Any mention of supernatural phenomena, in connection with old British castles, is inevitably going to provoke imagery of ghosts, specters, and the dead returned (chain-rattling or not). This is hardly surprising, since Britain is seemingly filled with such stories and legends. Less well know, however, are the cases that link old castles not to human ghosts but to the ghosts of strange creatures. As in very strange creatures.
We’ll begin with the glowing-eyed, black-colored phantom dog of England’s Tamworth Castle; a castle that was constructed by the Normans, way back in the 11th Century. In 1945, the final year of the Second World War, the demon dog – which could have given the Hound of the Baskervilles itself chills – was seen prowling around the grounds of the castle, in ghostly and ghastly form.
It looked like a normal, large mastiff-type dog; the glowing eyes aside, of course – which practically appeared to be aflame. That is, until it vanished in front of the shocked witness. And by “vanished” I mean dematerialized. Notably, within the family of the witness, the hound became known as the “furnace dog.” Whether that was due to those blazing eyes, or to something else, is a matter as intriguing as it is unresolved.
Also in England, there’s the story of nothing less than a large, fast-moving, ape-like animal seen on land next to Chartley Castle, Staffordshire in 1986. The castle, founded in the 13th century, has a long and rich history. Although, it’s fair to say that the events of 1986 surely represent the weirdest part of the castle’s history. The creature, seen by the Dodds family late one night, was described as resembling a large chimpanzee. Coincidence or not, two decades later, in 2006, an impressive-looking Crop Circle was found on the same stretch of land where the unidentified ape was seen years before.
Let’s now take a trip to Pembrokeshire, Wales, which is home to ancient Carew Castle. Legend tells of evil Sir Roland Rhys, a 17th century figure who ran the castle with an iron-fist. According to the lore of the castle, at some point Rhys acquired a Barbary Macaque (or Barbary Ape, as they are often called), and which he decided to name Satan. As you do, of course.
The beast certainly lived up to its name. Both Satan and Rhys met bloody ends: the former ripped the throat of its owner. The body of Satan was found burning in the huge fireplace that dominated the dining hall and only seconds after his master’s bloody demise. To this day, so the story goes, the spectral form of the mad Macaque can occasionally be seen roaming Carew Castle.
Moving on to Scotland, there’s the ghostly gorilla of Dundoland Castle – which has its origins in the 11th century. Researcher Mark Fraser has investigated the case of one Josephine Aldridge, who had a nerve-jangling encounter, in 1994, at the castle with something that resembled a gorilla, but which proceeded to do something not at all typical of a gorilla: it vanished before Aldridge’s astonished eyes.
Also in Scotland is Glamis Castle, which was, for many decades, said to have been the lair of a hideous thing that had an enormous “flabby egg”-like body and tiny limbs, and which some researchers perceive as having been a tragic, deformed human. Others, however, have suggested the thing had far more beastly origins. Jon Downes, of the Center for Fortean Zoology, correctly notes that the most popular theory is that “…the creature was supposed to have been the hideously deformed heir to the Bowes-Lyon family…”
On the other hand, we have the research of the late Elliott O’Donnell – who, in 1912, penned Scottish Ghost Stories. He told of a woman who stayed at the castle and who had the distinct misfortune to encounter a humanoid creature “covered with a tangled mass of grey hair” and which had “the manner of an ape.”
I could go on and on, but you see my point. Contrary to the popular opinion that Britain’s haunted castles are home to ghosts and specters of a human kind and that’s about it, the reality is that its animals of a very weird kind that so often give such castles their supernatural reputations.
Not that I’m the one to do it, but there’s undeniably a book in all this. After all, an untold number of books have been written on the human ghosts of British castles, so why not the “monster ghosts” of such places, too? Anyone up for the challenge?