Roger Clarke, The Guardian, October 30, 2015
The French are the least susceptible to believing in ghosts among the world’s nationalities, according to at least one study. The visitors who witnessed one of the most famous “time-slips” of them all were British women from Oxford. In August, 1901, Anne Moberly and Eleanor Jourdain had an experience at the Petit Trianon in the gardens of Versailles in which they believed they saw the ghost of Marie Antoinette from 1789. Belief in the supernatural is susceptible to fashion and this tale started a trend for “time-slip ghosts” that ran for several decades.
Glamis Castle, Scotland
One of Scotland’s most seductive folkloric haunts, the turreted fortress has more historical ghosts than rooks in a rookery – nearly all of them connected to treachery, witchcraft and cruelty. Gifted to the Lyon family (latterly Bowes-Lyon) by Robert the Bruce, and standing swathed in Highland mists not far from Dundee, Glamis has at least 20 apparitions, including a phantom African pageboy seen by a young Queen Mother (it was her childhood home), a witch in the chapel, a tongueless woman screaming in the park, a man playing dice with the devil in a sealed room, spectres in chain-mail, a gibbering madman on the roof and numerous other Halloween-like oneiric tales.
Hinton Ampner, Hampshire, UK
This haunting is one of the greatest of English ghost stories, considered by celebrated British academic and broadcaster Sir Christopher Frayling to be the source for Henry James’s 1898 novella, The Turn of the Screw. Funny goings-on started following the death of the mistress of the house owner Lord Stawel, known locally as an “evil liver”, in 1754. The story was well-known among the Anglican church establishment and it was the Archbishop of Canterbury who told James the “true” version. In the old Elizabethan house (now demolished), a mother fought tooth and nail to stop the incursion of a wicked spectral manservant and his paramour prowling outside her children’s nursery. It’s now a National Trust property.
Ghost-hunting is sweeping Scandinavia as a secular form of religion, some commentators say. Want to stay in a haunted vicarage in Jämtland, with the possibility of waking to find three cobwebby phantom females staring at you? Generations of clergymen have suffered poltergeist activity and the attention of apparitions in this neat little wooden manse – it’s all very Bergmanesque. It has a restaurant and you can, in fact, rent the whole house if you want to. But hurry, it’s closing for the winter in a few days. The website is in Swedish.
Amityville, Long Island, US
Please don’t knock on the door of this private home but, from the outside, feel free to gaze at the house that spawned a horror franchise and dozens of books. The story of 112 Ocean Avenue begins in December 1975, when the Lutz family moved into a home that had witnessed a horrific family massacre not long before; by all accounts some of the furniture was still there. A succession of demonic events and a plague of flies was the least of it. Recently, Danny Lutz was involved in a documentary about his experiences there as a child; the jury’s very much out on this one.
Aokigahara Forest, Japan
For corner-of-the-eye encounters, this dark and most unsavoury of locations has become the object of great interest for Japanese demonologists and ghost-hunters. A 3,500-hectare forest of dense woodland at the base of mount Fuji is one of the most popular places in Japan to commit suicide. It’s not advised to stray from the official paths because naturally occurring magnetic anomalies add both to the legend and the likelihood of getting lost. Some say this story dates back to Seicho Matsumoto’s 1960 novel, Black Sea of Trees, but superstitions about this uncanny place seem to predate it.
Poveglia Island, Venice, Italy
In the news last year, when its 99-year lease came up for sale, the myth of Poveglia includes the story that Venetians are too superstitious to take you there. In the Venetian lagoon and dotted with suitably ruined buildings, tales of plague victims and mad asylum directors are all part of the story. Most of the rumours about its spookiness seem to originate from non-Venetian sources, including a 2009 US show called Ghost Adventures. City Tours offers trips around the island; it takes 10 minutes to get there from San Marco square.
Winchester House, San Jose, California, US
Speak to any American ghost-hunting enthusiast and, sooner or later, the subject of Winchester House comes up – and the good news is that you can tour 110 of the 160 rooms. It is full of dead-ends and staircases going nowhere, built under the orders of Sarah, the guilt-ridden widow of the son of the “Gun that Won the West” manufacturer. It is said she was terrified of the vengeful spirits created by this most efficient and deadly of US weapons. The tour lasts two-and-a-half hours; look out for repetitions of the number 13 and spider-web motifs. Not National Rifle Association approved.
The Tower of London
I was lucky enough to have a personal after-hours tour of the Tower by the man who wrote the most famous book on the subject of its ghosts: yeoman warder George Abbott. Recently, Historic Royal Palaces has become less strict about letting the public in after hours; it now has limited Sunday twilight tours at 7-8.30pm in November (nothing in December, sadly). Expect the subjects of spooked sentries and Anne Boleyn’s headless ghost to be raised.
La Isla de las Muñecas, Mexico
Travel by train to a place called Xochimilco in the Mexico City suburbs and then convince a barco (barge) punter that you need to visit the island. A disturbing array of decaying dolls hang in this man-made chinampa (ancient farming island), apparently the work of one individual who, legend has it, lost his mind when the body of a child washed up on his island. Or some say it’s a kind of art installation. Because it looks creepy, rumours abound that it is populated by ghosts, making it an unlikely tourist attraction.
Roger Clarke’s book, A Natural History of Ghosts is available for £7.99 from Guardian Bookshop. To order, call 0330 333 6846 or go to bookshop.theguardian.com
This article originally appeared on guardian.co.uk
This article was written by ROGER CLARKE from The Guardian and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.