In the Tower of London large as life
The ghost of Anne Boleyn walks they declare.
Now Anne Boleyn was once King Henry’s wife
Until he had the headsman bob her hair.
Above are the first four lines of a comic song about one of Henry VIII’s wives. With Her Head Tucked Underneath Her Arm was written by R.P. Weston and Bert Lee in 1934. Although Stanley Holloway’s rendition made this song famous, many Canadians probably best remember it as a Happy Gang favourite, always hammed-up by the comics at Hallowe’en.
Thousands believe Anne Boleyn truly does haunt the Tower of London. But that tower is merely one among hundreds of places in Britain known for the eerie appearances of ghosts.
Scotland’s Glamis Castle is considered one of the most haunted places in all of Great Britain. Evidently, at least five separate ghosts prowl this castle. As well, there’s supposed to be a secret room wherein a dreadful spectre dwells.
Some say that in 1821, a badly-deformed child was born to the lord of the castle. He was locked away in the secret room. In some versions of this story, the boy lived 100 years and still walks the castle’s ramparts. Another ghost that haunts Glamis Castle is a woman with no tongue who is believed to wander the castle grounds.
Shakespeare made Glamis Castle famous for all time by using it as the setting of one of his most famous tragedies, MacBeth. MacBeth is the thane (feudal lord) of Glamis.
There are all kinds of supernatural goings on in this play — witches who brew magic potions, cast spells, and foresee the future, for example.
MacBeth’s wife, haunted by guilt as well as by ghosts, believes she can never wash away the blood from her hands. And the ghost of another feudal lord, Banquo, murdered at MacBeth's command, appears more than once.
Shakespeare’s stage direction reads: “The ghost of Banquo appears and sits in MacBeth’s place.”
MacBeth cries: “Avaunt! and quit my sight! Let the earth hide thee!” In other words, “Get back in your grave!”
Banquo isn’t the only victim. The wife and children off the nobleman, MacDuff, are also slaughtered. No wonder Glamis has so many ghosts, although MacDuff’s family don’t seem to be among those roaming the castle today.
How many haunted castles are there in Britain?
No accurate count exists, but several hundred claim to be spooked. Someone has compiled a list of the top-10 haunted castles, though, and Glamis is among them. So are both Windsor and Edinburgh Castles.
Glamis has another claim to fame. Queen Elizabeth’s mother was born there, it being her family castle — home of the Bowes-Lyons family. Princess Margaret was also born in Glamis.
Glamis is Gaelic in origin. Glamhus means “open land,” a reference to the countryside where the castle stands, a little north of Dundee.
Many haunted castles may be toured. It’s too late for this Hallowe'en, but if you’re looking for a creepy adventure next October, take yourself to Britain and be properly scared.
Meanwhile, happy haunting!