With Halloween quickly approaching, and new UK rental deals to celebrate, we compiled a list of some of the most frightening and possibly haunted places across the UK. Whether its the murder of witches, or packs with the devil, or old establishments still serving residents from centuries ago, the UK is rife with the supernatural.
This is an ancient hill in Lancashire mounded over a Bronze Age burial site. It’s famous for scientific discovery, the birth of Quakerism and a horrific witch trial.
In 1612 twelve people were trialled in Lancaster Caster, the ‘Pendle Witches’ as they became known. Of course, the justice system was quite different back then and they were convicted from locals accounts who accused them of using witchcraft to murder ten people.
They were largely from the same families each with an eighty-year-old matriarch – the families had aliases under the Demdike’s and Chentox’s and had bad blood between them for decades. Typically, witchcraft was akin to fortune-telling, parlour tricks, selling of ‘artefacts’ and other mysticism as a way of making money. These families were in competition in the area, however, it’s said that they and others truly believed in much of the power they boasted.
During the trials each family had members accuse the other of making pacts with the devil and having marks of Satan, this doubled by the fact that locals had been extorted in the past with such claims and had made penance to the families in the form of offerings for spiritual protection.
The charges eventually brought included child murder and cannibalism, as well as killing animals and landowners. Most pled not guilty, besides Alizon Devize who believed she had given a man named John Law a seizure, likely a stroke, on a strange encounter one evening.
On Halloween each year many visitors still climb the hill where the twelve accused were eventually executed by hanging in hopes of seeing a supernatural phenomenon. The area also claimed a Guinness World Record for most ‘witches’ congregated in 2012 – 483 visitors dressed as witches.
Tower of London
The Tower of London is perhaps one of the UK’s most iconic medieval landmarks and so of course, it is brimming with history, much of it sad and gruesome.
It was originally built during the Norman invasion by William the conqueror in 1078. Since it has served as a treasury, a public records office, armoury, as well as the home of the crown jewels. However, its most notorious purpose was a prison for England’s elite.
In fact, the misinterpretation often is that the Tower of London was a place of constant execution and torture when really only seven people were executed within the tower, and 112 taking place on Notorious Hill within the grounds. The last executions date back to WWII where 12 men were executed for espionage.
The horror of the Tower is framed by some of its key prisoners including (for a time) Elizabeth I, the executed Anne Boleyn, and the princes Edward V and his brother Richard who were murdered as small children within the Tower.
Both Anne Boleyn and the princes are said to be lingering spectres within the Tower. Boleyn, the beheaded wife of Henry VIII, in particular, has been spotted both leading a procession and wandering hallways still headless.
The princes are said to be seen cowering in nightgowns, it’s speculated their wicked uncle, as depicted in Shakespeare’s Richard III, had them murdered in their sleep as a way to grasp power by disposing of any potential future rivals.
Hampton Court Palace
It’s not just the Tower of London that’s haunted by an ex-wife of Henry VIII. His old London residence of Hampton Court Palace is also said to be haunted by his third wife, Jane Seymour, and his fifth, Catherine Howard.
Henry VIII longed for a male heir and the inability to produce one was the chief reason some of the wives were done away with. Jane Seymour, however, was the only one to bring Henry a son into the world that lived beyond infancy. Devastatingly to Henry, she died shortly after the birth due to complications. It’s said a pale figure occasionally appears on the Silverstick Stairs of the palace that leads to the room Jane gave birth.
Perhaps more frightening than the ghost of Jane Seymour is the ghost of Catherine Howard. She was beheaded at age 19, accused of adultery. While Henry was praying in the chapel she ran down what’s now called the Haunted Gallery screaming for mercy. She never made it to Henry and was executed. There have been many reportings even in recent times of a screaming spirit running down the gallery.
And it’s not just the Royals who haunt Hampton Court, the Grey Lady once known as Sybil Penn is said to lurk there too. She was a servant who died of the same smallpox infection she nursed Elizabeth I through, and her ghost is said to have been spotted on numerous occasions.
There were also accounts in the early 1800s of a spinning wheel being heard through the wall of an apartment within the palace. When the wall was removed due to renovations an old spinning wheel was in fact found.
The South Bridge Vaults
At the turn of the 18th Century in 1788, a huge number of underground chambers were created to support the building of the South Bridge in Edinburgh. These chambers carry a frightening history and can be visited today.
Upon finishing the bridge it was decided that the eldest resident of Edinburgh, a judge’s wife, should be the first to cross. However, she died and instead her coffin was carried across, scaring many of the locals who believed it to be cursed.
Later, the vaults beneath the bridge and earth started to become used for their easy access, space and secrecy. The long connecting tunnels and chambers in complete darkness were useful for tradesmen to store supplies, thieves to hold loot and murderers to hide victims. Taverns and businesses even began popping up in the underground maze.
Eventually, most of the businesses who set up shop there left because of the bad air quality. The poorest though still found refuge in the vaults. The damp conditions were so bad though that even they are said to have left by around 1820 as by then many had died due to sickness and even murder.
It’s not exactly known when the vaults were sealed, it was likely somewhere between 1835 and 1875, but it was not until the 1980s that they were excavated. Norrie Rowan, a famous rugby player, discovered one of the tunnels and began removing tonnes of rubble by hand with his son as a project.
Visitors today can descend to the vaults for ghost tours after frequent reportings over the years. The most commonly seen is Jack, who tugs trousers and throws stones across the empty chambers. Other’s include Mr Boots who can be heard with terribly loud footsteps and Watcher who instils feelings of dread to those nearby.
The Hellfire Caves
The Hellfire caves are named after the infamous Hellfire Club started by Sir Francis Dashwood. Initially, the project was to build a series of chalk and flint caverns in West Wycombe, Buckinghamshire.
The project started in 1748 to combat poverty during a time of drought and bad harvest. Chalk was to be mined to create a five-mile road from West Wycombe to High Wycombe, with a shilling a day given to each worker – about enough to sustain a family.
Sir Francis Dashwood established the Knights of St Francis of Wycombe, which later became the Hellfire club. It consisted of elite members of society such as politicians and aristocracy. The members took part in ritualistic pagan ceremonies including orgies and black magic.
These ceremonies and parties happened in the caves. The entrance was built under a mock gothic church built around 1752. Chambers were connected by narrow tunnels extending 400 meters underground. Visitors enacted rituals in the ‘Inner Temple’, and to get there had to go through a number of chambers and an underground river they named the River Styx.
Eventually, the Hellfire club was dissolved after one of its most prominent members, Sir Francis Drake, passed away. They were not used again until WWII. It was later in the 1940s and 1950s that they were renovated as a visitors attraction and still operate today.
If you want to visit any of these frightening places and need transport, be sure to check SIXT UK for affordable deals with high-quality vehicles. This Halloween we’re running a special deal where you can add additional drivers for no extra charge! Perfect if you need some support when visiting these terrifying places!