Once again Halloween is almost upon us; a time when kids and adults alike get to indulge our sense of theatricality and embrace the scarier side of life. It’s a time for fancy dress, tricks, treats and good old fashioned scares for the whole family. Yet, while the Halloween haunted house party is always a winner, sometimes it’s nice to get out of the house for a truly spooky encounter. If you live in the Essex area, why not treat your whole family to a spine-tingling sojourn to one of the top 10 most haunted places in Essex? It’s a great way to get an authentically spooky experience without having to clean up afterwards?
Any of the following is a great choice for a memorable Most Haunted style family experience…
Here is our top 10 list:
- Harwich Redoubt Fort
- St Osyth
- The Strood, Mersea Island
- Chelmsford Civic Theatre, Chelmsford
- Coalhouse Fort, East Tilbury
- The Red Lion Hotel, Colchester
- Borley Rectory, Borley
- Colchester Castle
If you combine a love of history and horror this historic fort in the port of Harwich is for you! Built in 1808 to defend the port from French invasion, it has a long history of supernatural visitations. Some claim that the French POW’s who were forced to help with the construction, and whose graffiti can still be found on the walls of the cells today, haunt the fort’s remains.
Visitors often report being touched by unseen hands, glancing ghostly figures in the windows and a commonly seen headless soldier searching the site for his lost noggin!
Halloween isn’t complete without a tale of witchcraft, and the small village of St Osyth in northeast of Essex has a great witch story to tell. The village takes its name from Princess Osyth who was beheaded by invading Vikings after she refused to renounce her faith.
The legends says that Osyth’s headless body rose from the ground, picked up her severed head and walked to the nearby monastery where she knocked on the door three times before collapsing. Residents will attest that every year on the 7th of October, Osyth’s ghost makes the same walk through Nuns Wood holding her severed head.
St Osyth also has a history of witchcraft dating back to the 16th century. Fourteen women were tried for witchcraft and sentenced to death by hanging.
The Strood in Mersea island is possibly one of the most foreboding locations in Essex. The ancient causeway connects Mersea to the mainland is believed to be haunted by a ghostly Roman centurion who marches its length in October nights. Locals often report the sounds of marching and sword fighting, even on nights where The Strood is flooded by the tides.
The tiny Essex village of Manningtree was once home to the self-titled ‘Witchfinder General’ Matthew Hopkins who was estimated to have sentenced nearly 400 people to death for witchcraft. It’s said that on the evening of a full moon, Hopkins’ ghost haunts the Mistley Pond in which he infamously drowned many accused witches. His ghost has also been spotted haunting a number of the village’s pubs, too (can’t hurt to check)!
Many theatres pride themselves on their ghosts and the city of Chelmsford’s biggest theatre is no exception. Never fear, the Chelmsford Civic Theatre’s resident specter is in fact the kindly old porter who guided visitors to their seats. He is believed to be a former technician who lost his life in nearby Duke Street.
Situated in East Tilbury right by the River Thames; Coalhouse Fort was built in 1874 and is renowned for its paranormal activity, most likely due to is centuries of military use. Visitors often report seeing strange, spectral mists and ghostly apparitions and echoing footsteps in the fort’s tunnels as well as voices and the mysterious sound of footsteps.
Colchester’s Red Lion is one of the town’s oldest inns, so needless to say it has its share of phantoms. The ghost most often glimpsed by guests and staff is that of former chambermaid Alice Catherine Miller who was murdered by her lover in 1638. Miller has been spotted in various rooms throughout the hotel and has even been known to converse with the staff.
Nestled in the highest hills of the Essex coastline near Rochford, this tiny village holds a dark secret. The fourteenth century village church has a longstanding association with witches and devilry! Legend has it that if you run around the church anti-clockwise on Halloween the Devil himself will appear.
Built in 1863 on the site of an old monastery, the old rectory in Borley once held the title of “The most haunted house in England”. It is believed that the grounds are haunted by a ghostly nun who was executed for falling in love with a local monk. The house itself has since been knocked down but the grounds are still open to visitors who claim to see and hear all manner of phantasmic phenomena from the sound of distant tolling of bells to poltergeist activity.
Finally, Colchester’s famous castle is the largest Norman Keep in Europe and an extremely popular tourist attraction. However, it also has its spooky side. At night it’s rumoured that the ghost of Quaker martyr James Parnell haunts the castle and its dungeons.
Imprisoned in the castle dungeon in 1656, Parnell’s sadistic jailer forced him to climb a rope in order to reach his food. After a particularly bad fall, Parnell passed away and was buried in an unmarked grave on the castle grounds. The castle holds regular night tours in which visitors can risk an encounter with the phantom themselves.