Chillingham Castle, Northumberland
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).
Stunning medieval fortress with Tudor additions which has benefited from a major restoration programme. It has been the continuous home of the Lords Grey and their relations for over 600 years. Features include a torture chamber, antiques shop, woodland walks, furnished rooms, topiary garden and traditional crafts displays. The castle is becomingly increasingly well known for its ghosts and regularly hosts all night ghost vigils – especially at Halloween.
Chillingham Castle offers something unique to the visitor. Situated in magnificent grounds, which include an Elizabethan topiary garden, a private lake, lawns and beautiful woodland both grounds and castle command breathtaking views of the surrounding Northumberland countryside with local farmsteads and the scenic grandeur of the Cheviots. The castle is steeped in history and once occupied a strategic position as a fortress during Northumberland’s bloody Border feuds. The family of the Earls Grey and their relations have continuously owned the castle since the 1200s. Recent restoration work, along with antique furniture, tapestries and armour, has – brought back to life the great halls and state rooms. Parts of the castle have been carefully transformed into superb holiday apartments offering a truly unforgettable holiday in an unbelievable location.
One strange incident happened at the turn of the last century, when some stones fell from the wall in a bedroom and in the cavity stood two grinning skeletons, the bones of a man and a child. Other bones were discovered in one of the dungeons and workmen were terrified to see a seated figure which appeared to be perfectly preserved, but crumbled to dust as the air rushed in. The dungeon’s walls bear the scratched lines and initials of prisoners captured during the Border Wars and their ghosts still linger in the dark, gloomy vaults.
A more well known ghost is that of Lady Mary Berkeley the wife of Lord Grey of Wark and Chillingham and Earl of Tankerville. Lady Mary is believed to be searching for her husband who ran away with her sister, Lady Henrietta. This resulted in huge scandal during the reign of Charles II. The unfortunate lady was left alone at the castle with only the child for company and to this day, the silky rustle of her dress is heard as the tragic figure moves along the corridors.
The most famous apparition at Chillingham was that of the Radiant Boy, said to have haunted the
Pink Room. On many occasions, as the clock struck midnight, terrible cries and moans of a child in pain and fear could be heard coming from a place near to a passage which had been cut through the ten foot thick wall into the adjoining tower. These cries would slowly die away as a bright halo of light appeared close to the Four Poster Bed. Anyone sleeping there saw the figure of a boy dressed in blue and surrounded by light approaching them. In later years, the bones of a young boy and fragments of a blue dress were discovered in the wall. Once the remains were removed and given a decent burial, the hauntings ceased.
Whatever notes I had written at the time are now lost. But this is from memory around ten years on.
Chillingham Castle is very impressive. It is a big castle in a remote part of Northumberland. When you are there all you hear is the silence of the countryside, maybe some crows, some sheep, the wind in the trees. I always remember it being freezing cold. I must have gone there 10-20 times. Once we even did an event there to launch a video game about ghosts on Halloween.
The aristocratic owner of the castle lived mostly in London and so we didn’t see him much. When we did see him he was pretty scary. He didn’t like “ghost hunters” wandering around at night. On one occasion he rushed out in his pyjamas and threatened to call the police! Whenever he did see us he would go crazy.
The housekeeper and the staff were local people and they were very welcoming. I fondly remember hearty meals of venison and pheasant in front of a huge roaring log fire in the ancient kitchen with its irregular stone walls and tapestries.
Chillingham had a mock medieval torture chamber for its day visitors. We used to go there in the small hours with our equipment. There were always lots of orbs right through the castle but particularly there. I remember one night when all of us were in one end of the long room and at the other the studded wooden door slammed suddenly shut. There was no wind – it was as if it were pulled. I can’t explain that one.
We used to wander in places we shouldn’t – through the empty rooms and quarters in the middle of the night. The combination of the freezing air and silence gave such a stillness. On one occasion there we had people staying in a nice suite of rooms we didn’t normally occupy. There was a piano in there too. I remember standing and watching from the courtyard as the lights switched on and off even though there was no one in the room. As we went up to investigate, we could hear the piano playing from inside, but when we worked up our courage to enter, there was no one there and the music stopped.
By the entrance to the castle there is a small church. We used to go there deep in the night. It was never locked. There is some wonderful sculpture in there – particularly two what looks like alabaster tombs of a man and a woman in Elizabethan costume. Some people asked me whether they were vampires. I am guessing not, but it used to give a thrill as we walked round to think they might be about to rise from their tombs. It was in that graveyard that we observed dancing red lights around the graves on one occasion.
The weirdest thing that happened to me at Chillingham was one time when we had lots of guests for our ghost tour. There were so many that I had to sleep in the stable block. This is a group of buildings down a short track but about a quarter of a mile away from the main castle. I went to sleep that night and woke to the sound of motor engines revving. It sounded like they were coming from the open area in front of the stable block. I looked out of my window but there was nothing there. Even though I could see the area was empty I could still hear these engines. The experience was weird because it was as if I was hearing the noise with some kind of internal ear. My external ears could hear the quiet, but my “imaginative” ears could hear the engines. I’ve had that experience before – hearing something that isn’t there but that sounds like it’s coming from outside. Later I discovered that during the Second World War the Castle was used by the British Army and that the stable block was where they kept their vehicles.
We also used to take bookings from the castle. One time I took a booking from a group of friends who were going to stay there when I wasn’t. One of the girls rang me after they got home and told me she had been drinking a mug of coffee when she looked down the corridor and saw the translucent shape of a woman walking into the wall. She says she threw her coffee at it – not breaking the mug but splashing coffee down the wall of the corridor.
The weirdest story about Chillingham was told to me by staff. They said there had been an old night watchman in the castle. He would sleep there and walk round at night to check all was ok. I never met him as he’d retired by the time we started to go there. He used to talk about a glowing woman he would see around the Castle. However she didn’t scare him. He used to go and talk to her when he met her in the corridors and rooms in the middle of the night. I wonder if this was the famous ghost of Lady Mary Berkley?