When Tom of Tomarhawk offered a chance to stay in St Briavels, the most haunted castle in England, I just leapt at it with bells on. Other than meeting like-minded backpackers at this VSO Social Event, we would be staying a three night weekend at the most haunted castle of England.
Now, anything spooky, scary or even the downright gruesome, I’m literally there. I just have a morbid fascination of anything that is unknown. However, I’m not a ‘believer’ but also not a plain ‘sceptic’, you could say that I’m a reluctant sceptic. I WANT to believe. But I need to see it with my very own eyes and on the way from Kent, England, I was just itching to peer into the unknown.
Speeding down the M4 and crossing over the Severn Bridge amidst the darkening skies creating a chilling backdrop of terror of what awaited us, facts need to be gleaned from about the history and geography of the castle that overlooks the beautiful Wye Valley.
Built as a Norman Fortress, St Briavels provided itself to be a hunting lodge for King John, who thus turned it into an administrative centre for the Forest of the Dean, a few miles from the Welsh border in Gloucestershire. Since then, it’s been a prison, a school, a private house and to this day, a youth hostel.
Not much has changed since it was first built, and it is within these towers is where the terrifyingly apt names are allocated to each room. ‘Prison’, ‘Hanging Room,’ ‘Oblique Room’, etc. Reading up on the paranormal history, I was duly alarmed that guests have been known to flee from the hostel in the middle of the night as they couldn’t take in the foreboding menace that occupied the castle during their sleep, possibly from escaping the crying baby ghost from King John’s Bedroom (a mummified baby was found in the fireplace lofters during renovation), let alone the feeling that they are being strangled in the Hanging Room. With that, I knew I wanted to be in the Hanging Room. I know, I’m weird.
Arriving in this picturesque village that have seen better times, you couldn’t shake off the bountiful charm of the place and you wonder why such a dark castle would occupy this place. But that came to light as we entered the courtyard of the castle from the main entrance. A cold, death rattling feeling shivers down your spine as darkness draws in. I wondered if it was the Norman Guard Ghost, often seeing patrolling around the fringes of your eyesight, causing this effect. Shaking it off, we entered the reception to be greeted enthusiastically by our YHA Liaison. ‘Prepare to be scared!‘ She mischievously says. And which room would we like to stay? Unfortunately, the Hanging Room was fully booked so we had to make do with the Oblique room. Swotting up, I realised we were in fact going to be staying in the most haunted room. Gulp. It was in this room that many visitors escaped and it seemed that there was a bed that a presence seemed to pick on. Asking the receptionist, she didn’t reply but only with a smile. Oblique in French means ‘to forget.’ and it’s called as it should be as there’s a small prison cell under the trapdoor under the room. Once a prisoner has been thrown down and didn’t die from the 60ft drop, he would be ‘forgotten’ about until his skeleton remains would be found once another prisoner would be thrown down. By the last day, the receptionist opened the trapdoor for us to peer cautiously in and sure enough, there was a skeleton forgotten.
I’ll tell you about my time in the room. Keeping a keen eye and ear out for ‘orbs’, mysterious sounds, dark shapes and even remarking on the constant changes in temperature, I hoped to be proved that there was indeed ‘another world’. And I started questioning it on my first night there. Climbing into my top bunk in this 6 bed room, caring not to wake the other people in the room in darkness, I promptly fell asleep. Only to be mysteriously woken at 1am in the morning. It felt like someone was waking me up by moving my arm back and fro and I, for a moment there, thought I was back at my parents’ home and my mum was waking me. Turning over in annoyance, eyes still shut, I became alarmed when BOTH my ears started to ring wildly. I very rarely get a ringing in ONE of my ears and this time it was both. What was even more alarming was that the pitches were constantly changing. Normally, it’s just a flat tone. Exhaling with frustration, I clasped my pillow around my head, unsuccessfully, to drown out the noise when I felt something black grow inside me. It’s hard to describe what it was but Black is the name I gave to it. My skin felt like it was radiating and I was feeling really scared and bereft for no reason. Thinking it was all in my head, I told myself to calm down. But if anything, it made it worse. My heart was pumping like crazy, my blood felt hot through my limbs and I was just plain scared. So here was the feeling that compelled people to run away from the room. Keeping deathly still, I wondered if I should turn over to look into the room as I was facing the wall. But I was uneasy, would there be a ghost cackily smiling evilly at me or would there be a dark shape in the room exuding menace and becoming darkly angry at me for spotting him? I was afraid. But I wanted to be proved wrong. So just at the moment I decided to turn over, I felt SOMEONE sit on my feet over my duvet. I inhaled sharply. Still the black feeling was pounding away, ringing in my ears that was whizzing away even more loudly and now there’s something sat on my bed. Closing my eyes, I didn’t want to know but I knew I must prove myself wrong. I’m going to lift up my feet from the bed. Slowly, but surely, I lifted one foot and it went up in the air. Lifted the other one and it also went up in the air. But I STILL had the sensation that someone was sitting on my feet. Finally having enough of this, I sat upright and prepared to see….nothing. Absolutely nothing. Only the gentle snores and the stillness of my friends’ bodies were clear in the night. Nothing moved, nothing paranormal. The black feeling was gone and my ringing stopped. Sighing inwardly, I flopped back onto my pillow, I’m still not convinced.
The second night didn’t yield anything but I was told by my fellow roommates that they heard a loud bang from within the room. Being a deaf person, it didn’t wake me from my slumber.
However, on the third night, again I was mysteriously woken up but this time someone shaking my foot through the covers. Bolting upright, I didn’t see anything. And off I went back to sleep only to be woken up a couple of hours later breathing raggedly and the black feeling was in full force penetrating every pore of my body. Opening my eyes, I was facing the room but it seemed like the room was darker than usual and as I tried to peer further more, I suddenly calmed down and the black feeling was gone. Gone, gone, gone.
With these experiences, I’m still a reluctant sceptic. I need to see with my own eyes rather than feel. My mind could have been playing tricks on me but all I know, that was not a feeling I’ve felt like before.
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