Spooky Stories and Gruesome Tales

With tales of bloody battles, gruesome executions and strange paranormal phenomena, you might need a strong stomach to visit any of these historic sites…

Body in the bread oven

If you're looking for tales of history at its most gruesome, a trip to Farleigh Hungerford Castle packs a sinister punch. As well as the execution of two family members in the 15th century, the notorious Lady Agnes Hungerford is believed to have murdered her husband before burning his body in the castle bread oven so that she could marry the lord of the castle, Sir Edward Hungerford.

And if you like things even more macabre, there are eight human-shaped lead coffins in a crypt under the chapel. These rare survivals date from the second half of the 17th century. You can find out more about the Hungerford family and the castle here.

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The white lady

Is Berry Pomeroy the most haunted castle of all? It's got the lot when it comes to cold spots, feelings of fear, pressure on the temples, strange noises and lights and the usual spectral black hound. Real dogs hate being walked near the castle. There's also many stories of cameras ceasing to work and film coming out fuzzy or blank.

More sinister is the ghost of a woman named Matilda known as the White Lady, who was said to have been imprisoned by her sister and starved to death in the room at the base of the St Margaret's Tower.

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The 'licking stones'

The scene of many bloody sieges, Carlisle Castle is often said to be plagued by restless spirits as well as being the site of gruesome events from history.

It has it's fair share of chilling secrets, one of which is revealed in a room used as a dungeon during the Jacobite Rising in the 18th century. In here, you can find the 'licking stones' - stones in the castle walls that were licked by desperate prisoners trying to obtain some moisture in the cramped conditions.

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Coach made from bones

According to a legend that may have originated in the 17th century, every night at midnight the ghost of Lady Howard travels from Okehampton Castle to her old home in Tavistock, in a coach made from the bones of her former husbands.

The coach is driven by a headless coachman, and a skeletal hound follows behind. Some believe that she has an eternal task, to remove all the grass from around the castle, just one blade at a time.

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Ghost in the dungeons

The forbidding ruins of Whitby Abbey are famous for their bloodcurdling connections. But did you know that the abbey harbours a dark secret from long before the time of Bram Stoker's Dracula?

A young nun, Constance de Beverley, broke her sacred vows when she fell in love with a gallant knight called Marmion. When the other nuns found out her secret, her punishment was to be bricked up alive in the walls of a building. Today, it is said that her ghost can be seen at the site of Whitby Abbey, cowering and begging to be released.

Legend also says that a phantom choir can be heard on the 6 January every year at dawn - the old Christmas Day.

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Star-crossed lovers

In 1645, Goodrich Castle was the setting for the tragic deaths of two star-crossed lovers, who were sent to their watery graves during the Civil War.

Alice Birch, the niece of a parliamentarian Colonel, had fallen in love with a royalist and was with him at the castle when her uncle placed it under siege. Fearing for their lives, they tried to escape on horseback under the cover of a violent storm. But the River Wye had become swollen and they were swept away to their deaths. Their spirits are said to haunt the castle, particularly during stormy weather when their shrieks can be heard from the river.

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Running red with blood

At Battle Abbey ghostly goings-on have not only been reported, but also backed up with supposed photographic evidence.

A picture taken by a visitor in 2010 shows a shadowy outline of a hooded monk sitting reading, and just a few years ago another of the site's visitors captured an image of a body dangling above a door - exactly where a piece of wood, thought to be an old hanging post, still remains. Now if that doesn't give you the shivers, we're not sure what will.

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Unseen hands

Bolsover Castle, the magnificent former home of Sir Charles Cavendish during the 17th century, has a dark side. Previous occupants seem intent to linger on in the mansion, roaming the halls and grounds as if they still reside there today. Lucky (or should that be unlucky?) visitors may come across Sir Charles himself, who is said to still wander the corridors, or may catch the distinct aroma of horses coming from the empty former riding school.

But perhaps the most chilling of all are the mysterious pinches and slaps that are frequently dished out by unseen hands!

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