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Lancashire has got a fascinating haunted past, which makes it a great place to visit throughout the year, not just for Halloween.
Feeling brave? Explore Lancashire's ghosts, ghouls and witches with an overnight stay. With plenty of accommodation to choose from, you'll never be too far away from the things that go bump in the night.
From witches and ghosts to towers and castles, myths and legends, fables and folklore, Lancashire has it all. Visit an area steeped in history and fascinating facts and discover for yourself the secrets Lancashire holds.
The Lancashire Witches, Pendle Hill and Sculpture Trail
The story of the Lancashire witches is one that still evokes intrigue and mystery over 400 years later, aided by the striking natural beauty and often shadowy presence of Pendle Hill. Climb to the top for stunning views or take a stroll through the nearby Pendle Sculpture Trail which includes tributes to the accused witches.
“The Pendle Witches were accused of selling their souls to familiar spirits or devils who appeared to them in human and animal form. In return for their souls, it was believed that the witches received the power to kill or lame who they pleased....” (Quote from www.pendlewitches.co.uk).
The Samlesbury Witches
Whilst most of us have heard of the Lancashire witch trials of 1612 but did you know that several ‘Samlesbury witches’ were tried within this trial and found to be innocent.
There was talk of causing death by cursing and of using human body parts in spells, of night flying and consorting with demons. However the three women begged the judge to hear them and he allowed them to speak. They claimed to have been the victims of a plot against them, instigated by a Catholic priest. Find out more.
According to folklore, the area around Rivington Pike was the haunt of a spectral horseman, described as demonic or revenant from which a young man is said to have had a lucky escape from in the 1700s.
Stroll around imposing Stonyhurst College which inspired authors Arthur Conan Doyle and J.R.R Tolkien; discover rich interiors in Elizabethan Gawthorpe Hall; scare yourself silly on a ghost tour of Towneley Hall or watch birds of prey soaring to the backdrop of the gothic towers of Leighton Hall.
Hoghton Tower has been the home of the de Hoghton family since the Norman Conquest. Take the long drive to the 16th century and follow in the footsteps of William Shakespeare, Charles Dickens and King James I who, at a banquet held in his honour, famously knighted a loin of beef ‘Sir Loin’.
There is however a darker side to the Tower. So many ghostly experiences have been witnessed by the staff and visitors that an extensive record has been kept in a special ghost file. Beneath Hoghton Tower, reputedly the third most haunted house in Britain, lies a warren of underground passages and dungeons, a reminder of the legend of the Lancashire Witches.
During the warm summer of 1426, Lady Dorethea Southworth (the White Lady) strolled on the lawns in front of Samlesbury Hall when she heard the sound of a galloping horse. She turns to find herself gazing up at the handsome horseman – young De Houghton. His eyes met with hers and the pair instantly fell in love. The innocence of their love was dramatically changed when her father discovered he was the noble son of the neighbouring Protestant family. Take a tour and find out more…
There are many tales and accounts of hauntings at Gawthorpe Hall. Rachel K Shuttleworth is believed to be one of the entities in the hall – she was the last member of the family to actually live in Gawthorpe. Other people speak of the murder of a young woman at the hall. Some people have suggested that Richard Shuttleworth’s involvement with the Pendle witch trial has had an effect on the hall.
Rufford Old Hall
The Hall is reputedly haunted by three ghosts; a "Gray Lady", a man dressed in Elizabethan clothes and even Queen Elizabeth I. The "Gray Lady" has been seen many times, usually by the main entrance or on the drive leading up to the house. She is thought to be the ghost of Elizabeth Hesketh, a young woman who became seriously ill while her husband was at war overseas. She vowed that she would not die before saying goodbye to him, but he never returned so she never got the chance.
The ghost of the man in Elizabethan costume has sometimes been seen near the huge fireplace in the Great Hall. This is the spot where a secret chamber was later discovered - which it is thought was used to hide catholic priests from sight. Alleged sightings of Queen Elizabeth I have be made in the dining room area.
Lancaster Castle occupies a city -centre hilltop location on the site of three successive Roman forts. It consists of an extensive group of historic structures, including the 12thc Keep, the 14thc Witches' Tower, the 15thc Gatehouse, and the Female Penitentiary, which dates from the early years of the 19th c.
The Pendle Witches were tried in Lancaster Castle and executed nearby. The trial took place in August 1612. The prisoners were not allowed to have defence counsel to plead for them, nor could they call any witnesses to speak on their behalf.
Much of the evidence given by prosecution witnesses was inconsistent, based on rumours, idle gossip and false confessions. At the end of the three-day Assize, a total of 10 people were found guilty of witchcraft, sentenced to death and hanged on the moor above the town.
Lancaster Castle is said to be haunted by four main spirits. Firstly there is a child who can be heard and sometimes seen running around parts of the castle.
There is also a haggard old woman, a middle aged woman and a monk who allegedly roam the castle at night although little is known of these spirits both in life or death. There have been numerous reports by people who attend the day-time tours of the castle who claim they are often pushed and shoved by unseen forces. This is such a common event that the guides who run the tours have now come to expect it and fortunately nobody has ever been hurt.
Practically all Lancashire's historic houses inspire tales of ghosts and mystery - whether they're true or not, you'll have to visit yourself!