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Hampton Court - UK

Started by PPI Brian, March 06, 2017, 03:26:56 PM

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PPI Brian

Eek! There are ghosts in my royal palace: After this eerie photo of Hampton Court's Grey Lady, the building's curator says it's jam-packed with spooks

By Lucy Worsley For The Daily Mail
PUBLISHED: 20:12 EST, 6 March 2015 | UPDATED: 12:27 EST, 8 March 2015

What's that faint scratching sound, coming from a distant room? Could it be the turning of a wheel? The questions often on my mind as I walk at dusk along the passages and galleries that link the 1,300-odd chambers of Hampton Court Palace, glancing over my shoulder. The sound of a spinning wheel, which seems always to come from the next room, is one of the oldest and most persistent ghost stories told about Hampton Court Palace.

As the Chief Curator at Historic Royal Palaces, the charity that welcomes more than three million visitors a year to historic sites including the Tower of London and Hampton Court Palace, ghosts feature more in my daily life than in most other people's.

Last week, one of our visitors, a 12-year-old named Holly Hampsheir, seems to have caught her own glimpse of Hampton Court's most famous ghost. Holly, who was visiting Henry VIII?s residence, took a snapshot of her cousin Brook McGee, also 12, on a mobile phone in the King's Apartments. Although the girls believed they were alone, the picture looks like it contains another, ghostly figure: a lady in grey.

Two names sprang instantly to mind when I saw the image: Catherine Howard, our celebrated ghost Queen and fifth wife of Henry VIII, and Sybil Penn, a royal nurse who is believed to be the ghostly spinner. Both are traditionally seen as The Grey Lady.

Sybil, a nurse to the future king, Edward VI, who was born at Hampton Court in 1537, later became a lady-in-waiting to Edward's older sister and successor, Queen Elizabeth I. She looked after the Queen when Elizabeth I fell ill from smallpox at Hampton Court Palace in 1562. Sybil is said to have nursed her sovereign so devotedly that she sacrificed her own life, catching smallpox herself, and dying from the disease. Sybil was buried at the church of St Mary's in the village of Hampton near the palace. In 1829, St Mary's Church was demolished for rebuilding, and it was during this process that Sybil's tomb was disturbed.

Soon afterwards, the 19th-century inhabitants of the palace began to report that they?d heard Sybil and her ghostly spindle. There are even reports that a sealed room was opened up to reveal -- a Tudor spinning wheel, with its wheel having slowly come to a halt after the removal of an unseen hand.

Personally, I'm a little sceptical about mysterious presences or ghostly ladies, but many of my colleagues at Hampton Court have had uncanny experiences.

Luke Wiltshire, a member of the security team, recalls when he was called out at 3 am to accompany an engineer to check a fire alarm in Fountain Court. They both heard the sound of footsteps running away up a flight of stairs, where no human being should have been.

On another occasion, Luke was in the cafe late at night, when two piles of plates began to shake unaccountably.

Annie Heron, photo librarian, was working late when she glimpsed a figure at the top of the stairs. I asked which stairs. Why, the very ones climbing up to the office we both share. Scarier still, Chris Gidlow, who organises palace events, had contacted psychologist and  paranormal expert Richard Wiseman to arrange a ghost-hunting session for visitors. Soon afterwards, a mysterious fax in wobbly writing appeared on Chris's machine. "You're messing with forces you don't understand," it read. "Don't disturb the red room."

Now, receiving a strange letter or fax is not unusual if you have an address like Hampton Court Palace. But at that moment, no one in the world besides Chris and Richard knew that they?d planned to hold their event in one of the palace apartments that is, indeed, hung with red fabric. "I'm not a weird, spiritual person," says Chris, "but it was as odd as anything."

Even I feel something of a chill when I leave the office by darkness, and make my way out along the Haunted Gallery. This is, notoriously, the part of the building where paranormal activity has most often been experienced.

Ian Franklin works as a first aider at the palace. "When I hear over the radio that a visitor has fainted," he explains, "I always head straight to the Haunted Gallery, even before I'm told the location of the incident. More often than not, that's where it happens."

The gallery's ghost is Catherine Howard, the teenage fifth wife of King Henry VIII. In November 1541, Henry was sitting in the Chapel Royal at Hampton Court when he was handed a letter from Archbishop Cranmer. The news was too bad for anyone to dare to deliver it out loud. Evidence had been uncovered that Henry's young wife of only 18 months, Catherine, his "rose without a thorn" as he called her, had been unchaste. This was an accusation of treason, and execution at the Tower of London would follow. The story goes that Catherine, in her own rooms, heard what had happened, and ran along the gallery to the Chapel in order to plead with her husband for her life.

But his guards intercepted her, and dragged her screaming back to the Queen's Apartments. From there, she was taken to Syon Abbey, while the accusations were investigated, and thence to the Tower where she ended her days on the block in early 1542.

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"Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence."--Carl Sagan