Thursday, December 30, 2021

HGB Ep. 416 - St Briavels Castle

Moment in Oddity - Great Escaped Snake Scare of 1953 (Suggested by: Tammie Burroughs)

In August of 1953, a homeowner discovered a cobra in their yard in Springfield, Missouri. We can imagine they were pretty shocked because cobras are not naturally found in Missouri. The homeowner used a garden hoe to kill the creature. This wouldn't be too alarming if it was a one-time thing, but the following week, another cobra was found in a yard across the street. This time the police were called and they visited a local pet store to see if they were missing snakes. They said no. But someone was letting snakes go because week after week, snakes showed up in yards. There were at least 11 of them that were killed or captured between August and October. For years, people believed that the pet shop owner was responsible, but he maintained his innocence until the day he died. Then in 1988, a man named Carl Barnett confessed to the Springfield News-Leader: “I’m the one that done it.” He had stolen a crate of snakes from the pet shop when he was fourteen and released them. He said of the incident, “I realized what I’d done, and I was scared to death. Every time someone mentioned the cobras, I just wilted.” The great escaped snake scare of 1953, certainly was odd!

This Month in History - National Hockey League Opens First Season

In the month of December, on the 19th, in 1917, the National Hockey League opened its first season. There had been the National Hockey Association before that time, which started in 1909. Major disputes had forced the association to shut down operations. Hockey was relaunched as the NHL with four teams, all from Canada. Those teams were the Montreal Canadiens, the Montreal Wanderers, the original Ottawa Senators, and the Toronto Arenas. The Wanderers and Arenas played the very first game under the NHL with the Wanderers winning 10-9. Fifteen minutes later, the Senators and Canadiens began their game with the Canadiens winning 7-4. So the Montreal teams won the first two NHL games played. Only three teams made it all the way to the end of the season. The fourth had their arena burn down. There was another league called Pacific Coast Hockey Association at this time and the champions of each league played in the Stanley Cup finals. This makes the NHL over 100 years old.

St Briavels Castle

St Briavels Castle dates back to 1075 and is located in Gloucestershire, England. This isn't one of those grand and beautiful castles that Britain is known for, but it has an important place in history, serving as a hunting lodge for King John and a debtors' prison. Today, it is a Youth Hostel. And this castle is believed to be one of the most haunted castles in Britain. Join us as we explore the history and hauntings of St Briavels Castle!

The Forest of Dean is a geographic and cultural region in western Gloucestershire bounded by the rivers Wye and Severn. This is one of the few surviving woodlands in Britain. Origin of the name is unknown with some historians claiming that it is Welsh and others that is represents a term meaning "land of the Danes" after Vikings came into the area. It was on the western edge of the Forest of Dean that St Briavels Castle was built. There was already a small village here before the castle was erected. It was a strategic position above the River Wye. Local limestone and red sandstone were used in the construction, which began in 1075. The castle was completed in 1129 and is a typical moated Norman castle that was fed water from a spring underneath the moat.

The castle keep was a square Norman design erected on a motte of stone and clay and was originally wood. As listeners know by now, this design was for defense putting a castle above the area where people would live. The bailey area was surrounded by a stone curtain wall. Many early elements no longer exist, but historians believe that there was a forge building, a gateway on a south wall and a small round tower on the south-east corner. The original hall and solar two-story building still stands as does a chapel built in the 14th century. The gatehouse is massive, flanked by two D-shaped towers and protected by three sets of portcullises, which are basically sliding gates. Those gates are usually latticed grille made of wood and/or metal. There was a drawbridge at this gate as well.

The royal custodians or bailiffs of the Forest of Dean were in possession of the land and they started the castle after a royal mandate to build one was issued. The Sheriff of Gloucester and his sons were overseers of the castle and used it for administrative purposes rather than defense. The civil war of the Anarchy started in 1138 and it was at this time that Miles de Gloucester, the son of the Sheriff was formally granted St Briavels Castle by Empress Matilda, daughter of King Henry I, and she confirmed him as the Earl of Hereford. Miles' son Roger Fitzmiles held the castle until the reign of Henry II and then the King took the castle and rebuilt parts of it, in particular, the wooden keep was rebuilt from stone.

One of the reasons the King wanted this castle was because of its location to the forest. This would give him access to an incredible hunting ground. But it was more than that. The forest provided charcoal and iron and this made the castle a metalworking center. King Henry II alone acquired 1,000 picks, 100 axes, 60,000 nails and 2,000 shovels from the work done at the castle. King John used the castle extensively as his headquarters for hunting. He had several buildings erected inside the bailey to be used as a lodge. It would also be at this time in the 1200s that the castle would start serving as a prison. Peasants who poached wildlife or did illegal wood-cutting would be hit with stiff fines and when they couldn't pay, it was off to the prison with them.

After King John's death, the castle became known for another specialty. So we finally have started binging The Walking Dead and we learned something about crossbows that we didn't know before. We thought you just called the projectiles arrows because that's what they are called with bows. Daryl points out that his crossbow shoots bolts. These bolts are also known as quarrel and the castle became a manufacturing hub for quarrel because the crossbow had just become really popular. We're sure when Richard I made this the favored weapon of the land, he had no idea how important the crossbow would become for killing zombies.

Hugh Despenser the Younger was placed in charge of the castle in the 1300s. The Despensers brought a harsh rule with them, but Edward II backed them. This would be his downfall because his wife, Isabella of France, deposed him and the Despensers. Isabella was known as the She-Wolf of France and she hated Hugh Despenser. Some believe she arranged to have Edward II murdered. She took the castle and held it until her son, Edward III overthrew her in 1330. The castle would spend the 1400s bouncing between ownership by the Duke of Bedford, the Duke of Warwick, William Herbert, Earl of Warwick, the 16th Countess of Warwick and finally Thomas Baynham. Then the castle went into decline.

Through the 18th and 19th century, there were many changes made with several buildings being knocked down. The keep fell apart. The castle was used after that point as mostly a court and prison. Most of those kept here were debtors until the Debtors' Act of 1869. The prison was not a place anyone wanted to be with no fresh water or firewood or exercise. Most people were here due to very small debts. They only got food if family or friends brought it to them and the constable charged prisoners a shilling a week for a bed. People used to say of the castle that it was "patched and cobbled like a worn-out shoe." The prison closed in 1842 and a school was run at the castle for a time.

In 1906, the buildings were renovated so that the castle could be used for habitation. In 1948, St Briavels Castle became a Youth Hostel and it remains so still with 9 rooms, two of which are dormitories. The moat was filled and turned into a garden. The Solar was named King John’s Bedroom in his honor. Inside is a huge fireplace that features notches in the stone. It is said those were made every time someone was sentenced to death because the room had been a courtroom at one time. A fun tradition is carried on at the castle every Whit Sunday. That is Pentecost for Christians. On that day, locals dress in medieval costumes for St Briavels Bread and Cheese Dole. A Dole Claimer would pay a penny to the Earl of Hereford so they could gather firewood from the Hudnalls Wood in the past. Today, bread and cheese is blessed by the vicar and then tossed from the wall for the Dole Claimers to collect. The villagers believe these pieces are imbued with magical properties and good luck. Upturned umbrellas are often used to make the catching easier.

And then there's the ghosts. We did say that this is thought to be one of the most haunted castles in Britain. Many of the rooms have apparitions and strange things hanging around. There have been many times that people have not stayed for the whole night. The castle keep no longer stands, but the area where it once was has a resident spirit. This ghost wears a full suit of armor and usually appears at night. Once people see it, the spirit disappears. The top corridor has a lady in grey that is often seen gliding up there. 

The Constables Room leaves guests feeling lightheaded. Perhaps it is the phantom smell in here that gets them. Some guests have had the pleasure of smelling a strong putrid odor that comes on very suddenly. Sound sleep is difficult because the beds will sometimes vibrate. And the door swung open by itself once so violently, that it tore off its hinges. Maybe we should call this the Exorcist Room? The Chaplains Room isn't much better. There are unexplained flashes of light and big orbs that appear in the room. Several dark figures hang out in the room and often block the doorway. The beds sometimes move and people see indentations on them occasionally as though a spirit is sitting on them. People have also been touched in this room.

The Old Debtors Prison Room has disembodied whispering. There is also a dog growling that is heard and that is probably from a big black dog that manifests and roams about this part of the castle. A poltergeist in the room moves the furniture around and something likes to grab people roughly by the arm. Perhaps an old prison guard trying to lead them somewhere? The Porters Lodge is behind the kitchen and has had the odd occurrence of a misty form that hangs around the front of the fireplace. Guests also claim to hear dragging noises. The State Apartment is in the oldest part of the castle and features disembodied footsteps and a shadow entity that walks across the room. Someone also saw the apparition of a little girl dressed in white standing in here. The sounds of loud banging and scratching have also been reported, as well as violin music.

The most haunted area is King John's Bedroom. Many people who are staying in this room complain about hearing an unseen baby crying. The source of the sound was found one day when a worker was cleaning a chimney. The remains of an infant were found wrapped and tucked away in a niche in the chimney. The baby was thought to be have died centuries ago. The remains were given a proper burial. This was related to a bizarre custom we had not heard of before. Apparently, there were some who believed that evil spirits could get into homes through chimneys. If a baby passed away, the corpse would be put in a special niche of the chimney because it was thought the purity of a baby would keep the evil spirits out. Supposedly the recess was made specifically for this purpose.

There is a room called the Hanging Room. This is where those who were sentenced to die were left to await that fate. People often feel as though their throats are closing up in here. This even comes across like a gripping sensation around the throat. The scariest thing in this room is a large black mass. It likes to block people from leaving the room. People who try to get past the mass are usually given a sudden, violent shove. And remember that haunted college we talked about on an episode where they heard the sound of marbles dropping above them in two different locations? Well, this room features something that sounds like dropping and rolling marbles. Muttering, humming and crashing sounds also manifest.

The Guard Room is one of the dormitories. It is in here that people see the Praying Woman. She is dressed in peasant's robes that are dirty and tattered. She's called the Praying Woman because she walks from the doorway to the middle of the room facing the back window and kneels down as though in prayer and then she gets up after a few moments and walks straight out of the window. Prisoners were hanged out of that window in front of the crowds.

Like most castles, this one had an oubliette. Some captives were thrown down here and left to die. The room above this dungeon is called the Oubliette Room and a rug conceals the wooden trap door leading to the oubliette. People in this room have felt things tugging at their clothes. And several guests have been awakened when their blankets are yanked off them and thrown across the room. One man reported being pinned to his bed by something he couldn't see.

Chris Andrews, a manager at the castle, told Spooky Isles that he was doing his final checks one night around five in the evening. It was dark outside already. He could see the curtains swaying dramatically as though a strong wind was blowing. But there was no open door or window and no breeze coming from anywhere. When he went near the curtains, he felt something brush by his arm. He also heard the latch on a door rattle five times in a row when no one else was in the castle.

Castles always have a creepy vibe to them. St Briavels Castle has more than just a vibe to it. There seems to be a lot of activity going on here. One night in this hostel may be all a guest can take. Is St Briavels Castle haunted? That is for you to decide!

No comments:

Post a Comment