The origins of Halloween are uncertain, some talk of a Pagan history others point to a Celtic or even a Gaelic past. Whatever the truth, today, Halloween is widely recognised as just a ‘bit of fun’ and an opportunity for children to indulge in two of their major passions, dressing up and eating sweets!
Any type of celebration that combines the two is bound to be a winner, but perhaps today’s children have it a bit easy as many of us will testify, years ago we had to work a bit harder for our bounty, with the recital of a Halloween song or poem.
This year ‘All Saints’ falls on a Thursday and attention once again will turn towards witches cats, ghosts and ghouls! As our children’s imaginations run riot, many of us more mature ‘children’ perhaps may be harbouring disappointment at not actually encountering a ghost in real life. Well, there may be time yet since many are convinced that Britain is the focus for paranormal activity and that several of our towns and cities have some of the most haunted buildings in the world! Let’s take a look at a few of the most haunted locations in the country.
With such a turbulent and bloody past dating back to Roman and Viking times, it is not surprising that York is reputed to be one of the most haunted cities in Britain. As well as being one of the most haunted, York is also one of the most beautiful in large part because of the centuries old buildings that doubtless hold many dark secrets! Perhaps one of the most intriguing stories revolves around the city’s Roman past and a reputed lost legion of soldiers 2000 strong that have returned to haunt York. Replete in full uniform dating to the 4th century some say, the war weary centurions apparently were seen on the march through ‘The Treasurer’s House’ which now stands on a former Roman road! If you are determined to scare yourself witless, then perhaps a trip to the York Dungeons might a better option which features exhibits on ‘the ghosts of York’, witches and Guy Fawkes.
The majestic Georgian streets of Edinburgh are of course steeped in history but it is the city’s ancient castle, connected to the Royal Mile by a subterranean network, that is reputed to be one the most haunted buildings in Scotland. From its elevated position the castle has for centuries looked out across the nations stunning capital. This iconic symbol of Scotland’s former seat of power, plays a key part in the history of the nation and was the scene of many bloody battles and murders throughout the centuries. The castle is reputed to be haunted by many of its former prisoners, as well as a lonely Piper forever lost in the castles tunnels and there are even stories of a ghoulish headless drummer!
Derby is often described as the ‘ghost capital of England’. Situated close to the exquisite Peak District National Park, Derby is intertwined with tales of ghosts and ghouls. Some of the local ‘dark satanic mills’ and centuries old pubs are apparently visited by apparitions from the city’s past, but it is Derby Gaol that captures the imagination and helps maintain local ghostly legends. Scene of numerous executions as well as illness and disease amongst prisoners, the dark past of the gaol resonates to this day. Curiously sightings of ghosts appear to congregate during the winter months, the spirits of the condemned apparently revisiting the site of their despair. However, there are numerous reports of sightings and the ‘disturbing atmosphere’ is apparently often tangible with some visitors describing a sense of physical sickness or general ‘unease’. If you want to find out for yourself, Derby Gaol is conveniently open to the public for overnight vigils, if you dare!
The tranquil surroundings of Caerphilly and Llancaiach Fawr Manor in Wales, mask a more sinister side with the Manor apparently one of the most haunted buildings in Britain. The subject of intensive paranormal research, Llancaich Fawr Manor was previously the setting for grisly murders and other tragic events. The association with ghostly legend has taken over the whole building with virtually every room apparently the setting for ghostly sightings and other paranormal activity. Interestingly amongst the descriptions include visitors citing unusual smells, such as lavender or violet from seemingly unknown sources. Stories of tragedy in the building have added to the lore and sad stories of lost ghosts abound in what is one of South Wales most historic settings. Dating back over 500 years, the Manor has been restored to its latterly 17th Century condition and visitors can learn more about its ghostly connections through a series of organised ghost tours at the Manor, or for the more inquisitive separate sessions can be organised which include presentations by the South Wales Paranormal Research Group.
Pendle Hill, Lancashire
Halloween would not be Halloween if there wasn’t a good witch’s tale to tell. Pendle Hill in Lancashire (not far from the cottages4you office!) is forever linked with the history of reputedly some of the most famous witches in the country. The imposing local landmark looks out across a series of hillside villages that were home to the likes of ‘Demdike’ and ‘Chattox’ and ‘Alice Nutter’. In fact 11 locals were caught up in the frenzy of a Jacobean witch trial in the early part of the 17th century, which included nine women and two men, ten of whom were found guilty at Lancaster Castle and were in turn executed for the crime of witchcraft. Centuries later the witches are reputed to haunt Pendleside, and indeed the area was the focus for the TV programme ‘Most Haunted’ in what was one of the most memorable episodes in the series. Ghosts or not, the history of the Pendle Witches is a fascinating insight into the darker history of this enigmatic corner of Lancashire.