Long Live the King

Berkeley castleWhen most people visit a castle, it’s to see the building or to absorb the history. We went to hear a king’s dying screams.

On September 21st in 1327, King Edward II was murdered in Berkeley Castle, and on the anniversary of his death, his screams are said to echo around the room. His murder would not be out of place in Game of Thrones and would probably be the plot had Cersei married Renly instead of Robert. Edward married Isabella in 1308 when he was 24 and she was 13. Edward was known to have male lovers, known as his ‘favourites’. One of these was Piers Gaveston. Edward’s father disliked Gaveston and had him exiled but when Edward II took the throne in 1307, he recalled him to England. Gaveston had too much influence over Edward and was exiled again. He disobeyed the order, believing Edward would help him. In 1312, Edward’s cousin, the Earl of Lancaster kidnapped Gaveston in Scarborough Castle and took him to Warwick Castle. He was marched to Blacklow Hill, run through with a sword then beheaded. His ghost haunts Scarborough Castle and lures people off the battlements.

Edward found a new favourite – Hugh Despenser the younger. There’s no evidence to suggest theirs was a homosexual relationship, but he had as much influence over Edward as Gaveston had. Isabella hated Despenser and it’s rumoured he tried to rape her. In 1321, Lancaster seized Despenser’s lands and forced Edward to exile the Despenser family. In retaliation, Edward led a short military campaign against Lancaster and executed him before calling Despenser back to England.Berkeley castle

In 1325, Isabella went to France on a diplomatic mission and fell in love with Roger Mortimer, an exiled opponent of Edward’s. Mortimer’s grandfather had killed Despenser’s grandfather and Despenser vowed revenge against him. In 1326, Isabella and Mortimer invaded England with an army of 1500 and the English nobility’s support. Edward’s habit of taking people’s lands to give to his favourites made him unpopular. Edward and Despenser were captured in Neath. Despenser was ordered to be hanged as a thief, drawn and quartered as a traitor, disemboweled for procuring discord between the king and queen, and beheaded for returning to England.

Edward was imprisoned at Kenilworth Castle before being moved to Berkeley. Any nobles who were wanted dead but not murdered were kept in a windowless cell next to a 28ft deep dungeon where animal carcasses, excrement and the occasional peasant’s corpse were thrown. It was hoped the smell would kill him. Although Edward fell ill, he recovered. Eventually the order was given to kill Edward but leave no marks. He was taken to a bedroom and pinned face down to the bed. A horn or funnel was inserted into his anus, followed by a red hot poker. It was a common execution for homosexuals.

Calamityville Horror at Berkeley castleNeen is still working on the film set, so we took our mate, Tom. He’s never been ghost hunting. We texted him saying we were running late as we’d been in our grampy’s attic looking for squirrels. He said from anyone else it would sound like a fake excuse. From us, he knows it’s real. The trip started badly when our tablet malfunctioned and our documents disappeared. It took several panicky minutes of checking every folder until we found them. Strangely, we didn’t get lost, even though Tom is worse with directions than we are, despite living in Gloucester for most of his life. This wasn’t looking hopeful, especially as we’d left our directions in the boot. We rocked up to the castle and immediately spotted a dressing up area. We probably should’ve warned him a day out with us is like herding cats. We spot something exciting and go running off, usually in different directions. We rushed over and dressed up – Lynx as a knight with a card crown and Cat donning a fancy gown. We did our filming piece about the ghosts whilst wearing these costumes. You have to look smart when you meet royalty. Then Tom dressed as a knight for our group photo. Coming out with Calamityville means you get sucked into the crazy whether you want to or not.Berkeley castle

We weren’t allowed to wear the dressing up clothes inside the castle. Probably just as well because Cat’s gown was proving very dangerous. We told one of the volunteers we were there because it was Edward’s anniversary and we wanted to hear his dying screams. She revealed that every year on his anniversary, somebody would leave a red rose outside his cell and also at his tomb at Gloucester cathedral. They never knew who did it until one day it stopped. She warned us and a couple that the steps leading up to the castle were deliberately different heights to trip invaders. We made the couple go first and told them we would be watching. Sadly, they didn’t trip. However we did on several occasions.Berkeley castle

We entered the Keep where Edward was held and spent a long time doing an EVP session at the dungeon. Then Tom spotted Edward’s cell. Unfortunately we couldn’t get inside it as the room was sealed and we’d forgotten to bring our grappling hooks to enter from the outside. (Note to selves, always pack a grappling hook). We asked Edward to scream for us. He refused. He had the opportunity to star on Calamityville and he turned it down. One tortured scream, that’s all we asked for. Guess our reputations have reached the spirit world.

dungeon at Berkeley castleWe eventually explored the rest of the castle, which is beautiful then we headed into the gardens. Tom found a narrow passageway in the wall so went in – already adopting the Calamityville attitude of exploring away from prying eyes. We followed then there was a right angle turn and the passage narrowed. Cat went on ahead in the dark and said “I can’t see what I’m standing on.” Then she fell down a drain. We all made it to the end to find we were under the castle. Tom picked up his first Calamityville injury by bashing his shoulder on a low piece of wall and Lynx also fell down the drain. In the garden was a small stone building that we intend to use as a writing shed when we conquer the castle. There were also cool trees so we climbed them, even though our long skirts were not practical for tree climbing. There was also what we all dubbed ‘the evil tree’ as it was all twisted and set in a circular ditch, clearly having crawled its way out of hell. Cat swung off it and hurt her wrist, verifying our belief in its evil. Then we remembered we’d forgotten to use our new Ghost Radar Legacy app on our Nexus by Edward’s cell. Cursing, we switched it on and were discussing the tree. The Ghost Radar said “branch.” We returned to the castle and Edward’s cell and Lynx filmed the Nexus. The Ghost Radar said “camera.” Other than that it had nothing to say.Berkeley castle

cell where Edward II died

Edward II’s cell

We hung out near the dungeon while a guide gave a tour. She said there were 3 versions of the story – the poker, he was smothered or he escaped and lived happily ever after. We glowered like Gorgons. No. He got the poker treatment. We refuse to accept any other version. We didn’t come to listen to muffles. The Radar was showing coloured blobs in the dungeon, which apparently means a ghost is near. When we moved back to Edward’s cell, we offered Tom as a gift to Edward. We’d Google imaged Edward’s ‘favourites’ and Tom didn’t look like them (they were unattractive with ridiculous hair) but we thought it was worth a try. A red blob glowed on the radar, which meant a strong presence. Clearly Edward was pleased with our offering. Probably should’ve warned Tom he would be offered as a gift to a murdered ghost. But that’s what happens when you’re a guest on Calamityville: there is a strong possibility you will be sacrificed.

We drove to Gloucester cathedral, again without getting lost or nearly dying. We happened to show up when there was an art exhibition on. This type of thing always happens to us. Though we usually turn up at someone’s wedding.  We bought filming and photography permits then dashed through the cathedral to join the crypt tour. We’d imagined the crypts to be filled with cobwebs, winding passageways and mummified corpses just waiting for us to awaken them and unleash them on the unsuspecting our guests. Like our tomb will be.

Gloucester cathedral

Gloucester cathedral

There were lots of statues from the exhibition. One of them looked like a Targaryen dragon egg. We wanted to sneak it out and hatch it in a fire. We’ve never owned a dragon and setting fire to our enemies would be a great party trick. We tracked down Edward II’s tomb and got out the Ghost Radar. We couldn’t do an EVP session as the organ was deafening, but the Ghost Radar helpfully supplied us with words such as “coal” and “cotton.” We think it was a bit confused. We found amazing skull sculptures and a wheel made of broken metal skeletons that we wanted to buy. However there’s no way we could ever afford to buy something that come from an exhibition and getting it home in the Mini would be tricky.

Gloucester cathedral crypt

the crypts

We walked to Blackfrairs Priory, which is rumoured to be haunted by monks. Monks are very keen on haunting places. Leading deprived, pious lives is clearly a one-way ticket to ghosthood. Unfortunately the priory was closed, despite the website telling us otherwise. So we found some big foam dominoes and spelled out C.A.T.S. to alert people to our visit. Though we couldn’t put the full stops in, so people won’t think ‘ooh C.A.T.S. Calamityville Horror have been here’, they’ll think ‘someone really likes cats’. And thus ended our first ghost hunting adventure since the beginning of August. We brought Tom home with us to meet the animal army though 3 cats were AWOL and the snake went into hiding but the others made an appearance.P1090542

It was so good to get back out there instead of just lurking in our writing shed like we’ve done all summer. It was a fantastic day and even better – Tom wants to come back out on more adventures! So you’ll be seeing a lot more of him on Calamityville. Though we probably won’t sacrifice him every episode.

Edward II tomb at Gloucester cathedral

us at Edward II tomb

4 Comments

  1. I LOVE your escapades! And I love your blog as I get a history lesson every visit. Really fascinating stuff and yes, the red hot poker version sounds better! Also the red rose thing…how interesting. I’d want to know more about that. 🙂 Have you ever thought of becoming guides for English Heritage or something?! You could tour round castles and haunted houses as guest tour guides to correspond with special days such as this one! I think you’d be really good at it; focus on the spooky stuff for them! 🙂 Seriously jealous of all the fun you get up to! Look forward to this episode once it’s done 🙂

    • thank you so much 🙂 we love learning about the history of places as it gives them more meaning when we visit them. Plus it helps with debunking some of the ghost stories. We loved the story of the red rose, especially as there’s a mystery to it too. We’ve left some of the history out of the post because of word count! Next time we’re up your way you’ll have to come with us!

      • Oh yes!!! I would love a ghost hunting history trip calamityville horror style! Would be awesome! 🙂

      • excellent! We’ll let you know next time we’re heading out 🙂


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