17 October 2017

Bolsover Castle rated English Heritage's spookiest site

Ahead of our Halloween and After Dark events programme, we asked our 1,800 staff to vote for the spookiest site in our care.
A man and a woman enter Bolsover Castle at night while an eerie shadow is cast over them

Bolsover, Kenilworth and Carisbrooke castles are our top three spookiest sites, according to a staff survey conducted by English Heritage this Halloween.

Our staff have intimate access to our historic places during its darkest hours. They are also immersed in the history of our sites and are aware of associated legends.

In their responses, some staff members have also shared spooky tales and reported creepy goings-on including creaking doors, unexplained noises and moving objects. 

Lucy Hutchings, Regional Director at English Heritage, said:

'Our sites are soaked in history and from bloody battles to dark deeds, not all of their stories are sweetness and light. Our castles and palaces, especially on these Halloween nights, can be eerie places and some of our team have seen and heard things they can't easily explain.

'Bolsover Castle, the magnificent former home of William Cavendish, definitely has a dark side. Over the years staff have reported time and again unexplained occurrences of objects moving, orbs of light, pinches and some have been told by visitors that they have seen William himself, wandering the lonely corridors. It's no wonder that it has been voted English Heritage's spookiest site.'

Bolsover at night

What makes Bolsover Castle so spooky?

Built on an ancient burial ground, Bolsover Castle in Derbyshire overlooks a town once described as 'the Satanic capital of Britain'. 

Staff said the 17th century aristocratic retreat has a long-standing reputation for the unexplained. They have heard mysterious footsteps, muffled voices and slamming doors and experienced cold sensations and feelings as though they were being pushed.  

At times night security guards have been alarmed by unexplained lights, while a little boy has allegedly been seen holding the hands of unknowing visitors. 

One staff member said they heard a scream which became louder as she walked away from the castle. But when she rushed back, she found no one there. 

A man walking through Bolsover castle carrying a ring of keys

Other spooky sites

The medieval fortress Kenilworth Castle has also been the source of spooky stories for hundreds of years. The castle was converted into a palace by Elizabeth I's favourite, Robert Dudley, in an attempt to woo her.

Staff have seen ghostly figures including a young boy running across the top of the stables where the hayloft would have been, and a mysterious disappearing woman. Others have smelt pipe smoke in castle doorways, heard footsteps running down the wooden staircase and watched an antique cot rocking by itself. 

Carisbrooke Castle, on the Isle of Wight, is riddled with stories of ghostly apparitions. The pale disembodied face of Elizabeth Ruffin, a young girl who drowned in a well on the site long ago, has been spotted. Staff have also reported seeing the 'Grey Lady', a phantom wearing a long cloak accompanied by four dogs and Charles I's daughter Princess Elizabeth, who died while imprisoned in the castle.

This Halloween, will you see something strange at one of our spookiest sites?

For a full list of events, activities and ghost tours for children and adults, visit our Family Events and After Dark pages.

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Grey skies above Kenilworth Castle

Top 10 Spookiest Sites to visit

1. Bolsover Castle, Derbyshire - Bolsover is one of the most widely reported haunted sites in the care of English Heritage. Members of staff and visitors often report being pushed, having doors slammed on them and finding objects inexplicably moved.

2. Kenilworth Castle, Warwickshire - Staff have reported peculiar happenings in the gatehouse - things missing or moved once the castle has been closed to visitors, and the antique cot in the adjoining room rocking by itself.

3. Carisbrooke Castle, Isle of Wight - When opening up the drum towers in the morning, staff have reported that the faint but detectable sound of children's laughter has often be heard, and that each time they enter a new room the laughter moves to the previous room entered.

4. Pendennis Castle, Cornwall - In 1646 the castle was the site of a siege and royalists were trapped inside for six months, forced to eat their horses and dogs for survival before eventually surrendering. The piercing screams of a kitchen maid who fell to her death whilst carrying food have been heard by visitors, as well as strange footsteps on a staircase that no longer leads anywhere.

5. Whitby Abbey, North Yorkshire -  Staff have felt unexplained cold draughts in the middle of staircases, stock flying off the shelves and strange taps on the shoulder seemingly from no one.

6. Beeston Castle and Woodland Park, Cheshire - Staff at Beeston Castle have reported seeing a shadowy figure standing by the inner ward gates, lights flickering on and off and hearing knocking on the walls.

7. Dover Castle, Kent - In the great tower, the lower half of a man's body was seen by two members of staff in the doorway to the King's chamber. Another staff member, while cleaning the basement, saw the figure of a Cavalier, and another has seen the figure of a woman in a red dress.

8. Framlingham Castle, Suffolk - At the former home and fortress of 'bloody' Mary Tudor, staff have seen the figure of a man in 17th-century dress and a mysterious dark figure with a white face following them across the site.

9. Clifford's Tower, North Yorkshire - Staff have reported strange banging coming from ceilings, mysterious footsteps and the sound of children running in the courtyard when the site has been closed.

10.  Home of Charles Darwin - Down House, Kent - A staff member has reported that when entering the study once and brushing past Darwin's desk to close the shutters, a quill that lay on the desk suddenly stared spinning and wouldn't cease until she left the room.


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