Hampton Court Palace’s resident spirits haunt the sprawling Thames River estate grounds, giving the historic site the dubious title of one of the most haunted places in Britain, along with the Tower of London. The deaths at Hampton Court may not have been as gruesome as their mostly beheaded counterparts at the Tower, but visitors to both palaces revel in the tales of their lives and afterlives.
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The most intriguing story at Hampton Court belongs to Catherine Howard, the fifth wife of Henry VIII. Her infidelity exposed, Catherine attempted to plead for mercy from her husband; but before she could reach him, she was apprehended by guards and dragged screaming through what is now known as the Haunted Gallery. To this day, people still claim to hear her terrified cries and see her apparition as she runs along the gallery at Hampton Court.
During a theatrical performance at Hampton Court Palace, a figure dressed as Cardinal Wolsey was spotted walking through a gateway. However, none of the actors that evening were portraying the historical figure.
Jane Seymour, the third and favorite wife of Henry VIII, died at Hampton Court twelve days after giving birth to her son, who later became Edward VI. She is often seen along Clock Court or in the Silver Stick Gallery, wearing a white robe and carrying a candle.
Accounts of the sightings add a sense of mystery to Hampton Court Palace, which is rich in history in its own right. Whether strolling through the parks and gardens, walking leisurely by the river, enjoying a vast array of art or admiring the unique architecture, you never know what resident from the past may be waiting around the corner to greet you.
And just down the River from Hampton Court, visitors to the Tower of London have something else to look for besides the Crown Jewels or infamous ravens – ghosts. Known to many as one of the scariest places in the world, the Tower is considered to be one of Britain’s most haunted spots. Apparitions of those who lived and died there are said to stroll the cobblestone paths and haunt the stone turrets and passages.
The Tower of London is home to some of the most gruesome deaths anywhere. Almost all the victims of the Tower either mysteriously vanished or "lost their heads" beneath the executioner’s ax. Many of the ghosts - men, women, children, and even a troop of soldiers - are seen walking around, standing at different tower windows or walking through walls.
The ghost most people see is that of Anne Boleyn, the second wife of King Henry VIII. When Anne did not give birth to a boy, Henry had her beheaded at the Tower in 1536. Today, her ghost appears headless in a white dress, leading a procession of lords and ladies from the Queen’s house, near the site of her execution. From there, the entourage glides up the aisle of Chapel Royal of St. Peter ad Vincula and vanishes under the chapel altar, the site of her final resting-place.
Other ghosts that have been seen are two small boys walking hand in hand at the Tower. When King Edward V died, his brother Richard took Edward's two sons away from their mother. The Crown Princes, nine and 12, were taken to the tower for their protection, according to Richard. They were never seen again; but on more than one occasion, two small boys dressed in nightgowns have been seen standing and holding hands before they fade into a stone wall in the Bloody Tower as silently as they appeared. In 1674, two small skeletons were discovered in a chest beneath the stairway of the White Tower. It is assumed that they belong to the two Crown Princes.
Not all of these apparitions remain passive in the afterlife. Thomas a. Becket appeared twice during construction of the Beauchamp Tower, striking the structure with his cross and leaving a pile of rubble in his wake. Henry III, whose grandfather was responsible for Becket’s death, appeased the spirit by building a chapel within the tower and naming it after the former archbishop.
To date, the grisliest re-enactment is the beheading of the 70-year old Countess of Salisbury, ‘The Last of the Plantagenets,’ ordered by Henry VIII for political reasons. She refused to place her head on the block like a common traitor, so the executioner pursued the Countess wielding his ax and hacking her to death as she fled. Reportedly, she has been seen fleeing as the executioner’s ax performs the gruesome task. However, at other times, the shadow of an ax has been witnessed falling across the site of her capital punishment.
The Tower is also haunted by two of England’s most famed star-crossed lovers. Lord Guildford Dudley, husband of Lady Jane Grey, has been seen weeping in Beauchamp Tower, where he was imprisoned prior to the execution of his wife and himself. Lady Jane Grey has been described as a "white shape forming itself on the battlements."
These are only a few of the ghosts seen and experienced at the Tower of London and Hampton Court Palace.