JANUARY :: We share more of our favourite haunted locations, further frightening experiences, and some possible fascinating evidence of the paranormal.

Friday, 2 January 2015

Favourite Haunts :: Ghostly Spectres at Oxford Castle

St George's Tower, Oxford Castle
© Ghost & Girl

But, soft; behold! lo, where it comes again!
I'll cross it, though it blast me.—Stay, illusion!
If thou hast any sound, or use of voice,
Speak to me...

- William Shakespeare (Hamlet)

Oxford Castle: Famous for many reasons, but the Black Assize is what comes immediately to mind.
It was the year 1577, and England was divided by the Reformation. Rowlande Jenkes, a Roman Catholic bookseller, was brought before the assize court for being 'saucy and foul mouthed'. When the verdict was given, and it was ordered that he should lose his ears, Jenkes cursed the court, jury and city.
Oddly, townsfolk began to drop like flies shortly after. The dead included two Judges, the Coroner, the Sheriff, a clerk and many members of the court and jury. As no women, children or the town's poor befell the illness, it was rumoured that Jenkes used black magic to bring about the deaths. However, the contemporary opinion is that it was probably an outbreak of Gaol Fever, and due to the close proximity and heat within the courthouse it had spread like wildfire.

Oxford Castle is an important example of a motte and bailey castle. The history of the castle is well documented as it played a key role in the history and development of Oxford itself. The motte survives well and contains a rare well chamber as well as the archaeological remains from the stone keep built on it.

It is one of only two surviving towers within the city of Oxford. After the Civil War, the castle, like many town castles around England, was converted for use as a prison, a purpose it served until 1996 when it was closed due to its unsanitary conditions.

The most dramatic moment in the military history of Oxford Castle was in 1142, at the height of the Civil War between King Stephen and Empress Matilda. The Empress' army was besieged within the castle, and it seemed that surrender was imminent. Legend has it that the Empress was lowered over the castle walls in the dead of night, wrapped in a white cloak so as to camouflage against the snow. She crept through King Stephen's camp and across the frozen Thames to safety.  

Oxford Castle Unlocked is a truly unique tour experience. On a bitterly cold December morning, we were greeted at the entrance by the truly terrifying Executioner, who led us directly into St George's Tower where our tour began.

Julia Ann Crumpling, Oxford Castle
© Ghost & Girl
Whilst hearing grisly tales of its previous occupants, we then proceeded to climb the steep Saxon tower. As we stepped into the "water tank" room, I sensed a male presence towards the right end corner. Our tour guide then explained that the room was supposedly haunted, but never mentioned as to whom, or what might be haunting it, nor of any reported experiences associated with the room.
Next we were shown into the crypt, which lies beneath St George's Tower. The crypt is thought to date back to the Saxons, making it the oldest standing structure in England. It is within this crypt that the Executioner proceeded to tell us about the spirit of a little girl, who is most often felt by women. The girl, a former inmate of the Victorian prison, is thought to be Julia Ann Crumpling. She was only seven years old when she was sentenced to seven days hard labour for the crime of stealing a pram.
Julia is reported to have been seen throughout the prison. She likes to place her hand in visitor's hands, and tug on their clothing. She is  also often seen weeping in the crypt, asking for her mother. 

The crypt is also haunted by a monk known as Bernard. Visitors often report feeling a heaviness in the air, a hand on their shoulder, hair being tugged, and even the smell of beer.

We then walked onto D-wing, part of the later prison built in the eighteenth century. Here  our tour guide 'processed us' (mug shots and all!), allowing us to be admitted to the prison. We were then free to  take in the atmosphere and read up on prison history from the displays, or return to any part of the castle to explore further on our own.

As there were still no other visitors about, I decided to head back down to the crypt to take some photos. Whilst with the tour, I felt quite at peace within the crypt, but as I ventured back on my own the atmosphere seemed to change, and I found myself constantly looking over my shoulder. I was fighting with the voice inside my head and the flight instinct that were telling me to high tail it back up to the prison where the rest of my family were.
But I stuck it out, and I took the photos I'd gone there for, using my iPhone5 (no flash).

It was a few days after the tour that I finally had the opportunity to review the photos I'd taken that day at Oxford Castle. It was this photo (below), that I took in the passage between the crypt and the lower prison, which has left me with more questions than answers. 
Do you see what I see?
Passage between the crypt and the lower prison at Oxford Castle.
Original photograph. No filter. No edits.
© Ghost & Girl

Every single photo that I took prior to this one does not share the same anomaly, nor anything like it. I have shown the photo to several friends - some keen on the paranormal, others not - asking what they see. Each can make out the same image as I: A women dressed in a high-waisted skirt and white blouse. Her hair is parted in the middle, and it appears as though she is leaning over the railing, her gaze directly on me as I took the picture.

I'm the first to admit that this image may be no more than pareidolia (matrixing), brought about by the construction of the stonework, the angle of the light, or a combination of both.
And yet, this is the only photograph in which I can see her. I'll leave it to you to draw your own conclusion.

Close up: A ghostly encounter or no?
© Ghost & Girl

Have I captured one of the ghostly spectres of Oxford Castle, or is my mind merely playing tricks?
For more information on Oxford Castle, visit these websites:
To learn more about pareidolia, try this link: