With a history going back to prehistoric times, it is no wonder that in the United Kingdom, thousands of years of individually tragic and violent deaths echo through the ages to the modern day. Even to those who are ultra-rational, and do not believe in ghosts, the eerie and spine-tingling hauntings across the country can strike fear into the heart of the living.
Ghost mother and child at Ballygally Castle Hotel
Ballygally Castle in Northern Ireland dates from the 1600s, and here the shade of a lonely woman walks with the ghost of her baby, whose soul is forever trapped as a child. The lady was locked up in the highest room to starve along with her baby by her husband, who became enraged at the birth of a daughter instead of a longed-for son. Crazed by hunger and grief, she leapt from the window with her daughter in her arms. The two remain in the castle as ghostly presences seen walking, with the dead baby sometimes heard wailing unconsolably.
Ghostly torture victims at Chillingham Castle
Built in the 1200s, Chillingham Castle was a place of torture and pain for many Scots who challenged the power of English royalty. The last marks left on this world by many victims of the resident torturer are scratched into the walls of the dungeon, and the ghosts of broken people in agonising pain can still be felt in the room. The torturer's demonic presence seems to prefer inhabiting the torture room, waiting to catch a careless visitor alone, so he can practice his cruel craft one more time to hear the screams of the living.
Plague child of Mary King's Close
In Edinburgh, Mary King's Close has been home to ghostly plague victims for centuries. One little girl, whose face was destroyed by plague, is known to have interacted with the living. Instead of peace and a release of her soul, the little girl asked for a doll, as she had been desperately lonely, all alone for centuries. Compassionate visitors now bring her toys to ease her pain, leaving them in an apparently empty room.
The Skirrid Mountain Inn stranglers
Those sleeping at the Skirrid Mountain Inn in Wales risk the wrath of the resident ghosts, who sometimes try to strangle the living with a ghostly noose, never quite killing the living but leaving a visible burn from the rope on their necks. Almost 200 people were hung by the neck from the stairwell of the inn over the centuries, after they were sentenced to death by the court that sat there. An invisible woman also walks the halls leaving a cold wake behind her and the sound of footsteps.
The Brown Lady of Raynham Hall
Raynham Hall in Norfolk is the home of the Brown Lady, a famous ghost once caught on camera walking down the Grand staircase of the house. She is missing her eyes, and instead glows with an intense purpose, scaring visitors to the house so much that one gentleman shot at her to no effect. Her name was unknown for decades, but a portrait was found that identifies her as Lady Dorothy Walpole, a woman who may have been murdered by being pushed down the stairs.
The gypsy woman of Levens Hall
Some time in the 1700s, a poor and hungry gypsy woman knocked on the door of Levens Hall, in South Cumbria, but was turned away to die outside during a bleak winter. Before she died, she cursed the family to never bear a son and heir until the day a white deer was born in the estate. Her ghost chose to inhabit Levens Hall, and remained even when the white fawn was born and the curse lifted. She has been seen by the family several times, walking with a phantom dog, as a reproachful and disturbing reminder to the family of past cruelty.
Anne Boleyn and her timeless hell
Henry VIII married Anne Boleyn hoping she would bear him a son, but he callously ordered her head chopped off when he grew impatient with her. With her bones buried in the Chapel at the Tower of London, Anne's unhappy ghost has been seen there over the centuries. Her spectre also travels to an estate called Blickling Hall, where ghostly horses draw her carriage, both them and she without heads. Her dead brother is dragged after her by more ethereal horses, also missing his head.