The Ghost Of Catherine Howard

The ghost of Catherine Howard

Why was Catherine Howard known as the “Screaming Queen”? Why do people faint when visiting the Haunted Gallery at Hampton Court? Is Catherine the most famous ghost at Hampton Court Palace?

Let’s journey back to Tudor times to answer these questions and more. We explore the fascinating and tragic life of Catherine Howard and how her turbulent spirit seems destined to scream through eternity.

Who Was Catherine Howard?

Catherine Howard was a young woman from a prominent family who went on to become King Henry VIII’s fifth wife in 1540. It’s believed she was between 17 and 18 when she married. The King was 30 years older with ulcerous legs that could apparently be smelled from three rooms away!

Catherine was described as petite and enticing with sparkling eyes and auburn hair. She first caught King Henry’s eye when she served as a lady-in-waiting to his fourth wife, Anne of Cleves. The King had little interest in Anne and started lavishing gifts upon the captivating Catherine.

Calling her his “very jewel of womanhood”, he wasted little time in taking the young lady as his fifth wife. The marriage would be short-lived, however. In 1541, Catherine was accused of having an affair with a courtier named Thomas Culpeper. She was also accused of concealing pre-marital relationships from the King.

Catherine denied the accusations but her love letters made her look rather guilty. In one letter, Catherine wrote to the caddish Culpeper: “It makes my heart die to think I cannot be always in your company.” She signed the letter, “Yours as long as life endures.”

Convinced of her guilt, Henry had the Queen arrested and charged with treason. She was beheaded at the Tower of London in 1542, aged around 20. 

Catherine’s Ghost In Hampton Court Palace

As Queen, Catherine lived at Hampton Court Palace in Richmond upon Thames. Catherine’s ghost has haunted and frightened people at the palace since her death.

Even those who have never visited Hampton Court Palace surely know this magnificent building by reputation. Supernatural enthusiasts are particularly fascinated by the spooky phenomena associated with the former royal residence.

Catherine’s ghost is arguably the most famous of several entities haunting Hampton Court Palace. She flits and wanders the hallways and sometimes runs screaming down the corridors.

Here are the five top locations where Catherine’s spirit is spotted in the palace.

Haunted Gallery

Catherine’s ghost is particularly active in the Haunted Gallery. After Catherine was arrested, she broke free from her guards and ran along the long gallery corridor, calling desperately to King Henry VIII for mercy.

The King was praying in the Chapel and didn’t respond to her wailing plea. Guards dragged Catherine away and her fate was effectively sealed. It’s said that her anguished spirit repeats this tragic journey, screaming through eternity.

This long corridor has witnessed numerous disturbing sightings over the years. Many palace visitors have fainted in the Haunted Gallery, overcome with emotion. Other visitors have reported an eerie presence, a drop in temperature, and having their hair pulled.

The Great Hall

The Hampton Court Palace Great Hall is an impressive space with historical significance to Catherine. It hosted grand banquets and many events during the reign of King Henry VIII. Modern visitors and paranormal enthusiasts have seen a woman in Tudor-royal finery wandering the hall. Some say a woman has whispered in their ear. Screams have also been heard.

The Chapel Royal

The Chapel is the sight of several chilling encounters and is home to a ghoul believed to be Catherine. People describe a woman kneeling at the altar in prayer. When they approach, she turns and her face transforms into a gruesome skull.

Some witnesses claim to have seen a figure dressed in white floating down the gallery towards the door of the Chapel, only to hurry back with a terrible look of despair.

The Queen’s Apartments

The beautiful chambers of the Queen’s private apartments must have seemed hellish to the Queen as she was held there under house arrest. Catherine’s ghost is spotted in several rooms. Many visitors recount a sudden chill or unease in the Queen’s Bedchamber. A spectral figure hovering by the bed is regularly seen.

People report hearing wailing sounds. Some feel watched as they move through this location.

The Council Chamber

Catherine’s interrogation and judgment took place in the Council Chamber.

Visitors have reported seeing a woman in a white gown staring out the window, perhaps mournfully contemplating her fate or yearning for freedom. People have experienced a feeling of being observed or a sudden drop in temperature in this chamber, steeped in political intrigue and machinations.

Other Ghosts At Hampton Court Palace

While Catherine’s ghost is the most prominent in Hampton Court Palace other apparitions also roam within its walls. Hampton Court Palace was built in 1514 for Cardinal Thomas Wolsey the chief minister of Henry VIII. It was given to King Henry in 1529; Catherine became part of the Court about ten years later.  

Today the site is a major tourist attraction where many visitors still feel the presence of the beheaded Queen. Given its storied history, it’s unsurprising that Catherine shares the space with other spooks, including:

  • Jane Seymour – Henry VIII’s third wife Jane Seymour died after giving birth to their son Prince Edward. A ghostly figure thought to be Jane Seymour made an appearance on Prince Edward’s birthday. She is reportedly still sighted today – often on a staircase holding a candle or in Clock Court.
  • Anne Boleyn – All of King Henry VIII’s wives lived at Hampton Court Palace. Anne Boleyn, Henry VIII’s second wife, is rumoured to haunt the Dean’s Cloister. Anne was beheaded for adultery. Visitors and staff have reported sightings of a phantom figure resembling Anne Boleyn. She usually wears a blue or black dress; sometimes she carries her severed head.
  • The Grey Lady – A Grey Lady features in many UK ghost stories and also haunts these halls. This Grey Lady is thought to be a former nursemaid named Sybil Penn who contracted smallpox from a young Queen Elizabeth I while nursing the monarch-to-be.
  • Skeletor – In 2003, a ghostly figure was captured on CCTV footage near Clock Court. Dressed in period garb, the man appeared in a fire doorway after the doors had burst open. The man shut the doors and disappeared inside. No one has been able to explain the appearance of the mysterious figure – nicknamed “Skeletor”.

Does Catherine’s Ghost Haunt The Tower Of London?

In February 1542, Catherine was manhandled onto a barge and transported 12 miles down the Thames to the Tower of London. She was led through the Traitor’s Gate and locked in a cell. A few days later, she was executed.

Despite her dark tragic end and the Tower being one of the UK’s most haunted places, there are not that many reports of Catherine Howard’s ghost haunting the location. Catherine’s cousin and the second wife of Henry VIII, Anne Boleyn, is a more famous Tower ghost. Her terrifying headless spectre has roamed the passages for centuries.

We would expect Catherine to be a restless spirit. Her restlessness may add to the collective energy of suffering, despair, death, and tragedy that pervades the Tower.


Are there ghost tours in Hampton Court Palace?

There are regular ghost walking tours at Hampton Court Palace, home to Britain’s monarchy for over two centuries (from Henry VIII to King George II). Tours typically take place in the early evening. To increase your chances of detecting Catherine and other eerie apparitions, take a ghost camera and detection equipment.

Is there photographic evidence of Catherine’s ghost at Hampton Court Palace?

Spectral images thought to be Catherine’s ghost regularly appear in photographs taken by visitors to the palace. A 2015 photo taken by coach driver Trevor Tye caused excitement because it appeared to show Catherine in the background on a marble staircase.

Final Thoughts

Catherine Howard’s short life was marked by pomp and ceremony, scandal and tragedy. Sympathetic historians portray her as a naive young girl who was used and manipulated by her family and older men.

Knowing her story makes it easier to understand the haunted, regretful and anguished spirit whose screams echo to this day.


Sam Ashford
Sam Ashford - Author

Hey, I'm Sam Ashford! I'm a ghost-hunting expert, writer and founder of SpiritShack. My mission is to help people like yourself learn about spirituality and how to hunt ghosts!