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  Columnist: Patrick Bernauw

Image credit: Guy Debognies

Famous Tudor phantoms of Hampton Court

Posted on Wednesday, 6 May, 2009 | 2 comments
Columnist: Patrick Bernauw

Hampton Court Palace, on the banks of the Thames, is considered one of the most haunted buildings in the United Kingdom. Most of the famous phantom visitors are contemporaries of Henry VIII, like Cardinal Thomas Wolsey who gave the palace to Henry, two of Henry's beheaded wives, and maybe the Tudor King himself returned to the palace in December 2003.

Jane Seymour
A few days after he had disposed of his second wife Anne Boleyn, Henry VIII married Jane Seymour. Anne was beheaded for alleged treason, incest, adultery and witchcraft. She has been seen, most of the time headless, in the Tower of London and in the castles where she once lived. At Hampton Court, she is seen as a lady dressed in blue or black.

Jane Seymour, the third wife of Henry VIII, died in 1537 after giving birth to the child who became Edward VI. Her life was deliberately sacrificed by the performance of a Caesarean operation in order to ensure the safety of the precious male heir. Jane had an uneasy conscience concerning the circumstances in which she supplanted Anne Boleyn, and after her death her worried spirit remained earthbound, seeking contact with the ghost of Anne. Jane Seymour haunts the Silver Stick Gallery in Hampton Court every year on the birthday of the baby whose birth had meant her death. On moonlit evenings, dressed in white and carrying a candle, she ascends in a melancholic way the staircase leading to the Gallery, where she glides wreathed in a silvery light.

Catherine Howard
Maybe the most famous Tudor ghost is that of Catherine Howard, fifth wife of Henry VIII. For only one year, this attractive girl was Henry's "rose without a thorn". He forgot all about her youth of fun and games with a variety of young men, from spinet teachers to page boys. Henry wept over her reputation that was the talk of the Court and sent her to the block, together with her lovers, past and present. She was arrested at Hampton Court, but she broke away from the guards and ran along a corridor now known as the Haunted Gallery, to the chapel where Henry - "the professional widower" - was praying for her soul. Catherine tried to make a last plea for her life, but the guards dragged her back, shrieking and lamenting, into a barge and then down the Thames to the Tower, where she was beheaded on 13 February, 1542.

You can still hear her chilling shrieks there, in Hampton Court, and her ghost has been seen on many occasions, racing along the gallery, chased by spectral soldiers. As a consequence of a true invasion by these otherwordly spirits, the Haunted Gallery was closed up and for centuries was used as a lumber room for wornout furniture and motheaten tapestries. In April 1918, the Office of Works, had the Haunted Gallery cleared out, renovated and opened to the public - but Catherine's ghost seems to prefer the Hampton Court gardens nowadays, where she is seen on sunny afternoons, reliving the memories of more pleasant times. And then there was this man, who heard someone knocking on a door and who saw a woman's hand wearing the elaborate ring Catherine wore in a royal portrait...
Dame Sybill Penn
Dame Sybill Penn, also known as the Grey Lady of Hampton Court, was the foster-mother of Edward VI. When the young king died, she mourned him as her own son. Afterwards she was granted a residence at Hampton Court, where she died in 1562 of smallpox and was buried in an imposing tomb in the old church of Hampton-on-Thames. Until 1829 she rested there in peace, but when the old church was demolished, her tomb was disturbed... and so was her soul. The ghost of Mrs Penn returned to her old rooms at Hampton Court, where angry mutterings were heard, and the sound of a spinning wheel echoing through the southwest wing. Workers traced the sound back to a brick wall and uncovered a secret room with a 16th century spinning wheel and a variety of curiosities... Hampton Court records showed that this room once had been occupied by Mrs Penn who had often used the spinning wheel. Since then, people sleeping in the Palace have been awoken many times by the icy hands of Mrs. Penn placed upon their faces, and a luminous figure in grey bending over them...

The Surveillance Tape Ghost
In December 2003, Hampton Court was in the news again, this time with a ghost caught by a security camera. The astonishing piece of CCTV showed a tall figure wearing a long dark coat, shutting a double fire door situated in a part of the palace that is forbidden for the public and where the costumed guides don't go. The figure had a face that was, according to a security guard "incredibly spooky, because it didn't look human". There had been a security alarm sounding, but the guards had found the fire doors closed and there had been no-one around...

The camera footage of the ghost closing the door baffled researchers of the paranormal. Maybe it was nothing more than a publicity stunt to attract more visitors? A spokesperson for the tourist attraction declared it wasn't a joke: "We genuinely don't know who or what it is."

Could it truly be the Ghost of a Professional Widower, an arch-vilain who doesn't sleep that peacefully? Judge for yourself and do it here: Famous Phantom Visitors of Hampton Court.

Copyright by Patrick Bernauw, A Haunted World and The Lost Dutchman’s Historical Mysteries

Article Copyright© Patrick Bernauw - reproduced with permission.

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