England's Most Haunted Castle: "I Spent Three Nights At Chillingham Castle"
Chillingham Castle is an iconic paranormal hotspot with decades worth of ghost stories to its name, so I couldn't resist the chance to spend the night here at the UK's most haunted castle.
Chillingham Castle is said to be one of the most haunted places in Great Britain. It is an iconic paranormal hotspot that's embedded into the ghost hunting community. The activity reported at the medieval castle ranges from unexplained icy blasts of air and the sound of phantom footsteps, through to disembodied voices and even full-bodied apparitions.
Built in the 12th Century in rural Northumberland, the castle was once one of the most important strongholds in the region and was home to the Grey and Bennet families from the 15th century until the 1980s when it became the home of Sir Humphry Wakefield. He has spent the last few decades restoring the Grade I listed castle and opening its many rooms to the public, some of which are now self-catering apartments.
Given the castle's infamous past of battles and bloodshed, and rumours that the unsuccessfully-exorcised building is haunted by many different spirits both good and evil, I just had to pay it a visit. In fact, it's been on my bucket list for a long time. But what's it really like spending three nights in Britain's most haunted castle?
We arrived at the castle an hour before checkin as hotel guests are entitled to free entry to the castle and grounds, although I paid the £2.50 to get a copy of the guide book which is written by Sir Humphry himself.
The castle is in place a jumbled collection of Sir Humphry's personal collection of antiques and artefacts, so having the booklet during the self-guided tour really helped to make sense of each room. Sir Humphry has done an excellent job with the guide book, which is so detailed it can be hard to take it all in as you walk around, but it is well worth having and looking back at after.
Despite the clutter, Chillingham is a fascinating castle that has a lot of character and appeal. It doesn't have the gimmicks and polish that some of the more touristy castles have, it's more raw, but for that reason it feels easier to connect with Chillingham.
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Before long we bumped into the castles resident ghost man, Richard, in the King James I Room. He asked "which room are you staying in?" This is a question you are asked by everyone you meet at Chillingham as a way of determining how spooky your accommodation is. I told Richard we were staying in the Tower Apartment. He couldn't wait to tell us about the ghostly goings on there, including his own personal experience.
A few weeks back after guiding a school trip around the castle, Richard was staying in the Tower Apartment himself. He said, "I went into the bathroom and a woman's voice went 'hello'". At first the tour guide thought someone was in the room with him, but after a quick check inside and outside the room, he couldn't find the source of the phantom lady's voice.
The castles most famous spook is known as the Blue Boy. Richard told us, "the Blue Boy is still very much here" and manifests in the form of a sapphire blue orb usually, often high in the ceiling. Guests' reports of blue flashes of light coming from within the castles walls or above their beds have also been attributed to the Blue Boy.
This particular spirit is said to be the ghost of a young boy who was buried alive in the wall of the Pink Room, which is today Sir Humphry's private apartment. Apparently, when renovation work was carried out at the castle, the builders found the skeleton of a boy wearing blue clothes inside a three meter thick wall. It's said the bones on his fingers were worn away from his attempts at scratching at the wall in a desperate bid for freedom.
The castle is also said to be haunted by the ghosts of three Scottish soldiers, and when wandering around you may pick up on the scent of roses. This fragrance has been attributed to the ghost of a former resident of the castle, Lady Mary Berkeley. It's said that her husband ran off with her sister and she died of heartbreak in the Grey Apartment. There's now a painting of Lady Mary in the room that guests claim to be the focus of her haunting.
Richard also told us about a malevolent sprit called Peter. He said, "I'm sure he's the one that grabbed my wrist in the Great Hall a week or two back, and also is the one that walloped me in the ear in the Edward Room." Then completely unexpectedly, Richard asked if we wanted to go up to this room for a mini ghost hunt.
The King Edward I Room gets its name from two royal visits in 1298 and is said to be one of the most active rooms in the castle at present. Richard followed us up the stairs to the room armed with a couple of ghost hunting gadgets, including a K-II meter, which detects spikes in electromagnetic radiation which are often attributed to the presence of supernatural entities.
Richard primarily used dowsing rods to communicate with the spirits of the ancient castle, the same type that people have been using to detect underground sources of water for decades. He expertly called out to the spirits of the castle that he'd encountered before, asking if any of them could give us a sign they were there with us.
In less than a minute the dowsing rods were spinning in Richard's hands and we'd heard an unexplained knocking sound coming from one side of the room. At the same moment we heard the sound the K-II meter lit up indicating a spike in EMF. This seemed to occur at the moment Richard mentioned one of the resident spooks called Sally.
Before our short time ghost hunting in the Edward Room was up, we'd heard several more taps and Richard had seen two light orbs whizzing past us with his naked eye.
After our time with Richard, which we weren't expecting and were very appreciative for, we continued our tour of the castle which ended in the impressive torture chamber. All the while we were on the look out for a ghost called Eleanor that Richard had told us about. Her bones were found in the chapel, and apparently she was just eight years old when she died. Her spirit is said to follow guests around the castle and pull on their clothes and hair.
It was finally time to check into our home for the next few days, the Tower Apartment. The private apartment was spacious, consisting of a large living space complete with lounge area and kitchen. The lounge furniture felt damp to the touch and the kitchen was very basic, but a stay at Chillingham is more about the ghosts than the luxuries.
Off of the living area was a large bedroom and the bathroom where Richard had previously heard the disembodied female voice. A flick through the guestbook in our apartment revealed that Richard wasn't alone in this experience. A past guest to the castle wrote about their experience of hearing whispers in the bathroom.
The guestbook revealed that strange happenings have been experienced in the whole of the Tower Apartment. Several of the comments mention that the activity seems to start soon after 11:30pm. In the last year alone guests have reported strange noises in the form of footsteps, creaking floorboards, snapping and clicking noises from the living room area, huge unexplained crashes, whispering and disembodied voices heard in the dead of night. Some of the guestbook comments blame a painting of a little girl that hangs in the bedroom for the disturbances.
We didn't experience anything scary ourselves in the Tower Apartment, apart from some pretty terrifying spiders. However, one night I left an audio recorder running in the apartment as we slept. On reviewing the audio I was surprised at how many knocks, taps, bangs and thuds were recorded during the night.
It was a real treat to get the chance to stay at the castle. After the attraction closes to guests at 5pm, as a resident you get access to the castle's famous courtyard all night long, as well as the Still Room and the small Dungeon, not to be confused with the Torture Chamber. You also get free run of the gardens, which are a really nice place to relax in the evening.
This is just a fraction of what Chillingham has to offer, so while staying you really should make the most of your time there by exploring the rest of the castle. To do this you'll need to allow the time to embark on a self-guided tour, or book yourself onto a ghost hunt or ghost tour.
Every member of staff we encountered at Chillingham Castle during our stay was incredibly passionate about the castle, very friendly and always happy to talk about the castle, its history and its ghosts.
The apartments, at least the one we stayed in, are nothing special, they're pretty basic and dated, but the bed was comfortable and the bedding was clean. If you're looking for five-star luxury with activities for all the family in the heart of a busy tourist destination, then Chillingham Castle isn't for you. But if you want to spend the night in a castle that's said to be the most haunted in the UK, then you'll love Chillingham.
You can find out more about Chillingham Castle and book a stay on the venue's website, chillingham-castle.com.
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