Britain's National Trust, which looks after the country's many historic buildings and monuments, has listed the Top 10 most haunted locations in Britain. Britain is often regarded as the most haunted country in the world, with more ghost sightings per square kilometre than any other country.

At the top of the National Trust's list is Blickling Hall in Norfolk, where the headless ghost of Anne Boleyn is often seen in a coach with her head in her lap drawn by a headless horseman and Dunster Castle in Somerset where a man in green is seen and the voices of 17th century English Civil War troops who were garrisoned there can be heard.

Perhaps the least terrifying National Trust ghost is that of the Victorian prime minister Benjamin Disraeli. Nick Phillips, the property manager at Hughenden, Disraeli's Buckinghamshire manor house, said female guests had reported a Victorian gentleman smiling at them from the bottom of the staircase.

Like many famous haunted locations throughout Britain each year, these places are sure to receive more vistors over the Haloween period ......

National Trust releases top 10 haunted hotspots

By Eluned Price and Adam Lusher
Daily Mail

Preferably headless, rattling chains optional, but soul wandering the earth for eternity essential: it is what those of a ghoulish persuasion may want to see this Hallowe'en week — a ghost.

Unhappy returns: Blickling Hall in Norfolk where the headless ghost of Anne Boleyn is said to appear

To assist in this quest the National Trust has released a top 10 list of its most haunted historic properties.

In at number one is Blickling Hall, Norfolk, described by the National Trust as a "magnificent Jacobean house famed for its fine tapestries, rare books and reputedly the headless ghost of Anne Boleyn".

Henry VIII's second wife, beheaded in 1536, took Blickling to the top spot with the help of her "fellow residents": Sir John Fastolfe, the 15th century knight whose name was adapted for Shakespeare's comic character Falstaff, and Sir Henry Hobart, killed in a duel in 1698.

"Oh yes, those three," said Jan Brookes, Blickling's house manager calmly. "Some of our visitors do mention them, especially around May 19, the anniversary of Anne's death.

"One or two of our volunteers report little bits too: the 'Grey Lady', someone coming through the wall and disappearing again… but then, this is a very old house with a lot of clanking in the pipes."

National Trust officials chose their top 10 on how often the spirits appeared, the celebrity of the ghost, and whether it offered "something that little bit different".

Anne, for example, is said to appear with her head on her lap, sitting in a coach drawn by a horse with a headless rider.

Other properties with ghosts roaming the corridors include Dunster Castle, Somerset, where even the gift shop is haunted. Shop staff have reported a general air of menace, a "mysterious man in green" and stock inexplicably falling from the shelves.

The selection was made with the help of Siân Evans, the author of Ghosts: Mysterious Tales from the National Trust, who insists that at least 200 of the 630 attractions open to the public are haunted.

Miss Evans said that most National Trust ghosts were harmless. She added, however: "The trust does exorcise some properties. It doesn't shout about it, though."

Perhaps the least terrifying National Trust ghost is that of the Victorian prime minister Benjamin Disraeli. Nick Phillips, the property manager at Hughenden, -Disraeli's Buckinghamshire manor house, said female guests had reported a Victorian gentleman smiling at them from the bottom of the staircase.

• 'Ghosts' by Siân Evans is published by the National Trust. To order, at the special price of £9.99 (rrp £14.99) plus free UK p&p please call 0870 787 1613 and quote reference CH810.

Britain's Ghostly Top 10

1. Blickling Hall, Norfolk
The National Trust has released a list of Britain's top ten haunted houses in time for Hallowe'en

At number one is Blickling Hall in Norfolk, built on the site of Anne Boleyn's ancestral home. Her headless ghost is often seen on the anniversary of her execution (19th May)

When Anne was told she would be beheaded in 1536, she reputedly said: "I shall be known as La Reine sans tête ('The Headless Queen’)"

On the anniversary of her execution, her ghost allegedly appears, severed head on her lap, in a coach drawn by a headless horseman

2. Dunster Castle, Somerset
Dating from the Norman times, the ancient castle of Dunster in Somerset is a popular haunting ground for ghosts

Staff at the National Trust shop have noted the presence of a mysterious man dressed in green who wanders aimlessly through the old stable block, while inside the castle the voices of 17th century civil war troops who were garrisoned there can be heard

3. Quarry Bank Mill, Cheshire
Quarry Bank Mill in Cheshire is the oldest commercial working mill operating in Britain

The Apprentice House, built in 1790 to house the 90 children who worked in the mill, is reportedly home to a curious collection of female ghosts who once worked there

4. Newton House, Dinefwr, Carmarthenshire
In the 18th Century, Lady Elinor Cavendish was betrothed to a man she didn’t love and fled to her family in Newton House, Dinefwr, Carmarthenshirem

Her enraged suitor tracked her down and strangled her there, and since then visitors have reported muffled voices in empty rooms, and invisible hands squeezing their throats

5. Gibside Hall, Tyne and Wear
It is believed that the spirit of The Unhappy Countess, Mary Eleanor Bowes, the Countess of Strathmore haunts the grounds of Gibside, Tyne and Wear

Mary's husband treated her with terrible cruelty there, and now a ghostly organ can sometimes be heard playing inside a locked chapel, while the figure of a woman has been spotted among the oaks near the orangery

6. Lyme Park, Cheshire
phantom funeral cortege is said to pass through the park encircling Lyme Park, Cheshire, while behind the procession walks a woman in white

It is believed the ghosts mourn Sir Piers Leigh, who died from wounds sustained fighting the French at the siege of Meaux in 1422

7. Lanhydrock, Cornwall
Lanhydrock in Cornwall is thought to be home to several ghosts, including a man rumoured to be hanged outside the gatehouse by Civil War Royalists

8. Hughenden Manor, Buckinghamshire (pictured)
Former Prime Minister Benjamin Disraeli and his wife Mary Anne adored their country home, Hughenden Manor, Buckinghamshire, and seemed reluctant to leave

Disraeli has allegedly been spotted in the basement, in the smoking room (now a staff office), and smiling at guests at the foot of the stairs

9. Powis Castle, Powys

Visitors to Powis Castle, Powys, report seeing a lady in black, or feeling an invisible hand touch their arm

In the ballroom wing, a grand piano was said to have played haunting tunes despite being placed within an empty, locked room

10. Belton House, Lincolnshire
The Gentleman in Black is said to stalk the Queen’s bedroom of Belton House, Lincolnshire

Those who have encountered him say he is a tall gangly individual, his features partly obscured by a black hat and cape.


October 21, 2007
The Times

Get spooked in Britain's haunted houses over Halloween

It’s Hallowe’en, the time sensible people avoid haunted houses. But Vincent Crump isn’t sensible

I’m under the eiderdown in the Tapestry Room at Muncaster Castle when it begins. A bizarre guttural sound, vibrating through the other end of the room. It seems to emanate from somewhere by the window, under the scowling portrait of the third Lady Muncaster, just near the mark on the carpet that looks disturbingly like blood.

Forgive the capital letters, but WHAT IN GOD’S NAME CAN IT BE? It rises and fills the space, and I clench the covers more tightly to my chin – this being the internationally recognised method of protecting oneself against vampires, werewolves and other hell-fiends. The sound is not a figment of my imagination – it is expanding now, swelling into a hateful, high-pitched rasp. That’s when the dread truth hits me. It’s the 11.17pm from Manchester to New York.

What a ninny. It’s not even midnight yet. Considering I’ve spent the whole evening telling everybody I’m unspookable, my allnight vigil at “Britain’s most haunted castle” has not begun nobly.

Every self-respecting stately home has its ghost story – a miasmic White Lady or a bloke with his head under his arm. It’s good for tourism. But you’ve got to hand it to the Pennington family, castellans of Muncaster since 1208. Spirited away on the lonesome shores of west Cumbria, at the wrong end of England’s scariest mountain pass, they go the extra mile to attract fright-hungry visitors.

The Penningtons are not content with having a set of creepy turrets, a graveyard in the garden and some seriously nasty murders in their history. They have filled the castle grounds with creatures of ill omen – the World Owl Centre is based here, guaranteeing a bloodcurdling dead-of-night screech or two. On winter evenings, they illuminate their ugliest trees with spectral smoke and sinister light effects. They employ a wizened charwoman, “Mad Eileen”, who gibbers in the Great Hall about how she has “the power of the second sight”. They’ve even got their own personal ghostbuster, who turns up twice a year to investigate Muncaster’s mixed bag of hauntings.

Actually, this is where it gets interesting. Jason Braithwaite is no overgrown schoolboy with a paranormal fetish. He’s a doctor of cognitive neuropsychology at Birmingham University, who doesn’t believe in ghosts, but happens to think that when enough people report bumps in the night, something must be afoot.

Cue Peter Frost-Pennington, vet turned castle-keeper, who married into the Muncaster clan 20 years ago. A plausible sort, in trim beard and corduroys, he shows me around the family pile and its aristocratic treasures: cockfighting chairs, Crimean medicine chests, portraits of uncles eaten by bears, that kind of thing.

The oddest item is in the library: a glass dome protecting a sensor plugged into a laptop computer. Wavy lines pulse across the screen. “This is Jason’s rig,” Peter explains. “He’s working on the theory that anomalous magnetic fields might trigger hallucinations in some people’s brains, so that they imagine they’ve seen ghostly activity. I call it our spectre detector.”

All fascinating, but I haven’t come all this way for illusory monsters. I’m after proper, ectoplasmic stuff. And, as darkness begins to bunch around the mossy crenellations of the castle, we follow our torches out into the moonlit graveyard, where Peter talks me through Muncaster’s cast of undead ancestors.

“Most sightings are of Mary Bragg,” he says, “a housekeeper who was hanged on the old tree outside the castle gates by a love rival. They found her in the river; her face had been devoured by eels. Her ghost is often seen out in the road, a restless figure shrouded in shadows.” Of course – a White Lady.

Peter creaks back the door of the estate church, where we examine the memorial to Margaret Pennington, who died aged 11 in 1871, having been possessed with “screaming fits”. Could she be the child sometimes heard softly sobbing in the Tapestry Room, Muncaster’s most haunted bedchamber, where I’ll be quartered for the night?

We crunch along the drive and Peter’s torch alights on Tom Fool’s Tree, the haunt of Tom Skelton, Muncaster’s dastardly 16th-century jester. Skelton is reputed to have inspired the Fool in King Lear, and he was nasty: his favourite gag was to send lost travellers into the quicksands down in the Esk estuary.

“His darkest hour was when he murdered his sworn enemy, the estate carpenter,” Peter says. “He lured him to the Tapestry Room and beheaded him – using the man’s own hammer and chisel.” Aha! A phantom head-carrier.

There’s no putting it off any longer. Time to be ghoul bait. We hurry indoors, out of the night, and upstairs onto the creaky landing. There to greet us is Tom Skelton, glaring malevolently in the half-light. It is a very unsettling painting.

The Tapestry Room, it must be said, looks the part. It’s like something out of an MR James story – the ones where people are forced to lodge with a sinister squire, and wake up to find their palms are covered in hair. There is a tiny four-poster, barely coffin size, and a vast Tudor hearth, its firedog adorned with grinning devils. There are sepia photographs of dead-eyed children – including the unfortunate Margaret Pennington, staring out vacantly beside my bed. And it is freezing: several degrees colder than the rest of the (not terribly toasty) castle.

Peter thrusts a tatty logbook in my hand: the handwritten accounts of previous Tapestry Room survivors. “Bedtime reading,” he almost cackles. “Good night, and good luck.”

So, huddled under the sheets of the oldest bed I’ve ever slept in, I turn the pages on tale after tale of echoing voices, dragging noises, doorknob-rattlings, weepings, gnashings and spectral lullaby-singing, “as of a nurse comforting a dying child”. Brrrrrrr.

Suddenly, 2am. I must have dozed off. Pitch black. The lamp’s dead. Did I turn it out? Then a long, shrill note from the landing. Bravely, I think, I pad out barefoot, and freeze there, on the icy floorboards. Downstairs, a clock chimes. Time stops. Tom Skelton eyes me murderously. Then, no question about it, I hear a footfall on the stair.

It’s somewhere behind me. My body goes taut, my breath catches. I don’t remember the ground moving beneath me, but instantly I’m back in bed, heart somersaulting, cursing myself for losing my nerve and not investigating further.

Then there’s a ghastly metallic scraping noise – not a dragging, more like a chain clanking . . . and . . . and . . . the unmistakable sound of Mrs Pennington’s lavatory flushing across the corridor.

The Tapestry Room at Muncaster (01229 717614,www.muncaster.co.uk (external - login to view)) is available for “ghost sits” year-round: it accommodates six, though there are only two small beds. One night starts at £405, B&B, including ghost walk.

The grounds are illuminated after dusk, and open until 9pm (£7, children £5). Admission to the castle, with audio tour, costs £2.50/£1.50 extra. This week (October 22-28 and 31), there will be nightly Hallowe’en ghost tours – £3.50/£2.

The castle offers B&B and self-catering accommodation in converted stables and granaries; doubles from £60. Or there is the rather swish Pennington Hotel (01229 717222, www.thepennington.co.uk (external - login to view)), in nearby Ravenglass; doubles from £120.

More Hallowe’en spooktaculars

With its labyrinth of cobwebby underground tunnels, Dover Castle (01304 211067, www.english-heritage.org.uk (external - login to view)) has a head start in the spook stakes, and a better class of ghost – including the headless Charles I. This week, you’re guaranteed a sighting, as the castle’s apparitions come to spine-chilling life.Tours daily from tomorrow until November 2; £10, children £5.

Meet the wheyfaced undertaker for a stalk through the haunted history of Blenheim (0870 060 2080, www.blenheimpalace.com (external - login to view)) – but beware an appearance by Grace Ridley, the first duchess’s undead maid. Tremulous souls might prefer a ghost-train ride to the palace pleasure gardens.Daily until October 28; £16, children £9.75.

Why settle for visiting a spooky castle when you can haunt one yourself? The wonderfully gothic Powderham Castle (01626 890243, www.powderham.co.uk (external - login to view)) has had its Grey Lady for centuries, but this week’s Hallowe’en tours, designed for under13s, will add a few more apparitions – fancy dress is very much encouraged. Daily except Saturday; £8, children £6.

Holmwood House (0844 493 2204, www.nts.org.uk (external - login to view)) would make a fab setting for a Hammer horror movie: still being restored, it has peeling wallpaper, broken staircases and lots of dark dead ends. The tour includes the haunted dining room and the ghost ballroom, with its infernal pianist. Admission £5, children £4.

Last edited by Blackleaf; Oct 28th, 2007 at 01:44 PM..