Thursday, January 8, 2015

HGB Podcast 20 - Chillingham Castle

Moment in Oddity - Coral Castle

A whole show could be dedicated to this Moment in Oddity about Coral Castle, except that it is not
haunted.  How it was built by one man is a mystery and an oddity.  Over the course of 28 years, from 1923 to 1951, a little man from Latvia named Edward Leedskalnin carved and moved 1100 tons of coral rock to build Coral Castle that can be seen in Homestead, Florida to this day.  A sign carved in stone by Ed sits atop the entrance reading, "You will be seeing unusual accomplishment."  Not only are there many unusual elements that make up the Castle, but there are amazing carvings in the stone sculpture garden.  There is the nine-ton gate that opens with the touch of a finger, functioning rocking chairs made of stone, a Polaris telescope, outdoor bathtub, stone beds and pillows and a fountain shaped like the moon.  All of these weigh several tons.  As a matter of fact, when the nine-ton gate needed repairs in 1986, it took six men and a fifty-ton crane to move it.  How did this man put these stones in position?  Even more amazing is that initially Ed had built the castle in Florida City, but then moved it to its current location using a tractor and truck.  He did all of his work at night and in secret.  People claimed that they spied on Ed and saw him levitating the stones.  One hypothesis claims that Ed used some kind of anti-gravity or magnetism to move the stones and apparently the site in Homestead is the perfect place for manipulation of gravity based on harmonics.  Still other reasoned minds believe he used a system of pulleys and levers to move the stones.  As for what Ed claimed, he always said he had learned the secrets of the pyramids.  However Ed managed to create his magnificent castle, there is no doubt that it certainly is odd. 

This Day in History - Battle of New Orleans

This day, January 8th, 2015 marks the 200th anniversary of the Battle of New Orleans, which is the most famous battle in Louisiana history.  It was on this day in 1815, that General Jackson led his troops to victory against the British as they tried to capture New Orleans.  This battle was the final battle of the war.  Two weeks before this, the British had set their sites on New Orleans.  They decided to attack by the ground instead of the water and were initially successful taking the Viillere Plantation.  General Jackson hit them from the water and along the banks of the river and the British held, so Jackson pulled his men back.  After both sides regrouped for two weeks, the final battle ensued.  General Jackson had positioned 4000 men and cannons very well and when the British attacked, they had little success.  Jackson had also placed a reserve group right where the British launched their attack.  The Americans had used their break to fashion a well prepared defense and the British were devastated.  General Pakenham, who was leading the British, was killed and the battle ended.  251 British soldiers had been killed including three generals and eight colonels.  1,259 British were wounded and 484 were missing.  The Americans fared far better with only eleven killed and twenty-three wounded.  The tragedy of this battle is that a peace treaty ending the war had been signed before the battle, but nobody in New Orleans knew that news.

Chillingham Castle


Chillingham Castle is a castle that was built in the 12th century and resides in Northumberland, England in a village named Chillingham from which it takes its name.  It was initially built as a monastery and then was used as a stronghold mostly for defense rather than offense through the many centuries of fighting between England and Scotland.  The Castle sits near the border between Scotland and England and so it was often under attack.  Much of the Castle as it is seen today is the way it was originally built with a few additions.  It is reportedly one of the more haunted locations in Europe.  This haunting energy is not only a result of war, but of the horrific way in which men were imprisoned and killed within the walls of the Castle. 

In our podcast on Edinburgh Castle, the name William Wallace came up since he was a hero for Scotland and a statue in his honor resides at Edinburgh Castle.  William Wallace comes up again with Chillingham Castle as this castle was used during the 1298 attack on William Wallace by King Edward I, Edward Long Shanks.  Wallace had attacked the previous year and burned the women and children to death in the nearby abbey and made a belt for himself out of the skin of a local general.   In 1344, Chillingham Castle became a fully fortified castle with battlements, under Sir Thomas Grey.  Beginning in the 15th century, Chillingham Castle became the seat of the Bennet and Grey families.  By the 17th century, peace had come and the Castle was not needed any longer for defense, so the moat was filled in and new features were added to the Castle that included a banquet hall and a library.  During World War II, the Castle was used as a barracks.  Sir Humphry Wakefield now owns the Castle with his wife The Honorable Lady Wakefield.  His family has lived in this area for over 400 years, which is not nearly as long as the Greys who had been here for 800 years.

As mentioned earlier, the Castle has remained mainly the same, but there have been a few additions through the years.  The Castle is a complex of many rooms and buildings.  There is the Armoury, where weapons were stored and many are on display there to this day.  There is the Edward I Room, which was named for the King who first stayed here as he plotted his revenge against William Wallace and it is the most ancient room in the Castle.  It was used as a hideout for other royal families as well and secret documents were found in a compartment near the window relating to the Spanish Armada.  Family heraldic hangings are found in the room named for King James I who had stayed here and received guests in this room.  The Plaque Room was once a bedroom for the king and now hosts pictures of the many guests to the Castle and has a 16th century plasterwork armorial plaque that is dedicated to the Grey family.  The New Dining Room was once a chamber for the king as well and now features two white lion statues and massive guns on the wall.  The Great Hall was built for King James VI of Scotland and contains part of the original gigantic chimney and has stone flagged flooring and tapestries.  Weapons and trophies decorate this room as well as the heads of some of the ancient wild cattle that still live in Chillingham as the only wild cattle in all the world.  The Medieval Courtyard was the scene of many executions.  There is a museum and a chapel that was once the library.
The Great Hall courtesy of Chillingham Castle Website

Three of the more interesting areas of Chillingham Castle are the Still Room, the Dungeon and the Torture Chamber.  The Still Room was once a main entrance to the Castle and contains relics from bygone eras including the big pot used to feed the garrison and kettles that were filled with hot oil to dump over the walls of the castle on enemies trying to climb the walls.  The Still Room is apparently host to a witch who curses anyone stealing from the Castle.  People ignore the warnings and take things only to find out that the curse is true and they write letters of apology that can be found in the room.  Very similar to Robert the Doll down in Key West, Florida who curses people for taking his picture without permission.

The Dungeon was not only a prison, but a hiding place as well.  It is a small room with scratch marks on the walls as prisoners counted off the days until their executions.  There is a Oubliette in this dungeon.  An Oubliette is a dungeon that has a very small circular opening and is basically a pit.  Prisoners at Chillingham were thrown down into this pit, which was a twenty foot drop, and many suffered broken bones due to this fall.  Some of those broken bones were the result of the torture a prisoner endured before being thrown down.  They were left there to die and some resorted to eating the bodies of the dead already done there in an attempt to prolong their lives.

The Torture Chamber is a regular feature of most Castles.  Chillingham's contained and still contains to this day executioner blocks, an Iron Maiden and a Scold's Bridle, all in working order.  There were eye gougers, boiling pots and a cage device that was tied to a prisoner's stomach and contained a hungry rat who would eat his way out of the cage.  The floor is sloped, so that blood could run down and drain away to one side.  This chamber began use during the time of Edward Long Shanks under his castle torturer John Sage, who had been a loyal Lieutenant in King Edward's army.  Sage was brutal and enjoyed taking out his hatred of the Scots on Scottish prisoners.  Towards the end of the war, Sage took the prisoners out into the courtyard and burned them alive in a bonfire.  Small children were taken to the King Edward Room where they were hacked to death with an axe.  Sage himself was eventually hung by Long Shanks after Sage murdered his girlfriend who belonged to a powerful tribe that threatened to join the Scots against King Edward if he did not execute Sage.  While Sage hung dying, people cut souvenirs from his body like toes and fingers and well...other dangling objects.

Such emotionally charged events as imprisonment, war, torture and death lead to the possibility of supernatural and unexplainable events and Chillingham Castle reports hundreds of occurrences throughout the centuries.  Beneath the floor of the Chapel, human remains were found.  Cameras refuse to work in this room and batteries are quickly drained.  Cold spots are felt as well, although it should be pointed out that ghostwriter Lady Tankerville who lived here in the 1920s and wrote of her experiences was never able to find spirits in the Chapel.

The Blue Boy is the most well known spirit in the Castle.  He is usually seen in the Pink Room, which is part of the Wakefields' private residence, and is wearing blue, hence why he is called the "Blue Boy."  The legend of the Blue Boy goes something like this:  the clock chimed midnight and a child's cries were heard at the same time that a blue light began to eminate from the wall and the light approached the bed.  The witness who saw this sight then saw that there was a young boy in the middle of the light wearing clothes from the time of King Charles II.  He disappeared, but then many years later, during the 1920s, restoration work was being done on the room where the Blue Boy had been seen.  Inside one of the walls, the bones of a young child were found along with scraps of blue material.  The bones were given a Christian burial, but flashes of blue are sometimes still seen in the Castle.

Lord Grey of Wark once lived in Chillingham Castle with his wife Lady Mary Berkeley.  He decided that he was no longer in love with Mary, but rather her sister and left Lady Mary and their child and ran off with the sister.  Lady Mary died heartbroken and is said to still roam the halls of the Castle looking for her unfaithful husband.  The swishing of a dress is sometimes heard.

There is a ghost who hides among the paintings.  This ghost has been seen on several occasions stepping out of a painting.  The Tankervilles' children were the first to see this spirit along with their nurse.  The ghost followed them around for several minutes.  In present times, this spirit is sometimes seen as a full body apparition in period clothing and people mistake her for a guide.

John Sage has never left the building.  He is spotted on occasion and sometimes he is heard with his boots banging against the ground and something being dragged can be heard.  The Dungeon's Oubliette is said to hold the spirit of a little girl.  People sometimes see her down in the pit when they glance down there.  The Edward Room where all the children were slaughtered is quite active with the chandelier swinging from side to side on its own and the room carried a foul smell at times.  Disembodied voices are heard in the library.

A lake on the property became the mass burial ground for the thousands of Scots killed by the English.  The bodies were loaded onto carts and then dumped in the lake.  Rumor has it that the lake is cursed and that if you put your hand in the water, you will be pulled into the water.

Is this area cursed?  Do the undead walk among the living at Chillingham Castle?  That is for you to decide.

*Special note - Chillingham Castle hosts ghost tours!  For more information:  http://www.chillingham-castle.com/Ghosts.asp?S=3&V=1&P=3

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