As Hampton Court turns 500, we take a look at some of the chilling ghost stories that have swept through the palace over the last few decades!
We are familiar with ‘Skeletor’ the spectra caught on Hampton Court’s CCTV camera back in winter of 2003; however are we as familiar with the other haunting’s, which don’t always find their way into our news? It isn’t surprising that Hampton Court may have many ghost stories to tell when we think of the history of the palace. Built by Cardinal Wolsey for King Henry VIII from 1514, Wolsey spent 200,000 gold crowns to build the largest and most extravagant palace in England. Hampton Court ravished in an era of execution and one of the most notorious kings in history, who did in fact execute two of his wives, one of which was sentenced to death in Hampton Court itself. The palace also saw the death of his other wife, Jane Seymour who Henry adored for bearing him a son and heir to the throne. She sadly died from an infection following the birth in her Hampton Court chamber. Over the years the Royal family lived in Hampton Court and between 1689 and 1694 William and Mary spent £113,000 on new apartments in the baroque style of architecture. The Royal family no longer live in the palace and it is now open to the public, which means there are frequent ghost sightings from the public and members of staff.
Catherine Howard, Henry’s fifth wife is said to haunt the gallery, which is why it has been given the name the Haunted Gallery. She was dragged through the palace, after being accused of adultery and was told that she would be beheaded. She was later beheaded in 1542 at the age of just 21. Her ghost is said to run down the gallery screaming, as if replaying her final hours as role as queen. Many feel a chill in the air and some have mysteriously fainted.
Many claim to have seen the ghost of Henry's third wife, Jane Seymour and she is frequently seen on the anniversary of her death. She is said to ascend the stairs, which lead to the Silver Stick Gallery, wearing a white gown and holding a candle. She is also said to walk the grounds of the Clock Court.
A less well known haunting is that of Sybil Penn, who was a servant who died in 1562 from smallpox after nursing Elizabeth I. She has been given the famous name of the grey lady. Sightings seemed to begin in 1829 when her tomb was moved before the church at the palace was rebuilt. Strange noises began to be heard, as if someone was using a spinning wheel, which later led to the discovery of a hidden chamber containing nothing other than a spinning wheel. Servants sometimes felt icy hands on their faces at night and the sound of a woman muttering, which is thought to have been Sybil Penn. Many even to this day have witnessed her apparition and have encountered strange happenings.
Other chilling happenings consist of mysterious, dark, cowed figures and strange smells such as perfume and lavender are known to emanate around Queen Caroline’s private apartments. The ghost of a large dog has been seen on numerous occasions, sitting by a fireplace. Robed figures, similar to monks have also been seen running in the north cloister.
Hampton Court is definitely a spooky place, even during the day. At night when lone wardens walk the palace and grounds, the atmosphere transforms into a dark and chilling location, which the majority of people would not be able to bare. To think that 500 years of history, may come back to life during the dead of night in the silent and eerie setting of the once bustling Tudor palace.