Ghosts, spooks and creepy places are all over the United Kingdom. For Halloween, if you are looking for the best ghost tours, haunted places or good scares, you've come to the right place.
Chester, Derby, York and Edinburgh compete with each other for the title of Most Haunted Place in Britain - or even Europe. What with haunted inns, ghostly Roman Legions, headless Queens and mournful ghostly brides, they've all got a pretty good claim to the title. And there are more haunted destinations.
Here then, the best ghost walks and haunted places in the UK to scare yourself silly.
Oxford Castle is thought to be one of the most haunted buildings in the country. Full of tales of violence, executions, great escapes, betrayals and even romance, it served as a prison between 1071 and 1996.
Restoration to make the building safe for visitors has revealed secrets hidden away for more than 1000 years. The Saxon, St. George's Tower recently open for the first time in its history. There's a creepy 18th-century Debtors’ Tower and a 900 year old underground Crypt. There's also a castle curse, dating from the Black Assize of 1577, when hundreds of people died within weeks. The scene of a 10-day ghost fest in October (22 to 31 October in 2019), the Castle also hosts regular fright nights. And you don't have to wait for Halloween. The Castle's prison courtyard is the starting point for weekend outdoor Ghost Walks and groups of 15 to 25 can take After Dark tours any night after 6p.m.
Shakespeare's home town has been one of England's biggest visitor attractions for hundreds of years. The guest list in the wood-framed house that was Shakespeare's birthplace reads like a who's who of English literature from the 17th century onward. Curious spirits visit regularly and practitioners of magic and Wicca like the place too, so there are plenty of attractions for anyone who enjoys a good skin crawling, hair raising Halloween fright fest. Join a Stratford-Town Ghost Walk every Saturday to acquaint yourself with the town's best ghosts.
And, of course, as restoration works are planned, you might want to worry about the curse on Shakespeare's grave.
Hard to imagine that this sunny and irreverent seaside resort has a ghostly population, but in the UK, most places do. The center of Brighton's psychic activity is The Lanes. Now a quaint shopping precinct of narrow alleys - some so tiny that even a child could easily touch both sides at once - this was the original Saxon fishing village of Brightenhelm. Some say it is Brighton's most haunted quarter, with tales of highwaymen and even Jack the Ripper floating about its atmospheric pubs and oddly shaped cottages. Seventy minute Ghost walks leave Wednesday to Saturday nights from outside the Druid's Head pub in Brighton Place, so you can see for yourself.
You may have seen this little Kent village, with a population of about 1,000 - and 14 ghosts (12 of them official), in the British television series that made Catherine Zeta Jones a household name, The Darling Buds of May. Who'd have guessed that Guinness World Records has named it the most haunted village in England? Among the shuddery phantoms are two women who roam the graveyard of St. Nicholas Church - the Red and White Ladies - as well as a highwayman nailed to a tree (eeewww), a ghostly team of coach and horses, a forest full of screaming wraiths, and the usual contingent of old school and old pub ghosts. Pick a quiet night to have a mooch around. Most ghosts stay home, like the locals, on Halloween. If you have the courage to go it along, this self-guided ghost tour will take you to all the most haunted spots.
Exeter's impressive cathedral and its 14th century Underground Passages are prime territory for apparitions - and the Devon city, gateway to the West Country, does not disappoint. Headless horses, ghostly nuns who herald death, murdered ladies - all the usual inhabitants of the other side are known to make their appearances at the dark of the moon - and other opportune moments. As many as 1,000 people have been known to show up for the free Spooks and Broomsticks Halloween Redcoat tours. Their are several starting times for these tours, starting at 6:15p.m, from the Hooker Statue outside Exeter Cathedral. But actually, you can join the free Ghosts and Legends tours any Thursday at 7pm throughout the year and, usually, on Tuesdays in the summer as well.
York claims to be Europe's most haunted city, with hauntings going all the way back to the ghostly Roman legions who walk the cellars of the Treasurer's House. Creepy.
With so many layers of culture and civilization - Britons, Celts, Romans, Vikings, battling Lancasters and Yorks, not to mention a famous massacre, its no surprise that plenty of ghosts hang around York.
Chester packs 2,000 years of history into a very compact, walled city with narrow streets and alleys, ancient crypts and cellars. Ghost hunters have been busy here and claim to have documented hauntings, spirits, spooks and poltergeists from almost every century across the entire city - more ghosts per street than anywhere in the UK. Paranormal researcher Dave Sadler of Parascience says, "My belief is that Chester, for its size, has the most haunted activity in the country."
Night-time ghost tours leave from the Town Hall Visitor Information Center on Northgate Street every Saturday night at 7:30p.m. Advance booking is recommended for the Halloween tours. Tours are bookable online.
You'd expect Scotland's capital city to have ghosts. After all, they've got a queen who lost her head. One of the creepiest places in Edinburgh is its underground district, Mary King's Close. The "close" was, originally, a series of small, very narrow streets lined with houses reaching up to seven stories. In the late 18th century, the city council decided to build the Royal Exchange (now the City Chambers) right on top of the site. Some of the buildings were knocked down but the lower stories of many of them were kept as foundations for the new building. These dark, underground dwellings, with their ancient secrets can be visited on pre-booked tours.
Derby is another small UK city that lays claim to being the most haunted with everything from headless ghosts to floating trousers. Derby Gaol, now a museum, is owned by a paranormal investigator who claims it is the "dead centre of England." The BBC has also reported claims that the condemned cell of the jail is its most haunted hot spot. Here's a quick rundown of its gruesome credentials:
- The last man hung, drawn and quartered (remember the end of "Braveheart"?) met his end in Derby.
- The last "pressing to death" sentence was carried out here in the 17th century.
- A peer of the realm - apparently the only one to be hanged for murder - was dispatched by the "new drop" style of gallows, instead of being hanged from the back of a cart.
And on Halloween, a local hotel hosts a dinner with live streaming from the city's most haunted spots.
Lancaster Castle, on a hilltop in the city center, is a group of buildings dating from the 12th century. It is still in use as a Crown Court and a prison so only parts of it can be visited, and then only by guided tour. The castle's spookiness rating comes from the famous case of the Pendle Witches that took place in 1612. King James I was a believer in witches and in his reign an act was passed imposing the death penalty "for making a covenant with an evil spirit, using a corpse for magic, hurting life or limb, procuring love, or injuring cattle by means of charms". At a three day "assize" in Lancaster, 2 men and 8 women were convicted of witchcraft and subsequently hanged on the moors.
The city of Lincoln was made for ghostly goings on. Perched a top the highest spot in Lincolnshire, parts of it seem dipped into a bowl of howling winds laced with shadowy back alleys, half-buried arches and dead-ended flights of stairs. Its 900-year-old castle and cathedral, at the top of a street so precipitous it is called Steep Hill, sit on Viking, Roman and ancient British civilizations. Its Medieval Bishops Palace hides behind thick walls of stone where unfaithful wives were murdered and ghostly guardians protected the clerics...Hmmm...sounds like just the place for a chilling Ghost Walk this Halloween.