Ghosts of Corfe Castle, Dorset
Corfe Castle, built by William the Conqueror in the 11th century, has a few ghostly tales attached to its history. Before the current castle was built, the site where it sits was the location of the assassination of King Edward (Edward the Martyr) on March 18th 978, on the orders of his scheming stepmother Queen Alfthryth. Edward was stabbed while he was on his horse and then helplessly dragged along to his death by his own steed. The Queen Alfthryth’s son Athelred “the Unready”, was crowned in his place. Since then there have been reports of hearing a phantom horse’s galloping hooves at the bottom of the hill below the castle. Witnesses hear the horse approach and ride by but never see the ghostly animal.
Another tragic tale is that of Eleanor the “Fair Maid of Brittany” (1184 – 1241). In 1203 she was captured since she posed a threat to John, King of England, as she had a legitimate claim to the throne. The beautiful Eleanor was thus taken to Corfe Castle where she remained a prisoner until her death in 1241. William de Braose, 4th Lord of Bramber (1144/1153? – 1211), also found ill favor with the king and as a result, his poor wife and child were starved to death at Corfe Castle. The disembodied sounds of a crying child can sometimes be heard around the castle grounds when there is no child to be found anywhere.
During the English Civil War, Corfe Castle was successfully defended by the leadership of Lady Bankes, a Royalist, in the absence of her husband who was away on business. However in February of 1646, she was betrayed by one of her own people and the Parliamentary soldiers were then able to take control of the structure. Cromwell’s soldiers destroyed the castle, reducing it quickly to the ruin that we see today. Soon after, stories began to circulate of ghostly occurrences. The best-known apparition is that of the headless ‘White Lady’ who sends chills down the spine of anyone who crosses her path. She has been seen mostly near the castle gate where she then fades away into nothingness, leaving witnesses shocked and shaken. It is believed that she could be the ghost of Lady Bankes, Eleanor “the Fair Maid of Brittany” or possibly even William de Braose’s wife.
Floating, flickering lights have also been reported moving around the castle at night. One popular explanation for this is that these are the spirits of the Royalists killed while defending Corfe against Cromwell’s forces. Whatever the reason, it just adds to the mysterious and creepy charm of this old Norman ruin.