10 Great places to visit at Halloween (UK)

If you’re looking for some ideas on where to go this Halloween, here is a list of places worth visiting:

Chillingham Castle dungeon (Ok, so I’ve not actually been here, but it’s high on my to-do list)

Hellfire Caves, West Wycombe (Spooky…great for the kids)

The real Mary Kings Close & Greyfriars Kirkyard, Edinburgh (Spooky as hell)

Highgate Cemetery (Serene rather than spooky)

Leeds Castle (Not in Leeds)

Brighton Ghost Walk

Haunted house, York (A bit cheesy but at least there’s a shop!)

Oxford Castle

Chester Ghost Walk

Warwick Castle (Quite commercial) & Kenilworth Castle (Ruin)

For more great spooky ideas, visit: mumsnet

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A little ghost hunting trip to Clophill

After years of talking about it, finally my friend and I made the journey to the small Bedfordshire village of Clophill in search of the infamous Church of St Mary the Virgin.

It’s not the first time I’d visited that particular location, but my previous trip was so long ago I can scarcely remember.  

With two cars loaded down with kids and picnics, we traveled the short distance and headed for the Church.  

Having left the sanctuary of my warm/dry car, we got half way up the hill when the heavens opened. I don’t just mean a little rain, it was torrential and of course we had no coats and only one umbrella. Hunkering down in some non-water-resistant bushes, we waited out the storm and eventually it eased off enough for us to continue.

Awaiting us, at the top of the hill,  were the ruins of the derelict old church. With the rain still coming down, the beauty of the surrounding countryside seemed deadened by dreariness. The ruins stood in a melancholy, desolate state, and seemed pleased to have some visitors on such a dismal day.

For a while we took shelter inside what’s left of the tower, but with no roof, it bestowed little shelter. Determined to make the most of our trip, we scouted the location and took plenty of photographs. 

The church is more renowned for attracting devil-worshipers than spirits, but aside from the expected graffiti, we felt the church was undeserving of such a dark reputation. Bright wild flowers, and butterflies decorated the long forgotten graveyard, and the kids played hide and seek in the long/wet grass.

This time our visit was cut short due to the persistent rain, but we will go back, and unpack our picnics on the meadow, which promises such wonderful views. Or perhaps we’ll save our next trip to a more atmospheric time of year, and see if the church is indeed deserving of its reputation.

My latest ghostly encounter

So I was at the pub, as I often am, and had to visit the little girls room. In this particular pub, the loos are situated on the top floor. I was alone when I went into the toilets, and there was no one else in there. I entered one of the cubicles and closed the door behind me. Anyway, while I was ahem, peeing, the door took an almighty boot from the outside. I was so shocked I nearly fell off the loo. The most frightening thing was knowing I had to open that door and face whatever or whoever was on the other side of it. There was, of course no one there. The toilets were still empty. None of the other doors had rattled, and there was no draft- not that a draft could bang a closed door like that. So I am surmising- the Black Horse Inn, in Great Linford is…haunted!!!
black horse inn

Our Spooky Weekend in York

What a weekend! So, I’m back from a lovely weekend milling around York with friends; sight seeing, shopping, eating, drinking and – yes – Ghost Hunting!

We started our weekend by visiting Clifford’s Tower. The tower is renowned for the mass suicide/massacre of hundreds of Jews during the twelfth century. Although the wooden keep as it was, is no longer there, the beautiful stone keep still holds the memories. The walls list heavily and climbing the spiral staircases really made my head spin. The stone walls that are said to run with the blood of the Jews are dank and blackened by pollution but you can really get a vibe of unease within them. One of our cameras failed to work at one point so when we tried another, a large orb came out clearly on the photo – spooky!

http://www.cliffordstower.com

We followed the city walls to our next stop, the grave of the famous highwayman – Dick Turpin. Now, to me he is most famous for riding his horse, Black Bess, from London to York in one day, but if this feat was ever to have been achieved, it wasn’t by Turpin. It was by a fellow highwayman named John Nevison, although it’s very unlikely that it ever actually happened at all.

In 1739 Dick Turpin was hanged by the short drop method meaning he suffocated as his windpipe was crushed. His body is said to lie in St Georges graveyard but there is a fair amount of doubt as to whether this grave is authentic. To be honest, it didn’t look real to me.

A drink in the Guy Fawkes Inn, High Petergate, followed. Well it was 5th November so we just had to stop into the pub built on the spot where the famous traitor was born. Several of the rooms within the Inn are said to be haunted (well I don’t think we managed to find a pub that didn’t claim to be ‘the most haunted pub in England’) but we didn’t notice anything accept a very intrigued passer by who pressed her face against the window we were sitting by.

http://www.gfyork.com

So without wanting to push ourselves too far, we then wandered a few hundred yards back up to street to The Hole In The Wall pub, for a hearty lunch. Of course The Hole In The Wall is also haunted, by footsteps no less. Originally known as the Board Inn, the pub is said to have had a secret passageway leading to a dungeon and the Chapel of the Holy Sepulchre in York Minster Cathedral.

http://www.holeinthewallyork.co.uk/

Saturday afternoon was spent mostly at the Haunted House on Stonegate. What a find! The house is relatively small but haunted by former owners and their servants. The house is said to be the site of the murder of a servant girl who’d been knocked up by her master (nice!).

We took the audio-guided tour around the darkened rooms, which were all laid out as they would have been hundreds of years ago. The most frightening room was the séance room, at the top of the house. Sitting at a huge round séance table with a crystal ball in the center and several ouija boards dotted around the outside is pretty unnerving but put us right in the zone. I took several photos and if you believe that the orbs are spirits then you’d have a field day with my photos.

Check out the live web-cams: http://www.hauntedhouseyork.co.uk/cameras.html

After the tour of the house, we each had a tarot reading, which although short and sweet, was shockingly accurate. Of course we were all told that we would be rich some day soon so it must to be true!

The three of us then purchased suitable witchy paraphernalia before leaving the haunted house of Stonegate behind us.

In desperate need for further refreshments while waiting for the climax of our day – the ghost tour, (well it had been a couple of hours since visiting a pub) we opted for the Golden Fleece, Pavement. Reputed to be (yes you guessed it) – the most haunted pub in the country, we made ourselves comfortable in the warm cozy pub while waiting for the ghost tour to begin. The Golden Fleece has made it onto TV’s most haunted, an episode which I did manage to catch recently. The only spirits we encountered there, had been drunk in vast quantities by the middle-aged ladies by the window, who thought it hilarious to give passers by a sight they’d never forget.

http://www.thegoldenfleeceyork.co.uk/

So onto the ghost walk. With so many to choose from and only one evening, we had to decide which of the many ghost tours to join. We opted for one starting at the bottom of the Shambles opposite the Golden Fleece, well it made sense.

Our comedy guide managed to keep his perfect Dickensian accent most of the time but would slip into his native Yorkshire accent on words like chance/past/dug up, which I’m ashamed to say killed us in a very childlike manner every time.

We were taken on a route march of the old streets of York, taking in the Shambles, Stonegate, the Cathedral area etc. All in all it was a little long winded for the few stories we were actually given but hugely entertaining.

We were told about a little girl who was abandoned in her locked bedroom by her parents who suspected her of having the plague. Crying, she would scratch at her bedroom window to alert passers by but the huge red cross painted on the front door prevented anyone from entering. She died alone. Her ghost can still be seen clawing at the window, crying.

Sunday morning was spent mainly in the stunning Botanical gardens and the ruins of St Mary’s Abbey where, although we were unable to access the graveyard, numerous Roman stone coffins litter the grounds with no particular explanation. The perfect blue sky contrasted beautifully with the ancient stonework and wildlife was in abundance. I found it almost inconceivable to see relics of the abbey, beautiful hand crafted pieces of stonework being used to hold back the flowerbeds like common rocks.

After another trip to the Haunted House shop and a wander around the Shambles, Sunday lunch was had in the no frills ‘Last Drop Inn’ on Colliergate, where we ended our fantastically spooky weekend.

For more information on any of these places copy and paste the links I’ve provided.

Click on the images on the flickr account to the right of this page to take the tour. Like I said, if you like orbs, then you’ll like my pictures.

Happy Halloween

Well it’s finally here. Pumpkins and skeletons have taken residence outside peoples houses and miniature witches and devils are running around clutching bundles of sweets.

We treated the kids to a real Halloween weekend with a trip to West Wycombe’s Hellfire caves, then tour of St Lawrence graveyard and to top it off their own Halloween party last night.

The people who run the caves are brilliant. It’s rare that you can take the kids somewhere and really give them a scare, the staff really embrace the spookyness of the haunted location and put on a no-holds-barred display. All their usual decorations are stripped out to make way for how the real Hellfire should be.

The whole cave system was dark and full of children who were  jumping out at each other screaming then laughing hysterically. They were genuinely frightening each other and themselves, but it’s hardly surprising when you see the freak-show on display. Here are a couple of photos I took, I know it looks bright but believe me that’s just the flash of my camera, I had to look at the digital display to see what I was taking pictures of. Just fabulous.

Gruesome huh! More pics on my Flickr.

(Only one more week til our trip to York, not that I’m counting.)

October’s Full Blood Moon

Okay, so I will be a little self-indulgent this month as October’s full moon is by far the most dramatic of the year. When something this naturally beautiful has such a wonderfully eerie name then it deserves to be mentioned. October’s moon has several of these names; The Hunter’s Moon, The Harvest Moon and of course the wonderful – Blood Moon.

The Blood Moon features prominently in all three of my novels, so much so in the third that I’ve named the book after it. It’s significance comes from October’s reputation for being the one month of the year where our world brushes with that of the spirits and the veil separating the two is at its thinnest.

As the season progresses into what we know as our traditional wet and windy autumn. The darkness and the coming of Halloween brings a wonderfully eerie atmosphere to our evenings, enhanced only by candlelight and burning incense. With a little willingness to embrace it, it’s very easy to get drawn in. Suddenly you feel the urge to watch horror films and go walking in the dark.  Well if you do, don’t forget to look up you may be surprised.

Happy Moon Gazing

 

21st Century Hauntings.

When I go away to historic towns, I always try to make time to go on one of the town’s ghost tours. Okay I admit it is a bit of a guilty pleasure, but I love them, stories of murder and lost souls that seem so far removed from reality they become entertainment.

So far I’ve done York, Lincoln, Brighton, Chester and several in Edinburgh. (There may be more, I forget now.) All of which have been entertaining and educational to a point. But I’ve noticed that when someone is telling a ghost story the ghosts tend to be Tudor, Victorian or from other poignant periods in time. Never 20th or 21st century.

Now I live in a fairly young town, it’s around forty years old. I’ve Googled ghost stories for this town and there don’t seem to be any, although the newspaper regularly tells of murders, suicides etc. So what happens to them. Is there a specific period of time that must pass before a victim begins haunting the place of their untimely death?

Okay so I guess a ghost tour of this town telling the atmospheric tales of stoned teenagers stabbing each other to death outside nightclubs, drunks falling into canals and drowning, or murderous boyfriends strangling their girlfriends over their domino’s pizza just aren’t the stories we are looking for, but the outcome should be the same right?