Friday, December 20, 2019

A Ghost Story for Christmas

Photo by myself.
Christmas is rapidly approaching and the nights are drawing in. Combined with the winter weather, often rain and occasionally snow, it's a very gloomy time of year indeed. We brighten our homes with a multitude decorations, Christmas trees go up and towns are festooned with glittering lights of every colour. The tradition of Christmas decorations is used not only to celebrate but to drive back the darkness. But celebrating Christmas by drawing light and warmth into our homes hasn't always been our only festive tradition, another used to be the telling of ghost stories. It's possible that this particular tradition started way back before Christmas as we know it, back when people were predominantly Pagan and this time of the year was a time when spirits could draw closer. A time of year when both light and dark, death and rebirth were honoured. Huddling by the fire with their families, telling stories to scare each other was the perfect way to while away the dark nights. While this tradition carried on through the decades, it is the Victorians that created the Christmas Ghost Stories that we are most familiar with and wrote so many great stories that it has been hard to choose only five. Sadly, at some point this tradition went out of fashion and the Christmas Ghost Story became almost as decrepit and abandoned as the houses they were often based in. It's thanks to various incarnations of Charles Dickens Christmas Carol (which will not be on this list.), television programs such as A Ghost Story for Christmas, as well as the love of a good ghost story that this tradition didn't die out completely. More recently there have been various calls for this tradition to make a come back and I don't believe it will be long before it does. Not everyone wants a saccharine sweet Christmas, after all. Some of us like a bit of sour with our sweet.
So, grab a hot drink, a warm blanket and turn those lights down low as I present to you my top five ghost stories for Christmas.


The Shadow, by E. Nesbit
Out of all the stories on this list, The Shadow feels almost like a true story. Although just a work of fiction, it reads like something you'd find on a paranormal forum or hear on a true ghost stories Youtube video. And while it might surprise you to know that E. Nesbit is best known for The Railway Children, this short story is drastically different. If read late at night you may well find yourself jumping at every shadow on your way to bed. First published in 1905, under the name of The Portent of the Shadow, the style in which it is written only adds a sence of realism to the story.
Our narrator is at a house party with her friends. Things are winding down and those who are staying the night are starting to find rooms for themselves. Well, almost everybody, as we are informed that a few of the boys have bedded down on the dinning room table for the night. The narrator and a few of her friends have set themselves up in a room connected to another, in which a girl who fainted at the party is now sleeping and is being kept watch over by our little group. Not yet ready for sleep, the girls have chosen to start telling ghost stories. Although they all claim to not believe in ghosts, they have successfully spooked themselves. Soon they are interrupted by the housekeeper, who has come to check on they girl who fainted. Bribed with the promise of a warm fire, good company and hot chocolate, the house keeper tells the girls a ghost story of her own. The tale is that of something the housekeeper experienced herself. But to both her and her listeners horror, they discover the story has yet to reach its horrific and tragic end.


A Warning to the Curious, by M. R. James

This was a difficult one to choose, as I was torn between this story and Lost Hearts. When it comes to choosing any of James' tales for a top five list, it's not an easy task as they are all wonderful. This one is based in the fictional seaside town of Seaburgh, which itself is based on the real life town of Aldeburgh on the Suffolk coast. First published in 1925, this a beautifully dark and bleak ghost story. M. R. James' well rounded, descriptive writing builds up the unsettling atmosphere and the growing sense of danger, as our narrator realises just how much peril his new friend is in.
Taking place during what is meant to be a relaxing holiday, our narrator and his companion make the acquaintance of a man by the name of Paxton, who is staying at the same hotel as they are. Their new companion is a gloomy and nervous fellow, one who has a terrifying secret. You see, he is an amateur treasure hunter and he has managed to find a hidden anglo-saxon crown. This treasure is one of three such crowns hidden along the English coast and the only one not yet lost. A wonderful treasure indeed, for it has been long sought-after. But it's discovery comes with a terrible price, as it's protected by a shadowy, supernatural keeper. The ominous presence of this ever following sentinel is turning poor Paxton into a nervous wreak and, if his new friends at first doubt his claims, they soon come to see that he speaks the truth.


The Signalman, by Charles Dickens

I know I said the A Christmas Carol wouldn't be on this list, but I couldn't ignore Dicken's completely. Not when he's responsible for this chilling gem of a tale. On the 9th of June, 1865, Charles Dickens was involved in a terrible train accident. The train partially derailed and most of the carriages fell from the viaduct they were traveling across and into the river below, with their passengers trapped inside. Dickens carriage was one of the only ones not to fall and he stayed at the scene, helping his fellow passengers, both alive and otherwise. While he survived, the sights he saw there left him scarred by the event. It's believed that this tragedy influenced the creation of The Signalman. This story revolves lonely signalman at a remote signal box, who is befriended by the narrator when he comes upon the location completely by chance and spots the Signalman as he goes about his duties. The Narrator enjoys the company of his slightly gloomy new friend, visiting him often, but notes he seems haunted by something and tries to get the man to open up to about his worries. And open up he does, eventually revealing that he is haunted by a sinister spirit, one who's appearance heralds disaster but gives no clues as to what it might be. Worse yet, he has seen the spirit again, several times that very week. The narrator believes his companion is suffering from hallucinations, but his comforting presence doesn't stop the supernatural happenings, which continue even though he cannot see them himself. The atmosphere is dark and foreboding, claustrophobic even, growing more and more tense as the story leads to it's inevitable and horrifying end.



The Old Nurse's Story, by Elizabeth Gaskell.

The Old Nurses Story brings to mind the image of an old Victorian parlor, lit only by a roaring fire, with the old nurse surrounded by a new generation of charges, all eager for just one more story before they go to bed. Both cosy and chilling, it's a shame there have been (to my knowledge) no TV adaptations of this tale, as it would make an amazing TV show. Imagine The Haunting of Hill House, but more claustrophobic and urgent. Charles Dickens very much admired this tale, even offering constructive advice on how Gaskell should write the ending. While she paid attention to some of that advice, she didn't end the story entirely the way Dickens suggested, resulting in this beautiful short story.
Following a young child Rosamond and our Narrator, her nurse Hesther, the story begins when the young mistress is orphaned and the two girls are sent to live with the Aunt of a Cousin at a large and crumbling old house in Northumberland. This sinister abode comes with a tragic secret that seems determined not to remain buried, and our narrator soon realises that getting to the bottom of that secret is a matter of life and death, as history is seeking to repeat itself. With the situation growing more tense by the page and time running out, this story will leave you wondering how it will end.


The Captain of the Pole-Star, by Arthur Conan Doyle

While he is most famous for his stories about Sherlock Holmes, Arthur Conan Doyle is also known for his tales of horror and the supernatural. Many excellent ghost stories came from the mind of this author and out of all of those tales, this one is probably helped along by Doyles own adventures. If the descriptions of the Arctic in this story seem particularly realistic and haunting to you, that would be because Arthur Conan Doyle, who studied medicine from 1876 to 1881, served as a surgeon on a whaling boat by the name of Hope during 1880. Who better to write about the Arctic than a man who, by all accounts, fell into the sea there more than once and nearly froze to death. Thankfully he did not, and we have this wonderful ghost story. First published in 1890, this is the tale of a young doctor working aboard a whaling ship. For a short story the atmosphere builds slowly. Certainly the ships captain seems a bit eccentric at first, but when the ship gets frozen in the ice he only seems to grow more unpredictable. Soon the rest of the crew are claiming to both hear and see a pale specter stalking them on the ice and at sea. But are they really seeing a spirit or is the isolation and bleakness of the environment just driving everyone insane? Will they be trapped in the ice forever with no escape? And if there is a spirit haunting the ship then what, or who, does it want?


I hope you enjoy these stories, they're all guaranteed to send a chill down your spine. Read them before? Know any good Christmas ghost stories you want to share? Let me know in the comments sections below or tag me in a Twitter post!

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Thursday, November 28, 2019

What Lies Below: the Mystery of Houska Castle

The Middle Ages were a turbulent time, to say the least. If famine, malnutrition or disease didn't get you, then childbirth could finish you off. If you managed to dodge those problems then you could have the bad luck of being just one of the many people the Inquisition took offence to and end up burnt at the stake. Even traveling to the next town over to do some shopping or visit family wasn't safe, with so many robbers around you could easily end up being robbed and left for death in the nearest ditch. Why did the folks in charge not do anything? Well, when they weren't going to war with other countries (or eachother) then they were going off on religious crusades, or having to deal with Genghis Khan, who was busy taking over a large chunk of Europe. But, hey, at least you could rely on being able to take refuge in your local fortress in times of need, right? 
Not if your local fortess was Houska Castle.
Houska is a sinister and looming building. Built sometime in the 1200's, in an area of mountainous terrain and dark, dense forest in the Czech countryside, it's also a bit of a disaster. It has no fortifications and isn't in an area of strategic interest. While it has a lot of windows, most of them are false, being glass panes over brick walls. There's no water source to be found there and no kitchen. Even if the castle did have a kitchen, it's nowhere near any of the trade routes that existed then, making acquiring the amount of food an functioning castle would need pretty impossible. There were some nearby villages, but those would not have been able to support the castle. Essentially, Houska castle was not designed to be lived in and, for the most part, it wasn't.
For decades it bounced from owner to owner, from royalty to nobility and back again, quickly being passed on, like that one Christmas present that nobody really wants but they just keep regifting it rather than throwing it away. During World War II, the Nazi's moved in and spent their time in residence turning it into a scientific house of horrors. They used the building to perform horrific experiments not just on prisoners of war but on the defenceless locals as well. At this point Houska had been abandoned for many years, so why choose it for a prison when it was clear nobody wanted the place? The way the castle was constructed makes it the worst possible base, but realistically it's likely that they just never thought the castle would need to be defended or used as a fort, that the location being so remote would reduce the amount of witnesses to their crimes, while making it more difficult for anyone trying to escape. That would be the logical reason, but there is another theory that links the Nazis fascination with the Occult to the castle itself.
Photo by Dr Janos Korom, CC BY-SA 2.0
The folklore that surrounds Houska Castle existed before it was even built and tells us that the castle was built to hide something, to bury that thing so deep that it could never again see the light of day. Essentially the castle itself is little more than a very elaborate plug. Buried under the castle, sealed off by the foundations, is a deep pit. A cave opened by the elements or perhaps a sinkhole, we don't know which, but we do know that it was so deep that the bottom could not be seen. It was considered to be bottomless and filled with horrors. The ancient folklore of that region says that the hole was an entrance to Hell itself, home to winged, half human, half animal monstrosities. These creatures would come crawling out of the pit in the dead of night to fly around, terrorising the countryside. The locals were terrified, the Middle Ages were horrifying enough without running the risk of being carried off by some Mothman wannabe. As reports of that exact thing happening started to skyrocket, people started to barricade themselves inside at night, too afraid to leave their homes. They wouldn't venture near the hole during the day either, just in case something decided to pop out and grab them. Something had to be done. Eventually, those in charge did just that and work began on building the castle, using prisoners as workers. A pardon was offered to any prisoner willing to allow themselves to be lowered down into the hole, in an attempt to investigate what it contained before it was sealed up forever. One brave soul, wanting his freedom, allowed his captors to lower him down there, but only lasted a few seconds in the pit before he began to scream for help. He was quickly pulled up but, within the short amount of time he had been out of sight, his hair had turned white and he resembled an old man instead of the young man who had volunteered to explore the depths. Whatever lurked below had driven him insane and he died a few days later. He never spoke of what he saw down there. Despite this tragedy, it has been said that people in charge were still curious and the prisoners convicted of more serious crimes were just thrown down the hole, with the hope that those that made it out could shed light on what was going on. Nobody got out, so we're still none the wiser. The castle was completed, the thickest walls and floors being the ones above the hole. This is also where the castle chapel was placed and dedicated to St Michael, legendary winged monster hater, as a little extra insurance perhaps. It's in this chapel that hints to why the castle was built can be found, in the ancient and decorative murals that cover the walls. Said to be some of the oldest in Europe, they contain the usual paintings of Saint Michael and Jesus, they also show winged beasts being slain and half human creatures attacking humans. With such a well standing folkloric tale behind it, you can see why people have drawn a link between this story and the Nazis. Their obsession with the unknown has been well documented, even going as far as to be featured in popular media; Indiana Jones and Hellboy for example. So it comes as no surprise that the popular theory is that their real reason for being there was the Hell Hole, to try and harness it's power, using prisoners as sacrifices and guinea pigs. We may never know the true extent of what they were really up to at Houska, luckily for us it would seem that they failed. But they failed at the cost of innocent lives.
Photo by Ladabar, CC BY-NC 2.0
As for the hole itself, all we have are records of it. The current owners of the castle have, perhaps influenced by it's sinister reputation, forbidden any investigations or excavations that might reopen it. Considering the frequent reports from the castle, I can't blame them. People have reported scratching noises in the rooms above the pit, loud enough to be heard despite the thickness of the floors there. The sound of nails or claws scrabbling desperately against the underside of the stone floors, from the side facing pit itself. This chilling sound is often accompanied by the muffled sound of a chorus of screams. Perhaps the trapped spirits of the men thrown down there or unholy abominations seeking escape, maybe both. Above ground, things aren't much better. As well as having the usual White Lady spirit, the castle is home to shadow people, a phantom hound, a bloody headless man and a group of spirits who shuffle through the castle, bound together by chains. Some poltergeist activity has been reported as well. In addition to those other spirits, the castle home to a rather infamous being, a twisted hybrid between a human, a bulldog and a toad. This bizarre and creepy beasty likes to roam the dark corners of the castle, growling and grumbling to itself, and scaring all who see it. It's not clear what the creature is, but looking back at the castles story, it could well be one of the creatures from the hole, forever looking for a way back in. If you want to try and see this mysterious creature, then you might consider visiting the castle, as it is open to the public. Not a sponsored recommendation, but a personal one. If you do visit, then it would probably be best to leave your dog at home, since dogs apparently dislike and act up in the castle.
Personally I can't get my head around Houska's hauntings. I like to be able to explain hauntings, maybe come up with a theory that can explain what's happening. I'm a believer in the paranormal, but I'm also a skeptic. I believe there is some truth about the folklore, since all stories have an element of truth to them. The hole itself is there. But the flying monsters? My first reaction is to blame it on large bats, perhaps an undiscovered species, but none of the bats in the Czech Republic are big enough to carry off a human. Owls could be a culprit. The region is home to Eagle Owls and Snowy Owls, both very big birds that could have been mistaken for something worse, if seen in the dark by a superstitious passer by. With potential robbers on the roads, trying to make ends meet, people going missing while traveling at night could be explained as highway robbery and murder. I'm not even going to try and come up with a theory of how to explain how the hole could have been bottomless, because it couldn't have been. If it was then it would have come out somewhere in New Zealand. True or false, this is a fascinating story to me and there's no doubt that the building is very, very haunted.

So, dear readers, what do you think? Is there truth to the folklore? Or did someone get bamboozled by a low flying owl? Have you been to Houska Castle and experienced it's strange paranormal activities for yourself? I'd love to hear your story! Leave a comment in the comments section below or link me in a Tweet!

Thursday, October 31, 2019

Trick or Treat: the Folklore of Halloween

I love Halloween. There's no denying it. I adore carving pumpkins, decorating my home, dressing up.
I love eating all the sweets that I can get my hands on and watching horror movies til I can't sleep. But, most of all, I love the history and the folklore. For now we're going to cover the superstitions linked to Halloween, so we'll cover its history another time. As much as I would love to go over that topic here, I feel it's a topic deserving of it's own post. For this post I've chosen my top five favourite superstitions and that was not an easy task, because there were a lot to choose from. Not surprising, since this holiday can trace its roots straight back to Celtic times.

1. The humble apple has often featured in folklore and tradition for hundreds of years, but could this beloved fruit really predict the future? it would seem that many thought this was the case, as long ago it was common to use the peel of an apple to predict the first letter of your future partners name. The individual wishing to divine this information would sit themselves down with an apple in Halloween night. They would then peel the apple, taking care to keep the skin whole and, once they had managed this, would fling the peel over their shoulder. If done correctly then the discarded peel would, allegedly, land in shape if whichever letter your future loves name started with.

2. Halloween costumes are a wonderful Halloween tradition, planning what costume you're going to wear, for Trick or Treating and partying, is just part of the fun. Some people spend weeks working on their disguise, while others grab a pre-made costume. Most of these folks are completely unaware that this tradition has darker roots. It was believed that on All Hallows Eve all sorts of ghosts and ghouls stalked the streets, looking for people to scare or even whisk away with them come the light of day. As a result people worked out that the best way to get around this and stay safe was a disguise, the theory being that if the creatures of the night thought you were one of them then they would leave you alone.

3. The air is chilly, filled with the distant smell of bonfires and the sound of leaves crunching beneath your feet. Maybe you've been to a party, trick or treating, a haunted house or even just your friends house, but whatever you've been up to, it's been a good night. However, you find yourself faced with a long, dark, misty walk home through the now empty streets. Other than the sound of your own footsteps and the occasional passing car, it's pretty quiet. Then. after a while, you start to realise that that's not entirely true. There is another sound. Softly at first, a barely noticeable shuffle on the damp, leafy pavement behind you: footsteps. And you know there isn't anyone there. And yet you can hear them, that soft shuffling and padding of feet where there should be none.
Sound familiar? I sure hope not! If you hear the sound of footsteps behind you on Halloween Night, when you're all alone, don't look. It could be a lost spirit. These lonely spooks are known to search out company, even following people home if acknowledged. The best thing to do is ignore them all together and hope they get bored and move on.

4. Were you born on halloween? Well, depending on how you feel about ghosts, that may or may not be a good thing. Folklore tells us that a baby born on October the 31st will be gifted with the strange ability to speak to the spirits of those who have died. A natural born medium. However, since children are said to be particularly sensitive to ghosts, this is a hard one to prove. Are you a Halloween baby? Have you had any experiences that you feel are linked to this? Let me know in the comments bellow, I'd love to hear your story!

5. Everyone loves a good Jack o' Lantern and, as well as being fun to carve, they have a fascinating history behind them that I covered in my first ever Halloween post; Back to basics: The Original Jack'o'Lantern. I also covered a little of the folklore behind them, such as how a lit lantern will scare evil spirits away from a persons home or from the person carrying it. However I forgot to cover one important bit of the folklore, when to blow out the candle. Remember not to blow the candle out before midnight, to do so invites bad luck and evil spirits into your home, instead of repelling them. It's best to let the candle burn out on it's own, as this causes no harm.


I'm not going to lie, I cheat a little on that last one, since for safety reasons I use led lights instead of candles. Why safety reasons? My cat, ironically named Pumpkin, is liable to singe off her whiskers if left near an open flame. Whoever decided cats were intelligent has clearly never met my fur baby. Clumsy kitties aside, I thought I'd end this post with a recipe. As beautiful as Jack o'Lanterns are, a lot of them go to waste, either being left to go mouldy or just binned. It seems such a shame, because pumpkin is delicious. So I thought I'd share my pumpkin soup recipe with you, so once Halloween has gone you can still get some use out of your Jack o'Lantern. 
This recipe can be turned into a vegan friendly one, and I've included which ingredients can be changed in the ingredients list.

This should produce around 4 hearty servings.

Ingredients
  • 1/2 tsp smokey paprika.
  • 1/2 tsp cumin.
  • 1 tsp thyme - fresh or dried.
  • 1/2 tsp pureed ginger.
  • 3 cloves of garlic, chopped.
  • 1 red chilli - chopped, seeds removed.
  • 1 large, red onion - chopped.
  • Your Halloween Pumpkin - if it's been left outside, don't use if overly dirty or if the slugs have been at it, that's just gross.
  • 2 cups of chicken stock/vegetable stock.
  • 2 tsp butter/vegan alternative.
  • 1 tbsp olive oil.
  • 1 tbsp cream cheese/vegan alternative.
  • salt and pepper to taste.

Note: if you want more spice then you can include the chilli  seeds and use 1 tsp on smokey paprika. You can also add more garlic if you prefer.

How to cook:

  • Preheat your oven to 200°c/Gas Mark 6.
  • If you aren't using a Jack o'Lantern, gut your pumpkin and set the seeds aside, you can toast these later if you want or feed them to the birds in your garden.
  • Using a sharp knife, chop your pumpkin into chunks.
  • Place the pumpkin chunks onto a baking tray, drizzle with the olive oil and cook in the oven for 30/40 minutes until soft. 
  • Once cooked, let the pumpkin cool, before using a spoon to separate flesh from rind.

WHILE THE PUMPKIN IS COOKING:

  • Prepare your chicken/veg stock, the herbs and spices
  • Chop your onion, garlic and chilli.
  • Fry the onion mix in the butter until the onion is soft and translucent.
  • Once the onion is cooked, mix in the thyme, cumin, paprika and garlic and continue to heat until fragrant but not burnt - few things taste worse than this mix when it's burnt. Nasty!

Now you have your cooked pumpkin and onion mix, blend the ingredients together with the stock and cream cheese, until smooth, adding salt and pepper to taste. Two cups of stock will give you a nice thick soup, so if you want it to be more runny then add one extra cup.
If you want to serve the soup straight away then just heat it up and serve with crusty bread and garnishings if you prefer. It's delicious topped with crispy bacon and feta OR toasted walnuts and a vegan feta alternative. 
If not serving straight away, this soup can be frozen but should be fully defrosted before heating and serving.




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Sunday, July 7, 2019

On the Road Again: Travels with Superstition.

Photo by Myself.
Packing for my holiday, even now my mind wanders to one of my favourite subjects: travel lore and superstition. The fact that I used my blogging notepad to write my check list is not helping matters. It's inspired me to write a second post on the subject and I haven't written a Top 5 post for a while, so I thought this would make a nice little post to tide you, my dearest readers, over until my Holiday Blog. Yes, even though I'm going away for a week, I still intend to post a blog, wifi permitting. Until then, bring on the lore.

Unlucky for some.
In some countries the number Thirteen is considered very unlucky. In China the unlucky number is the number Four, due to the cantonese words for Four and Death sounding very similar. In Italy it's the number Seventeen, another number linked with death as the roman numerals for Seventeen can be rearranged to spell the Italian word Vixi, which translates to "I lived." As a result you'll notice that a lot of hotels will skip these numbers when they number their rooms and some people will refuse to sit in seat with these numbers on planes. Also, as mentioned in my previous Travel Lore post, some people won't travel on these days either.

Whistle Down the Wind.
Cruses are a wonderful and luxurious way to see the world, with ships sailing everywhere from the Caribbean to Antarctica, but if you're musically inclined you might want to stick to singing in your cabins shower. Whistling on a ship is considered terrible bad luck, as the wind itself could see it as a challenge. I've only been on ferries during storms, but trust me, a boat in a storm is not a situation you want to find yourself in. Some people say that this supersticion also stems back to 1789, when whistling was used to signal the infamous mutiny on the HMS Bounty.

Tis but a scratch!
Traveling in a brand new car? One piece of travel lore is that a new vehicle is more at risk of accidents than a second hand one. Since it's new and hasn't had any yet, that just encourages them to occur. Folks who believe this one will often deliberately scratch their new motor somewhere where it won't be noticed, in an attempt to ward off bad lick; the most popular places are around the wheel arch or the inside of the steering wheel.

Just keep walking.
Forgotten something? It might be best to just forget about it. In some places, going back for something you've left behind can bring you bad luck on your journey or on your holiday, as can looking back when you're leaving. So keep those eyes facing forward and just buy whatever you need when you get to your destination.

Take a deep breath.
This is a more dangerous one, in my opinion. The superstition that if you are successful in holding your breath whilst going through a tunnel or over a county line it can bring good luck. But don't try this one at home kids, since holding your breath for too long can cause you to pass out. Not something you want to happen while you're at the wheel of a car and this superstition has already been linked to several accidents. This is one superstition I remember from when I was little and for ages I couldn't remember why, until I traced it back to a Tiny Toons special where a group of characters going on holiday hold their breath going through a tunnel because if they do so successfully then they will get a wish granted, much like blowing out the candles on a birthday cake. 
Another variation of this supersticion seems to be holding your breath as you drive past a graveyard, just in case you accidentally inhale any lost and wandering soul that might be hanging around.
Photo by Myself.

So, what are your thoughts? Do you follow any of these superstitions yourself or do you know someone who does? Maybe you have your own version of one of them? Let me know in the comment below or tag me over on Twitter. For more odd travel superstitions, don't forget to check out my first post on the subject, if you haven't already and, once again, let  me know what you think.


Thursday, June 20, 2019

Bad Dog: the Black Shuck of Suffolk.

August 1577. Suffolk, England.
A terrible storm rages over head as the parishioners of Blythburgh take shelter in the Holy Trinity Church, hiding from what they believe what must surely be Gods wrath. It sounds as if the very heavens themselves are tearing at the seams, but here in their pretty little church they are warm, dry and safe. Or so they think. A flash of lightning lights up the church interior, accompanied by a rumble of thunder best described as a roar, startling those huddled within. Shock soon turns to horror, as the roar of the thunder is replaced by the snarling of a beast and they realise that a huge black hound is among the congregation, running up and down the nave. The people panic, trying to get away or shield their loved ones as the great dog snaps at their heels. It's pandemonium. Fear fueled chaos, but it's over almost as soon as it started. The hound makes it's escape, forcing it's way out of the church and leaving claw marks burnt into the door, as well as three corpses and a lot of terrified people in it's wake. And the horror doesn't stop there. Leaving Blythburgh behind, the hound traveled to Bungay.
Twelve miles from Blythburgh, the people had taken shelter in St Mary's Church and they too thought they were safe. They weren't expecting a hellhound to burst through the doors in a flash of lightning. Once again, it terrorised the flock, biting, snapping and this time buring. No one saw it coming, nobody dared stop it and, by the time it had finished, two men were dead, others injured, the church door was destroyed and a lightning strike had caused the church steeple to collapse.
This, dear readers, is the Black Shuck. Alternatively known as Old Shuck, it is one of England's most infamous black dogs.
I've only covered this topic once before, and briefly, in a post about haunted Dunwich. It's name is said to have it's roots in the Old English word Scucca, meaning Devil or Fiend. A good way to describe a terrifying hound of indeterminate breed, being either of ghostly or demonic origin. It's described as black and, size wise, anywhere between the height of a calf to a pony. It's eyes are the size of saucers,  glowing red and firey. Some reports say that it only has one eye, giving it an even more terrifying, cyclopean appearance. Variations of this monstrous mutt has been sighted all over England and it was even the inspiration behind the Hound of the Baskervilles. Wherever you go, it seems that every county has a not so good boy haunting it's lanes and fields, although interestingly it's purpose seems change depending on the region, much like whether or not a black cat is lucky. In East Anglia the Shuck is a sign of bad luck, a sighting an omen of death for all who gaze upon it. In other counties it seems to exist just to stalk and terrifying anyone who crosses it's path, yet in some counties it's a benign presence, helping lost travelers and providing them with a calming companion on their journey.
Pew details from Holy Trinity, a lion or a gigantic hound?
Photo by myself.
The enduring mystery of the Black Shuck is that while we know what the hound is, we don't know WHAT the hound is. It's possible they could be a throw back to the vikings, to Odin and his wolves, Geri and Freki. They could just be a mixture of religion and superstition, the Hellhounds from Christian lore. Older sightings could just be wolves, whilst newer ones could be large stray dogs. The last known wolf to be killed in the UK died in 1680, hunted down in Perthshire. There were also rumours of wolf sightings in Scotland right up until 1888. Could this explain the Suffolk Shuck sightings? Yes and no. While it's possible that one attack could be put down to a rogue wolf and coincidental weather, two attacks seem very unlikely. Not even a starving wolf would attack a church full of people, plus it was August, prey would have been plentiful elsewhere. When it comes to the Black Shuck there aren't many theories trying to explain what it was, just a general acceptance that it is some sort of unearthly dog, with a bad temper. And, while I love a good ghost story and do believe in spectral animals, I have a theory that the Black Shuck that attacked that August may have been a living dog.
As with all my little theories, it's just that: a theory, an unproven one. But, I hope you'll find it an interesting one. You see in 2014, during an archaeological dig at Leiston Abbey in Suffolk, the skeleton of a gigantic hound was uncovered. In life, this dog would have weighed about 200lbs and stood at roughly 7ft on it's back legs. What's more, it is possible that it was buried around the same time as the attacks, and hastily so, judging by the fact that it was buried in a shallow grave near the Abbey's kitchens. It's believed to be the skeleton of a Great Dane, a breed that was likely to have belonged to someone relatively important. Dane's are wonderful dogs, very sweet, but also large and can be more than a little intimidating if you aren't used to them. When I was younger, a friend of my Father had three Great Danes, including one very large black one. His name was Duke, he was a sweetheart and thought he was much smaller than he was, often trying to crawl onto the laps of anyone sitting in the living room. But his bark was loud and fierce, even though it was only used to say hello. He may have been an old softy, but had I seen and heard Duke in a darkened church, in the middle of a storm? I would have been terrified. Darkness, flickering candlelight and flashing lightning could easily twist the familiar into something abominable. I believe that's what happened here. My theory is that the dog found at the Abbey belonged to someone accustomed to visiting the churches in the area, someone who would take their loyal pet with them on these trips. A big dog would certainly provide a bit of protection on the road, no matter how daft it was. When the storm struck in August 1577, the dog either got out or was separated from his owner. As dogs are prone to do, it followed the paths it would often pass down with it's master, leading it to the church. The hound gained access to first the Holy Trinity Church and then, still seeking its owner, St Mary's. Both times it was faced with screaming people, running away from it and trying to knock it away from them, probably even throwing things. Already frightened out of it's wits by the storm, these humans behaviour scared it even more, so it lashed out. In Bungay, its
Claw marks left on the door of the Holy
Trinity Church, photo by myself.
arrival coincided with the lightning strike which destroyed the steeple and melted all but one of the bells inside. Since electricity travels, it's likely that the power from the strike transferred to any other metal in the church, thus causing burns. Adding weight to this is that official records exist showing that the two men killed in Bungay that day were in the belfry when they died. But in the 1500's, they didn't understand how electricity worked, so the deaths and burn were associated with the dog. At some point after this, the frightened dog either ran home to the abbey or was caught by it's owner, but by that time the damage was done. People were scared, some were dead and one church was in ruins. If the dog were to be recognised then the abbey's reputation would suffer, so it was quickly euthanized and buried in a shallow grave were it wouldn't be too obvious. As time passed the hound became folklore and the poor great dane was forgotten.

Like I said, just a theory.

Visiting Blythburgh and Bungay.
The weather couldn't have been less like that in the story if it tried. Plenty of sun and blue skies, a slightly cool breeze that left off after a while. It was early in the morning and after a super healthy breakfast of McMuffins, we set out sat nav for our first stop, Blythburgh.
I think my friends (M and D.) and I were expecting something from a
Holy Trinity Church, photo by myself
Hammer Horror movie, but the Holy Trinity Church is a stunning 15th century building, easily accessible with a car park right next to it. A large church, it's deserving of it's nickname: the Cathedral of the Marshes. I could go on and on about the beauty of this building alone, but you're here for the folklore. Because this is the church with the infamous claw marks. At first we couldn't find them, it turned out that we were looking at the wrong door. Opposite the main entrance is a matching set of ancient wooden doors, and it is here that the Shuck left his mark. The marks are quite deep, but smooth and shiney from years of being touched by the hands of the curious. They are definitely burn marks, but claw marks? The sceptic in me says no, most likely candle burns, but I still love the folklore behind them. Before we leave we explore the church fully, delighting in it's architecture and calming atmosphere. I'd also like to point out that, as well as tours being available there, it does have a small gift shop (cash and correct change only.) and all proceeds raised from it goes towards the upkeep and restoration of this much loved building. Outside the graveyard is also a pretty one, with a path leading around the church and down some steps to the toilets.




Bungay is much bigger than Blythburgh and also has a
St Mary's Church, photo by myself.
castle (accessed through a restaurant, Jester's, which I really recommend for good food.), an observatory and a small museum that you can visit. We didn't just visit the church, but the whole town. The Shuck is everywhere here, even the town football team is named after it. On the outside, St Mary's Church is an imposing building, but inside it is warm and soothing. It's hard to imagine the Shuck wreaking havoc here too, but according to folklore that's just what it did. The hound itself appears here as a beautifully sewn tapestry on the church wall. Take a couple of quid with you, because here you can buy an illustrated booklet telling you all about the Black Shuck and the events of 1577. If ruins or memento mori are your thing then this is also the church for you, as behind it you can find the ruins of a previous church building and the graveyard is home to many well worn, but still beautiful, skull headstones.





Have you been to Bungay or Blythburgh? Do you have any stories to tell, maybe you've seen something a little Shuck-like yourself? Let me know in the comments below or tag me on Twitter! I love hearing from you guys and, unlike the Black Shuck, I don't bite!




Sunday, June 9, 2019

A Welcome and a Thank You: June Update.

Hello, dear readers! I'd like to say a massive thank you to my regular readers and to anyone new to my blog! Telling stories of the strange and unusual is  a joy to me and I love sharing them with you all, so don't be afraid to comment and interact. I don't bite and I love hearing from you guys!
I'm pleased to announce that The Strange Ways will now be updating twice monthly. You can still expect the same tales of ghosties, ghoulies, long legged beasties and things that go bump in the night, but with more frequency. I'll also be attempting to visit more locations personally, sort of like a spooky travel guide, for your amusement and my own.
Also, a quick reminder for all, you can keep track of blog updates on my Twitter account and my Instagram. And now you can also follow my blog with Bloglovin!

Thursday, June 6, 2019

The Mystery of the Rendlesham Forest Incident.


Twas the night after Christmas, and all through Rendlesham Forest, not a creature was stirring, except for some mysterious lights and a lot confused American Airmen.
The 26th of December, 1980. It's the early hours of the morning, the night is still and cold. Personnel at the American Air Force operated bases of RAF Woodbridge and RAF Bentwaters (in Suffolk, England.) are expecting a calm, if not a little boring, night shift. They aren't expecting to see unidentified lights descending upon the nearby Rendlesham Forest. Despite the Cold War still being frosty enough to ice skate on, it was decided that it must be a downed aircraft, albeit one that hadn't called for help and was on an unannounced flight plan. The police were called and immediate aid was sent out, in the form of a three unarmed men, Burroughs, Penniston and Cabansaq. They didn't find a downed plane or helicopter. What they found was straight out of an episode of the X-Files. 
They found what can only be described as a UFO: a metallic cone shaped object, with glowing coloured lights, surrounded by a sickly yellow mist.
Penniston's sketch of the craft.
The object just sat there on three tripod like legs. It had settled down in a small clearing in the forest, seemingly unbothered by the curious humans surrounding it. It sounds like a bad 1950's B movie. I think most people would have just run, but these were soldiers and they had nerves of steel, they chose to hold their ground. Braving the fear of the unknown, these witnesses were able to get quite close to the object. Penniston even edged close enough to touch it, pulling out a notebook to draw the craft and describing the air as being full of electricity in a later interview. It was estimated to be about 10ft long and about 8ft high, with strange symbols on it's hull, not dissimilar to hieroglyphs. A short while later the unknown craft retracted it's legs and shot off into the sky. Although the men attempted to follow it, there was no earthly way they could have caught it. While this was occuring, the local police had arrived at the base. In their opinion the only lights they could see were from a lighthouse at the coast, a few miles away at Orford Ness. However the Orford Ness lighthouse is unlikely to show up on radar, which is exactly what the unknown craft that was seen that night did, when it was reported by a nearby military radar station. Sightings occurred again the following night, when a young Airman by the name of Lori Boeon spotted the craft whist on night watch. She wasn't alone in seeing it, as there were five fellow airmen with her that night. The strange lights were passed off as nothing more than fireworks.
Events seemed to come to the head the following evening. Whilst a party was happening at the base the UFO was spotted again and a team lead by Lt. Colonel Charles Halt headed back to the clearing where the the first sighting had taken place. Lt. Colonel Halt was second in command at the base, showing just how seriously this odd event was being taken. Although his initial intention may have been to debunk the incident from the previous two nights, he soon found that to be an impossible task. Searching the clearing they found clear evidence of the first nights events. Trees surrounding the clearing had been visibly singed and had broken branches from about 20ft up, in the center of the clearing were three visible indentations from the objects feet*, which measured out a perfect triangle and match Pennington's sketches. They had bought scientific equipment with them, a test with a radiation survey meter revealed that the levels of radiation in the clearing were much higher than the normal background levels of radiation found outside of the clearing. Not enough to be dangerous, but still abnormal. And if that didn't alarm Halt and his team, what happened next most certainly did. They saw IT for themselves.
UFO statue, based on Penniston's sketches. Photo by myself.
This time the craft flowed through the trees, dripping what appeared to be some kind of molten metal, traces of which were never found. Halt and his team chased after the UFO as it zipped along, causing no damage to the trees as it passed through them. It hovered through the air, firing beams of light at the air base and, at one point, it's fascinated pursuers. As Halt and his men followed it into a field outside the forest, the UFO seemed to explode into five different points of light before vanishing. Both bases reported having beams of light shone into them from above that night and, like the soldiers who first sighted it, Halt and his group had radio issues for the entire time the UFO was flying around.
During all of the incidents livestock in the area became franticly distressed and both Burrough's and Halt's groups heard what they described as a woman screaming, although it is possible that could have been a fox as they do make very similar sounds. It is also worth mentioning that the Police officers theory of the lights being from the nearest light house was debunked, since the lights of the mysterious craft and those of the lighthouse were both visible at the same time and a good space apart. What adds further credibility to the incident is that it was witnessed by Airbase personnel of all levels of command, from lowest to highest. These aren't just kids messing around, someone after a quick buck, someone stoned out of their mind or a drunk on their way home from the pub. These are sensible, down to earth people. In their line of work they have to be. Even Lt. Col. Halt was so convinced that something odd was going on that he personally got involved in the investigation. He recorded his experiences on a hand held tape recorder, which you can listen to here, and wrote an official memo on the subject to the MOD, which you can read here, a couple of weeks after the event. Someone prone to imagining little green men doesn't get that high up the chain of command and to this day he swears what he saw was a UFO.
I imagine that after reading all of that that you are asking the same question that everyone asks, the question that I've asked myself. What the hell was it? Not an easy subject to approach when there's so many conspiracy theories around the event, but at the same time so much evidence. To this day UFOlogists swear that it's the most compelling evidence of life on other planets visiting us, it's what has lead to the incident being referred to as the British Roswell. The most popular theory that I've read is that the base was either being used to secretly hold nuclear weapons or experimental jets, and that the UFO was attracted by that since it seemed more interested in the base than the humans around it. Adding fuel to these theories is that some evidence from the investigation was allegedly removed from RAF Bentwaters and was transferred to another American Airbase in Germany. This has lead some to believe that even though information on the incident was released to the public, something important is still being covered up. Further proof for these theories also comes from reports that Airmen involved in the incident have been bullied into changing their stories with threats of bodily harm or worse. Seeing that these claims come from the airmen themselves, I'd say these threats failed.
Rendlesham Forest. Photo by Myself.
More recently there have been reports that the whole thing was a prank, one played by the SAS on the terrified American airmen using a weather balloon, but even that doesn't sit right in my mind. Funny, but otherwise difficult and expensive to pull off, as well as being a PR nightmare if it turned out to be true. And, seriously, how does a weather balloon zip through trees? How does one drip molten substances, effect background radiation levels and just vanish into thin air. The simple answer is that it doesn't. I would love to tell you it was an alien space craft. I would love to be able to sit here at my computer, doing my very best Giorgio Tsoukalos impression, ALIENS! But I can't. Because I don't believe it was aliens. I'm not a big believer in them as we see them depicted in the media, little grey fellas with big, dark eyes. I do believe there's something out there, I believe we're aren't alone in this huge, crazy, magical universe. And I do believe those airmen saw something. But I don't believe this was the work of little green men from mars. What I do believe is that there is something going on there. You don't remove evidence if there's nothing going on, you don't try to silence people if there is nothing to hide. The announcement that it was a prank played by the SAS, which itself came from an anonymous source, comes across as a lame excuse. My personal opinion is that it was some sort of experimental equipment designed for observation, maybe some sort of early drone prototype, and that whoever built it was using the two bases for a test run. The sighting where the thing exploded and disappeared could have been down to a design fault or built in explosive charges. This is just my theory, it's most likely as far from the truth as any other theory out there. But when it comes down to it, theories are all we have. We will never know what the UFO was, where it came from or what it wanted.

The Rendlesham Forest UFO trail
The UFO Trail is very well marked. Photo by Myself.
Shortly before writing this blog I was lucky enough to visit the forest with my two friends, M and D. Although aware of the forest and its story, D didn't realise we were that close to it and I somehow had it in my head that it was further north. So when we stumbled upon Rendlesham by accident, it was a delightful surprise. The forest itself is dense and lush, a place of rich greens and deep shadows. With well marked trails its nearly impossible to get lost, but very easy to lose all sense of time. Not ideal if, like me, you messed up with the parking meter and only have two hours to explore**. We would have liked to have had longer time there, but we had a great time. The only UFO we found was the statue placed in a clearing, deep in the forest. We saw no odd lights and the trees are so thick, so close together that I don't see how mysterious lights drifting through them could have been mistaken for those of a light house. You'd be lucky to see lights from the coast at all. There were a few areas of the forest that seemed unnaturally quiet, which I found odd since it's breading season and birds are quite vocal when it comes to announcing their territory. However the rest of the forest was teeming with life. There's a well laid out and clearly marked UFO Trail that you can follow, compleat with information boards about what happened that night. Unlike Roswell you won't get arrested for taking photos. It even leads you past one of the bases, presumably RAF Bentwaters, which was handed back to the MoD in 1993 and is now no longer used. An interesting place, but not one accessible to the public. If you're interested in this story at all, or even just like a nice countryside walk, I would recommend a visit. It's a fascinating place.






What are your theories on the Rendlesham Forest incident? Have you an odd story of your own from the area? If so, you can tag me on Twitter using my Twitter handle or just drop a comment here on my blog. Don't be shy, I'd love to hear from you!






*The local police were called in to look at these indentations too, but claimed they were the footprints of some woodland creature. There are no creatures in Rendlesham forest that make footprints that shape or size, or are capable of burning trees.
**Oops.

Thursday, May 23, 2019

The Tower of London and it's Permanent Residents.

Photo by Haris Krikelis, CC
The Tower of London is one of England's most famous landmarks and one of London's most
imposing ones. Here people have been imprisoned, tortured, executed and murdered: it's history written in blood and horrors, which have seeped into the ancient stones that make up its walls and floors. The Tower was founded around 1066, so it's had a lot to time to accumulate quite a lot of ghosts, some of them innocent and some of them not. Some of them human and some of them not. My aim with this blog post is to provide a brief but info packed run down of all of the phantoms lurking within those old walls, so that any of you paranormal loving wanderers out there know exactly what you're looking for.

The Two Princes.
These two little heartbreakers are allegedly the spirits of Edward (12 years old) and Richard (9 years old), sons of King Edward IV and his wife, Elizabeth. After the death of their father in 1483, their care was entrusted to their Uncle Richard, who promptly sent the two to stay in the tower, since this was not a prison at the time but the traditional home of those members of the royal family who were awaiting coronation. Poor little Edward never reached his throne. While they were in the tower, Parliament declared the boys to be illegitimate and their Uncle Richard took the throne. Although they were initially seen playing in the Tower gardens, the children were seen less and less until they disappeared completely. Rumors spread, saying that the two boys had been murdered, and unfortunately it's highly likely, although there is no firm evidence. The blame fell on the boys Uncle, Richard III. It is one of the things he is remembered for the most, even though he had no need to harm the boys as the throne was his and most of the "evidence" seems to come from the play written about him by William Shakespeare's, during the reign of his successor, Henry Tudor. During this time there was a lot of anti-Richard III propaganda, this is no surprise as history is written by the victors.
Their cause of death unknown, there was no sign of the boys until 1674, when some workers found a large wooden box while doing some work on the tower. Opening it they found the skeletal remains of two children with the remains of velvet clothing around them. It's believed by many that these are the bodies of the two princes, but these weren't the only bodies of children found at the tower. Some time previously a bricked up room had been discovered and inside were the skeletons of two children. Either the remains in the room or the remains in the box could be the two princes, but the box is the most well known story.
Since then the two boys have made their presence known about the tower. Sometimes the only thing heard is the sound of laughter, but sometimes two little spirits in white night shirts have been spotted playing in the grounds around the tower, on the battlements or wandering down the stairs. Sometimes the poor things have even been spotted huddled and weeping in the rooms they lived in, only to fade away when approached. Keep an eye out and maybe you might see these tragic and harmless spirits for yourself.

Anne Boleyn
The second wife of Henry VIII, poor Anne only lasted three years as his Queen. While she gave birth to a daughter, she was unable to give the tyrant the son he desperately craved, suffering a miscarriage and then later giving birth to a stillborn baby boy. It was around this time that Henry had started to court Jane Seymour, who was to become his third wife and in 1536 Anne found herself banished to the Tower, and was executed under false charges of incest, adultery and treason. In death her ghost is quite active and has been seen walking the tower and it's gardens, sometimes intact, but other times carrying her head tucked under one arm. She has also been spotted walking around St Peter's Chapel, near the Tower, where her body was originally laid to rest under the altar. The most famous sighting of her occurred in 1864, when a guard mistook her for a living trespasser and, when she failed to stop walking towards him, attempted to run her through with his bayonet. This of course failed miserably and the poor man just ended up running straight through the ghostly queen. He promptly fainted upon realising what had happened and narrowly avoided a court marshall.

The White Lady
What old English building would be complete without a White Lady? With so many deaths having occured at the Tower of London, this soul has no identity. She's very active, having been sighted by guards and members of the public alike, as she wanders around the rooms and corridors of the White Tower. Once she was even sighted at a window, waving to a group of visiting school children outside. While her presence is mostly benign, her perfume is not. Smelt most often at the entrance to St John's Chapel, her perfume carries a noxious odor that has been known to turn stomachs.

Lady Margaret Pole, Countess of Salisbury
Lady Margaret was yet another victim if Henry VIII's infamous bad temper. Her son had somehow offended the King, but was out of the country at the time and well out of Henry's reach. So Henry tuned his spite on the other mans mother instead, having the dignified older lady falsely charged with Treason (I'm beginning to see a pattern her, Henry.) and sent to the executioners block with not trial. In 1541, the Countess approached the scaffold. She was 70 years old, quite an accomplishment in Tudor times, and she was about to prove to the King, the executioner and the audience of over 100 spectators that she had plenty of life left in her, even if it was to be cruelly cut short. Facing the executioner she refused to lower her head for him, if he was to kill her then he would have to do so where she stood. Eventually guards forced her to kneel, but the executioner was rattled by the encounter and his aim was off. Instead of her neck, his axe met with her shoulder. Lady Margaret let out a blood curdling scream and, tearing herself from the block and the grasp of the guards, RAN. The poor woman fled around the execution site, trailing blood behind her, while the executioner chased after her trying to cut her down. When he caught up with her, probably due to her being slowed by blood loss and shock, it took him 11 blows to end the Countesses suffering.
Now on the anniversary of her death the whole horrid spectacle plays itself out again. It is said that the blood soaked spirit of Lady Margaret Pole can be seen re-enacting her desperate flight from the block, being pursued by a spectral executioner, franticly swinging his axe to bring the Lady down. Whether this is a residual spirit or a case of Stone Tape Theory is unknown, but if you are able to visit the Tower on the evening of the 27th of May, maybe you'll see this saddening sight for yourself.

King Henry VIII's Armour
King Henry was bad tempered, a cruel man and a couple of scones short of a cream tea. While he doesn't haunt the Tower himself, it would seem like some of his bad vibes have seeped into his armour and stayed there. Guards patrolling the gallery where it is kept have reported a horrific crushing sensation descending upon them when they get near it. One even felt as if a heavy blanket had been thrown over his head before it was pulled tight around his neck. He managed to escape but was left with marks on his neck to prove his story to the other guards. This nightmarish feeling is said to lift when the sufferer escapes the room and seems to be a nocturnal phenomenon, as I could find no reports of it effecting people during the day.
Henry VIII wasn't the healthiest of people. Knocked unconscious at a jousting tournament, when he awoke his personality had done a complete 360 from being a relatively pleasant man to being the foul, bad tempered, spiteful despot he is known as today. A recent theory has been put forward that the blow that knocked him unconscious may have resulted in brain damaged, which would explain the personality change. Whatever the reason, from that moment on his health spiraled out of control, as Henry began to rapidly gain weight and developed leg ulcers, which could not be healed and were instead kept open. On top of this, wearing heavy armour would have felt unbearable. I believe it's possible that the vibes given off by the armour are a type of stone tape effect, likely to be how Henry felt when he squeezed himself into it.

King Henry VI
Henry VI was not the strongest of monarchs, but he neither expected or deserved to be killed. He was imprisoned by the House of York, with Edward IV taking the throne the very day after his untimely death. While the first reports of his death state that he died of a broken heart, he was actually stabbed to death while praying at a small window altar in his prison cell in the Wakefield Tower. He died not long before midnight and on the anniversary of his death, on the 21st of May, he has been sighted pacing his room until he fades away to nothing at the strike of midnight.

Lady Jane Grey
King Edward VI had declared Jane his successor upon his death, much to the annoyance of his own sister, Mary. Abandoned by her Father, who chose to side with Mary to save his own hide, Jane found herself left to the mercy of the woman who would become known as Bloody Mary. Jane lasted only 9 days before Queen Mary seized the throne and started as she meant to go on, with Lady Jane and her husband being her first victims. Jane's father was pardoned, but Jane and her husband were charged with Treason. Jane was forced to watch the execution of the man she loved from the window of her cell, before being lead to her own death. She was only 16 years old.
In death she is seen as a floating, shimmering figure that walks the green and the battlements, eventually fading into nothing.
Jane is not alone. Her husband, Lord Guildford Dudley, has been sited around the Beauchamp Tower with tears running down his face.

Thomas Beckett
First seen 1241, Thomas Beckett is one of the first recorded ghosts at the Tower and one of the few to have been put to rest. Henry III was responsible for the Inner Circle of the Tower having been built, but his Grandfather, Henry II, was responsible for Beckett's murder and it seems the former Archbishop of Canterbury had neither forgotten nor forgiven. So when builders tried to build the wall, Thomas Beckett manifested himself and reduced it to rubble with one strike of his cross. This, allegedly, happened twice before Henry III had a tower named after Beckett. This seemed to please the spirit and he wasn't seen again.
Interestingly, in more recent times the spirit of a monk has been sighted in the same areas that the ghost of Thomas Beckett was. But is this really just a random monk? Or has Thomas Beckett returned to haunt the Tower once more?

Sir Walter Raleigh
In 1618 this great explorer lost his head to the Executioner after upsetting James I, being charged with treason and being imprisoned at the Tower. It wasn't the first time he'd been locked up there and had a relatively good life there, living in luxury with his family being allowed to visit. He was known to grow exotic plants in his rooms and his second son was even conceived there. 
His spirit has been seen and heard walking the battlements and one of the homes on Tower Green.

Henry Walpole
Henry had a rather dangerous occupation. He was a Jesuit Priest during the 16th century. When he was captured and imprisoned in the Tower he suffered many tortures, including the rack. Between torture and sentencing, he managed to carve his own name and that of Saints into the walls of his prison. Eventually this poor man was executed. His carvings remain, but it would seem that some trace of Henry does too. Lone visitors in this room have heard the low murmurs of a man praying and a golden yellow glow which grows to fill the room before it vanishes.

Guy Fawkes
This poor soul is heard rather than seen. In 1605, Guy was involved in a failed plot to assassinate King James I and his government. As you may already know, this assassination attempt involved rather a lot of gunpowder. After his capture, Guy Fawkes was horrifically tortured to get his to reveal the names of his co-conspirators and their plan. He resisted at first but couldn't hold out forever. Put on trial and sentenced to be executed by being hung, drawn and quartered, Guy Fawkes was so weak from the tortures he had undergone that he never got past the hanging part. His neck broke, killing him instantly. Despite being dead, he was still drawn and quartered.
These days we remember him with Guy Fawkes night and by his terrifying, pain filled screams that have been heard echoing around the rooms where he was held captive and tortured.

The Mysterious and the Inhuman
In 1977, two workmen in the Middle Tower heard heavy footsteps walking around on the floor above them. With some help they searched for the source of the sounds, but nothing was found. There was nobody there, nobody visible anyway.
In the 1960's a guard was found in shock after having witnessed a cloaked and headless figure which approached him.
In the Tudor Times the Tower was used as a zoo and it's said that even now the roars of Lions can sometimes still be heard. But when it comes to animal spirits, the Towers Bear is the first thing most people think of. In the 1800's a guard at the Martin Tower was alarmed to see the figure of a bear emerging from a doorway. In a panic he attempted to run the beast through with his bayonet, but this had no effect as it just passed clean through the spirit and got stuck in a door. The poor guard fainted from the shock and is said to have died three days later.
In the 1800's, the Keeper of the Crown Jewels had a ghostly encounter in the Martin Tower, where he lived with his family. Edmund Swifte reported that a liquid-like column floated through the room where he was sitting with his family. It eventually floated behind his wife and the distressed lady swore that it had tried to grab her. Edmund jumped to her defence, throwing a chair at the thing, but the chair went straight through it and the thing floated to the window and vanished.
In the 1980's a Yeoman Warder was astonished to come across two Beefeaters chatting to each other as they sat by a fireplace. This wouldn't have been unusual, but their uniforms were older one, very much out of date. When the two spirits spotted him, they faded into thin air.

Photo by Thorsten Hansen, CC
So, those are the ghosties and ghoulies that can be found stalking the ancient halls and rooms of the Tower of London. Have you seen or heard any of these ghosts yourself? Have I missed anyone out? Don't be shy, let me know. Drop me a message in the comments below or find me on Twitter. I would love to hear any stories you might have.
And if you intend to visit the Tower and are not 100% sure where to go, I've included a map to get you on the right path.