It’s a fact (a very weird fact, I should stress) that sightings of strange creatures have occurred in the direct vicinity of old English castles. Sometimes, even inside castles. Let’s take a look at the data relating to this odd phenomenon. I’ll begin with Powerdham Castle in the county of Devon. As is noted at the Historic Data website: “It was built by Sir Philip Courtenay in the 14th century and, despite many alterations and additions to adapt the Castle to changing times, Philip and his many descendants would undoubtedly still recognize it today.” In the early 1980s, Jon Downes – who runs the Center for Fortean Zoology – investigated a story that stretched back to the Second World War. It involved a hair-covered man who seen roaming around the woods surrounding the old castle. Jon came to the conclusion that, after all of his investigations, the mysterious figure was actually someone with hypertrichosis. It a condition that causes excess amounts of hair to grow on the face and body. Nevertheless, it didn’t stop a distasteful story circulating that there was a “monster” on the loose. Such is the way the rumor-mill can distort strange and decades-old events.
Now, let’s take a look at the monster of Orford Castle, which is located in Suffolk, England. Chronicled in the year 1200, and in the pages of Chronicon Anglicanum, there is this fascinating story: “In the time of King Henry II, when Bartholomew de Glanville was in charge of the castle at Orford, it happened that some fishermen fishing in the sea there caught in their nets a Wildman. He was naked and was like a man in all his members, covered with hair and with a long shaggy beard. He eagerly ate whatever was brought to him, but if it was raw he pressed it between his hands until all the juice was expelled. He would not talk, even when tortured and hung up by his feet, Brought into church, he showed no sign of reverence or belief. He sought his bed at sunset and always remained there until sunrise. He was allowed to go into the sea, strongly guarded with three lines of nets, but he dived under the nets and came up again and again. Eventually he came back of his own free will. But later on he escaped and was never seen again.”
Built on land held by the Earls of Chester as far back as the 11th Century, Chartley Castle was constructed to the orders of Ranulph Blundeville. He was, at the time, the Earl of Chester. As history demonstrates: “It was rebuilt in 1220 by Ranulph de Blondeville, 4th Earl of Chester, and a curtain wall was added. It passed by marriage to William de Ferrers, Earl of Derby and remained in the Ferrers family until 1453, when it passed to Walter Devereux through his wife, Elizabeth Ferrers. Walter was killed at the Battle of Bosworth in 1485. The castle was then abandoned as a residence and Chartley Manor was built nearby. Chartley Manor was one of the last stops for Mary Queen of Scots before her execution.” All of that brings us to Mick Dodds, who shared with me the details of a nerve-jangling castle/creature encounter. Back in 1986, and late one night, he and his wife encountered – racing across the road adjacent to the castle – what was described as a large chimpanzee. The creature was only in view for less than half a minute, but it was long enough for Dodds and his wife to see the terrifying beast.
I should stress that Chartley Castle is not the only old, U.K. castle that has a legend attached to it concerning something that resembled an ape or a monkey. Carolina Manosca Grisales noted something that may have been relevant ot the old legend: “Sometime before 1967, a Mr. Beer took photographs at Berry Pomeroy Castle, Devon, one of which on being developed showed the unexplained image of a woman in medieval dress carrying a monkey. Unfortunately Mr. Beer gave his photograph to the poet Robert Graves, who was so disturbed by it that he burned it.” English Heritage say of Berry Pomeroy Castle: “Berry Pomeroy is unusual among English castles in that its history has only recently been established. Once thought to be of Norman origin, the castle was in fact begun during the later 15th century by the Pomeroy family. Within its defenses, the Seymour family built a modest early Elizabethan mansion, and from about 1600 they extended this on a palatial scale, intending to create a great house to rival Longleat or Audley End. But their overambitious project suddenly foundered for lack of funds, and by 1700 the castle was an abandoned shell.”
Located west of Forfar, Glamis Castle, Scotland, also has a very strange and controversial story attached to it. Jon Downes said that the castle is “… well known and semi legendary beast known as the Monster of Glamis. It’s said that the creature was supposed to have been the hideously deformed heir to the Bowes-Lyon family and who was, according to popular rumor, born in about 1800, and died as recently as 1921. Legend has it that the monster was supposed to look like an enormous flabby egg, having no neck and only minute arms and legs but possessed incredible strength and had an air of evil about it. Certainly, there is a family secret concerning the monster, which is only told to the male heir of the Bowes-Lyon family when they attain majority. But according to the author Peter Underwood, who has looked into this case, the present Lord Strathmore knows nothing about the monster, presumably because the creature has long been dead, but he always felt that there was a corpse or coffin bricked up behind the walls.”
In light of all the above, should you one day decide to go walking around an old castle in the U.K., keep a careful look-out for monsters…