What is it about castles that seems so numinous? Castles just naturally seem to be a little bit otherworldly and filled with spirits. Perhaps part of it is the architecture.
Castles are generally an impressive sight to behold. Castles were built throughout the Middle Ages and into the Renaissance, a time that spanned centuries. That means that a variety of architectural styles were used, depending on when the castle was built. The key to the architecture of castles is defense.
Castles were built to defend against invaders and withstand sieges. That fact gives castles an imposing facade and means that they have features like murder holes (holes in the ceiling where a castle’s defenders would pour burning oil on invaders). Once weapons and technology made the defensive features of a castle obsolete they were no longer built but they were built to last and many of them still stand. Their history remains.
That history is another important reason why they seem so haunted. Countless people have lived and died them in. Battles were fought in and around them. Unfortunate people were imprisoned and tortured in them. Babies were born in them. Murders took place in them. Somewhere deep in the stones that are the bones of a castle some memory of those people and events seems to linger, along with the souls of the departed.
In this article we will explore the ten most haunted castles in the world.
10. Himeji Castle, Japan
The graceful white pagodas and strong stones of Himeji Castle make it one of the greatest surviving examples of Japanese castle architecture. Built in 1333, it was designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It has a number of spooky stories associated with it. According to one kaiden (or ghost story) a woman named Okiku was falsely accused of losing valuable dishes that were family heirlooms. She was thrown into a well. It is said that she haunts the well a night and can be heard forlornly counting dishes.
9. Castle Leap, Ireland
Leap Castle has such a haunted reputation that its crenellated walls have been heavily featured on a number of TV programs that are devoted to exploring haunted places. It was built by the O’Bannon clan over a place that was sacred to the druids. It gained its name when two O’Bannon challenged each for control over the clan. They each leaped from a stone where the castle would be built and the survivor became chief. That was only the beginning a long, bloody history that includes the murder of a priest in the chapel (after dubbed the Bloody Chapel), the suicide of a woman who was imprisoned and raped in the castle, the gruesome discovery of cartloads of impaled skeletons in an oubliette, and seances that awakened an evil that still lingers.
8. Burg Eltz, Germany
Rising up from the banks of the Moselle River, Burg Eltz is a fairy tale vision full of turrets. It was built in 1157 and is full of local lore. One of the most interesting legends associated with Burg Eltz is that of the Countess Agnes. She was a fierce fighter and legend has it that she died defending the castle from an aggressive and unwanted suitor of hers. It is said she haunts her bedroom, where her bed, breastplate and battleax are carefully preserved.
7. Frankenstein Castle, Germany
There aren’t any angry villagers with pitchforks around today and the bucolic surrounds may lull you into a false sense of serenity but Frankenstein Caste boasts a notorious past. Doctor Johann Konrad Dipple was a doctor and alchemist who became obsessed with finding an elixir that would return the dead to life. He even turned to body snatching in his quest. The elixir he created didn’t bring back the dead but it did kill him. Now his ghost is said to haunt the roof of the castle’s chapel between Christmas and New Years. Dr. Dipple did achieve a different sort of immortality as the real-life inspiration for Mary Shelley’s Victor Frankenstein.
6. Predjama Castle, Slovenia
Predjama Castle may have the most unique architecture of any castle in the world. It was built within a cave in the middle of an imposing cliff of dark stone. It appears to be carved out of the mountain side. According to local lore the castle was the residence of an exceedingly sadistic knight named Erazem Lueger. He made use of the hidden passageways and indulged in sadism and torture. When his servants had enough they betrayed him and he was murdered. His restless spirit continues to haunt the castle today.
5. Moosham Castle, Austria
Nestled among towering pines, Moosham Castle is a charming sight with an ugly past. When the archbishop of Unternberg unleashed a devastating witch hunt the castle was a prison for tens of thousands of innocent women who were tortured and murdered there. Moosham is a museum now and many of the visitors report encounters with apparitions and a feeling that there are a number of unseen residents of the castle.
4. Voergaard Castle, Denmark
Voergaard Castle is a beautiful, stately castle made of pale stone with a red roof and is houses treasures by artists such as Raphael, Goya and El Greco. It also houses the spirit of Ingeborg Skeel, who became the castle’s owner in 1758, Skeel had the architect who designed the beautiful castle drowned so that he would never be able to build another castle that would rival Voergarrd’s beauty. Now Skeel’s guilty shade haunts the castle, dressed in white. The castle also features Rosedonten, a notorious dungeon that was built so that full-grown man can neither stand up fully in it not lay down and stretch out.
3. Edinburgh Castle, Scotland
Edinburgh Castle is an imposing sight as sits squarely on an enormous, rocky cliff and looms over the Scottish capital. Scotland has long been a place of ghosts and legends (many arising out of the time of the Scottish uprising and the brutal destruction of the clans by the English) and Edinburgh Castle is no exception. It is notable for the sheer numbers of ghosts and eerie experiences that tourists have encountered there. Former prisoners of the castle from the period of time ranging from the Seven Year’s War to the American revolutions are frequently spotted. Reports of sudden and sharp drop in temperatures and the sensation of being touched by unseen hands are numerous. In such a haunted castle in a haunted city you never know who’s spirit you will meet!
2. The Tower of London, England
The imposing walls and the infamous Traitor’s Gate of the Tower of London were built to keep people in and it has done its job very well. For centuries the Tower has been one of the most blood-soaked and infamous of castles. It was built in the eleventh century to be both a royal residence and a prison. The disappearance of the two princes, Edward V and his brother Richard happened there in 1483. It is presumed that they were murdered at the behest of their uncle, Richard III, in his quest for the throne. They are still seen playing and there and visitors report hearing their boyish laughter. Anne Boleyn, brought up on trumped up charges so that King Henry VIII would be free to remarry, was imprisoned there and lost her head there in 1536. She is still seen in the Tower to this day.
1. Chillingham Castle, England
The setting of Chillingham Castle is pastural and tranquil with immaculate green lawn and softly whispering trees. The castle is impressive and well-preserved with a long profile and crenelated towers. The history and reputation of the castle are completely at odds with the setting. It is a long, murderous, haunted history that has earned the castle to be one of the most haunted places in England. When the Scots rose up in a bid for freedom from England this was place many of them were taken as prisoners. There they were tortured and murdered by the sadistic John Sage in his specially designed torture chamber. Sage was in turn executed and his body was cut to pieces by trophy seekers while he was being hanged. The friendly Blue boy (or Radiant boy) has often been seen here. It’s believed his skeleton was unearthed during repairs, along with a that of a man. Both were most likely in hiding and became trapped. The heartbroken Lady Mary Berkley, whose husband absconded with Mary’s sister, is also said to appear or be heard by the rustling of her skirts. With such an unhappy history it is no wonder that there is so much spiritual unrest in the castle!
Have you visited any of these castles?