A Spine-chilling Wander through Chillingham Castle

Nestling deep in the heart of rural Northumberland, Chillingham Castle is a little bit special in many ways. I discovered this uniquely wonderful seat of pure English eccentricity a couple of years ago when we were on holiday, and I hope to return next year and write a post all about its rich and turbulent history. But for now, I fancied writing about castle ghosts to mark All Hallows’ Eve, and you can’t beat Chillingham for a good haunting. In fact, it’s been dubbed the most haunted castle in Britain. So come with me on a very different kind of castle wander: one with a ghost in virtually every room.

Chillingham Castle, home of so many lost souls…

We start in style, in the baronial Great Hall. A highly evocative and atmospheric room, it’s furnished with all kinds of artefacts including ancient armour and weapons, a sprawling dinner table that stretches nearly the whole length of the room, a tapestry depicting a battle scene and some mischievous spirits. Caretakers often report objects being thrown around by unseen hands, as cups, goblets and plates clobber them on the back as they lock up for the night. And it’s not just the crockery that moves around unaided. During a guided tour one evening, the guests were startled to hear a sudden scraping sound, and were even more surprised to find it had been made by a chair from the banqueting table moving into the centre of the room all by itself. Footsteps have also been heard pacing the stone floor, while cameras and mobile phones regularly lose all power on arrival in the hall.  Any photographic equipment that does last will often capture images of mysterious white balls of light, known to ghost-hunters as ‘orbs’ and believed to be the early stages of a spirit’s manifestation.

The Great Hall, where mischievous spirits hang out

Weapons adorn the walls of the Great Hall, but luckily these
don’t seem to fly

Moving on, we pass through the Library, where you definitely don’t want to be on your own. It’s said in this impressive room that when a lone person is absorbed in their work the voices of two men can be heard talking in mumbled tones, only to cease abruptly as the reader looks up from his book. This, it seems, is not a conversation held by the living, but by library visitors from the past.

Our next stop is the Chapel with its sad little spirit, a girl of around 9 years old who sits in the pews and turns to look at visitors with an expression of desperation before vanishing. It’s thought she is Eleanor, a young victim who was kept a prisoner at the castle during the late medieval border wars between the English and the Scots. After suffering ill treatment by a number of soldiers she is said to have crawled into the chapel and died beside the priest’s stand, where there’s now a famous year-round ‘cold spot’ and regular reports of a sense of dread. Nobody knows where Eleanor’s remains lie, but one theory is that her body was hidden somewhere nearby. Visitors who have encountered the girl say she’s small in stature with matted dark hair and she wears a dirty white dress.

The Chapel, where visitors meet little Eleanor

Although most of the spirits at Chillingham seem benign enough, there are a couple of darker spirits who linger within the ancient walls. One is that of John Sage, a Lieutenant during the reign of Edward I (1272 – 1307) who had been rendered incapable of military service after a spear tore through the tendons of his lower leg in battle. The injury resulted in a permanent disability and a lumbering limp, earning him the nickname ‘Dragfoot’. A vile character who revelled in his role as chief torturer at the castle, Sage particularly enjoyed inflicting excruciating pain on imprisoned Scotsmen. His reputation grew so fearsome that prisoners would try to commit suicide rather than face torture and death at his hellish hand. But his sadistic, evil deeds were to catch up with him in the end.

One evening, Sage’s girlfriend, Elizabeth Charlton, came to visit as he was locking up the dungeons for the night and after, shall we say, a particularly creative amorous experiment went horribly wrong (or did it?) Elizabeth died. Unfortunately for Sage, Elizabeth’s dad found out how his daughter had met her untimely end, and threatened to join an allied attack on the castle with the Scots if Sage wasn’t put to an agonising death. The king, strapped for cash to resist an attack at the time, agreed, so John Sage ended up suffering the same kind of brutal death he’d inflicted on all those Scots. Many have reported seeing the wraith of a tall, thickset man with a beard as black as night walking with a heavy limp around the castle’s rooms, and sounds of a single footstep followed by a long scrape over a stone floor echo around the walls at night.

There are lots of fireplaces in the castle, but they won’t stop you
getting goosebumps…

After all these chilling stories, I could do with a nice warming cup of tea, so the next stop on our tour is the Minstrels’ Hall, which now functions as the castle’s café. This is one of several parts of the building dating back to the 12th and 13th Centuries when it was used for communal eating, while diners were entertained by minstrels in the gallery above. I have to admit I particularly love this room, as its old tapestries, round chandeliers and stone walls are so evocative you could really believe you’d stumbled through a wormhole in time.

The Minstrels’ Hall, a refuge from the restless spirits – or not…

But even as we sip our welcome hot brew beside one of the fabulous fireplaces, we’re still not immune to the ghostly goings-on. People have seen shadows moving around up in the gallery before disappearing, and there have been sightings of a male figure in an Edwardian shirt and black riding boots resting against the balcony. One poor startled visitor reported the man had glared at him before turning away and silently ascending the stairs towards the chapel. But when the visitor, overcome with fascination, bravely gave chase the grouchy Edwardian gentleman was nowhere to be seen.

The Minstrels’ Gallery, where strange shadows are seen moving around

Then there’s The Inner Pantry, with its thirsty ghost. This room is where the castle’s treasure was stored, and a guardsman slept in here to protect it. One night, as he’d just settled down to sleep he was roused by a lady in white looking somewhat frail and confused. She appeared to cling onto the wall for balance as she asked the guardsman for a cup of water. Assuming her to be one of the castle guests he turned to oblige, only to realise he’d already locked himself in with the key he kept about his person, and there was no way anyone could have entered the room without his knowledge. The white lady is still seen today, and it’s thought that her pale complexion and apparent thirst come from the effects of poisoning.

There are many more spirits that roam around the walls of Chillingham Castle, and from what I’ve learned it certainly deserves its title as the most haunted castle in Britain. But for me, that’s quite enough spooky encounters for one Halloween, thank you very much. In fact, my nerves are so frayed I think it’s time for a drink that’s a wee bit stronger than tea…

So until next time… Sleep tight, and Happy Halloween!

58 thoughts on “A Spine-chilling Wander through Chillingham Castle

  1. I’m almost too scared to reply to this post! Wonderfully entertaining my love as always, fabulous stories. it was indeed a fantastic castle, but having read this I don’t think I’d want to stay the night there…

    …I’m off now to hide under the bedsheets!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. So many places declare themselves ‘ the most haunted [castle/house/library/kennel insert choice] in Britain. So it’s interesting to see the real thing. Chillingham Castle is just down the road from where I used to live. And yet….

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks, Mike, Glad you enjoyed it! How I envy you having lived up in Northumberland and so near a castle like this. I’m hoping to move up there in a few years, so I’m sure I’ll get to know all the ghosts at Chillingham! Hope all’s well with you. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Perfect post for Halloween. I’ve seen the outside of Chillingham Castle several times, when stopping on passing to look at the famous cattle, but never been inside. Now it’s top of my list for our next visit to Northumberland!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks Sarah! It’s a cracking place with a fantastic history, and completely bonkers too, so well worth a visit. I can’t wait to go back next year. Glad you enjoyed the spooks… 😉

      Liked by 1 person

  4. So spooky! There are so many ghosts there, all with their own sad stories. Thanks for sharing them and it looks so cool in the pictures! Definitely has ignited the spooky vibe for Halloween! Happy Halloween!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. What a great article to post for Halloween. Chillingham has escaped me so far, but it won’t in the future if I get a chance. It really does look evocative, especially the Minstrel’s Gallery. I could easily spend a night there with a drink or two to keep the ghosts company. I might even scare them off, you never know.

    I trust the cauldron will be coming out tonight and try not to mistake Stuart for the pumpkin if you intend carving one up.
    Another really enjoyable post Alli. Hope you all have a super evening.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks, Malc. 🙂 Glad you enjoyed our wander with the spooks of Chillingham Castle. There’s plenty of them. I’ll do a post on the history when I’ve been back next year, but it really is a unique place, and bonkers too. I’ve never been to another castle quite like it. It’s the perfect place for ghosts to hang out. I’d join you happily in the Minstrels’ Hall, as it’s a wonderful room to spend time in, ghosts or not. I like the idea of us scaring them! 😀

      Oh yes, the cauldron is out and bubbling nicely, the pumpkins are carved (Stuart’s still intact!), and the candles and lights are glowing. That drink ‘stronger than tea’ iscooling happily in the fridge, so a good evening is sure to follow. Hope you have a great night too, and thanks for your lovely comments, as always.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. A superb and timely read! Poor Eleanor – how horrific for a poor 9 year old to suffer at the hands of soldiers.

    That place sounds worth a visit and isn’t too far from me really. Did you see any Chillingham White Cattle?

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks, Carol, glad you enjoyed reading about some of Chillingham’s many ghosts. Poor Eleanor, indeed. The border wars were a pretty brutal time.

      The castle is definitely worth a visit, but it’ll be no normal trip to a castle. The family that own it are madly eccentric and loved by all the staff that work there, and the whole place is an Aladdin’s cave of collections of all kinds mixed with its long and rich history. I’m looking forward to going back next year and doing a post about it. As for the White Cattle, I don’t think we did see it last time we went, but it’s on the agenda for next. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

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