Authors! They’ve got just about the best job going, right? To wit, for Tessa Dare’s latest Top Pick! rated Romancing the Duke, she traveled to England to stay in a haunted castle. By herself. And then she told us all about it. Take it away, Tessa!
Ghosts aren’t real.
That’s my general belief, anyway. Considering the number of people who have lived and died on this planet, it would seem to me that if ghosts were real, we would be tripping over them everywhere. They would have been seen by a great many more people, and they would find some better way to communicate than shuffling footsteps, clanking chains and the occasional woo-woo noise. So I don’t really think ghosts are real.
However, I am not ashamed to admit that I am deeply afraid of being proven wrong.
When I was beginning my research for Romancing the Duke, I knew my heroine, Izzy, was going to inherit a cold, creepy, reportedly haunted castle in Northumberland. So naturally, I knew I would need to visit a cold, creepy, reportedly haunted castle in Northumberland — and, if possible, spend the night.
A bit of googling gave me the perfect place: Chillingham Castle, touted as “Britain’s most haunted castle.” Best of all, it has suites for visitors! I promptly booked my stay in the “most haunted” one.
Two hours by train from Edinburgh (in the company of kilted, drunken rugby players), then a half-hour cab ride from the nearest train station, I arrived at Chillingham Castle on a sunny, crisp October afternoon.
The exterior of Chillingham Castle
It was midweek near the end of the tourist season, and though they had several day visitors and a few bookings for the evening ghost tour, I learned that I would be the only guest actually staying at the castle that night. Okay, then.
The castle's hall
A caretaker and a night watchman would be on duty. But there was no cell phone signal, no internet and no phone in the rooms. If I needed something in the night, I could make my way down two flights of spiraling stairs, across the dark courtyard, through what I’d been told was the “most haunted” castle’s “most haunted” room, up another set of stairs and bang on the caretaker’s door. Okay, then.
I might be unconvinced by ghosts, but a night without cell phone service or wifi? Terrifying.
After the ghost tour—two hours of grisly castle history, spooky stories and wandering the castle by torch and candlelight—I bid a wistful farewell to my fellow tourists (who surely all thought I was nuts) before they drove away. When I returned to my “most haunted” suite, I decided I would be spending the night on the sofa, with a lamp and the television on, completely dressed including shoes and jacket, with the key and flashlight in my pocket. Just in case.
The guest room
But ghosts aren’t real.
It was very dark. And very cold. But I tried to forget all the stories I’d just heard about sadistic resident torturers and bodies found under the floors. I was doing fine for the first few hours, enjoying a marathon of “Come Dine with Me” and just on the brink of falling asleep… when a strange, sparkling light appeared to descend and hover just in front of my face.
OMG, I thought. GHOSTS ARE REAL.
Once my heart rate recovered, I looked closer. My “ghost” was a tiny spider. It had descended from the ceiling just in front of me and happened to catch a ray of light from the television. I had a good laugh at myself. Spiders are creepy, don’t get me wrong.
But ghosts aren’t real.
So I settled back in, and once again I was just on the verge of falling asleep when…I heard murmuring. Loud murmuring. It sounded like voices whispering to each other, where no voices ought to be.
OMG. GHOSTS ARE REAL. THEY ARE REALLY, REALLY, REALLY REAL.
Now I was sincerely freaked out. The murmuring noise went on and on. I huddled frozen on the sofa, unwilling to move. After an hour or so, I decided there had to be some other explanation for the noise—surely even ghosts aren’t that dedicated, to murmur for a full hour—but there was no way I was getting up to investigate. So I stayed on that sofa for the rest of the night, barely sleeping as this creepy murmuring continued. Once morning arrived, I uncurled myself and gathered the courage to get up and investigate. In the bathroom, the water tap had been turned on by itself.
Or by a ghost?
The castle's chapel
Surely not. More likely just a trick of aging castle plumbing. I was happy to have had a scare of some sort, because after all—that’s why I’d stayed the night. I wanted the experience of being alone in a dark, cold, reportedly haunted castle, and I got it. I was able to pass all those emotions on to Izzy as I wrote Romancing the Duke.
But ghosts aren’t real, right?
Have you ever had any ghostly encounters? Let us know below! And be sure to check out Tessa's Romancing the Duke, to see how her heroine Izzy deals with ghostly encounters — and a sexy hero. For more love stories, supernatural and otherwise, visit our Everything Romance page!