Saturday, November 26, 2011

Ghost of William Wallace at Ardrossan Castle in Ayrshire, Scotland

Located on a high bluff along the coast of Scotland, stands the ruins of what is today known as Ardrossan Castle.  This ghostly visage of the past stands guard over the town of Ardrossan located in Ayrshire.  However that is not all that is ghostly regarding the castle. A legend of the past is known to haunt the castle that he captured in the late 13th century as well as other phantoms of the past.

The ruins of Ardrossan Castle in Ayrshire, Scotland

The once great castle that stood in Ardrossan was formerly known as Castle Crag as it stood high on the rocky craggy terrain above the sea. Built in the early 12th century, the castle originally belonged to the Barclay clan.  Sir Fergus Barclay was a famous and legendary horseman of the day.  Legend states that Sir Fergus' skills were so great because he made a deal with the Devil and acquired a magic bridle.  However, Barclay did not want to give his soul to the devil so he tricked the Devil out of the deal. Enraged, the Devil attacked Castle Crag, leaving hoof marks in the jagged rocks around the stronghold.  Sir Fergus survived but paid for it in the end however. Eventually, Fergus was put to death for murdering his wife. He died on the Isle of Arran and was buried there. Oddly, a storm on the night he was buried uncovered his body and it was washed up on the shore at Ardrossan.  He was reburied on the castle grounds in the chapel.  He was known as The De'il of Ardrossan.

The remains of Ardrossan Castle over look the town of Ardrossan, Ayrshire, Scotland

The castle passed from family to family over the couple of centuries that followed. Around 1292, Edward I of England invaded and Androssan Castle fell into English hands.  They only held it for a few years however.  In 1296, William Wallace, the champion of Scottish independence who was one of the few who stood up to Edward I, led his followers to the castle, overtook and destroyed it.  He threw the dead English soldiers as well as the survivors into a cellar vault beneath the castle
with what little food was there and left them to die.  This became known in Scottish History as Wallace's Larder.  Wallace would go on to capture other English strongholds and lead the Scots to many victories. However, he was betrayed and captured in 1305.  Edward I, humiliated by Wallace's success, had him drawn and quartered to set an example for all other Scots who dared rise against him.

William Wallace, leader of the fight for Scottish independence in the late 13th and early 14th centuries
Entrance to the vaults beneath the ruins of Ardrossan Castle where Wallace's Larder took place

Although Ardrossan Castle was rebuilt and enlarged several times and survived over the years, it met it's final end around 1650 when Oliver Cromwell who felt threatened by the fortress, had his army destroy it.  They used much of the stone from the castle to build a fortress at Ayr.  Later in the mid 1700s, more of the stone was taken from the castle to build walls in the town of Ardrossen itself.

Today, there are many statues honoring William Wallace, the champion of Scottish independence.  This one stands outside of Stirling, Scotland.

Today the ruins of Castle Ardrossan still stand on the rocky crag overlooking the town of Ardrossan. Many believe that the spirits of those who lived and died here still haunt the ruined chambers.  There is one ghost in particular though that intrigues most. It is said that on stormy evenings, the figure of a tall bearded man can be seen standing around the ruins.  One minute he is there, then in another he is gone.  It is believed that this is the spirit of William Wallace which has somehow bonded to these ruins. 

William Wallace has his own castle of sorts in modern times.  This tower stands on a hill overlooking Stirling, Scotland where Wallace led the Scots to victory at the Battle of Stirling Bridge
Ardrossan Castle as seen today from the streets of Ardrossan, Ayrshire, Scotland

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Friday, November 25, 2011

Poveglia Island near Venice, Italy

Just off the coast of Italy near Venice, Poveglia Island is one of the most unwanted places in the world.  This is due to the fact that it is most likely one of the most haunted places on the planet.  Nicknamed the Island of Death, visitors to the island have been so terrified, that today people are forbidden from visiting the island.

Poveglia Island near Venice, Italy is thought to be one of the most haunted places in the world

According to legend, the notoriety of this island began back in the reign of the Roman Empire when during a plague outbreak, the bodies of the dead would be brought to this island and thrown in heaps to keep them away from the general population.

The island became a refuge for those fleeing the barbarian invasions between the 5th and 8th centuries.  Many wars were fought on the tiny island as it became a fortification to protect against the invaders.  Many died on the island during these wars.  A structure known as the Octagon was built to help defend the island.  The eight sided foundation of it remains to this day.

The remains of the fortification known as The Octagon can be seen in the foreground of Poveglia Island near Venice, Italy

In the 1500s, another plague struck Italy and Poveglia as well as other local islands served again as a dumping ground for the bodies.  They were thrown into large pits and later they were piled up and set ablaze.  To this day, ash still covers the island.  The ash is what remains of the cremated plague victims.  It is said that some plague victims that had not even died were rounded up and led to the island in boats to await their death.  The Italian doctors could be seen in the boats wearing their plague masks with the bird-like beak to protect themselves from contracting the disease as they led them out to the island.

The plague doctors of old Italy would wear plague masks to protect them from the diseases carried by the patients they administered to

Supposedly, as time passed visitors to Poveglia began to witness paranormal events on the island.  Apparitions of the plague victims of the past were said to roam the tiny piece of ground.  Screams of the dead and dying are rumored to be heard.  At a couple of points in history the Italian government tried to actually give the island away, but there were no takers.

An attempt was made to actually use the island again in 1922 when a mental hospital was built on Poveglia.  Patients at the hospital complained that they would see ghosts and were haunted by the spirits of the island.  However, these complaints were dismissed since they were mental patients after all.  

An interior shot of the mental hospital at Poveglia Island, Italy

Legend says that a particular doctor at the mental institution was crazed and performed tortuous experiments on many patients, killing them in the process.  They say that the spirits got revenge on him however, causing him to jump from the bell tower on the premises.  When he did not die from the fall, they say that an eerie mist enveloped him and suffocated him. The hospital remained open until the 1960s. Rumor has it that the spirit of the crazed doctor has now been seen among the others on Poveglia Island haunting the bell tower where he died.  Some say that on certain nights, the eerie chime of the bell tower can be heard across the harbor, however, the island is unoccupied.

The docks and structure of the mental hospital at Poveglia Island, Italy.  Some say the shadowy figure near the top of the dock stairs to the left is an apparition.

Today, the island is abandoned and is closed off from the public.  Access can only be granted by special permission.  Various paranormal teams have been allowed to investigate the island and it's facilities and reports are that Poveglia is definitely a haunted place!

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The Catacombs of Paris (l'Ossuaire Municipal) - Paris, France

Deep beneath the streets of Paris, France, there lies the jumbled remains of over six million Parisians.  Many believe that because these poor souls where disturbed in their resting places, they roam the ancient subterranean stone quarries of Paris or what today is known to many as "The Catacombs".

Some of the first remains relocated to the old stone quarries of Paris (les carrières de Paris) or more commonly known as The Catacombs

What is known by many as l'Ossuaire Municipal (The Catacombs) or by some les carrières de Paris (The Quarries of Paris), began when an overcrowding problem occurred with church cemeteries in the 12th century.  Offering burial in their cemeteries was a source of income for the churches.  As a result, they would take in more bodies than they could really handle.  Large pits were dug for those who could not really afford a proper grave to make room for well paying customers.  When these mass graves were full, they would fill them in and open another.  

The catacombs of Paris hold over six million human remains

In the late 18th century,  this technique of burial began to cause health problems, so after a time when the remains in one mass grave had decomposed, the bodies would be exhumed and relocated and new bodies buried in the pit.  The bones of the previous occupants were moved to the old under ground quarries that were refurbished and reinforced. The bones would be stacked neatly in rows where they remain to this day.  After a while, mass burial in the city was banned all together.

Crypt of the Sepulchral Lamp located in The Catacombs of Paris

Over the centuries the catacombs have been visited by many including both French underground and German soldiers during World War II.  There are tales of death and murders that have taken place deep within the hidden catacombs of Paris.  Many visitors claim to have "felt" strange things when they have been in the catacombs.  Feelings like they were being followed and in some cases touched by some unseen force.  Other visitors have reported seeing shadow figures or specters deep within the stacks and rows of skulls and bones.  Undoubtedly the disturbance of all those souls to be brought into the catacombs has left the spirits of these individuals unsettled. 

Paranormal researchers visiting the catacombs of Paris have captured strange EVP recordings as well as photographs of strange, unexplained lights or orbs as well as misty images appearing on film.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

The Tower of London - England

In 1078 in London, England, William the Conqueror began construction of a castle eventually destined to be known as The White Tower around which over time, more towers and structures where added to make up what would become the massive Tower of London.  The original tower today serves as the keep of the enormous structure.  For a time, the castle housed the royal family and the crown jewels, however today it is mostly inhabited by the tower guards or beefeaters and due to it's long bloody and torrid history...  ghosts.

The Tower of London, England
The Tower of London, England in 1802
The most visible part of The Tower of London, The White Tower or central castle keep, can be seen in the center of a more complex system of walls and towers

St. Thomas' Tower

    In 1241 it is thought that the first known haunting of The Tower of London occurred in St. Thomas' Tower.  Supposedly a priest witnessed the ghost of martyred Saint Thomas Becket appearing and reportedly causing some damage to the structure. Centuries later in the early 1800s, a soldier witnessed the apparition of a headless woman in a white dress covered with blood roaming the castle grounds.  It is thought that she is the spirit of a wife who was beheaded by her husband who was one of the tower guards in the late 1780s.  Her head however, was never found!  Many believe she returns, searching the castle grounds for her head.

St. Thomas' Tower part of The Tower of London, England

Wakefield Tower

    King Henry the VI, apparently having a lack luster reign, in 1471 was found in Wakefield Tower where he was imprisoned, brutally stabbed to death.  Later it was thought that this heinous crime was carried out by Richard III.  Henry is said to revisit this tower on midnight on the anniversary of his death each year.

Wakefield Tower part of The Tower of London, England

The Tower Green

    The courtyard area of The Tower of London is known as Tower Green.  This is the place where most of the nobles and aristocrats were executed on the block by beheading vs being put to the stake and burned to death as were the lesser heretics and such. 

One of the most famous people to be executed here was Queen Anne Boleyn, second wife of King Henry VIII who seemed passionate about executing his wives.  It seems that in 1536, Queen Anne found herself accused of adultery and incest and was beheaded on the Tower Green.  To this day, her headless body has be seen strolling through the Tower Green courtyard and in the tower where she was imprisoned. 

The Tower Green and Queen's House part of The Tower of London, England

One of the more gruesome tales of Tower Green is that of Margaret Pole
the Countess of Salisbury.  After her son managed to insult King Henry VIII and then escape to be protected by friends, Henry imprisoned his mother Margaret Pole, and in 1541 sent her to the executioner's block.  However, being innocent of wrong doing, she refused to bow down to have her head removed.  Infuriated, the executioner began swinging the axe at her and chased her around the Tower Green hacking her to death.

A year after the gruesome death of the countess of Salisbury, another wife of Henry VIII, Queen Catherine Howard, was discovered to be committing adultery and was executed on the green  in 1542.  Her ghost is also said to have been spotted aimlessly wandering around The Tower Green.

Another misfortunate royal victim was Lady Jane Grey.  In 1552, after nine days of being Queen she was overthrown by supporters of a rival and imprisoned along with her husband. Two years later, both she and her husband were put to the axe on the Tower Green.  Lady Jane's apparition which appears as a shimmering translucent figure has been seen lingering around the area where she was executed as well as the towers.

Beheaded victims are not the only spectral entity that has been seen on The Tower Green.  Some witnesses have claimed to see a procession of phantom soldiers marching through the green on their eternal quest to guard the castle and London itself.

The Salt Tower

In the 16th century, the Salt Tower was used to imprison Jesuit priests who underwent excruciating torture deep within the tower's dungeons.  Scratchings on the walls of the dungeon chambers still exist to this day to prove that they were there and what they went through.  Today icy cold spots have been known to manifest themselves in these dungeons and hushed whispers and moans can be heard from horrors of the past.

The Salt Tower part of The Tower of London, England

Bloody Tower

In 1483 heirs to the thrown which was then held by their uncle, Richard III, were Prince Richard and Prince Edward.  Once King Richard took the throne, he had them imprisoned in The Bloody Tower.  It seemed he felt threatened that they would take over his reign. They could be seen running and playing in the tower windows and parapets.  However, at some point, they disappeared completely.  It was assumed that Richard III had murdered them and centuries later, this was confirmed when their remains were discovered on the castle grounds after some work had begun.  Some say that the two little princes can be seen to this day running around The Bloody Tower wearing their white nightgowns, just as they would have been doing centuries ago.  However, when the Ghosts of Prince Richard and Prince Edward are approached, they seem to fade into the stone as if they were a part of The Tower itself.

Bloody Tower (right) part of The Tower of London, England

The Tower of London is open for tours daily and you will be guided by the legendary Yeomen Warders or Beefeaters and learn about more ghosts and hauntings in The Tower.  Hear of the legend of the Tower Ravens which it is said that if they ever leave, London will fall!