A Spooky Treat for Hallowe’en… Meet The Ghosts of Chillingham Castle!
Are you brave enough to embark on a mesmerising ghost tour, or perhaps even a four-hour-long ghost hunt, at Britain's "most haunted historic castle"?
Located in the heart of Northumberland's spellbinding, mist-covered moorland and heath, the imposing Grade 1 Star-listed fortress breathes with the myriad lives that have played out within its walls, and boasts a bloodline that dates all the way back to the twelfth century.
Visitors past and present have told tales of the spectres and apparitions they have encountered at the castle, which has recorded some of the highest levels of paranormal activity in the country.
However, at first glance you could be forgiven for disregarding any idea of ghostly spirits at Chillingham. The castle and its landscaped gardens are wonderfully enchanting, featuring twinkling fountains, grand royal halls, and a charming tearoom... perfect for an elegant day out!
Yet if you look a little closer, you'll also discover a terrifying torture chamber, and a hidden dungeon that once held many an unfortunate prisoner. "We still see on the dungeon walls ancient initials and lines scratched in (by them) to count the number of weary days of their imprisonment," wrote a former castle resident, Lady Leonora Tankerville, in 1925.
Lady Tankerville also wrote of "grinning skeletons", a bedtime "halo of light" that would reveal the figure of a young boy dressed in blue, and an old family portrait, whose subject would regularly "step out of her frame" to follow guests around.
Who could I meet on a Chillingham Castle ghost tour or hunt?
To this day, it's possible that you could encounter the ‘White Pantry Ghost' on your travels around the castle; a pale figure who once begged the castle's footman for water (he turned to obey the ‘guest', before realising that he was locked in the pantry, and no guest could have entered!) The figure is still seen regularly, and it is believed that her longing for water suggests she was poisoned.
You may also be able to hear strains of long-lost voices in the Chapel, where two men are often heard talking... though their words cannot be followed, and they stop talking altogether if you listen too closely!
Some of the castle's ghosts are felt, rather than seen or heard; making (as the poet Longfellow once wrote) "impalpable impressions on the air" ... particularly as you cast your widened eyes across the moonlit courtyard.
If you're fearless enough to experience these spooky goings-on for yourself, a ghost tour lasts for approximately two hours, and a more in-depth, spine-chilling hunt for four hours. You must be 18 or over to join a hunt, and 16 or over to join a tour, although family ghost tours can also be arranged.
(You'll need to be quick, as these events tend to book up fast, particularly around Hallowe'en!)
Can I stay over at Chillingham Castle?
If you're in the mood to soak up even more of the castle's fascinating atmosphere, you can opt for a sound night's sleep in one of its eight characterful apartments, each sleeping between 2-7 guests.
As you might guess, every apartment boasts its own unique story. The Guard Room, ideal for two, was once a cosy sleeping space for the relief watchmen.
The Grey apartment, with its elegant twin bedroom and grand double four-poster room, is nestled in the heart of the ancient castle, with windows that overlook the medieval courtyard. Meanwhile, the high-timbered Coaching Rooms sleep up to seven guests in timeless comfort.
Finally, if you're feeling overly spooked then don't worry, as there is plenty to take comfort from! Firstly, the windswept Northumberland coast is a mere 20 minutes away, so you can always restore your own spirits with a laughter-filled trip to the seaside.
You may also be reassured to learn that many of Chillingham's ghost-hunters report pleasant feelings from their spiritual encounters, such as the guest comment that reads, "I felt this hand on my arm... it was a most friendly feeling, and I believe someone was trying to guide me to see something."
Could you be the next visitor to report a ghostly encounter at Chillingham Castle?
Author: Nina Jervis