Castles are some of the most fascinating places in the world – even more so when they are haunted. As Halloween approaches, take a spooky ride with us as we explore ten of Europe’s most haunted castles...
Thornbury Castle, England
The earliest account of Thornbury and the manor exists in the time of King Athelstan (A.D. 925-940), who was grandson of King Alfred the Great, so it is safe to say Thornbury Castle has seen its fair share of faces pass through the great oak doors. There is many a story regarding the unusual goings on at this renowned English castle hotel and, after spending the afternoon with Valerie, the castle's in-house historian, I'm sure you're curiosity will be piqued! Take a look at the video above to hear of one of Valerie's encounters with Thornbury's uninvited guests!
Dragsholm Slot Hotel, Denmark
It’s little wonder that this castle is haunted – built back in the 12th century by the Roskilde bishop, many people have passed through the doors of this castle in its time, including kings, queens and noblemen. There are reportedly over 100 ghosts in residence at the castle, but three of them are spotted more than the rest – a grey lady, a white lady and the Earl of Bothwell.
The grey lady worked at the hotel as a maiden and apparently, when she died, she couldn’t bear to leave – as the story goes, she comes back to the castle every night to make sure that everything is okay. The white lady has a more tragic story – she fell in love with the son of one of the owners of the castle. Because she was poor and he was rich, they kept their relationship secret – but the son’s father caught them and was so furious that he ordered the servants of the castle to brick her into a wall of the castle whilst she was still alive. In the 1930’s, a wall of the castle was torn down and a skeleton was found inside. The white lady is often seen walking the corridors of the castle late at night.
The third ghost at the castle, the Earl of Bothwell, was captured in the cellars of the castle in the 1500s. He was kept imprisoned for five years, and it’s said that during the last year of his life his mind failed and he went mad. Now, he’s heard riding in his horse carriage in the castle grounds – many guests at the castle have reported hearing the clatter of horse hooves on the ground in the middle of the night.
Dalhousie Castle, Scotland
The countryside surrounding Dalhousie Castle is some of the most peaceful, picturesque countryside anywhere in the United Kingdom. Set within acres of wooded parkland on the beautiful banks of the River Esk, it’s easy to see why so many people flock to the castle each year for weddings and romantic getaways. Dating back to the 13th century, Dalhousie was once a fortress – but it’s now an exclusive hotel getaway.
But hidden amongst the splendour and exclusivity is the ghost of Lady Catherine of Dalhousie, the daughter of some of the previous owners of the castle. Catherine fell in love at a young age and her parents forbid her from seeing her boyfriend – prompting Catherine to lock herself into the top room of the castle and starve herself to death. Catherine is still seen today wandering the grounds of the castle – a figure of grey seen most often around the turrets and the dungeons.
It’s also said to be haunted by the ghost of Sir Alexander Ramsay – probably one of the oldest ghosts in Scotland! In 1342, he starved to death and since then he has been seen wandering the halls and grounds of the hotel. Ghostly activity is very common at the hotel, prompting Dalhousie to set up ghost tours for guests to see the spooky happenings for themselves.
Brissac Castle, France
(Photo courtesy of Octave de Rochebrune)
Brissac Castle (also known as Château de Briccas) in France is the tallest castle in France, a whopping seven stories high, nestled in the heart of the Loire Valley in the charming village of Brissac, often referred to as a “chocolate box” village. Step inside the walls of Brissac castle and into one of its historical bedrooms adorned with period furniture and you’ll be transported back in time – but you might also come across one of the castle’s ghosts – Jacque de Breze’s wife Charlotte and her lover.
Legend has it that Charlotte started an affair with a young man, in the bedroom right next door to her husband – she was apparently very indiscrete about the affair and would make love to the young man whilst her husband was at home, keeping him awake throughout the night with the sounds of their passion.
Poor Jacque was devastated by the affair and although no-one knows for sure, it’s thought that Jacque might have had something to do with Charlotte and her lover’s sudden disappearance. But it seems that the two lovers were not content with being together in death – instead, they continued to haunt Jacque and the sounds of their passion continued to fill the castle walls, long after their demise. Jacque eventually went mad and fled the castle, but the ghosts of Charlotte and her lover are said to still linger at there.
Chillingham Castle, England
Chillingham Castle is marketed as the most haunted castle in Britain – and it is absolutely one of the most stunning buildings in England. Dating back to the 12th century, it became a fully-fledged fortified castle in 1344. Kings and queens stayed at the castle way back in the 12th and 13th centuries – and since then, hardly any architectural additions have been made. Much of the building that still stands today dates back to the 12th century – so with such an old building, it’s not really a surprise that the hotel is haunted by numerous ghosts.
Probably the most well-known ghost of Chillingham is the “blue boy”, also known as the “radiant boy”. He’s thought to haunt the Pink Room and guests of this room have reported seeing blue flashes of light, or sometimes a blue halo above their bed after hearing a long, loud wailing noise. These hauntings slowed down when parts of the hotel were renovated – two bodies were found inside a ten-foot thick wall, that of a small boy and an older man. Other ghosts have also been spotted at the hotel, however – that of a woman known as Lady Mary, as well as the ghost of a tortured child. Eight very famous executions happened at the castle, and because these executions were so gruesome – the heads of the dead were chopped off and displayed on the city gates as a warning to other wrong-doers, the ghosts of the executed are thought to still haunt the castle today.
Tulloch Castle, Scotland
Tulloch Castle is a picturesque castle located in the heart of the Scottish countryside in the pretty market town of Dingwall. It’s believed to have been built way back in the 12th century, although the first residents don’t appear in history until the 16th century. It was owned by the Bain family from the 16th century to the 18th century, when it was bought by the Davidson family who owned it until the 20th century. In the 1940s Tulloch was used as a hospital for casualties of Dunkirk, and up until 1976, it was used as a hostel for students who were studying at the nearby Dingwall Academy.
Over the years, literally hundreds of people have called Tulloch castle their home – so it is no surprise that a few of these presences still linger here. One clairvoyant who visited the castle reports being tickled on the head by a young blonde male spirit of about six or seven, who giggled as he tickled her. The clairvoyant also spotted a guard named Edmund who was “going back to the 16th century”. She said that he quite literally stopped her in her tracks.
Perhaps the most famous ghost of Tulloch castle is that of the Green Lady – a sad, elegant lady who appears in a long silk dress. It’s thought that the Green Lady might actually be that of Elizabeth Davidson, the daughter of a former owner. The Green Lady is said to be a very sad ghost, and when guests or staff spot her, they have a feeling of overwhelming sadness. If you’re lucky enough to hear her speak, you might just catch her whispering “Why?” over and over.
Numerous orbs, said to be human souls, have also been captured on camera at the hotel. In the Pink Room, the ghost of a former maid is still said to pace the floor, and in guest room number 8, a former guest of the hotel was pinned down against his bed by an unseen force. Room 8 is also said to be home to numerous orbs and when the room was investigated, unexplained clicks, bangs and thuds were heard and recorded on camera.
Castle Leslie, Ireland
Castle Leslie is an excellent example, rather oddly as it is located in Ireland, of traditional Scottish Baronial architecture. It was designed in 1870 for Sir John Leslie, former MP, where it stands on the site of a former castle that was never used for defensive purposes. The castle is set within a 1,000 acre estate, complete with three stunning lakes, meandering streams and plenty of forestland. One of the lakes is called Dream Lake; very aptly named as the views across the lake, particularly on horseback, are stunning. Castle Leslie is also home to numerous ghosts, however, including that of Norman Leslie.
The most well-known ghost tale of Castle Leslie is that of the Red Room, which used to be where Lady Marjorie, Norman Leslie’s mother called home. Norman Leslie was killed in action during WW1 and since then, his ghost has been said to frequent the Red Room. Lady Marjorie actually saw Norman’s ghost – she awoke one night to see him standing at the foot of her bed reading through some papers. When she asked him what he was doing, he turned and disappeared through a wall.
Lady Constance Leslie, another member of the Leslie clan, passed away in 1925. She is said to still frequent the castle – in particular, the Mauve Bedroom, where she was said to levitate the bed. It’s thought that the Mauve Bedroom is where she stays most often, so perhaps this was her living quarters when she was still alive.
Numerous visitors have also reported seeing ghostly figures of grey roaming the castle’s corridors and grounds. The spectre of a monk, who is said to be a particularly noisy ghost – he is thought to create a racket wherever he goes, has also been spotted by guests and staff alike, along with the ghostly presence of a man dressed in black. Bells have also been heard ringing at the castle in the dead of the night, with no apparent cause.
Ballyseede Castle, Ireland
Ballyseede Castle has been referred to as one of the most “exquisite” castle hotels in the Ireland – and with very good reason. The bedrooms at the castle are decorated in an elegant, period style with views across the castle grounds. Ballyseede was originally occupied by the Earls of Desmond, but because they didn’t swear their allegiance to the crown, wars broke out that were known as the Geraldine Wars. The wars came to an end when the 16th Earl of Desmond was beheaded and his head displayed at London Bridge. Step into the castle and you’ll be surprised at the splendour – especially if you know about its grizzly history.
Ballyseede is said to still be haunted by the ghosts of previous landlords of the hotel – it seems that they are still fighting for ownership of the castle, even in death. One ghost in particular, Hilda, is said to appear every year on March 24th. The first year that Hilda appeared, in 1998, the guests that were staying at the castle fled the hotel in fright, and they were last seen in a local library asking for a book on ghosts as they had “seen a spirit”.
However, it seems that the ghost of Hilda has changed – before 1998, it was said that Hilda was a friendly ghost, not known to show any malevolence towards guests. Guests at the hotel throughout the years have also reported hearing strange bangs and thuds in the middle of the night with no apparent explanation, whilst one previous worker at the hotel has reported seeing a wardrobe banging and crashing in a room that he was working in – and he refused to ever go back into the room again.
Ackergill Tower Castle, Scotland
Ackergill Tower is known to be one of the most exclusive castles in the world. Tucked away in the heart of the Scottish Highlands, Ackergill is in a fantastic location – right next to the sea, but also right next to the beautiful countryside of Scotland. Ackergill’s many rooms offer a wide range of accommodation choices – and throughout the years, royalty and celebrities alike have called Ackergill their home. With so many people passing through its magnificent doors, it is no surprise that a few of those people have lingered – still calling Ackergill their home today.
Ackergill Tower was home to the Keith family in the 15th century. As was common at that time, the Keith family were in a feud with another family – the Gunn family. This was a particularly bloody feud, however – murders and revenge murders were committed on either side, until one day, one of the daughters of the Gunn family, Helen Gunn, was abducted by a member of the Keith family. She either jumped or fell from the castle tower when she was trying to escape and she is now seen still wandering around the castle corridors and grounds as either a green lady or a lady in red with tall black hair.
Moosham Castle, Austria
(Photo courtesy of ShareAlike)
Moosham castle is a stunning example of Austrian architecture – and although its formal name is Moosham castle, it is also known as the Witches castle. It dates way back to 1191, although the first owners of the castle were the Archbishops of Salzburg, who owned the castle from 1285 right through to the 14th century. In the 14th century, Moosham became the headquarters of the district judge, and in 1680, the witch trials began.
In 1680, thousands of young women – no-one is sure of the exact number – were sentenced to death. They were accused of being witches, and because they had no defence, they were tortured, tormented and killed in chambers within the castle dungeon. Because of the castle’s gruesome past, numerous famous paranormal teams have investigated it over the years with some surprising results.
One of the women that was killed at the castle is said to have been particularly evil – she’s thought to have genuinely been a witch and she hasn’t wanted to leave the castle since her gruesome death. Perhaps she wants to give the owners of the castle a fright as payback? Numerous spooky spectres, thought to be slaughtered witches, have been spotted at the castle.
Moosham is also thought to be the lair of the werewolf. Throughout the 1800s, many deer and cattle were found dead around the castle. Because of this, many residents were tried, imprisoned and some of them killed for being werewolves.
About the Author
Haunted Rooms is UK & Ireland's premier haunted hotel directory. Whether you're looking for a spooky night in a haunted castle, or a night of ghost hunting, Haunted Rooms can help you find that night of fright you're after. If you're from the US, they also have a vast collection of Haunted Hotels in America here: www.hauntedrooms.com.
If you want a bump in the night, you can also speak to any member of the Celtic Castles team and they can share their experiences when staying in haunted castles. You can speak to one of our experts or call us 7 days a week on +44 (0)1422 323 200.