Year One continues to provide an insight into Britain’s hauntings, and ultimately raises questions about the origins of many of our best loved ghosts. Recently I have turned my focus on to Warwick Castle Ghosts, ‘famously’ haunted and the scene of many contemporary ghost hunts. Warwick Castle is quite unique in that its oldest ghost story is a remnant of Warwickshire folklore, the story concerns the slaughtering of a gigantic cow called the “Dun Cow” by Guy of Warwick. Undoubtedly Guy didn’t exist and was probably an enhancement of a previous Saint legend for the thirteen hundreds. This didn’t stop a character from folklore haunting this prestigious castle.
In 1926, the Nottingham Evening Post investigated Warwick Castle and its claims that it was haunted by three ghosts. After interviewing the family of the Earl of Warwick, they detailed some of its incredible hauntings.
Warwick Castle which at one time claimed the title of being the oldest inhabited castle in England, had been let to an American, Henry Marsh from 1914 to 1926 after the Earl experienced money troubles. Interestingly Henry also leased another paranormally linked house – Knebworth House.
The Evening Post describes Warwick Castle’s hauntings, “The most famous that haunts the building is that of Guy, an almost prehistoric figure, supposedly nine feet high, who slew the “Dun Cow” and whose wife Felice, kept house at Guy’s Cliffe near by while he was away on his ventures. Today an alleged rib of the “Dun Cow”, Guy’s porridge pot (about three feet across) and various arms are still shown at the castle.”
Its interesting to see how the hauntings are described nearly a hundred years ago and how they are perceived today. “Guy is supposed to walk from one end of the inhabited part of the castle to the other; that is to say he traverses a distance of about a quarter of a mile, starting at Caesar’s Tower and finishing at the Water (Gate) Tower. A former bailiff to the present Lord Warwick’s grandfather always told of how, when he was waiting on the route of the ghost’s peregrinations he heard colossal footsteps approach, pass him and then go on, when he could actually see nothing,” wrote the Evening Post.
Modern reports of the castle’s ghosts still include the sound of phantom footsteps, however they are no longer attributed to Guy but soldiers of the past. Many books also claim Mr Marsh himself experienced the phantom footsteps and not the former bailiff – which is untrue.
“Frances, Countess of Warwick, the mother of the present Earl, also relates that when she was first married, and was sleeping in a lonely section of the house on the direct route, she head the same footsteps, which were enormously magnified, and as at that time all the carpets had been removed, the steps echoed from end to end of the building. The dogs in her rooms became panic-stricken and cowered under the bed.”
Again modern reports claim that Frances was in the “Japanese Corridor” when this occurred, yet I cannot (at the moment at least) find any contemporary reference to Frances being in the “Japanese Corridor”.
And now for a big surprise – a ghost that doesn’t exist as such in the modern era. Warwick Castle is now said to be haunted by Moll Bloxham, who appears as a woman and a large black dog. Most modern sources of Warwick Castle’s hauntings do not mention a “Grey Lady”.
Evening Post wrote, “The Grey Lady, however, whose origin is wrapped in mystery, has been seen by many members of the family up to the present day. The Grandmother of the present Earl was always seeing her, while many servants have borne witness to catching a glimpse of her furtive figure flitting about the long corridors. Doors open without reason, the “Grey Lady” appears and then passes on, and when the astonished spectator goes to find her there is nothing.”
This is a major surprise for anyone interested in the ghosts of Warwick – even a search on Google will only show single digit references to the Grey Lady, and yet in the 1920s, she was the most active and reported ghost.
In the 1930s there were further reports of the Grey Lady, again from the Earl of Warwick’s family, one sighting was so close that the witness saw that it was a old woman dressed in grey.
Another surprise is that the most (modern) referenced ghost at Warwick Castle is that of “Sir Fulke Greville” whose penetrating cries can be heard coming from the “Water Gate Tower” as he was murdered. Except Fulke was murdered in Holborn, London.
His body was “laid out” in his favourite room in that tower but there is certainly no need for him to be crying out. In 1981, Meg Atkins describes in which knocking was heard behind panelling in the tower and it was believed to have been Sir Fulke. Yet one hundred years ago Sir Fulke is not even mentioned – by the family that lived there!
It really begs the question why have Warwick Castle’s ghosts changed over the last hundred years? One reason I believe is the acceptance of a ghost’s history. Believing that the footsteps of a nine foot man who slaughtered a monstrous cow haunt a castle is seemingly not the done thing any more, rather the footsteps are often given a new explanation depending on the medium or storyteller.
The Grey Lady seems to have gone out of existence (again) and replaced by a more historical and pantomime-like Dame in Moll Bloxham. Again a Grey Lady with no narrative, is far less interesting than an alleged witch that transforms herself into a black dog.
The issue we have with many hauntings are the interpretations of the ghost’s narrative. The Grey Lady must be Moll Bloxham and the footsteps can’t be a mythical knight – what we have here is the witness and investigator coming to conclusions rather than just reporting the facts. At Warwick Castle, phantom footsteps have been heard, a female ghost in grey witnessed and screaming from the Water Gate Tower – just because these have been experienced doesn’t mean they are the usual or historical suspects.
Most astounding of all, is the lack of evidence for Sir Fulke Greville haunting the castle, aside from the 1981 mention by Meg Atkins (which is only knocking on the back of wooden panels) there are little other pre-1960’s references.* Yet it seems that Sir Fulke is taken as the main haunter and not the “elder ghost” of the Grey Lady.
Moll Bloxham is the biggest issue I have with the castle’s hauntings. Not only is her story implausible, but the fact she was tried in the “1700s” would mean there should be a reference to her alleged trial – yet there is none. If Moll is this terrifying spectre wreaking revenge for her death, why are there no reports of her ghost pre-1960s? (Update 22nd July 2013)
Sadly, based on my current research, it seems that two of Warwick Castle’s ghosts, Guy and Moll Bloxham are little more than folklore rather than characters from history. The ghost that actually has credence, the Grey Lady, is side-lined in favour of more historic sounding ghosts instead of actual evidence from witnesses themselves.
* Roy Palmer’s “Folklore of Warwickshire” (1976) mentions the haunting but in no detail
[…] Wayland, MJ. “Warwick Castle Ghosts – A Re-evaluation.” MJ Wayland Ghost Historian. March 11, 2015. https://mjwayland.com/warwick-castle-ghosts/. […]
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