Have you ever seen a ghost when you traveled? When you visit Herstmonceux Castle, you might not be alone!
There's nothing like a spine-tingling ghost story! Growing up on Cape Breton Island, dramatic tales, often touching on the spirit world, were an intrinsic part the cultural fabric of the island, which combined rich oral folklore with some of the best music and literature in the world. The swirling Scottish, Acadian, and Mi'kmaq traditions of storytelling complimented each other well and contributed to the island's legendary ceilidhs.
No doubt this cultural background contributed to my love of seeking out ghost stories when I travel. Already a big fan of walking tours of all shapes and sizes, I discovered that ghost tours were my perfect form of evening entertainment. Affordable, convenient, entertaining, and fun, ghost tours combined light exercise and a bit of light history with the chance to meet new friends and discover new parts of town. And if they ended at a pub, so be it! They were a great way to relax and let someone else worry about directions for a change, and as a female solo traveler, I appreciated the chance to part take in a safe evening activity.
So do I actually believe in ghosts? Belief is a bit of a strong word, but I DO stand by my ghostly story - and I'm sure these other bloggers do as well! Here's my story of a visit to Herstmonceux Castle in England when I felt I wasn't entirely alone.
In 2003, I was working in East Sussex, UK, at the pub of the Queen's University International Study Centre in Herstmonceux. A branch of Queen's main campus in Kingston, Ontario, the Study Centre was situated in a Tudor castle that had generously been donated to the school by an alumni member.
The pub in question is called the "Headless Drummer" and, as you can imagine, it's named after a supposed resident ghost. I never saw the Headless Drummer myself during all those long, dark, stormy nights when I closed up the pub by myself, nor when I walked through the deserted castle at night. I never placed much stock in the ghost stories surrounding the Headless Drummer and his presence, or lack there of, never bothered me in the least.
Little did I realize the Drummer was not alone in haunting the Castle....
One ordinary evening, while working by myself in the pub, I had the most unpleasant sensation that I was not alone. There was another presence nearby. A presence just outside of pub. The feeling grew stronger and stronger, to the point that I felt that I was intruding on someone's space. My regular, peaceful Monday evening suddenly had a most sinister and malevolent feeling to it.
I left the pub without even locking up and scampered across my side of the wide entryway. I had the distinct feeling that someone or something was watching me from the grand staircase of the large reception room whose door was just opposite that of the pub. I didn't dare go in and investigate further into what I felt was a distinctly female presence.
Feeling like an absolute fool, I fled across the inner courtyard in the direction of the night guard's station. When I arrived, pale, disheveled, and out of breath, they said "Looks like the White Lady visited you." I was told that they had encountered this particular ghost on many occasions and they were surprised she hadn't visited me earlier!
So who was (is?) the White Lady? In some reports she is referred to as the Grey Lady. According to www.ghost-story.co.uk: During the eighteenth century, a young girl is said to have been imprisoned in the castle and was starved to death. Sounds of her sobbing are still heard in parts of the Castle and her ghost is seen usually at night, wandering the corridors. The grounds of the castle are also haunted by a lady in white. Legend says that she was lured to the castle by Sir Roger de Fienes, who promptly had his wicked way with her and then killed her. Her ghost has been seen walking around the grounds of the castle's moat in a very distressed state. The lady in white's ghost has also been witnessed inside the castle close to the gatehouse.
And according to www.visit1066county.com, the White and Grey Ladies may not be different names for the same ghost but in fact are two separate ghosts! Oh dear! They claim: The castle is reputedly haunted by several ghosts including a white lady, a grey lady, a lady on a donkey and a nine foot tall drummer, who walks the battlements beating his drum.
I am not the only travel writer who has been haunted in the line of duty. Karisa Blake reports:
As a guide for a popular Philadelphia ghost tour, it was my job to make your blood curl! Every evening I took groups of tourists to the many historical and haunted sites of the City of Brotherly Love, while engrossing them with tales of spectral soldiers at Independence Hall, frightful Founding Fathers at Carpenter’s Hall and deadly disease at the graves of Yellow Fever victims. To be honest, I didn't really believe in any of our stories, but I always enjoyed telling them and watching my groups react! However, the events of one dark night made me rethink my skeptical stance!
One quiet night last July I led my group to the darkened front steps of the Physick House. The dozen or so ghost hunters gathered around me as I told them the history of the site. Dr. Philip Sing Physick had been a prominent early American surgeon, inventing several important medical tools and even making a name for himself as the Father of American Surgery. However, as all ghost stories must, Dr. Physick’s story has a dark side. I watched the faces of my group flinch as I discussed Dr. Physick’s involvement in grave robbing, illegal medical autopsies and blood-letting. Nothing, however, could have prepared me for what happened next!
Suddenly, the faces of my group were painted with terror! Several people jumped backward, children clung to their parents and a collective gasp echoed through the circle! I turned my head to find the previously black windows were now alit with gold and a dark face pressed up against the window! My heart stopped. Was I looking at a ghost? Could this be Dr. Physick, himself?
The door to the mansion swung open with a loud thud that echoed through the abandoned street. The mysterious figure materialized before my eyes. The unknown man took slow steps down the grand stairway. His eyes met mine…and he laughed! It turned out that he was simply the site manager, preparing for a special weekend event! He had appeared in the window in an attempt to tell us not to be afraid that the lights had inexplicably turned on. We had mistaken his friendly warning for ghostly interaction. The whole group erupted with laughter! And that was how I met my first ‘ghost’!
Ghosts and spirits can be found in all different locations, as Kimmy Hayes of AfterGlobe.net has learned first hand. As Kimmy reports:
At Waianapanapa State Park, on Maui, is the most beautiful black sand beach. The black sand was created by lava flows rushing into the ocean and being cooled instantly. It makes for striking picturesque views that anyone will enjoy. Not only does this beach have black sand, but there are also lava tubes and caves you can adventure around in.
When the husband, Drew, and I were at the park, going through some of the caves, something felt off to me. I kept having a feeling that something bad had happened there. Even with all the amazing scenery around us, I couldn’t shake that feeling.
We bent down to go through a small opening in the lava rock to one of the caves. Inside there was a large cavern with a spectacular view of the ocean and surf crashing up through the mouth of the cave. If you stayed at one side of the cavernous room, you were far enough away to not risk getting wet.
I got out the camera to take a few pictures of us inside. I adjusted the settings for low light and proceeded to take some pictures. All came out clear and crisp. Drew took a few of just me that also came out well. Then we proceed to take a few pictures of the two of us together. I checked to make sure they were alright, and every one of us together was blurry. I made a few adjustments and still blurry. We moved to a spot with more lights and they were still blurry. No matter what we did they came up looking like there was a haze in front of us in every picture.
The feeling I had outside the cave got stronger. Instantly, I turned to Drew and told him we needed to get out of there. Right away! We went back the way we came and back out on to the beach.
I took a picture of Drew in front of the cave as a test. Everything was fine. The pictures weren't blurry and there was no haze in front anymore. I was happy to discover that I hadn't broken our camera. Yet, I still couldn't shake that unease feeling I had.
When we got back to the place we were staying, I uploaded the pictures to find the blur and haze gone. Later we learned of the Hawaiian legend that took place in Waianapanapa Was it a visit from the Hawaiian Princess, Popoalea that made me feel uneasy and messed with our camera that day?
Legend has it that the Hawaiian princess, Popoalaea, fled from her cruel husband, Chief Kakae in an effort to escape his abuse. She hid on a ledge just inside the underwater entrance to the cave at Waianapanapa. A faithful serving maid sat across from her fanning the princess with a feather,kahili, symbol of royalty. Chief Kakae became extremely upset when Popoalaea disappeared and set out with his men to find her.
When they came to Waianapanapa, the Chief went to refresh himself at the pool of water at the entrance of the cave. Upon doing so, he noticed the reflection of the kahili in the water, revealing Popoalaea's hiding place. Chief Kakae was outraged at his discovery taking both Popoalaea’s and her serving maid's lives.
During certain times of the year, thousands of tiny red shrimp appear in the same pool, turning the water red. It is beleived to a reminder of the slain Princess Popoalaea. Is it shrimp that cause the water to turn red or Popoalaea's ghost returning to the site of her murder?
Are ghosts and spirits real or just lively folklore tales? Either way, they make my travels a more exciting experience! I love visiting historic B&B's with a slightly spooky reputation, learning about local legends, and joining others on a haunted hike. No matter what your beliefs, I encourage you to hunt for a few friendly ghosts on your next trip.
Happy Friday the 13th!!!
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