What is the spookiest place you’ve ever visited? Was it an abandoned house rife with twittering birds and decaying wooden walls? Would it have been a long-forgotten ghost town in the woods with thickly growing vines smothering what remained of the buildings? Or was it an empty factory reeking of age and neglect?
In my travels, I have visited some places that have given me a genuine fright. Sometimes the spooky quality is intentional. I visited Salem, Massachusetts years ago and took a Witch Dungeon Museum tour where we were guided past barely lit prison cells used to hold accused witches prior to their trial. Some actors in period costumes would scream and jump toward the doors of their prison cells, but the one that really got me was a sliding ghostly mannequin that came right towards me after I turned a corner. I hollered and I swear, the man in front of me jumped about three feet into the air. (I laugh about it now, but at the time, it got me good.)
There was also Bolton Castle in North Yorkshire, which I visited with my British friend, H. This particular castle has a lot of history behind it: it’s appeared in several TV shows and movies, plus Mary, Queen of Scots stayed there as a guest.
When we visited, there were mannequins in period costume around the castle to show what life would have been like in the 14th century. H. and I wandered into one tower and got startled by a man’s terrible moaning coming through a grill in the floor. The room housed an oubliette (French for “forgotten place”), an underground prison where some unlucky person would be thrown and left alone to starve. We peered down to see a flashing strobe light and a man’s mannequin with long, stringy hair. I did a spot of investigating around the doorway and we’d triggered the man’s moaning by walking through an infrared beam.
Some places are just naturally evocative. I visited a battlefield in Gettysburg, PA early one morning. It was cold and rainy, with strands of fog cloaking most of my view.
I stood there for a while, listening to the wind whipping through the trees. It was the perfect atmosphere for a ghost to show up, just like Daniel Radcliffe and The Woman in Black. There are numerous ghost stories about Gettysburg since it was the scene of heavy Civil War fighting, but I didn’t get any supernatural visit that morning. Ah, well.
Another such place is the secret wartime tunnels underneath Dover Castle, which housed a radio room, an underground hospital, a war room and other useful features for the British military and war leaders. I’d seen a documentary involving the tunnels (see the video below) and one part of the documentary mentioned that a visitor touring the repeater station room saw a man dressed in a naval officer’s uniform near the back of the room. The visitor considered him part of the tour and casually watched him. As the man stopped what he was doing and walked toward the group, he passed through a barrier and her. She backed away and fell down in fright, drawing the concern of the others on the tour. (She was okay, though.)
No one else had seen him — was she just more sensitive to the supernatural? Perhaps. When I visited that same room, I didn’t see anything myself, but I did get the creeps after a while and didn’t stay long in the room. Was I influenced by seeing the documentary on Dover’s ghosts? Maybe.
It’s ironic. I’ve traveled to a lot of historic and evocative places, but the only really para-normal experience that I can’t explain happened near my house.
Happy Halloween, everybody! Here’s some more on the ghosts of Dover Castle if you’re interested. (Video credit: The Private Wardrobe on YouTube.)