Chillingham Castle has been featured on many ghost hunting shows. Scariest Places on Earth, Ghost Hunters International, and Holiday Showdown, to name a few, have all taken a turn on the crazy whirligig of fun that is Chillingham. Safe to say, it’s the least chill place on earth.
Located in Chillingham, Northumberland, the castle was the first line of defense preventing Scots from getting over the border to invade England. Originally a monastery in the late 12th century, the structure became a fully fortified castle in 1344 and was the seat of the Grey and Bennet families from the 15th century right up to the 1980’s. If you’ve heard of the Grey monument in Newcastle upon Tyne or savored a mug of Earl Grey tea, you should know that the Grey family has greatly influenced the course of history.
In the 1300’s, The War of the Roses had torn the Grey family apart, their support split between Yorkists (Edward IV) and Lancastrians (Henry IV). The Lancastrians were the victors and the “winning side” of the family ordered 8 total executions of family members for high treason. They were hanged, drawn, and quartered. Sir Ralph Grey ordered his own son be put to death. The boy was hanged by the neck, cut down while still alive, his intestines were pulled from his abdomen, and he was quartered. His head was put on display at the gate as a warning.
In 1695, the Grey’s acquired the title of Earl of Tankerville, but had no son to to inherit it. (Perhaps if they’d refrained from killing the one they had..?) Lady Mary Grey married Charles Bennet who then inherited the title and brought the Bennet and Grey families together.
The following text read very much like an episode of Downton Abbey, Dowager Countess and all, so I’ll save you that frustration. I’m not saying it’s not valuable information. I’m saying I’d be here all day. Let’s skip ahead…
in 1344, King Edward III authorized battlements to be established at Chillingham in order to upgrade the structure into a stronghold and in 1617, after a visit from King James I (first king of England and Scotland), the moat was filled and the battlements were converted into residences. A banquet hall and a library were constructed.
During World War II, Chillingham housed soldiers and became a stronghold once again. Soldiers stripped much of the woodwork from the castle to burn for heat and pieces of a lead roof were removed, causing severe interior damage.
When the property was purchased in 1982 by Sir Humphry Wakefield, Second Baronet, whose wife was descended from the Grey’s of Chillingham, he set about restoring the structure to its former glory and opened sections of the castle to the public for tours.
The current owners of Chillingham market the castle as one of the most haunted places on earth. The structure has been investigated by paranormal investigators and has been featured on numerous television programs.
The most famous ghost, the Blue or, as he’s sometimes called, Radiant Boy is said to haunt the Pink Room. Guests claim a blue halo forms around the head of their bed and loud wailing can be heard. They then see the ghost of the boy at the foot of the bed. During some of the castles many renovations, the body of a small boy and some scraps of blue fabric were found within a wall that was roughly 10′ thick. Those who found the remains reported that the bones of the fingers had been completely worn down, suggesting that the boy had been walled up alive and had tried to scratch his way out. Visitors to the castle still claim to see the blue light above the bed, but chalk it up to faulty wiring. The owners of the castle assert that there is no wiring in that wall.
The spirit of Lady Berkeley, the wife of Lord Grey, was reportedly left alone with her daughter at Chillingham after Grey ran off with her sister. The rustle of her dress can sometimes be heard in the corridors as she wanders aimlessly awaiting her husband’s return. Guests also report a chill in the air and the sensation of being touched.
The dungeon at Chillingham was a literal hell on earth. Prisoners would have their legs broken and their limp bodies would be thrown 20′ down into a pit. Many Scottish prisoners were kept in the dungeon and marked their time by scratching it onto the walls. These marks still remain. Prisoners were starved and often had to resort to cannibalism of their fellow prisoners or, if they were truly desperate, began to eat pieces of themselves.
The torture chamber was controlled by John Sage, one of King Edwards best men in battle. Sage was equipped with every kind of torture device imaginable and used each with pleasure. It is said that Sage tortured men, women, and children at the rate of 50 people per week for over three years.
When the war ended, Sage realized he had amassed a large number of prisoners and, in order to be rid of them, he had them all brought to the Edward Room. Men and women were separated from children and brought to the courtyard where they were burned alive. The children, locked in the Edward room and awaiting their own fate, watched with horror. Once Sage finished with the adults, he took an ax and butchered the children. Guests who stay in the Edward Room report a strong smell of blood and the ax used in the massacre is on display in one of Chillingham’s stairwells.
Eventually, Sage got what was coming to him. A tribal leader had Sage tortured because he had supposedly killed the man’s daughter. Sage was strung up by his neck and his body was mutilated. His nose, testicles, and toes were cut off and he was left to die of his injuries. Locals who witnessed the event took pieces of Sage as souvenirs.
Over the years, many skeletal remains have been found inside the walls, in hidden rooms, in crawlspaces, and in sections of the castle that have been walled up for decades. Two bodies, a man and a boy, have even been found within an old stone vault that had been walled up. There is no identification for these remains.
With all the dark history surrounding Chillingham, it is no wonder that the place is so active. Visitors report a feeling of overwhelming sadness hanging over the entire location and it is a rare occurrence to leave Chillingham unchanged by the experience. Visitors report their hair being pulled, being scratched and bitten by the unseen, and being touched by disembodied hands. Cold spots are often felt and orbs are often seen.
Hundreds of recordings and photographs stand as a testament to the activity at Chillingham Castle. It seems as if it will never outlive its past and is doomed to forever be a gateway for the horrors of the past.
Have you ever visited Chillingham Castle? Leave us a note in the comments.
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