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Haunted Houses

If you're a fan of all things spooky, why not test your nerves with a visit to one of Britain's most haunted houses.

You've seen all the movies - a group of young friends run out of petrol on a lonely road. The only place within miles is the eerie old house on the hill. Once inside they're greeted by a cadaverous old retainer and shown, (no questions asked) to their rooms. And there begins a night of terror complete with mysterious footsteps in the corridor, crashing windows, and chilling wails from the attic. Okay, so we're talking about the movies here, but Britain has long been famous for its ghostly sightings, from the Headless Horseman to Catherine Howard in The Tower of London. It's no surprise then that we also have more than our fair share of haunted houses, many of which you can visit - or even stay overnight in if you're really brave. Here's the lowdown on just a few of Britain's most spooky spots and their resident ghosts.

The most haunted houses in Britain:

Borley Rectory, Essex

Supposedly the most haunted house in Britain, Borley Rectory was home to the ghost of Marie Laire, a nun who was put to death in the 17th century for giving into passion with a local monk. The Rev HD Bull didn't realise when he built the rectory in 1863 that it was directly over the site of her violent death, but it wasn't long before Marie made her ghostly presence felt. Mr Bull often saw her staring at him through his study window, until eventually he decided to brick it up. In the 1920s the famous psychic investigator Harry Price was summoned and there he witnessed invisible hands which tapped out messages on a mirror, sent vases flying against walls or made keys fly from keyholes. Later, when the Rev Lionel Foster took on the Rectory scribbled messages appeared on the walls to his wife Marianne, asking her to 'please get help.' Then, in February 1939 the house was destroyed by a mysterious fire. Locals claimed to have seen a cowled nun at an upper window. Harry Price later reported unearthing the skeleton of a young woman in the cellar.

The Silk Mill, Derby

This was the sight of England's first factory, built in 1717 on the banks of the River Derwent. The Mill itself was burnt down in 1910 and only the bell tower survived. It is this tower which is said to be haunted by a little boy who was kicked down the stairs by one of the overseers for not working hard enough. Children as young as seven were employed in the mill, working from 5am until 7pm. This little boy's cries can still be heard at the foot of the stairs by staff of what is now Derby's Industrial Museum. They often go into the tower thinking there is a lost child in there, but it is always empty and the lift is always going up and down by itself.

Coombe Abbey Hotel, Coventry

Originally a 12th century monastery, this four star hotel was lived in for 300 years by the Craven family. During their residency, a gypsy fell pregnant by a family member and had a stillborn child. Angry and bitter, she placed a curse on the family inflicting a lifetime of premature death upon the eldest sons. Consequently most have not lived past middle age. Today the hotel boasts frequent reports of unexplained draughts, random door slammings and a mysterious presence. The building's nocturnal activities have caused several guests to run out of their rooms.

The Crown Hotel, Bawtry, Yorkshire

This 17th century coaching Inn, now a three star hotel, is home to a whole host of ghosts. The most famous is a waitress who worked there over 100 years ago. After she cheated on him, her jealous lover (the chef) murdered her. Ever since, she has wandered the corridors crying. A lady in a crinoline is often spotted in reception, plates go flying and temperatures drop dramatically. One regular resident is often woken by the ghost of a little girl sitting on her bed, and the hooves of Dick Turpin's horse have been heard on the gravel outside.

Kingussie, Highland

Allan Macpherson-Fletcher and his wife Marjorie share this house with a friendly ghost. She is believed to be a young maid who fell in love with the butler in the 1860s, but realising she could never marry him as he was above her station, she threw herself from a bridge in the grounds. She was frequently seen in the 1940s, but after the war a tenant lowered the floor of the east wing, which was the servants quarters, sealing off several rooms in the cellar. It wasn't until about seven years ago that the rooms were rediscovered and she was 'released' again. She seems to be fascinated with modern technology and turns on radiators, lights and taps and she is especially fond of switching on the electric kettle.

The Hayes Arms Inn, Northiam, East Sussex

This country hotel is reputedly visited by the ghost of an old woman who sits at a spinning wheel in the bar. There is also a story dating back to the 15th century of an ex-resident couple, Molly Beale and Captain Snelling. Molly was killed by her lover Leyton when she refused to leave her husband. The hotel rooms are named after these three and in Snelling there is an inscription of what happened on one of the oak beams. Guests have seen a woman's figure walking across the yard, accompanied by creaking floorboards. Employees have also seen objects flying off the bar.

The Ancient Ram Inn, Wotton-under-Edge, Gloucestershire

In October 1999 a picture taken at the Inn by ghosthunter Julie Hunt was hailed as the best evidence yet of supernatural activity. The photo shows a blurry figure on a stairway, although Julie didn't see anyone there at the time. The 800 year old former pub is a regular haunt of dedicated ghostbusters. Julie and her husband Mark often stay in the famous Bishop's room, which is alleged to be home to five ghosts. On their last visit the couple say the room came alive with lights in the early hours of the morning even though it was pitch black outside and no light were turned on inside. The Ancient Ram is built on a pagan burial site. John Humphries, who has lived in the Inn for 30 years said that he has experienced over 80 incidents in the last three years. He claims to have been pushed against the walls, knocked over, had his bed shaken and felt something clawing at his bed like an animal.

Littledean Hall, The Forest of Dean, Gloucestershire

The Hall is reported to have accumulated over 16 ghosts since it was built in Anglo-Saxon times. They include two royalists Colonel Congrove and Captain Wigmore who were put to the sword in the dining room. Dark stains that cannot be removed from the floor are reputed to be the bloody remains of the killings. The 'blackboy', a black servant who killed his master in the hall haunts the scene of the crime wearing a silver collar and carrying a lit candle, and a white monk has been seen at the bottom of the stairs close to a secret oratory behind the panelling. Two brothers who shot each other in a duel are said to walk at night, while a phantom figure can sometimes be seen in the grounds. Visitors have reported attacks of dizziness, nausea and palpitations.

And the best of the rest:

Leeds Castle in Kent is haunted by a phantom dog who is said to bring bad luck to visitors.

Castle Rising in Norfolk reverberates to the mad laughter of Queen Isabella, who was held captive there after plotting against her son, Edward III.

If the Loch Ness Monster is rarely seen it may be because it is wary of the ghost of Annie Frazer at nearby Aultsigh Inn, who was murdered by her lover in a jealous rage.

St Donat's Castle near Cardiff boasts not only a spectral panther roaming its corridors, but also an invisible pianist who strikes up at will.

The ghost of King George IV has been seen roaming the underground passages of the Royal Pavilion in Brighton.

Billionaire Paul Getty was startled on several occasions while staying at Woburn Abbey when the resident ghost thrust open the door of his bedroom.

Chatham House in Lyme Regis, Dorset, is haunted by the ghost of "Hanging Judge" Jeffreys wearing a black cap and robes and carrying a bloodied bone.

The ghost of jockey Fred Archer rides the racecourse at Newmarket and still frightens horses there.

Arundel Castle in Sussex has three ghosts - a Cavalier, a kitchen hand and a young girl, who had thrown herself from the castle's Hiorne's Tower.

The ghost of St Hilda, who is seen wearing a shroud at a window in Whitby Abbey, Yorkshire, was mentioned in Bram Stoker's Dracula.

Castle Rushen on the Isle of Man is haunted by a "grey lady", who was wrongly hanged for murdering her son.

Littlecote Manor in Wiltshire houses the gruesome Burning Babe, a newborn child who was thrown on to a fire.

Legends of a monster lurking in a secret room are told about Glamis Castle in Scotland.

Cranmere Pool on Dartmoor plays host to the bizarre ghost of Bingie Gear, who appears in different forms, both animal and human.

Ghost watchers at Wolfeton House in Dorchester may see the strange sight of a coach and horses being driven up the staircase inside the house.

A "green lady" with a baby has been seen at Crathes Castle in Scotland, where the skeleton of a woman and child were found under the floor during building work.

At East Riddlesden Hall in Yorkshire there is a wooden cradle which is rocked by invisible hands.

The ghost of a girl called Jenny can be heard spinning in the East wing of Knebworth House in Hertfordshire.

Jamaica Inn on Bodmin Moor, immortalised by Daphne Du Maurier, is haunted by the ghost of a sailor who was robbed and killed by a cut-purse.

The Theatre Royal at Margate is home to the ghost of actress Sarah Thorne who died in 1899.

The ghost of an old woman known as the Old Hell Cat who knits with red-hot needles can be seen at Raby Castle near Durham.

A mischievous spirit at the Kylesku Hotel in the Scottish Highlands has a habit of popping his head through a trapdoor in the ceiling.

Dover Castle in Kent is haunted by a headless drummer boy murdered during the Napoleonic wars.

A spectral ship has been seen at Oulton Broad in Suffolk where the Mayfly sank, drowning all but the cabin boy.

The owner of The Mermaid at Rye in Sussex witnessed a phantom duel being fought outside the inn at the beginning of this century.

At Utkinton Hall in Cheshire a 16th century priest cast a troublesome spirit into the body of a blackbird which is said to be the ancestor of the birds there today.

Ghost hunters are spoilt for choice at Windsor Castle. Royal spectres include Elizabeth I, Charles I and George III.

Ye Olde Ferryboat Inn at Holywell in Cambridgeshire is built over the grave of Juliet Tewsley who hanged herself at that spot.

The spirit of Lady Howard rides in a coach made of bones at Okehampton on Dartmoor.

A ghostly horse-bus is said to drive down the Bayswater Road by London's Hyde Park.

Inverawe House in the Western Highlands of Scotland has a houseproud spirit called Green Jean, who puts out fresh soap and towels for guests.

The Marsden Grotto Hotel, built in caves near Sunderland, is haunted by the ghost of a smuggler who informed on the rest of his gang.

A spectral ape is just one of several spirits at Athelhampton Hall in Dorset.

A skeleton found in a secret chamber could be the cause of sightings of a phantom priest at Lyme Park in Cheshire.

A ghostly funeral cortege bearing the coffin of Lady Margaret Godolphin has been seen at Godolphin House in Cornwall.

At Ethie Castle near Aberdeen it is said you can hear Cardinal Beaton as he limps through its corridors with his leg in bandages.

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