Three hauntingly beautiful houses for Halloween
Waddesdon Manor… Stowe House… Blenheim Palace... our local stately homes never fail to impress us, as agents for some of the region’s most desirable properties. But while these stately homes, as architectural masterpieces, are grand and beautiful in their construction, some of them have ugly histories, full of apparent apparitions and frightful fables. Yes, with Halloween looming, we’ve picked our three top local haunted houses and the ghost stories that accompany them…
1. Walk along the narrow, winding streets of Buckingham and you will notice the many historic buildings that make up the small market town; from the Old Gaol Museum in the heart of the town centre, to the tucked-away Chantry Chapel, as well as the quaint pubs and houses in between. So it is no surprise that the town – and specifically Castle House on West Street – has been the destination of choice for royalty in the past…
Dating back to the 15th century, the prestigious Grade-I property has been graced with the presence of none other than Catherine of Aragon, the first queen of Henry VIII. She visited the grand town house back in 1514, along with her clergyman, Father Thomas.
According to local legend, Father Thomas vanished one day, and was never seen again until his body was found in a small chamber during the 1908 renovation of Castle House. His corpse had been hidden beneath the floors of the house’s upper storeys, and its discovery appeared to unleash a ghostly presence, claims Rupert Matthews, the author of Haunted Places of Bedfordshire and Buckinghamshire:
‘Ever since the body was found the dark robed figure of a priest has been seen hurrying up the stairs and along the corridor towards the hidden chamber. He is seen most often in late afternoon or early evening.’
A further blood-curdling tale can be linked to this Buckingham building, when a great fire swept through the whole town in 1725 and destroyed nearly every house except Castle House. This suggests there may be a few more haunted homes in the Buckingham area…
2. Our next haunted house is Woburn Abbey (pictured above), a Georgian stately home in Bedfordshire that is open to the public. The grounds are magnificent and the house itself has breathtaking architecture and artworks, but perhaps you’ll think twice about visiting the mansion and its gardens once you’ve discovered its terrifying tales of the undead…
Originally a Cistercian monastery, Woburn Abbey’s oldest ghost story dates back to the reformation, and it entails the Abbot of Woburn. For his crimes against the throne, the Abbot was hanged from the oak tree in the grounds and, it is claimed, he can now be seen standing beneath the tree, surrounded by a patch of ground where no plants will grow – not even grass.
Other horrifying happenings of Woburn Abbey include sightings of an indistinct blurred shape in the butler’s pantry, thought to be one of the servants of the house, and the spirit that haunts the private chambers. According to local accounts, the door opens on one side of the chamber, and the sound of footsteps move across the floor as the spirit passes through. Once on the other side, the other door opens and then slams shut as the spirit leaves. In the 1960s, this ghostly activity became so frequent that the former residents, the Ducal family, had to move their television to another room so they could watch it without being disturbed.
3. Perhaps the most horrifying haunted house in the region is Abington Park Museum in Northampton: it’s so notoriously scary that there is an upcoming Fright Night event taking place there. This terrifying Tudor manor house dates back to 1485, and has seen several different uses over the years, including a domestic residence, asylum and now, a museum. Various hauntings have been reported by both staff and visitors and include sightings of shadowy figures, disembodied footsteps coming from behind a locked door, and mysterious feelings of sadness, anger and distress. If that doesn’t make the hairs on the back of your neck stand on edge, visitors have also reported the feeling of being watched, or felt a presence standing close to them, despite being alone at the time.
Although these chilling stories might be enough to shock you into a state of silence, you might also gasp at the beauty of Abington Park Museum. Historical evidence from the great hall – the only room now remaining in its original entirety – suggests the Museum once had two storeys, with gables and mullioned windows. A significant change in the Museum’s architecture came when parliamentarian William Thursby acquired the property in 1669, before demolishing the greater part of the building and rebuilding it on a larger scale. With this extension, Thursby added a new south wing containing two large rooms, staircase and an impressive entrance hall – but little did he know that in doing so, he’d created a stately home perfect for even more ghosts…
Can you name another local stately home that not only has grand architecture and magnificent décor, but a dark and haunting secret too? Perhaps you have your own ghost story to tell from a former or current home? Share your tales of terror with us through our social media channels, links below. Happy Halloween!