With Halloween just around the corner, we find ourselves entering what I like to call ‘The Spooky Season’. It’s a time of year that brings to mind images of ghosts and ghouls and things that go bump in the night, and personally, it’s my favourite time of the year.
I wouldn’t say I’m a great believer in ghosts and the supernatural. I am and have always been a sceptic, choosing to believe that there is always a more logical explanation to things. That’s not to say that I am completely closed off to the notion that there are things afoot that we don’t understand. I just prefer to find logic in a situation, rather than jump to the conclusion that Casper did it.
That being said, and regardless of whether or not you’re a believer, ghosts have made for some fascinating stories. Whether it be in films, books or a good old-fashioned, spooky tale by the campfire, who doesn’t love a riveting, spine chilling ghost story?
Here in the UK, you can’t go anywhere without encountering what the locals always refer to as ‘The Most Haunted House in Britain’. It makes sense as this nation has a long, bloody history spanning centuries. Every field has seen a battle of some sort, and every castle has at one time or another been the venue of some horrific torture or public execution. If ghosts are a reality, then it stands to reason that the UK would have more than its share.
I’m not here to convince you, one way or another. I am here, however, to entertain, and it has been a while since our last top ten. I figured I would get into the Halloween spirit by bringing you, dear readers, something a little different.
So, without further ado, here is a ReelHorrorShow countdown of the top 10 famous hauntings of the UK.
10. Edinburgh Castle
If you have ever visited the beautiful Scottish city of Edinburgh, then you will be more than familiar with its castle. It’s hard to miss as it sits at the top of a hill, known as Castle Rock and looms over the city like something from a Tim Burton movie. It’s quite the dominating presence.
The castle is reputedly the most haunted location in Scotland, allegedly playing home to the ghosts of a phantom piper, a headless drummer and various French prisoners from the Seven Years War.
The castle itself is over 900 years old and has served as a fortress for much of this time, it’s easy to imagine the amount of blood that has been spilt within its walls.
Along with sightings of the aforementioned phantoms, visitors to the castle have reported, drops in temperature, feelings of being watched, being touched by unseen forces and countless sightings of shadow people.
In 2001, a team of over 200 scientists visited the castle in an effort to either prove or debunk the hauntings. Over half reported seeing and feeling things that they couldn’t find a rational explanation for.
Regardless of your intentions, Edinburgh Castle is a wonderful place to visit, but for paranormal enthusiasts, it’s a must.
09. Plas Teg – Wales
Plas Teg is an old Jacobean house near the village of Pontblyddyn, Flintshire. A Grade 1 listed building, Plas Teg is said to be haunted by 15 different spectres.
The house has been the subject of various TV ghost hunting shows including Most Haunted and… Ghost Hunting with Girl’s Aloud. I’m not making that up.
Even the run-up to the house is considered fraught with danger as the stretch of the A541 leading to the building is said to be haunted by the ghost of a young girl named Dorothy. Many motorists have crashed their cars travelling to the building after having witnessed her appearance in the road.
Visitors have also reported seeing the ghost of 16-year-old Elizabeth Trevor-Roper in the house halls. Apparently, Trevor-Roper lost her life in 1815 after having been pushed into a well by a man whose love she had spurned.
08. The Cock Lane Ghost, London.
Ok, get the giggling out of your system so I can continue. All finished? Good.
Having lost his wife, Elizabeth, during childbirth in the 1700s, William Kent began a relationship with her sister, Fanny… (this is getting worse). The couple moved to Cock Lane in London but were unable to be wed because strict, Cannon Law prevented it.
Fanny eventually died of Smallpox and strange occurrences started happening, including knocking sounds and ghostly apparitions. Richard Parsons, a church cleric and father of the girls, started hosting séances to contact the ghost of Fanny or Scratching Fanny as she became known. (I swear I’m not making this up. It’s as if the Carry On team made a ghost movie). They claimed that Fanny’s ghost told them that Kent had poisoned her.
These allegations were investigated and Parsons was accused of being a fraud and sentenced to a stint in prison. The haunting of Cock Lane drew a great deal of interest as hordes of people flocked to get a glimpse of Fanny. (Ok, now I’m doing it on purpose). One such interested party was that of Charles Dickens, who included references of the Cock Lane haunting in several of his works.
07. The Ghost of Bank Station.
Deep beneath the streets of London lies a network of rail track spanning hundreds of miles. So vast and complex is this network that there are roughly 77 stations that are not in use.
There are many reported hauntings in the London underground, but arguably the most famous and chilling is that of Bank Station.
The station is said to be haunted by the spirit of Sarah Whitehead, otherwise known as The Black Nun. Legend has it that Whitehead’s brother was hanged for forgery and she mourned his passing by wearing a long black dress and veil and hanging around Bank Station, hoping one day her brother would return to her. She is said to have eventually died there, causing her soul to haunt the station in a constant state of sorrow.
The Black Nun is said to wander the tunnels of the station, wailing at the trains as they pass.
06. Cumber House, Claudy, Northern Ireland.
Cumber House, a stately home built in the 1830s, is said to be one of Northern Ireland’s most haunted locations. At the time of its construction, Cumber house was home to the Browne family.
The haunting started after the head of the Browne family passed away. Reportedly, old man Browne was an unpleasant, abusive man. A priest at the time of his passing stated that Browne deserved to be burning in the fires of hell. This gives you some indication as to his quality of character.
Old man Browne’s son got wind of the priest’s words and pulled a gun on him. He gave the priest an ultimatum. Either he proved that the old man was burning in hell or he would be shot. The priest dropped to his knees, praying. He drew a circle on the floor before praying some more. Suddenly, the old man’s ghost was said to have appeared out of flames in the circle. The priest fled in terror and never returned.
Many years later, another priest arrived and banished the old man’s spirit back to hell. Visitors to the house still claim to witness paranormal happenings such as unexplained knocking, icy winds and objects moving by themselves.
05. The Pontefract Poltergeist, 30 East Drive, Yorkshire.
In August 1966, Joe and Jean Pritchard and their two children moved into a council house in East Drive, Yorkshire, and so began one of the most violent poltergeist hauntings ever reported.
The press referred to the angry spirit as Mr Nobody. The family named him Fred.
Fred delighted in turning lights on and off, throwing plant pots around, violently shaking cupboards, slashing family photos and levitating furniture, including a solid oak chest of drawers.
Fred seemed intent on causing harm to the Pritchard’s. The family often reporting bruises and scratches. Fred’s primary focus was that of the family’s 12-year-old daughter, Diane. In one instance, Fred apparently dragged her around the house by her hair. He is also said to have tried strangling her on numerous occasions, going so far as to leave finger marks on her throat.
For die-hard ghost enthusiasts, it is possible to stay at the residence. Only the most fearless need apply.
04. The Cage, Essex.
In Europe during the 1600s, the Witch trails were in full swing. One such place for holding women accused of Witchcraft was The Cage, a prison in Essex, England.
The Cage was a particularly brutal place. The accused women who found themselves imprisoned there were subjected to torture before eventually being burnt and hanged.
Probably the most famous of The Cage’s inmates was a woman by the name of Ursula Kemp.
Kemp, who for a while had been popular for mixing herbal remedies that helped the locals with various ailments, was eventually accused of witchcraft and arrested. Having also at one time been a midwife, Ursula was accused of causing the deaths of the mothers and babies in her care.
During her trial, many came forward to accuse Kemp. The most surprising accuser was her eight-year-old son who claimed his mother kept many familiars, including Cats, a Toad and a Lamb.
Kemp was sent to The Cage and subjected to many awful tortures, including thumbscrews, leg irons and the ducking stool. Kemp was eventually hanged and her body dumped in an unmarked grave.
The Cage was eventually closed down and sold, eventually becoming a house. Many who have lived there have reported paranormal encounters that range from plain scary to outright violent.
Interestingly, there is an alley behind the property known as Coffin Alley. There is a building in the alley that was once an insane asylum, which is also reported to be haunted.
03. 50 Berkeley Square, London.
Built in the 1700s, 50, Berkeley Square is reportedly the most haunted house in London.
Once the home of a mysterious man known as Mr Myers, the building is now used as a booksellers by the name of Maggs Bros.
It is reported that Mr Myers, while living in the building, was jilted by his fiancé and became a recluse who spent his days locked away and wandering the house throughout the night. He eventually died there and his spirit is said to remain there to this day.
Mr Myers is just one of many ghosts said to haunt the building. The ghost of a young woman who committed suicide haunts the attic space. It is told that she is capable of appearing and scaring you to death. There have apparently been a couple of reported deaths of people who have chosen to stay in the building in the hope of catching a glimpse of something spooky.
02. The Pendle Witches. Pendle Hill, Lancashire.
Of all the Witch trials recorded in England during the 1600s, the case of the Pendle Witches is easily the most famous.
The accused women lived in the area surrounding Pendle Hill in Lancashire and were charged with the murders of ten people by the use of witchcraft. They were Elizabeth Southerns, Elizabeth Device, Alison Device, Anne Whittle, Anne Redferne, Alice Nutter, Jane Bulcock, Katherine Hewitt alias Mould-heels, Jennet Preston, Alice Grey, Isabel Robey and Margaret Pearson.
The women either died in prison or were sentenced and executed by method of hanging. Only one of the women, Alice Grey, was found not guilty.
Paranormal enthusiasts flock to Pendle Hill, as it is widely believed that the ghosts of the Witches still haunt their old meeting place. Overnight stays on the hill are common with tourists reporting many strange occurrences, such as teeth falling from the sky and apparitions of the women being spotted.
For those that don’t believe, it can still be a fun way to spend the weekend and it is a beautiful part of the country.
01. The Enfield Poltergeist, 284 Green Street, London.
Finally, we arrive at the number one spot and what is arguably one of the most famous, documented hauntings. Not only here in the UK, but possibly the world.
The haunting at 284 Green Street is so well known that it has been immortalised, not only in numerous documentaries, but also in films such as The Enfield Haunting (2015) and The Conjuring 2 (2016).
In August 1977, single mum Peggy Hodgson and her four children fled their house after witnessing unexplained banging and items of furniture moving around on its own. Their neighbour took them in before dialling the police. When the police arrived to investigate the property, the officers witnessed a kitchen chair moving across the room as if pushed by an invisible force.
Members of The Society for Psychical Research, Morris Grosse and Guy Lyon Playfair headed an investigation into the haunting during which they witnessed and photographed many strange phenomena. The ghost, said to be that of an old man by the name of Bill Wilkins who had died in the house, took a special interest in the youngest daughter, Janet. There are photographs taken by Grosse of Janet appearing to levitate, although some sceptics argue that she was simply jumping off her bed. A recording was also taken of Bill talking through Janet. Again, sceptics have argued that Janet was simply putting on a voice while those that believe have counter-argued that it would be impossible for Janet to have used such a deep, croaky voice for such a long period of time.
Many came to investigate the strange happenings at 284 Green Street, including famed Demonologists, Ed and Lorraine Warren.
Whatever your take on the haunting in Enfield, whether a sceptic or believer, it’s a hell of an interesting story. On a recent trip to London, I took a detour to visit the house and there is something about it that gives you the creeps.
So, that’s my list. I’m in no way trying to make a believer of anyone. As I mentioned earlier, I’m not sure that I believe it myself, but what would life be without a good ghost story? Until next time, sweet dreams and if you hear strange noises in the night, it might be best if you just hide under the bedsheets.