Carisbrooke Castle is well known as the place the doomed King Charles I was imprisoned before his execution – and from which he failed to escape. It is also haunted by a number of ghosts and you might like to use this story on your famous hauntings page.
GHOSTS AT CARISBROOKE CASTLE
A FACE IN THE WELL
For more than nine centuries the castle at Carisbrooke on the Isle of Wight, in the South of England, has stood firm against attack. Only once, in 1136, did the castle surrender…when the Keep well unfortunately ran dry. Another was sunk without delay – this time in the courtyard, where the 161ft deep shaft through solid rock took three years to construct. Just over 5ft wide, it usually contains 40ft of water. Originally, prisoners were used to work a huge wooden treadwheel drawing buckets up from the depths. By 1690 donkeys had taken over the work – now three centuries on, donkeys Jenny, Jacob, Joseph and Jubilee are among the castle’s biggest attractions.
So when Debi and Graham Wendes, from Chelmsford, Essex, visited the Island in August 1992, they naturally went to Carisbrooke Castle. For Debi however, that bank holiday Monday turned into an experience she can’t forget.
“We went into the well-house, but as I perched on the stonework of the well I started to feel really awful. I had an overwhelming impression I should not be in there, then glancing into the well I saw a girl’s face looking up at me. In her late teens or early twenties, she was very slender-faced with dark curly hair pulled over to one side. Her face was very pale. She wore no jewellery and her clothing was dark, but not black. She was several feet down, below the iron grill, slightly to one side of the mouth of the well. Her dress billowed around her as though waterlogged and she seemed to be tangled up in it. I was suddenly overwhelmed with such a terrible feeling of grief that I had to get out.”
Debi rushed outside, leaving her husband and son in the well house. But sitting in the courtyard in the sunshine, she continued to receive troubling images and emotions from the girl in the well. “I still felt clammy, claustrophobic and had trouble breathing. Whoever the girl was, I had a strong impression that her death was an accident; that she had gone into the well house in a very distressed state, slipped and fallen down the well. She was trying to tell me that she had not deliberately taken her own life.”
Debi asked the museum curators if anybody had ever fallen down that well. No records could be found of such an accident, they said. A body did go down the well in the J Meade Falkner adventure novel ‘Moonfleet’ set in Carisbrooke Castle – but that was pure fiction. I have discovered however that in 1632 Elizabeth Ruffin, the young daughter of the Mayor of Newport, “threw herself down a well at the castle.” Oglander, the Island’s 17th century diarist who recorded this in his papers, assumed this was the well in the Keep. It would appear that he assumed wrongly…
LIKE A REFLECTION…
The light was slowly fading as Pat Barrett and her husband Michael set out to walk their dogs around Carisbrooke Castle. It was a warm summer’s evening on Saturday, August 6th 1994. As they strolled around the castle moat, the couple noticed a young woman ahead of them, also walking two small dogs.
” I suddenly realised I could see right through her. The bushes and trees behind her were clearly visible,” said a startled Pat. “My husband could see her as well. She was in Victorian costume with a bonnet, a long, light-coloured skirt and dark blouse or jacket which could have been brown. She was in her mid-twenties. At times she appeared to be quite solid, then would fade, becoming transparent, like a reflection in a shop window. I could not see her feet under her flowing skirt as she seemed to be gliding a little above the ground. The apparition appeared to us for at least five minutes at different places around the castle – almost as if she was taunting us or playing with us, showing herself and then disappearing again.
“Finally she crossed the car park in front of the castle entrance, moved to the hedge by a bridle path and slowly faded away. The place was eerily quiet. We had passed a couple with two children earlier on our walk but otherwise the path was deserted.”
Curiously, the Barretts’ two young dogs, a Lakeland terrier and Lakeland cross, did not react in any way to the apparition’s presence – or to her two little ghost-dogs. “If there are people with dogs in front, our two usually pull at their leads and sniff at the ground where the other animals have been, but this time they took no notice at all. I could not see her two dogs clearly. They just appeared as small dark patches at her side, like black Scottish terriers. But I could clearly see the leads which she held out in front of her.
“I was rather unnerved, especially when I realised I could see right through the woman, but later I felt that we were privileged to have seen her. We even returned to the castle at 9.05 the following evening in case she was there again, but we weren’t lucky this time,” Pat admitted.
FOUR DAINTY LAP DOGS
Yet another figure with dogs has been seen inside the castle itself. This time, four dainty lap-dogs on very long, thin leather leashes were being walked by a mysterious woman in a long cloak. Mrs June Kehoe, of London, was with a party of visiting schoolchildren when she saw the apparition near the main gatehouse. It was lunch-time on Whit Monday 1994, and the weather – unusually for a bank holiday – was exceptionally hot.
“I was on duty near the shop counting the children in and out, when I noticed a woman coming across the courtyard towards us. Four tiny lapdogs on leashes several feet long were trotting ahead of her. She was walking towards some wooden posts with a chainlink fence and I thought, ‘Silly woman. She is going to get tangled in that fence’. ”
June wondered why the woman was wearing such heavy and inappropriate clothes on a hot day, assuming she was a “living history” actress there to entertain the visitors. However this theory was soon proved wrong. When the figure was just six feet from her, one of the pupils called to June who glanced away briefly. ” When I looked back, she had vanished. It was so very odd that I even walked out of the gate in search of her. I never saw her face, but she was dressed in a long dark costume – a dress or cloak – which covered her feet, moving with her as she walked. There was no crunching of footsteps on the gravel and the dogs made no noise at all.” June was not the only one to witness this shade from the past. On the coach back to their Sandown hotel, a fellow teacher commented on the woman with those little dogs who had seemed so strangely out of place and time.
Many people enjoy a walk around the moat and paths surrounding the castle – Christine Candler is no exception. An early riser, she was out and about at 8am one Sunday morning a few summers past when she had a curious encounter with a young man dressed in very old-fashioned garb. As in the previous story, Christine also assumed at first that he was part of one of the Castle’s special “living history” events, so paid no heed to the figure which appeared in front of her as she walked her dog up a well-worn path off Castle Hill.
“He wore a brown jerkin and trousers with a wide leather belt. He was in his twenties or early thirties. He greeted me with the words ‘reet grayley’ which sounded like some sort of old dialect.”
Even then it didn’t occur to Christine that this could be a ghost. She followed closely behind him up the steps towards the castle, but when she reached the top he had disappeared. “He had looked so solid and real. It was a very strange experience, especially when he spoke. I remember those words so clearly. I would dearly love to know what they mean.”
After so many centuries Carisbrooke Castle has a special atmosphere all of its own. Each year thousands of visitors walk the walls, climb the ramparts, peer down the wells and watch the donkeys toil at the treadwheel. Of course the castle has its ghosts. And once in a while, when conditions are just right, they appear briefly to give those of us lucky enough to see them, a fleeting glimpse of the past .
Story submitted by Gay Baldwin
Read more stories on www.ghost-island.com.