Haunted castles are the most intriguing of all haunted places. These ancient fortresses drip with history. The tales of generations born and gone echo in their halls. Just the word “castle” conjures up images. The most common depiction is the one epitomized in old movies. Namely, a spooky castle high atop a craggy cliff with a full moon above and a roiling sea below.
Castles range from beautiful to crumbling. Either way, to fully appreciate a haunted castle, you have to consider what they were. Then it’s easy to see how they became haunted in the first place.
Haunted Castles: Reality
Most castles were sites of war and violence. They were massive structures designed for two purposes.
- The first purpose was to repel invaders. They accomplished this in a variety of ways. Like pouring boiling oil over top of trespassers. (Shudder.) Or launching arrows at them, to shoot them through the heart. Those two methods alone killed a lot of “unwanted guests” back in the day.
- The second purpose was to keep the enemies of the king (and family) locked up and out of the way. (Better yet, just put ’em away, dead–it happened!)
Many kings acquired power by way of murder and intrigue. This often included the elimination of close relatives. Sometimes a king simply inherited his throne. In those cases, he was often unqualified for the job. In some of those cases, he proved to be an idiot who derived pleasure in inflicting pain upon others. (Remember the boiling oil?)
You could pretty much count on a king exhibiting fairly psychotic behavior, eventually. Even if he ascended his throne with good intentions, he often times turned, corrupted by his power. (Remember Ivan the Terrible or Vlad the Impaler?) This descent into madness and violence resulted from the plots and schemes incited by the king’s own trusted advisers. Bad advice can lead anyone down the wrong path. Look at what happened to Henry the VIII!
Castles were dark, dank and rife with many foul odors. There was no modern plumbing and no showers, so the stench of excrement and body odor was thick. On top of that, disease was rampant. The screams of the tortured and the groans of the imprisoned filled the air. Their cries created a pandemonium of insanity and death. When you think of haunted castles, this is pretty much what you think of, because that’s how it was.
Men of God often performed the torture. They did it to cover up their own corrupt activities. Their reward was often mere scraps of food, too. Food was scarce back then. Most of what the monks grew in their fields went to the king. This was so the king could lavishly entertain himself and his degenerate friends.
The knights and foot soldiers featured in storybooks were usually mercenaries. They looted, pillaged and killed. That was their occupation. They victimized people who’d never done harm to anyone. Instead, their victims died merely because they had something the king wanted.
The world exuded treachery back then. Because of that, it would be pretty improbable for some castles to NOT be haunted.
So it’s against this morbid backdrop that we examine and explore these haunted castles of the world.
Here we go …
The Tower of London
London, England – One of the most haunted castles is known as the Tower of London. It’s actually an collection of several separate structures. The Tower of London (also known as the “White Tower”) is a castle built by William the Conqueror in 1066. It was a move to consolidate and establish himself as the ruler of the newly conquered England. It was the first and oldest building of the compound.
Its original purpose is probably what made the Tower of London such a stark example of oppression and injustice. It’s also why it’s haunted. Throughout its long and turbulent past there have only been a few executions there. But what executions they were!
Those that did occur were horrific, bald-faced miscarriages of justice. Even one of these would have more than created the Tower’s reputation. It’s considered as one of the darkest, most malignant places on earth. The heaviness of despair felt by those awaiting a long and painful death seems to permeate the place.
- Of course the Tower’s most famous and most often seen ghost is Anne Boleyn. She is sighted walking around the Tower with her head tucked underneath her arm.
- Margaret Pole, a victim of Henry the VIII, purportedly carved the following poem into her cell wall. This was done before being forcibly led to the executioner’s block:
For traitors on the block should die;
I am no traitor, no, not I!
My faithfulness stands fast and so,
Towards the block I shall not go!
Nor make one step, as you shall see;
Christ in Thy Mercy, save Thou me!
That about sums up the atmosphere of the place. Disneyland it ain’t.
Edinburgh, Scotland – Edinburgh Castle was built on a hill overlooking the city of Edinburgh known as Castle Rock. It is thought that there were human settlements there as early as the 2nd century AD. The first castles and royal residences were built there during the 12th century. It continued as a home for royalty until the 17th century at which point it became a military barracks.
Recognized as an integral piece of Scottish history since the 19th century, there have been several renovations since that time. It is currently one of the most visited tourist attractions in all of Scotland and even Europe.
Reputed to be the most besieged and attacked place in England and indeed, in the world. It has been besieged no less than 26 times in its 1100 year history as a castle.
Squat and massive, its architecture makes no mistake as to its real purpose. It’s an imposing and impregnable fortress and prison from which no one escapes, unless you’re a corpse. You can almost hear the anguished cries of the lost souls who perished there. They languish and are unable to move on after hundreds of years.
County Offaly, Republic of Ireland – Given Ireland’s tumultuous and violent history, it’s no surprise that Leap Castle is haunted. It was the scene for many treacherous, bloody deeds. You could not ask for a grimmer, more dour looking structure. You can’t help but think that just living there would produce a psychotic state of mind.
The castle was built in the 15th century. It emerged in a violent era when most problems were solved by the sword, especially political problems. The castle featured an “oubliette,” which was a small dungeon with a drop floor. Think of a pit, 8-feet deep with spikes at the bottom. That’s a oubliette.
If you wanted to get rid of someone, you threw them into the dungeon. Then you dropped the floor and if the stakes didn’t kill them, they would starve to death. You just let the floor back up and no one was the wiser.
In 1922, workers were restoring the castle and discovered the oubliette. They found considerable skeletal remains in the bottom, all impaled on the stakes.
The usage of this brutal method of handling friends and relatives was routine at times. It was liberally employed by both the O’Bannon and O’Carroll clans. They were constantly competing for ownership and control of the castle and the surrounding lands. Their work resulted in more than a few unhappy souls who desired to linger. They’re informing the living as to just how miserable they are.
Angus, Scotland – The core structure of Glamis Castle was built in the 14th century. This includes the main keep and donjon. The exact date is unknown, but 1372 is more or less agreed upon.
As the years passed, many other structures were added to expand it. Including the very prominent turrets and towers that seem to define the look of the place.
The turrets and towers give this haunted castle a fairy tale quality, like something out of Snow White or Cinderella. Don’t be fooled by the castle’s “Prince Charming” appearance, though. That “pretty as a picture” facade conceals a brutal past. A cruel cast of characters makes Freddy Krueger look like a Sunday school teacher.
Probably the most notorious of these characters was the degenerate and ruthless libertine known as “Earl Beardie” (Alexander-Earl Crawford). Legend has it that the castle staff and the Earl of Glamis himself, refused to play cards with Earl Beardie. It was the Sabbath, after all! In a drunken, debauched rage, Beardie dared the Devil to appear and play cards with him. The devil took him up on it. To this day, they are still at it in a hidden room somewhere in the castle.
Earl Beardie lost his soul to the fiend and is supposedly still trying to win it back. If you go to Glamis Castle, you might catch a glimpse of the Earl yourself. More…
Read About These Haunted Castles, Too.
Berry Pomeroy Castle – Located in Devon, Wales
Calvados Castle – Located in Calvados, France
Hampton Court – Located in Surrey, UK
Hermitage Castle – Newcastleton, UK
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