The Chilling History of Chillingham Castle
Haunted places don’t come more spine-tingling and scary than Chillingham, a 13th-century Grade I Star-listed castle that stands majestically in the serene countryside of Northumberland.
This imposing private castle, continuously owned by just one family line, has a history rich with royal visits. Edward I visited it in 1298, and it has since hosted many other royal visits throughout the centuries.
But don’t be fooled by the look of this romantic and thriving castle, it contends for the title of the most haunted castle in the UK!
You might say it’s more than a coincidence that “chilling” forms part of its name, considering the eerie tales that envelop this medieval castle.
Originally constructed as a peaceful 12-century monastery, its strategic placement thrust it into the midst of the bloody conflict between Scotland and England in the 1200s.
The Grey and the Bennet Families
From the 15th century through the 1980s, Chillingham Castle was a significant residence for both the Grey and Bennett families.
The castle’s storied history highlights the prominence of the Grey family, in particular. Quite a few of them, 18 to be exact, were part of the Most Noble Order of the Garter, which served to tie influential nobles closely to the King.
But, it wasn’t all posh tea parties and grand balls for them. Some family members were a bit too rebellious for their own good, leading to eight of them facing some pretty grim ends, from being hanged and displayed on city gates to just losing their heads!
It gets much more grim. It’s claimed that the darkest time at Chillingham Castle was mostly at the hands of the resident torturer, John Sage.
Also known as “John Dragfoot” and “The Butcher of the Scots,” John had a notorious reputation. He had a real distaste for the Scots and became a ruthless executioner. Stories say he was behind the agonising deaths of over 7,500 people, many of whom saw painful demises.
But karma is a thing, and John’s own end wasn’t any less grim. The story goes that after accidentally causing the death of the girl he loved, her father sought revenge and John met his end at Chillingham.
The Infamous Ghostly Residents
Imagine exploring grand halls and elegant tearooms by day, only to encounter the eerie ambience of a torture chamber at night. And the supernatural residents? Well, let’s just say they’re known to be “lively.”
After all, as one of the most haunted castles, it’s only natural it would have a few ghost stories.
Lady Mary Berkeley – AKA ‘The Grey Lady’
First, there’s Lady Mary Berkeley, otherwise known as the Grey Lady. What’s a haunted castle without a Grey Lady, right?
The tale behind Lady Mary is a heartbreaking one. She met her end in 1719 but was once the wife of Lord Grey of Wark and Chillingham. The twist in her story? Her adulterous husband ran off with her very own sister, Henrietta. Left alone with her child, a devastated Lady Mary roamed the castle corridors, waiting for a husband who would never return.
Today, many visitors claim to feel a sudden cold or hear the soft sound of rustling silk, believed to be Lady Mary still on her eternal wait.
The Blue “Radiant” Boy
The Blue Boy, also known as the “Radiant Boy”, is a well-known spectral resident of the castle’s Pink Room. Legend says that at midnight, mournful cries echo through the room, followed by a mysterious blue glow. Some say it’s a young boy in blue clothes.
The eerie part? During a 20th-century renovation, workers stumbled upon a child’s bones wrapped in old blue fabric hidden in the walls. Today, some recent visitors swear they’ve seen that same blue glow in the Pink Room.
The White Pantry Ghost
In the castle, there is a spot called the ‘Inner Pantry’, which was once a secure storage for the castle’s silver. To ensure its safety, a footman would sleep there.
One particular night, this footman was startled by the unexpected presence of a lady dressed in white, appearing frail and asking for water.
Initially believing she was a castle guest, he soon released the room was locked from the inside. No one should be there! This mysterious lady still appears from time to time, and some reckon her thirst for water might hint she was poisoned.
The Haunted Rooms of Chillingham Castle
Ghost hunters and thrill seekers, here’s your chance to delve deep into the mysteries of Chillingham Castle! There are plenty of ghost tours on offer, so you can explore some of the most haunted rooms in the castle.
- The Torture Chamber – Now open to visitors, this chamber is a ghastly showcase of the infamous John Sage’s torture instruments, including the likes of “the Wheel”, “the Iron Maiden”, “the Iron Chair”, and the spine-chilling “Rack”. But, the room you see isn’t the original torture chamber. The real ones are concealed below the Tea Room, sealed after a disastrous séance.
- The Courtyard – A place of tragic history. After the Scottish-English War, prisoners were mercilessly burned alive here. Some visitors have reported glimpses of apparitions and disembodied voices.
- The Room of King Edward – A room that holds the dark history of dead children after the war. Now, a menacing presence dwells here. Reports of this entity being aggressive make this room not for the faint-hearted. In fact, one brave visitor said “The guide told me not to be frightened, and funnily I was quite happy, even with the distinct whispering I heard in the King Edward Room”.
- The Chapel – Unearthed skeletons here hint at stories untold. Visitors often feel a gentle tug on their hair, believed to be from the spirit of a young girl who rests underneath the floor.
- The Still Room and Dungeon – An enticing location for those daring enough to spend the night. Legend speaks of a curse by a dying Spanish witch that promises misfortune to those who steal from the castle. The connecting Dungeon, with its chilling blackness and cold, houses a cell that hides a murder pit, where injured prisoners met their grim fate.
Are there ghost tours available at Chillingham Castle?
For those eager to delve into the mysteries of Chillingham Castle, guided ghost tours offer a chance to explore these haunted rooms. You can go with just your wits or take some handy ghost-hunting equipment with you to explore the castle’s eerie past.
Besides ghost tours, what else can you do at Chillingham Castle?
The castle commands breathtaking views of the surrounding countryside, so nature lovers will feel right at home while exploring the grounds. Additionally, guests can wander through the lovely gardens or relax and enjoy refreshments in the tearoom.
Are there more haunted castles in the UK?
With such a dark and storied past, Chillingham Castle beckons the brave and curious. It seems every nook, cranny, and corner of this once-fortified castle houses a ghost.
Whether you’re here for the views, the history, or the haunts, Chillingham guarantees an unforgettable experience. Venture if you dare, but remember, the castle’s name isn’t just for show!