chillingham Castle. This castle sits in Northumberland, UK, deep in the lovely English countryside. The family of the Earls Grey have been the proud owners since the 1200's. Besides several other ghosts, the most famous is the spirit of "the Blue Boy".
Apparently, when the clocks strike midnight, cries of terror and pain are heard coming from within a wall. After the cries fade, a blue halo appears with the figure of a little boy dressed in blue who drifts toward a bed in one of the rooms. When the castle was in restoration, the bones of a boy and pieces of a blue dress were found within the wall where the blue light eerily seeps from.
Of the many legends of Berry Pomeroy Castle in England, there is one of Margaret Pomeroy who is referred to as the "White Lady", deep in the castle dungeon. Apparently she was starved to death when imprisoned by her jealous sister who was in love with the same man Margaret was. There is also the ghost of the "Blue Lady" who was supposed to have been abused by her father.
One of the most haunted places in Northern Ireland, in County Antrim, is Ballygally Castle. A ghost with a terrific sense of humor loves to tease guests there. Lady Isobel Shaw was locked in her room to starve to death by her husband. Rather than starve, she jumped out of a window to her death. She loves to knock on doors then disappear when a guest opens the door. There is also the ghost of Madame Nixon who walks the halls, her silk dress rustling like whispers in the quiet darkness.
Scotland is not lacking when it comes to hauntings of old. Edinburgh Castle is in one of the most haunted cities in the UK. Sitting high upon an inactive volcano, this castle towers over the city, giving any ghosts a perfect spot to watch over all that goes on below. There is said to be a lone piper, playing his haunting melodies throughout the secret tunnels under the castle, a headless drummer roaming about, and haunted spirits stumbling around in the dungeons.
Glamis Castle in Angus, Scotland is set beside the village of Glamis, near Edinburgh. It was once the childhood home of Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon, the Queen Mother of England. The Lords of Glamis made this their home from 1372 until it became the home of the Earl and Countess of Strathmore and Kinghorne.
The "Monster of Glamis" is the most famous ghostly legend of the castle. Apparently, a hideously deformed child was born in the Bowes-Lyon family. Rather than put the child to death, as was suggested, he was kept in a secret room all his life till he died. He was well taken care of for he lived for over 30 years in that room. After his death, the room was bricked up. His restless spirit is still there according to some legends.
Hidden somewhere in Glamis Castle's walls is the "room of skulls" where the Ogilvie family were walled up to die of starvation. They had come there to seek protection from their enemies, but were imprisoned instead. In 1034 the site was the Royal Hunting Lodge where King Malcolm II died from mortal wounds received in a battle close by.
Yet another ghostly presence at Glamis Castle is that of Janet Douglas, the Lady Glamis, who is referred to as "the Grey Lady". Her story is a sad one. She was falsely accused of witchcraft and burned at the stake. In the small family chapel there is a seat reserved for her only and no one is ever allowed to occupy it.
A guest of old, Earl Beardie, is often heard playing cards in one of the rooms with the devil. Because the servants would not play cards with the Earl on a Sabbath day, he threatened to play with the devil if no one would play with him. Apparently the devil heard and took not only his money, but his soul as well.
Glamis Castle was used as the setting for William Shakespeare's Macbeth, the perfect place for such strange happenings.
To The Last syllable of recorded time,
And all our yesterdays have lighted fools
The way to dusty death. Out, out brief candle!
Life's but a walking shadow, a poor player
That struts and frets his hour upon the stage.
Macbeth, Act V, Scene V - by William Shakespeare.