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Back in July I posted a joke about haunted castles with just a hint at how I really feel about the subject. I want to be clear about this because when I do research on the internet I’m getting as much of this type of so-called investigative reporting as I am of concrete and factual information. I have to admit that it’s a little disconcerting to me and not because I’m a non-believer. I don’t want to be misunderstood about that either. I would be surprised if very many medieval castles would have a ghost around, quite frankly. On a purely practical level, I don’t believe that spirits of dead people would be antisocial. Why would any former human being want to be around, pester and be a pain in the ass to a pile of rocks? That’s not going to achieve anything, if you ask me. If they decide they’d rather go booing in the night I feel that seeking out another human being, especially if they are still alive, would be the name of the game. Most castles are practically bereft of people most of the time. Very few people live in castles, presently. Many of England’s castles are museums which contain no known inhabitants. So my reasoning is that a castle just would not be a very fun place for a ghost. It would be too boring for them.
That being said I know that you’ll be interested to know that there are quite a few books on the subject concerning haunted castles. The one up above is just one of many and it’s considered a great pastime to get involved in a ghost investigative team and get yourself on television. Makes for great ambience for Halloween doesn’t it ? For me, I find it very difficult to stir up that much enthusiasm for hauntings unless I see something that really makes me wonder. You’re not going to see me get excited about an unexplained noise unless it’s practically screaming in my ear. My mother and her sisters (my aunts, of course) insisted that the house they all grew up in was haunted by more than a few spirits. I remind myself that they didn’t live in a castle but it was a good sized mansion overlooking most of Denver from what used to be called the Highlands district.
The last non-fiction book I read on a specific castle, Castles in the Air by Judy Corbett, relates a sudden haunting by a wife of a Lord of the castle in the early part of the 17th century. Judy Corbett does not treat the subject lightly because of the violent nature of this poltergeist against her own husband, Peter. She keeps a very light handed but watchful concern while the malevolent mishaps get more and more serious until a life-threatening mishap, when the two are re-roofing the gatehouse, brings them to confess secrets to each other. On the way to the hospital, Judy relates the description of the spirit she had been seeing in her bindery room and Peter reveals his knowledge of Lady Margaret from his readings of the Wynn family papers into which she had married. According to the story she had been abandoned at the castle during her marriage and she died an embittered and lonely wife in charge of a large household. Sir John, her husband, subsequently died by 1614 in Lucca, Italy of the plague.
After the last incident the violence abruptly ended and Judy only lightly refers to Lady Margaret later in the book reassuring the reader that there were no more incidents or sitings of Lady Margaret thereafter. Why did they stop ? Well, Judy felt that during the period of the haunting she had been possessed by the dead ghost of this woman and explained erratic behavior toward her husband as a direct result of this woman’s bitter resentment. Telling her husband caused Lady Margaret to get absorbed into the wallpaper, I guess. It was an interesting theory but since I don’t hold to the belief that malevolent spirits are dead persons it was a little difficult for me to believe that something so simple as revelation would end such a matter. After death, my belief is that people do not hang around our earthly plane. They either go to heaven or hell. I’m not saying that there are not spirits about and around us. They certainly do exist but these malevolent entities are satanic and can only be viewed literally as demons. Not all spirits are malevolent. Some are of God and there is a Bible verse which states, "Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits, whether they be of God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world." (1 John 4:1)
There is something in the nature of castles that makes people think of hauntings but I believe that these are of a personal nature. I can cite the account of Elke Sommers who, along with her husband, encountered a poltergeist in a house they moved into and thereafter followed them everywhere they moved. This explodes the theory that a ghost of a dead person clings to the house they lived and died in, doesn’t it ? I wonder how many people have ever admitted to being pursued by a ghost ? This makes me return to my strongest feeling that these spirits are not only sociable to humans but it may even be their raison d’etre.
If your interest in castles resides in the idea that ghosts inhabit them or that you would not want to visit because your fear of the supernatural would supersede your desire to visit them, I have good news for you either way. Castles just might be a virtual ghost-free zone judging from my own experience. I haven’t as yet seen anything like a ghost at any castle I’ve visited. On the other hand, there have been royal ghost sitings at lesser known manors and in one case a nearby hotel to Fotheringhay Castle, the Talbot Hotel, has had reports from guests that have described a woman who looked very much like Mary Queen of Scots on the stairwell. The story goes that she stayed there in lieu of sleeping at the castle during her trial. On the day of her execution she was being led down the stairs and she gripped the banister so tightly, trying to resist being taken to the castle, that her insignia ring left a permanent mark on the staircase. This, however, is erroneous even if the mark on the Talbot Hotel’s banister genuinely has the mark of her ring. She was taken prisoner at the castle during her trial and execution so her presence at the Talbot most likely never happened. When it was dismantled, some portions of Fotheringhay Castle were reinstalled at the Talbot, however, so the insignia of her ring may very well be in place but most likely the incident took place at Fotheringhay and not at the hotel.
Does this dispel the idea that castles are haunted on a practical level for you? I hope so. I wouldn’t want to see someone’s fear of the supernatural prevent them from enjoying the experience of visiting a castle nor do I think superstition would be a heavy drawing card. Those who visit castles in hopes that they will see a ghost must get awfully disappointed eventually.