Ghostly Dudley Castle
My new novel – The Devil’s Serenade – mostly takes place in an imposing Gothic style mansion built by Victorian industrialist Nathaniel Hargest. When Maddie Chambers inherits it from her Aunt Charlotte, she soon discovers she has acquired far more than mere bricks and mortar. From the strange appearance of tree roots growing in the cellar to the manifestations, noises and a nostalgic wartime song played again and again, Maddie’s fears grow and intensify. What is going on here – and who, or what, is seemingly hell-bent on driving her insane?
Of course, my novel is just that – fiction. But, in real life, there have been numerous reports of houses cursed or possessed by demons. Sometimes these emanate from the ground on which the house was built. Other times, the builder of the house has somehow managed to impart his – or her – evil into the fabric of the place so that it becomes irrevocably woven into the walls.
In still more cases, the building itself has witnessed so much horror, violence, war and siege that the imprint of its past sticks with it, replaying itself over and over down the centuries. Rather like a movie, scenes are played out, characters from the past - whose spirits haven’t moved on - appear to those living in the present. Sometimes inflicting little more than mild surprise and, at other times. with terrifying results.
One such place is the fortified castle of Dudley in the West Midlands of England which was founded in 1071, and has a reputation as one of Staffordshire’s most haunted spots. According to legend, the current building was erected on the site of a much earlier wooden structure.
Not just one ghost, but many, are heard and seen – in various rooms, pacing the parapets of the now ruined castle and glimpsed through the windows of the Chapel.
If you venture into the offices when the castle is otherwise empty, you may hear – as others have – footsteps in the same room as you. These ghosts are not shy. They seem quite content to be seen. An entire group of ghosthunters claim to have witnessed a spectral figure pacing across the parapets. An old woman has been witnessed on a number of occasions and a drummer boy from the Civil War, who was shot from the battlements, also returns to the scene of his demise, performing different drum rolls. It is said to bring bad luck for you if you hear him.
In 1983 another ghost – that of an elderly Medieval lady – was seen in the castle.
Dudley also has a resident ‘Black Monk’. He has been reported as haunting the entrance to the keep and has also been seen through the window of the Chapel. His presence is not too surprising as the castle is close to the ruins of St James’s Priory, which dates from the 1100s. The priory housed Benedictine monks who wore black habits.
During the English Civil War, the castle became a Royalist stronghold and was besieged twice – in 1644 and then in 1646, when it fell to Cromwell’s forces and was ordered to be partially demolished. In addition to the hapless drummer, the most frightening of Dudley’s ghosts is someone else who perished in the siege of 1646. She is known as the ‘Grey Lady and is thought to be the ghost of Dorothy Beaumont. She has appeared to both staff and visitors over the years. In the 1960s, she was spotted in the old aquarium and in the 1970s, she was seen in the Chapel window
In life, Dorothy lived in the castle and gave birth there to a daughter who sadly died. She also developed complications and died soon after, having requested that she be buried beside her daughter. She also requested that her husband attend her funeral. Neither wish was granted and Dorothy was buried in a churchyard on the other side of the town from her daughter. They have never been reunited and sad Dorothy is said to roam the castle and beyond, searching for her dead baby. Her ghost appears in many locations including a pub named after her – The Grey Lady tavern - situated in the castle grounds. Here alarms go off for no reason, in the middle of the night. The temperature suddenly and inexplicably drops, while a strange blue mist wafts through the bar.
Of all the locations in and around the castle, the most haunted is said to be the chapel undercroft. There lies one of the castle’s most formidable lords – John Somery. People have reported seeing legs beside the coffin, others have felt their clothes tugged or thought they were being prodded by someone. One little girl was apparently flipped over a chair during a paranormal investigation and shadowy figures have been caught on camera. Strange, unexplained grinding noises have been heard emanating from the chapel above.
Dudley Castle is brim-full of ghostly snapshots from its tumultuous past. It seems one generation after another has left an indelible mark that refuses to be laid to rest.
Maddie had forgotten that cursed summer. Now she’s about to remember…
“Madeleine Chambers of Hargest House” has a certain grandeur to it. But as Maddie enters the Gothic mansion she inherited from her aunt, she wonders if its walls remember what she’s blocked out of the summer she turned sixteen.
She’s barely settled in before a series of bizarre events drive her to question her sanity. Aunt Charlotte’s favorite song shouldn’t echo down the halls. The roots of a faraway willow shouldn’t reach into the cellar. And there definitely shouldn’t be a child skipping from room to room.
As the barriers in her mind begin to crumble, Maddie recalls the long-ago summer she looked into the face of evil. Now, she faces something worse. The mansion’s long-dead builder, who has unfinished business—and a demon that hungers for her very soul.
Here’s an extract:
A large flashlight rested on the bottom stair and I switched it on, shining it into the dark corners. There wasn’t a lot to see. A few broken bits of furniture, old fashioned kitchen chairs, some of which looked vaguely familiar, jam jars, crates that may once have held bottles of beer.
The beam caught the clump of gnarled and twisted roots that intertwined with each other, like Medusa’s snakes. I edged closer to it, my heart thumping more than it should. It was only a tree, for heaven’s sake! The nearest one was probably the willow. Surely, that was too far away? I knew little about trees, but I was pretty certain their roots couldn’t extend that far.
I examined the growth from every angle in that silent cellar. The roots were definitely spreading along the floor and, judging by the thickness and appearance of them, had been there for many years. Gray, like thick woody tendrils, they reached around six feet along and possibly four feet across at their widest point. I bent down. Close up, the smell that arose from them was cloyingly sweet. Sickeningly so. I put one hand over my nose, rested the flashlight on the steps and reached out with the fingers of my free hand to touch the nearest root. It wriggled against my palm.
I cried out, staggered backward and fell against the stairs. The flashlight clattered to the floor and went out. Only the overhead bulb provided any light, and it didn’t reach this darkest corner. Something rustled. I struggled to my feet, grabbed the torch and ran up the stairs. I slammed the door shut and locked it, leaned against it and tried to slow down my breathing. A marathon runner couldn’t have panted more.
I tapped the flashlight and it flickered into life, seemingly none the worse for its accident. I switched it off and set it on the floor by the cellar door. Whoever came to fix those roots was going to need it.
You can find The Devil’s Serenade here:
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About the author:
Following a varied career in sales, advertising and career guidance, Cat is now the full-time author of a number of paranormal, ghostly and Gothic horror novels, novellas and short stories. She was the 2013 joint winner of the Samhain Gothic Horror Anthology Competition, with Linden Manor, which features in the anthology What Waits in the Shadows. Other titles include: The Pendle Curse, Saving Grace Devine, Dark Avenging Angel, The Second Wife, Miss Abigail’s Room, The Demons of Cambian Street, The Devil Inside Her, Cold Revenge and In My Lady’s Chamber.
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