Uncanny UK editor Richard Holland continues his countdown of the most haunted places in Britain.
3. HAMPTON COURT PALACE: Richmond-upon-Thames, Middlesex
This magnificent 16th century palace complex is famous – or rather infamous – for its ghosts with royal connections. Its best-known ghosts are those of two of Henry VIII’s unlucky queens, Catherine Howard and Jane Seymour, and Edward VI’s nursemaid, one Mistress Penn. However, Hampton Court also made headlines around the world in recent years thanks to remarkable footage of a still-unexplained figure which showed up on a security camera recording opening and closing a door during the night.
Catherine Howard’s is the most disturbing ghost at Hampton Court. She has been heard to shriek down a gallery to the door of the chapel, an echo of her terror following her arrest for supposed infidelity. The heartless King remained at his devotions and refused her entry to the chapel and she was dragged away. The young queen was barely 20 when she was beheaded in 1542. An artist making a sketch of the gallery was once startled to see a disembodied female hand, encrusted with jewels, appear in front of his picture. He hurriedly drew it and the rings were later shown to have been identical to those formerly worn by Catherine.
Jane Seymour died shortly after giving birth to Edward VI in 1537. Her ghost has been seen emerging from the Queen’s apartments with a lighted taper, making her way to the Silver Stick Gallery. She usually walks on the anniversary of her son’s birth, October 12. Staff have been known to quit after encountering the ‘tall lady, with a long train and a shiny face’.
Sibill Penn caught smallpox at the same time as the young, future Queen Elizabeth I. Elizabeth recovered but Mistress Penn did not. Her ghost was frequently seen hundreds of years later when her tomb was moved during alterations to the Palace.
The ghosts of two arguing men haunted the Fountains Court until a pair of skeletons was discovered buried two feet beneath the courtyard. Crowds of ghosts wearing ‘old-fashioned clothes’ have also been seen patrolling the palace grounds.
In 2003 the ghosts of Hampton Court Palace hit the headlines again when CCTV security cameras near Clock Court recorded an extraordinary figure pushing open a fire door. On the first day’s footage the door was shown being thrown open but for no apparent reason. On the second day the doors were thrown open again but this time by an alarming figure that has since been nicknamed ‘Skeletor’. A third day’s recording also showed the door opening but no apparition was this time visible.
It has been claimed that the video is a hoax and that the supposed ghost is an attendant dressed in period costume, but this wouldn’t explain the door forced open by an invisible agency. The Hampton Court website still treats the incident as a genuine mystery.
Text © Richard Holland 2011. Photo © hrp.org.uk