The first place I ever did a ghost hunt was at Chillingham Castle. I only live about an hour or so away from it, and as preset for my 16th birthday, I got a ticket to an event here (you had to be 18, but nobody checked!) I will never forget the feeling of excitement as I went up in my sister’s car. I was actually a bit too excited – in my mind, I was expecting to see a ghost, but that cockyness was soon wiped away from me when we pulled up at the main gates in total darkess on a cold January evening. When the castle came into view, it was just a silhouette of blackness and the nerves kicked in. It looked exactly as it did on TV…Chillingham, the most haunted building in Britain.
That night, 14 people witnessed the curtain in the chapel area moving all by itself as if a small child was standing behind it, pushing their hand through. We could all even see the shape of a hand poking through the fabric, yet there was nobody behind it. I was lucky – they say 99% of all paranormal activity can be easily explained, and to witness that 1% that can’t on my first ever ghost hunt probably shaped the future for me. I was hooked.
I’ve investigated at Chillingham several times now, and I genuinely can’t remember the exact amount, and it still is the place where I constantly experience extreme activity. I’m not talking about gadget based stuff using EMF meters or REM pods, I’m talking things you can see and hear. In 2016, myself, Chris Felton and his partner Angela were presenting a radio show from the castle. We went for a little walk into the woods and we all heard a lady singing. Clear as day, as if she was playing a harp and singing in a sweet voice. Yet, the castle was in darkness and it was about 2:30am. Our microphones also captured it, although very faintly, but as you will hear when you watch the video, I have tried my best to amplify it.
In 2021, while recording the above video for the YouTube channel, a door to the Still Room swung open and then closed quickly. I captured the whole thing on camera. In the Grey Apartment where I was sleeping after filming, I returned to my room to find the wardrobe door wide open. This is something that happens lots of times to guests in that same room.
A lot of people complain about Chillingham being expensive to book, and that its history can’t be fully proven, but to those people, I’d say: “Come here for one night…you will get stuff.”
From around the 1100s, there was a monastery at Chillingham, not a very big one, but a small place of worship for a group of monks. But because of the location, this area was always at risk from invasions from across the Scottish border.
The need for a castle was increasing. England and Scotland were at war, so work on a fortress started.
By 1344, the castle was now fully fortified, and would be used as a place for soldiers to stay before any potential battle. It would also become a stopping place for King Edward I. He made Chillingham his own, and had his living area modified to his liking. This room is still visible today.
After the English were defeated at the Battle of Stirling Bridge, Edward was even more determined to beat William Wallace’s army. In early 1298, Edward I travelled north and is known to have spent time at Chillingham. The only problem was that he did not know the exact whereabouts of the Scottish army.
The legend states that while Edward pressed forward into Scotland, it was a captured Scot whom told of Wallace’s location whilest on a torture table at Chillingham. That location was Falkirk, and on the 22nd of July 1298, Edward’s army beat the Scots.
Edward would often be called ‘The Hammer of the Scots’ due to his ruthlesness and desire to shed blood.
And that leads to another of Chillingham’s legends – John Sage. There are no records of his existance, but it is said that he was once a soldier in the English army that was badly wounded in the leg during battle against the Scots. Unable to fight on the frontline despite being loyal to the King, Sage would be given the role of torturing Scottish prisoners at Chillingham. A small dungeon was constructed, and a torture chamber, where he could extract information to pass on as intelligence. Sage’s hatred for the Scots is said to have made him enjoy his job a lot more.
Some say anywhere between 15-50 Scottish prisoners per week would be brought to Chillingham, ranging from those captured in battle, to those taken from small towns and villages. Even entire families were taken here.
Many of those that died would be hanged on trees on the land around Chillingham as a way of warning any advancing Scottish army of how powerful the English were. It is claimed that some monks living nearby could not bare to see a human refused a concecrated burial (Christians believed the body needed to be buried properly in order to gain access to heaven), so would cut the bodies down and bury them in secret at the monastery. When those at the castle found out about this, the monks were also executed and hanged from the same trees. Those hanging trees are still visible today.
There is also a legend that many prisoners were killed in the courtyard of Chillingham, some in font of their own children. There is also a poplar belief that many Scots were buried in marshland where there is now a fishing lake behind the castle. Stories of young Scottish children being rolled down a hill here whilst inside a torture barrel full of spikes are also told. There’s no written account of this, but if its true, it would explain the sightings of children seen in the woodland around the fishing lake.
John Sage would meet his end also on a hanging tree. Whilst making love to his lover, Elizabeth Charlton, he would accidently kill her on a torture bed. Her father, a border reiver, would demand the castle to hand over Sage’s body, which was then hanged on a tree close to the current driveway into the castle from the main entrance. People claim his ghost still walks this area…dragging one foot behind.
The original torture chamber at Chillingham is no longer accessible – the entrance was bricked up behind a fireplace in what is now the cafe area by the Tankerville family who once owned the castle, to hide the dark past. There is a display room of replica torture devises in what was once an old storage room. None of these items are original and the room was never used for torture, but a lot fo people don’t know this and still like to head straight here on paranormal nights.
The dungeon is original however, and as you can imagine, is probably the most haunted area in the castle. People have experienced extreme emotions in this small space, and it has been known for people to faint, and breakdown because of the feeling of extreme dispair. On the wall of the dungeon, you can still see where prisoners have engraved markings into the wall.
Inside the small chapel, the spirit of a young girl called Eleanor has been reported. Her story is vague – she was a Scottish child killed whilst hiding in here, but skeletal remains found below the floor may add more to this story. This is the location where I witnessed the curtain being played with, as if done by a child. People often report a cold spot in here and their clothes being tugged.
The minstrels gallery was once an outside wall of the castle before it was fully fortified in 1344, and is said to harbour the emotions of those left hanging from this very wall. The corners of the castle would be connected meaning this is now an indoor area.
The Still room is known for its display of letters from people who have returned items back to the castle that they have stolen, after claiming to have had bad luck. One ghost story from this room tells of a guard who saw a woman enter and beg for a drink. He claimed she looked worn out. When he turned round, she had vanished, and he realised that the castle was locked up. The Still room is next to the dungeon where Scottish prisoners were kept. This is the area where I saw a door open by itself, and on my investigation, I’d record footsteps in here.
Chillingham’s most famous ghost is that of the blue boy in the pink room. People would report seeing a figure with blue flashes of light before vanishing. Years ago, a fireplace was being constructed and the skeleton of a young boy was found, with blue material around him. He was buried nearby and the hauntings have since stopped. This area is private residency of Sir Humphrey Wakefield.
The Grey Apartment is the area that most ghost hunters like to book when staying here, as it ia regarded as being the most active of all of the accomodation areas. It is named after the Grey family who once lived here and Lady Mary Berkeley is said to haunt this area. She was jilted by her husband, who ran off with her own sister, Lady Barkley of Barkley castle. Lady Grey never got over this, and tried take him to court (seen over by the infamous Judge Jeffries the hanging judge). Lady Grey ended up spending most of her days alone in the castle, in this very quarter, to bring up a young daughter. Interestingly, my bedroom backs onto the wall where the blue boy was found.