Do you believe in ghosts?

I’ve always been both fascinated and terrified by ghosts stories. I’m skeptical of the ones that claim to be true, but then I hear one that sends those goose prickles dancing up and down my spine, and I might not get much sleep that night (There’s a reason my Gothic books are more “cozy horror” than anything truly dark and twisted). I find it interesting that my ghost-ish stories tend to be my more popular books, though; I guess a lot of readers share my horrified interest in them.

With the days getting shorter and the stores stocking their Hallowe’en candy, I’m starting to plot out another Gothic tale for after I finish my light-hearted Regency dragon fantasies, and I thought I’d share one of my own spooky experiences that makes me, if not a believer, at least open-minded.

After high school, a friend and I had a chance to go backpacking in England. One of our stops was fourteenth-century Powderham Castle in Devon. We took a tour with a small group, enjoying the various ancient and sumptious rooms. My friend and I ended up at the front of the group, and so we entered one particular room first. We both stopped dead. The windows let in the sun, but the room was dark, like the light couldn’t push the shadows away. The air felt heavy. Bad. Now, I’m a religious person and admittedly easily spooked by eerie things, but my friend is a devout athiest, and she felt as creeped out as I did. We turned to get out of the room, but the tour group pushed us back in, and the guide closed the door.

“This is our haunted room,” he said.

No kidding! I thought.

He went on to tell us that during renovations, they found that one of the walls was hollow – and inside rested the skeleton of a woman and baby who were presumed to have been bricked in alive. No one knew who she was or why she was killed and hidden so callously.

If that wasn’t creepy enough, he also told us a story from WWII. Powderham Castle is home to the family of the Earl of Devon, and during the war, they blacked out the castle windows to avoid being spotted by German bombers. During one air raid, the family made sure all the lights were out and then ran outside where it was safer. When they looked back at the castle, the blackout curtains had been torn from the window of the haunted room, and a light glowed through the glass.

You can choose to believe the story or not, but standing in that room with the dark, wrong feeling about it, I was convinced, and I practically sprinted out when the guide opened the door for us. I wonder if the ghost wanted the castle bombed as revenge on her ancient persecutor, or if she simply longed to be remembered by someone. Or, is it just that dark events leave a mark on a place that others can sense later? What do you think?

Powderham Castle, photo courtsey of Ted and Jen via Flickr (CC 2.0).

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