chillingham castle

The Chilling History Of Chillingham Castle

Everybody loves castles, especially haunted castles. Whether you’re an avid fan of medieval culture, war history, fantasy novels or movies, ancient buildings, or romance. Castles are always at the heart of the action. We can find these wonderful structures worldwide standing boldly, emitting their architectural beauty and centuries of accomplishment and despair. These remarkable and historical buildings are often filled with stories of gore, violence, love, death, destruction, power, greed, and wealth.. However, there is one castle that dwarfs all others. Not in size, but in all things grizzly, gruesome, horrifying, and destructive. Prepare for a shocking and hair-raising read as we travel to the United Kindom to unravel the dark past and bone-chilling history of Chillingham Castle.

A stone monster is born – Chillingham Castle

chillingham castle

During the 12th century, horrific conflict ensued between England and Scotland in rural Northumberland. Frustrated and tired of England’s power and suppression, Scotland relentlessly fought for their freedom and sought complete independence from their neighboring enemies. Led by the Scottish rebel William Wallace, the English soon realized that they had a big problem on their hands. William Wallace was an inspirational leader of the Scots, who wished to disable the English, like many nations of that time. He was a fierce warrior who possessed great military strategic knowledge, a violent disposition, a hunger for freedom, and the guts and determination needed to inspire his people to victory. Scottish morale soon began to soar and worry of an invasion became the primary concern of the British army. They knew they had to act swiftly.

Chillingham is a small village in the county of Northumberland, Northeast of England. It sits almost directly on the border between England and Scotland. Surrounded by the Cheviot hills, Chillingam provided the perfect strategic location for the British army to protect England’s border. Any invaders could be seen coming from miles around. As a result of the advantageous views and protective cover from the hills, the British had plenty of time to watch and assess any potential threats and could prepare for their onslaught. In contrast, any opposing onslaught was easily countered, leaving the Scottish in great peril. As a result, a stronghold was built. The British Army was there to stay. Any Scottish rebel who dared cross over into British territory would suffer catastrophic consequences.

Originally, the stronghold possessed no name. It was simply four large stone towers that had been constructed in a square shape, with wooden walkways fitted so that soldiers could cross from one tower to the other. As the years passed, further walls were built to join the towers together, making it a stronger fortress. As the building continued, dungeons and torture chambers were fitted, ready for any Scottish rebel who was unlucky enough to be caught. It became colloquially known as the ‘Chillingham fortress’. Now we know it as Chillingham Castle.

John Sage- King of the torturers

As the battles continued, more Scottish rebels found themselves imprisoned in the Chillingam fortress. Soon, cells became overcrowded and fear of an attack from inside became a concern. To eliminate the problem, a horrifying man was brought in. His name was John Sage, and he had been a general in the British army for many years. John Sage was no stranger to violence. He had seen it all. He was ordered by the king to use his trade of pain and suffering to ‘dispose’ of the overwhelming number of Scottish ‘guests’ within the fortress.

Almost daily, John Sage would take rebels out into the pastures one by one and with a swing of his axe, decapitated their heads swiftly and boldly. The lifeless bodies were dumped in the nearby lake where they were left to rot. However, a swift and clean death was not Sage’s preferred method of execution. That was a quick and easy fix to the fortress’s overcrowding problem. Once rebel numbers had reached a manageable level, Sage planned a much more ‘bespoke’ and ‘intricate’ form execution for the remaining and future prisoners.

The chamber of misery and pain

chillingham castle chamber

Deep below the fortress floors, a small chamber was built. Equipped with an iron maiden, rack, chains, shackles, boiling pots, and other unimaginable horrors, Sage quickly got to work. From dawn until dusk, horrifying screams could be heard emitting from the chamber. The floors were chiseled with ‘gutters’ to guide the river of continuous flowing blood into a drain at the end of the room. Once death’s clutches had mercilessly taken the condemned prisoner, his or her body was disposed of by being fed to the fortress pigs or simply burnt on the bonfire outside which never seemed to extinguish. The smell of burning flesh, pain, mutilation, and anguish was always the tall order of the day. This continued for many years until Sage met an unexpected and untimely end.

The hanging tree

Eventually, the fortress was made more habitual due to royal and aristocratic visits. Bedrooms were furnished, and banquet halls were added. One famous guest was Edward 1st, also known as Edward Longshanks or ‘The Hammer of the Scots’. Longshanks would stay at the castle regularly to keep a watchful eye over the daily management and control of the Scottish armies. The room in which Longshanks stayed is now called ‘The King James 1st room’, which King James stayed in after he became king himself and is still laid out in the same way as it was during his reign. As a result of these changes, the fortress became known as a ‘Chillingham Castle’, which was certainly a more fitting name for the important visitors.

hanging tree

One aristocratic lord’s visit would mark the end of John Sage and all his cruelty. After striking up a love affair with the lord’s daughter, Sage accidentally strangled her during an unsavory act of sexual violence. Consequently, Sage was hanged from the old oak tree in the garden that still stands there to this day. He wasn’t hanged cleanly thought… he was ‘hoisted up’ by his throat and left to throttle to death. As Sage died, members of the public dissected parts of his body and took ‘souvenirs’ from this infamous violent man. He died slowly and painfully, a small consolation for his long-suffering victims.

The family Of Chillingham Castle

The Earl Greys have occupied Chillingham Castle since the border wars ended between England and Scotland. The current owner, Sir Humphry Wakefield, is the wife of the Hon. Lady Wakefield, who is from the historic Chillingham family line. Sir Humphrey worked at Christie’s auction house in London for many years and served as a captain in the now disbanded Royal Hussars regiment in the Britsh Army. His daughter, Mary, is Chief editor for the Times and married to the politician, Dominic Cummings. His son, Maximillian is a racing driver and also served in his father’s regiment as a captain for many years. Sir Humphrey, who is also a fearless adventurer and has climbed Mount Everest, has a great passion for restoration. He has spent many years restoring Chillingham to convey its original medieval glory, which radiates clearly to this very day.

The Ghosts Lady Mary Berkley

As a result of all the excitement, there has undoubtedly been an array of emotions spilled out and absorbed by the walls of Chillingam Castle over the years. One sad tale that has contributed to this sad residue is that of Lady Mary Berkeley. Lady Berkley’s husband left her for her younger sister, Lady Henrietta. Mary, depressed and saddened by this affair, spent the rest of her days wandering the castle alone with only her daughter as an occasional companion.

Lady Mary, unable to combat the trauma of her husband’s infidelity, eventually died of a broken heart. To this very day, guests have reported hearing the swish of Mary’s dress and the pitter-patter of dainty feet as she paces the hallways of the castle, weeping and wailing. Unnervingly, a portrait exists of Lady Mary, which was painted during her younger years. The portrait used to hang in what was the castle’s nurseries. After regular reports from the children and nannies about ‘the lady stepping out of the painting and walking around the room’, the portrait was swiftly moved to a quieter Gray apartment, where it sits to this very day.

The Radiant Blue Boy

High up in the North West tower of Chillingham Castle, lies the pink room. The horrors associated with this room are unimaginable. The tale begins with a countess called Leonora Tankerville, who occupied Chillingham Castle during the 1920s. She was said to possess mediumship and psychic abilities and would regularly record her experiences and sightings at the castle in her diary. She occupied the Pink bedroom for many years and every night, a strange phenomenon would occur. At the stroke of midnight, the room temperature would dramatically drop. Soon after, the cries of a child could be heard emanating from a wall near the fireplace at the far side of the room. The cries would reach an agonizing level, often leaving the countess gripping her ears for relief.

terrifying experience

After a while, the cries would die away, and in the corner of the room from which the cries could be heard, a bright halo of blue light would start to form. Within the light, the figure of a boy would appear, and he would slowly walk toward the countess stretching out his arm as if asking for assistance. His face looked drawn and pale, his eyes heavy and sad. Almost as quickly as he had appeared, the boy and the light that surrounded him would dissolve, leaving the countess alone once more. Unable to tolerate this childish wrath any longer, the countess had the room closed, and it remained shut for many years until her death.

Many years later during a restoration period, workmen were asked to knock down the wall in the Pink room next to the fireplace. A passageway was needed between the two towers, and it was here that a gruesome discovery was made. Within the rubble, lay the remains of a child of tender years amongst fragments of blue cloth. The remains were interred in the local churchyard and the haunting appeared to cease. However, anybody who gets access to the room still complains of an unsettling atmosphere, dropping temperatures, and an eerie silence. The room remains closed to the public and is rarely used.

The White Pantry Ghost

The old pantry, which used to be the castle’s treasure room, possesses an equally terrifying specter. Many years ago, a footman was employed to guard the castle’s silver. He had locked himself in the room for the night and pulled back the covers of his bed, ready to sleep. Suddenly, he heard a shuffling sound behind him and, thinking it was rats, unconcernedly turned to investigate. To his horror, standing in front of him, was the pale and drawn figure of a young woman, dressed in white. She asked him for a glass of water.

Thinking she was a castle guest, he turned to fetch a cup and obey her request. Upon filling the glass and turning around, he was startled to see the figure had vanished. The footman became even more concerned when he realized that he had locked the door to the room from the inside and there was no way anybody could have entered. The footman resigned his post the very next day, never to return.

Voices in the Library

Late at night, anybody walking past the library can often hear the muffled voices of two men talking. It is never possible to grasp the content of their discussion. Whenever anybody tries to listen or investigate further, the voices halt immediately. The room is always cold and even in the height of summer, icy condensed breath can be seen coming from the living.

The witch portrait

In the still room, an eerie oil-painted portrait rests upon a piano. It depicts the head and shoulders of a middle-aged woman, glaring accusingly. Surrounding the painting, are scores of letters from people who have stolen from the castle over the years. The content of the letters is always the same. The frantic writers beg for forgiveness, excuse their actions, and convey the disastrous predicaments they now find themselves in. In most cases, the returned items are door knobs, cutlery, and candles. Despite the items being small, it was enough to deter me from ever taking home a simple complimentary shower gel. I suggest you do the same!

Personal Experience

Chillingam Castle is a wonderful place to visit, and I have had the extraordinary privilege of being a regular visitor for the past 24 years. I have had so many paranormal experiences at Chillingham castle that it wouldn’t be possible to record them all here. I had to write a small book to catalog them, which has been selling successfully at the castle and online for the past 11 years. If you want to know more, feel free to google ‘Chillingham Castle-The Diary of an Amateur Ghost Hunter-by Mark Fisher’. However, one experience has come to mind as I write this article. It is currently April, and the weather is very Spring-like outside. When I smell the air, it takes me back to April 2013, the time in which I had the following terrifying experience.

terrifying experience in chillingham castle

My friend and I had booked the ‘Look-out’ apartment which is situated right at the very top of the northwest tower. It was early afternoon, and we were sitting chatting in the living room. The atmosphere was strangely still in the apartment. Even though it was the height of spring, the sun was beaming down, and the air was fresh, no birds were singing outside. They appeared to suddenly stop singing, leaving us feeling rather confused. About a minute later, we heard what sounded like large boots thumping around in the hallway outside the living room. We looked at each other confusingly. Suddenly, the boots sounded like they were quickening up their pace as if somebody was frantically charging around looking for something. The hairs rose on the back of my neck and I froze to my chair. Suddenly, the footsteps stopped.

Then, the living room door slowly opened by about six inches and slowly closed again. As soon as the door closed, the footsteps began thudding and charging around again. Desperate to solve the mystery and with our hearts pounding, we headed towards the living room door. We hoped it was the caretaker and nothing more. Nervously, we opened the door. Instantly, the footsteps stopped, and we were left alone, surrounded by a deafening silence. We checked every room in the apartment. Nobody and nothing was found. My friend checked his pocket and noticed that the apartment key had been there the whole time and that the door to the apartment was locked tightly. Nobody could have entered or left without our knowing.

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