We’re going on a ghost hunt: the spookiest buildings near you
It's that time of year when the veil between the two worlds grows thin so time to explore the region's shadowy past. Tip: Take a torch and extra batteries.
Oxford Castle & Prison, Oxford
No surprises here that Oxford Castle has a long and rich history of hauntings, which is precisely why you can book to host your own ghost hunt and STAY THE NIGHT should you like that kind of thing. But you might think twice when you learn that while conducting a seance in the 1970s, a group of ghost hunters seemingly summoned a presence so malign, a priest had to be brought in to rectify the mess. Hover outside the walls at twilight to feel the dark energy.
Minster Lovell Hall, Minster Lovell
Originally built around 1440, this ruined manor house just a few miles north west of Oxford city centre, was once home to Francis Lovell, a Yorkist who just happened to pick the wrong side when it mattered the most. Folklore has it that after the Battle of Bosworth, he hid in a secret room in the house, giving a faithful servant the only key to the door in order to supply food and water. But the servant perished soon after leaving the master to his fate. Fast forward 200 years and some 18th-century builders found a skeleton locked in a vault under the stairs. Francis is said to still hover around the long-abandoned site.
Burford Priory, Burford
Currently a family residence of Elizabeth Murdoch and Matthew Freud, Burford Priory is built on the site of a 13th-century hospital. There is said to be a little brown monk who wanders the place, along with a gamekeeper replete with blunderbuss and allegedly there is a poltergeist residing in one of the building’s unused rooms. But seeing as you’re unlikely to be admitted entrance, you’ll just have to peer through the bushes from the edge of the road. No, not creepy at all.
The Trout Inn, Wolvercote
Rosamund the Fair was presumably very beautiful. She also lived in Godstowe Nunnery, over the river from Wolvercote, and was the mistress of Henry II. Legend has it that Henry’s wife, Eleanor of Aquitaine, discovered the affair and gave Rosamund the choice of a dagger or a cup of poison to end her life, and now her ghost roams this friendly local pub seeking revenge for her violent murder. Or, perhaps, more realistically, Henry ended the affair and she retired to the monastery as shamed women did in those days. Still, worth popping in for a glass of vino and some chips while you ghost hunt.
The Crown, Amersham
This old coaching inn is apparently home to five ghosts, two of which were obtained when a recent extension was built. One has a habit of shouting, “GET OUT NOW!”, which is an unusual hotel wake-up call to say the very least while in Room 16, it is said a Victorian housekeeper likes to tuck young men into bed. It’s actually rather charming. Don’t fancy staying the night? Well, the bar is delightful and the food is great so don’t let the ghouls upstairs put you off.
The Dinton Folly, nr Aylesbury
This one was on Grand Designs a couple of years back and while the architect did a splendid job in making ‘Dinton Castle’ into a useful family home, it would seem he wasn’t able to dispel the rumours that John Mayne, a Roundhead hermit who lived nearby after being stripped of all wealth by Charles II, roams the walls. Many ghost-hunting troops have claimed to have picked up signs of supernatural activity and there’s a public footpath through the grounds if you want to try to see him yourself.
Chenies Manor, Chenies
Chenies Manor is just plain spooky. Even wandering outside, you can feel the age of it bearing down on you. What we know is that Henry VIII stayed here with Anne Boleyn and Katherine Howard, at different times, presumably. And it was a hotbed of action during the Civil War. So it’s not clear who the footsteps with one foot dragging behind them belong to – Henry with his gammy leg or an injured Civil War soldier. The gardens are open on Wednesdays and Thursdays with a pre-booked ticket.
Missenden Abbey, Great Missenden
Now a wedding venue and conference centre, Missenden Abbey was once a wealthy Benedictine monastery where the residents were said to have lived a life far removed from obedience, poverty and chastity. So some have said the ‘Black Monk’, who is said to walk along the river and occasionally amble down into town by way of the George Inn, is perhaps a wayward brother atoning for his sins. There is a circular walk around the Abbey so you have every chance of spotting the disgraced spectre.
The Mausoleum and West Wycombe Hill, High Wycombe
Ah, that rascal, Sir Francis Dashwood, boozing with his pals in the Golden Ball set atop the St Lawrence church tower and mausoleum and wreaking havoc with the local girls. And it would appear that his antics haven’t changed much in the past 300 years. In 1995, a group of teenage girls decided to camp near the hill, only to be woken up by animal-like screaming, flashing lights and then – once outside the tent – someone charging up the hill on a white horse. He didn’t have a head so it was hard to identify him but the blame has landed on Dashwood’s ghostly door. The National Trust owns the land now so you can walk around the hill, and accompanying church and mausoleum for a very reasonable fee.
The Former Red Cross Memorial Hospital, Taplow
Forget headless horseman, this one is super creepy. Although now a new-build estate for the over-55s, the land under ‘Cliveden Village’ used to be where the Canadian Red Cross Memorial Hospital was based. Not only was it where many maimed Canadian servicemen met their end after being brought back from the First World War trenches, it is also where ‘The Flincher’ – a winged black beast – is said to have terrorised trespassers of the abandoned, rot-lined corridors, once the hospital was left to the elements in the late-Eighties. For the sake of the retirees, let’s hope The Flincher disappeared along with the original building. Walk the surrounding woods if you dare.