Here are haunted places you can visit or stay in for Halloween, or any other time really. And here is a word of warning – don’t go! Well, don’t go on your own at night. And don’t go without reading this first. Your very soul might be at risk
1) Highgate Cemetery, London: N6 6PJ Tel: 20 8340 1834
Highgate Cemetary is a wonderful Victorian graveyard straight out of a Gothic dream. It’s overgrown, it has ornate tombs and lots of stories. It is also the haunt of a vampire – at least it was in the 1970s. But the people who run the cemetery got understandably upset at would be vampire hunters (and vampire brides) breaking into the cemetery and desecrating the graves. They look dimly on such people, so when you go, be interested in the history and enjoy the tombology, but don’t mention Halloween. I’ve been many times and once I went with a group of American tourists. Our guide was a mysterious Albino, who guessed our true interests. Above the catacombs (there are glass bricks in the pavement above that let you look down) he said he had never been allowed in there. It was a place reserved for special people. He was also extremely anxious that none of us straggled off into the undergrowth and that we were clear of the place by nightfall. I’ll leave you to your own conclusions. Don’t upset anyone, but please go.
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2) Chillingham Castle, Northumberland, NE66 5NJ Tel: 01668 215359
Is Chillingham the most haunted castle in England? It’s certainly up there. It’s one of the places that freaked me out. When I used to stay there, I’d get a room to myself and it was unnaturally cold. There is a story that a previous night watchman used to look forward to his chats with the ghostly lady who walked the place in the winter nights when the family were in London. Then there’s the blue boy. I saw a door slamming on its own. I heard ghostly engines of WW2 army vehicles outside the Stable Block and a friend staying in the stable block saw a woman walk through a wall (she hurled a mug of coffee at it).
Famously haunted and it has the ghost tours to prove it. Visitors claim to often see things or sense frightening presences. My dad was brought up in a house that adjoins the kirkyard on Grassmarket and he told me about a ball of fire that proceeded through the bedroom while he had a Navy friend staying while they were in their 20s. Lot of weird things happened in the house, confirmed by my uncle independently – and they all came through from the Kirkyard!
4) Charleville Castle, Tullamore, Co. Offaly, Ireland. Tel: 057 9323040
This is a half ruined castle in the process of restoration. I used to take groups here and we stayed in the delightfully restored parts. The facilities are consistent with a half ruined castle in the middle of Ireland, so don’t expect a Marriott Inn. One misty Halloween I stayed in the circular room high up in the tower, complete with a real log fire, a bottle of wine and a black dog called Bob. He really was a black dog. I had a strange experience in the cellars when I thought I was contacted by a female spirit long dead and I saw a ghostly black kitten. Strange but true. The place is supposed to be built on a site sacred to the druids. It’s a must visit place.
5) The Ancient Ram Inn, Wotton-under-Edge, Gloucestershire GL12 7HF.
I’ve never stayed here (surprising) but I used to get lots of stories back from people who had. The place has been investigated and been on TV lots but what always struck me was the malevolence of the spirits. I had people telling me stories of ghosts pushing wardrobes onto them and tripping them downstairs. I had one guy tell me how lights came on and off and his ipad switched itself on in the night. When the lights were on they weren’t even plugged in, so he said.
5) Pluckley Village, Ashford, Kent, England, TN27
This pretty English rural village has featured on TV shows both as a country idyll but also because of its ghosts. It has tons of ghosts wandering the streets which have been much photographed. It even features in the Guinness Book of Records as the most haunted village in England. There’s a screaming man in the brickworks, A highwayman at Fright Corner (yup), a schoolmaster found hanging by her pupils and an old woman smoking a pipe on the bridge. If you go on Halloween, you might even get photographed yourself. Don’t dress up too weird.
6) The Crown Inn, High Street, Bildeston, Suffolk, IP7 7EB Tel: 01449 740510
A pretty thatched country inn in a pretty village. But it’s built on a plague pit! The place has an atmosphere as soon as you walk in. I stayed there one hot night in June. It was very hot. Then I woke up in the middle of the night freezing cold. I pulled my bedclothes round me and thought it was just cold and then when I woke up in the morning, it was warm again. Then they told me that was the room that a servant boy had hanged himself in the long ago. One of our party claimed to get coherent and strange messages through by automatic writing.
7) Yorkgate Railway Station, 303 York Street, Belfast, BT15 1JA
A haunted railway station! They’re the best at Halloween or any other time. Ever since I saw Sapphire and Steel’s The Railway Station, I’ve been a sucker for these. Here a ghost sits at night in the station’s canteen, another (or is it the same one got a bit bored of sitting?) lurks in the stations running sheds. Apparently he is the ghost of a murdered railway employee beaten and left to die in a robbery. Night staff hear footsteps going all night long.
8) Jamaica Inn, Bolventor, Launceston, Cornwall PL15 7TS. Tel: 01566 86250
You can stay here. Supposed to be the most haunted inn in England, never mind Cornwall. It sits by the main A30 road, but in the heart of the desolate Bodmin Moor. The Hound of The Baskervilles may have been set on Dartmoor, but Bodmin Moor would have served just as well for atmosphere. The Inn featured in the TV series Most Haunted as did many of the places, I’ve just listed. People hear disembodied spirits muttering in a foreign language, which is probably Cornish (Bodmin means Stone House in Cornish). You can hear stagecoaches clattering on the long gone cobbles outside, feel unnatural waves of cold and see figures in Tricorn hats – just like pirates.
But if you go to any of these places on Halloween, remember your etiquette. There will be normal people nearby and the owners have to make a living, so be courteous and buy something.