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Inside Out: Surprising Stories, Familiar Places

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   Inside Out - North West: Monday 21st October, 2002


Muncaster Castle

It is said to be one of the country’s most haunted castles, but Muncaster Castle may soon have another reason to be on the tourist map.

Current archaeological work suggests the site of Muncaster Castle near Ravenglass in Cumbria, may once have been the location for a large Roman fort to rival those seen at Chester and Ribchester in Lancashire.

Muncaster Castle has been home to the Pennington family since 1208. Today, three generations of Pennington’s share their home with the tourists who visit daily, and the ghosts which are said to roam the corridors.

Bump in the night

Every castle needs its ghosts and Muncaster is no exception. Its corridors echo with footsteps, babies wail at night and for those brave enough, a night in the Tapestry Room may prove be the worst nights sleep you'll ever get.

Inside Out introduces you to some of the unearthly residents of Muncaster Castle.

Tom Fool

Tom fool died around 1600.

He created much mischief both dead and alive.

When passerbys would stop at the castle for directions to London, Tom would point them in the direction of the quicksand rather than the ford.

Tom may have been a jester, but the local carpenter certainly wasn't laughing. Under the orders of Sir Ferdinand Pennington, Tom chopped the carpenter's head off as a punishment for falling in love with Helwise, Sir Pennington's daughter.

Present owners of Muncaster, Phyllada and Patrick Gordon-Duff-Pennington, believe Tom still keeps a watchful eye on the castle, and occasionally gets up to more sinister mischief. Most of the ghostly goings on are attributed to this fiendish fool!

Mary Bragg

Mary Bragg is one of Muncaster's less well known ghosts, who met with a violent and untimely end in 1805.

A housekeeper in Ravenglass, Mary was in love with the footman at Muncaster. Unfortunately for Mary, so was one of the housemaids, who was not keen on competition.

One night, two men called at Mary's, claiming her lover was seriously ill. Suggesting they take her to his bedside, the men instead led Mary to a large tree on a lonely road and killed her.

Her body was found some weeks later, floating in the River Esk. Her head was so badly damaged after being partially eaten by eels, that the coroner could not say for certain how she died.

The ghost of Mary Bragg can often be seen wandering the grounds of Muncaster, whilst it is claimed that the tree where Mary met with her untimely death began to bleed as it was cut down.

The Ghosts of the Tapestry Room

The Tapestry Room is the most haunted hot spot in Muncaster Castle. With sombre paintings adorning the walls and iron fire dog shaped like a devil's head, visitors often report feeling an unwelcoming presence in the room.

Many who have stayed the night in the foreboding Tapestry Room, report the sound of babies crying, or children singing softly. Black figures have been seen leaning over alarmed guests, whilst others have experienced a heavy weight falling on top of them in the antique four-poster bed.

Investigations revealed that in the Tapestry Room had previously been a children's nursery. A paranormal investigation team reported seeing a black, featureless figure walk into the tapestry room and vanish.

Still sceptical? Muncaster Castle allows guests to spend the night in the Tapestry Room. But once settled for the night, the alarms are set and there is no escaping. You have been warned!

Roman remains

Now there may be a new ghost to add to the impressive list. One which may have been disturbed by recent digging in and around the castle.

" I think it will cause a stir in the archaeological world if it turns out to be the fort that Clifford believes it to be."
Andrew Davies of English Heritage

Archaeologist Clifford Jones has been investigating the Roman significance of the grounds around Muncaster Castle.

He believes his excavations may change the Hadrianic boundaries of the of the area and reveal that Cumbria played a much more significant role in the Roman Empire than was previously thought.

Waking the dead

Clifford’s excavations may not only have unearthed a physical Roman presence in the area, they may also have unleashed the unearthly presence of a new ghost.

Archaeological dig
Has Cliff unearthed more than he anticipated?

Clifford had been staying in the castle towers one night when he heard someone chopping wood. Only he and the mistress of the house were in the castle.

Clifford went down the stairs to the court yard, all the time hearing the noise, but when he got there he couldn't see anybody. "Please stop the noise," he said. And it stopped.

Clifford ran back up the stairs. The first room he went into was the toilet. As he entered the light bulb blew. He went back out on to the landing and the light bulb blew there. He then went into the lounge and the bulbs there blew too.

"I can’t account for it. Muncaster is a magical place with so many different layers of history. Who am I to refute what’s happened. I have no explanation for what happened to me."
Clifford Jones

He was so disturbed by what had happened that he left the castle for three days before getting the courage to return.

Obviously, ghosts are good for business at the castle. The 60,000 tourists who visit Muncaster Castle every year help pay towards the upkeep.

The owners of the castle, Phyllida and Patrick Gordon-Duff-Pennington, are keeping an open mind about the possibility of a new ghost. They suspect their old friend Tom Fool may be, well, fooling around again!

See also ...

On the rest of the web
Muncaster Castle
Haunted Britain and Ireland
Ghosts of the North West
North West ghosts
Mysterious Britain
Haunted Places in the UK
Paranormal activity

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