Europe has no shortage of haunted locations and I’ve probably been to more of the well known ones across the pond than at home. This is partly because of my love for haunted walks and tours. One of the reasons that I almost prefer them over normal city tours is because they’re not afraid to delve into the dark side of history. There is no shying away of plagues, murder, body snatchers and the like and I feel like that underbelly of history is absolutely fascinating. This list is going to lean fairly heavily on the UK since most of my travel in Europe has been focused there, but I’ll include a few others as well. I haven’t been to as many places in mainland Europe, a lot of countries, but usually only one or two city stops in each so I’m a little more limited as to actual haunted locations there. There are tons and tons of haunted places in Europe, but as with my previous Freaky Fridays, these are only places that I’ve been :)
The Tower of London is really no surprise considering it has been used as a residence, prison and execution site over the years. Its construction began in almost a thousand years ago Probably most famous is the beheading of Anne Boleyn, Henry VIII’s second queen, but several others, including Lady Jane Gray, the Nine Days Queen. There are also the Princes in the Tower, two young princes who were locked away by Richard III so they couldn’t inherit and no one really knows what happened to them. The skeletons of two children were later found in the Tower, and while they were assumed to be the princes, it was never confirmed. Henry VI was murdered there while at prayer and Margaret Pole was reportedly hacked to death by the executioner when she tried to flee her beheading. Reports from staff and guards have also rolled in over the years, mentions of ghostly attacks, apparitions and other sightings are plentiful. I didn’t personally experience anything there beyond a general sense of unease in a few areas.
Edinburgh is one of favourite cities that I’ve visited and it has a dark history that
I’ve browsed through on several ghost walks. The top of most lists is Edinburgh Castle and it is considered to be one of the most haunted places in the world. Stories of torture, death, imprisonment, occupation, battle and siege are ripe in the castle’s history. The Royal Mile, which stretches from the Castle to Holyrood Palace is also home to many hauntings, including a bagpiper who walks the mile. The story goes that he was to use the underground caverns and play his bagpipe so they could hear him from above and follow his progress, but halfway through the music stopped and rescue parties never found him. No hauntings for me here either, but I’ve only been when the tourists are packed in like sardines, so if anything were to happen I probably wouldn’t even notice it.
Mary King’s Close is a dark mark in Edinburgh’s history. According to legend the entire area of the city was quarantined, regardless of whether you had the plague. People who were actually sick died fairly quickly, but the rest were left to die of starvation and dehydration, though it’s said this is an urban legend now. There are also stories of bodysnatchers, Burke and Hare, who murdered at least 16 people and sold their bodies to the universities for medical research. They received £7 per body (which was a lot in 1828). In a twisted way those murderers actually helped the universities because in 1832 the Anatomy Act was passed which allowed bodies to be donated for research so the practices of grave robbing and murder for profit fell sharply. I did get some weird photos from a tour of Mary King’s Close, but those were taken over 10 years ago so I have no idea where they are now to share them. Other people I was with did report the feeling of a hand touching them and of being circled, but there was no one around them.
Hampton Court Palace is about half an hour from London and was once the favoured palace of Henry VIII. It is also where his third wife, Jane Seymour died from childbirth complications. The ghost of Katherine Howard is probably the best known at Hampton Court, particularly because she is also known as the Screaming Lady. When her adultery was discovered she was confined to her rooms, escaped and begged Henry for her life, but was dragged, screaming, back to her rooms before she was transported back to London for execution. There is also a room that has a permanent scent of roses, but I unfortunately missed that on my visit, though another in my travel party experienced it. The only thing that scared the pants off me at Hampton Court was a recording under the stairs when you leave one of the galleries. All of a sudden there is the voice of a child whispering “Divorced, beheaded, died, divorced, beheaded, survived”. I checked that it was a recording and found the device to play it, so thankfully I wasn’t being haunted :P
Poveglia Island near Venice was basically a dumping ground for undesirables. I didn’t set foot on the island, most people never do, but I was pretty close to it. It is apparently dubbed by locals as the “island of no return” and there are reportedly over 160,000 people who died there, whether from plague, starvation, abuse, murder, or in one case, death by ghosts pushing them from the bell tower.
Versailles is most noted for reports of Marie Antoinette’s ghost, among many, many others. I was only 12 when I went here and definitely didn’t notice anything like that, but if I return I’ll be on the lookout.
Culloden Moor is the site of the battle between the Scots and the English in the fight to restore Bonny Prince Charlie and the Stuarts to the throne. It went terribly, resulting in the loss of about 2000 lives and was the turning point for the destruction of the clan system in Scotland. The Duke of Cumberland, also known as The Butcher, was known for systematically seeking out the families and friends of those involved in the battle and killing them as well to try and stamp out any bit of uprising in the Scots. Honestly when I was there it reminded me a bit of the Dead Marshes from LotR, minus the floating dead bodies. It was sad and a bit weird to stand in the spot so much violence happened, as it is with any battlefield I visit. No ghosts, but I wouldn’t want to spend the night there.
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