PUBLISHED: 13:06 11 November 2009 | UPDATED: 16:15 20 February 2013
Be afraid. Be very afraid, as top medium Barbara Giordano takes us on a spine-tingling tour of Berks' and Bucks' top 10 ghostly hang-outs...
Ever since I was a child I have been aware of my natural psychic ability which I believe I inherited from my Italian grandmother who is my spirit guide. Three years ago I worked with historian Lesley Smith from TV's Most Haunted series and was asked to give her a reading at Tutbury Castle. Lesley described me as having "a special gift" and said I was "one of the special few!" After that my career has gone from strength to strength and I regularly hold sances in the Home Counties. Most recently I have been to The Ostrich Inn at Colnbrook and to Bisham Abbey, near Marlow. The rich and turbulent history of Berkshire and Buckinghamshire make them fertile ground for ghost hunters, so I've compiled a list of what I consider the area's top 10 most haunted.
Where? Windsor Castle, Windsor
Haunted by: The first Duke of Buckingham (among others)
What happens? He shouts at a young boy: "I don't want to go riding today." Ghostly footsteps are often heard on the staircase in the Curfew Tower. On one occasion, the bells began to swing on their own while the temperature became distinctly chilly.
In 1873, a night-time visitor to the castle noticed an interesting new statuary group had been erected near St. George's Chapel: three standing figures, all in black, and a fourth crouching down. The central character was in the act of striking with a large sword. The sentry knew nothing of this artwork and when the visitor returned to re-examine it, it had gone!
Many spirits haunt the Long Walk, one of whom is a young Grenadier Guard who shot himself while on duty there in the 1920s. During his guard watch, he saw marble statues moving "of their own accord." He was seen by at least two of his colleagues, immediately after his death.
Haunted by: Jarman, the inn keeper
What happens? The 13th century inn has a notorious reputation for being home to a murderous landlord, Jarman, who slaughtered more than 60 wealthy guests. During the 17th century Jarman and his wife would show unsuspecting travellers to the Blue Room, where the bed was flipped upside down by the pull of a lever and the sleeping victim met a gruesome end, plunging into a vat of boiling water below.
I conducted two paranormal investigations here on June 6 of this year and again on September 5.On the first occasion, during a sance, one of the guests fell uncontrollably on the ground. Afterwards she recalled: "This was the first paranormal encounter I have ever had. It just felt as though I was rocking on a boat and the next thing I knew I was on the ground. I can't remember what happened except that I had pins-and-needles and a sharp pain in my stomach. The incident has not made me scared and I am keen to go on a ghost hunt again."
The next sance at the inn will be held on October 31. For more information
call 01753 682628.
Where? The Crown, Amersham
Haunted by? A Victorian house keeper and a grey ghost
What happens? A former housekeeper at The Crown Hotel, Amersham, for three years, told me that the hotel has five ghosts and gained another two when an extension was built. She said: "I don't like all of them. One of the new ones shouts 'Get out now' almost through the wall. The feeling is mutual, I just run.In another room an old Victorian housekeeper is said to tuck young men into their beds, but she only appears around Easter time.There is also said to be a grey ghost, who used to be a former maid. She is said to pack guests' suitcases for them.
Where? Littlecote House, near Hungerford
Who? Haunted by: William Darrell and a ghostly figure of a boy
What happens? William Darrell was the lord of the house in Elizabethan times. He summoned a midwife who was brought blindfolded to house in 1545, where she delivered the baby of a masked woman. The identity of the mother remains a mystery. It is thought the pregnancy may have been as a result of incest.
When the baby was born she took it through to Darrell, who threw the newborn onto the fire, where it was held down and burned alive. The midwife reported the murder to the authorities, but Darrell bribed a judge and was freed.
Soon after, while out riding on the estate, legend has it a ghostly figure of a baby boy in flames appeared to the evil Darrell. His horse shied and threw him to the ground, breaking his neck. It is said the crying of a baby has been heard in the house and the twisted body of William Darrell has been seen prowling the corridors.
Where? Donnington Castle
Haunted by? A white dog, A guard and a soldier
What happens? In the 1990's a white dog was seen running down the hill from the castle towards the woods where it vanished into the air.The gatehouse is home to the ghostly figure of a guard who appears in solid form and suddenly vanishes. A ghostly re-enactment of a Civil War skirmish has also been witnessed in nearby Love Lane.The ghostly form of 'the Green Lady' (thought to be Lady Hoby) has also been seen by the castle gates. The ghost is said to ask visitors why the gates are closed, before suddenly disappearing.
A few years ago a group of young campers witnessed the horrifying sight of an apparition of an elderly Royalist soldier with a young woman in a headlock, pulling her hair. Alarmed by this vision, one of the campers bravely shouted out at the Royalist cavalier to 'leave her alone'. The phantom soldier then growled loudly and carried on pulling his victim's hair. When the startled group approached the apparition, the soldier stood back, and let out another almighty growl and both figures completely vanished.
Where? Upton Park, Slough
Haunted by? A blood-stained lady
What happens? Upton Court is the second oldest building in Slough after its neighbour, St Laurence's Church, which dates back to the 12th century. I conducted my own paranormal investigation at the house in June this year. My spirit guides told me it had been a court for petty crimes such as stealing food. She said: "There is a very important judge, his name was James Thomas. He's very corrupt and seizes land and other property illegally. The room is full of people and there is a lot of pushing and heckling." There was also a lot of negative sexual energy here. There was a woman in white, and she had blood stains on her dress. She had been attacked and had her throat slit.
Witnesses have reported seeing a woman in a bloodstained dress walking in the grounds on Friday nights, although she has not been seen for many years
Where? Hughenden Manor, High Wycombe
Who? Haunted by Benjamin Disraeli
What happens? It was soon after his death in 1881 that reports that the former Prime Minister's ghost had been seen started to circulate and have continued to do so ever since, though it has to be said that the present staff of the house remain sceptical.
Among those who claim encounters was a visiting member of staff who was examining a painting when half sensing movement, she turned and saw the famous figure.
Another woman visitor once came upon him standing near the portrait of himself which stands on the staircase. The same day another Ghost Club member glimpsed a figure, which from a back view looked very like Disraeli, going down the stairs.
The Manor was given to the National Trust in 1949.
Where? Bisham Abbey, Bisham, near Marlow
Haunted by? Lady Hoby
What happens? Bisham Abbey, based around an ancient preceptory built by the Knights Templar in about 1260, is known as one of the most haunted houses in Britain. Although it is located on the picturesque banks of the River Thames near Marlow, there's no peace there - the condemned ghost of Lady Hoby has haunted the abbey relentlessly since her death in 1609. It is said that her apparition materialises with a black face and white clothes and sobs piteously at night.
As a personal friend of Queen Elizabeth I, Lady Hoby wanted to prepare her children for the highest roles in society by giving them the most intense tuition. However, the young William Hoby often fell victim to his mother's bad temper and she beat him until he collapsed with blood streaming from his head. He was left to die alone in a locked room. His mother, however, is said to have been so full of remorse that she ceaselessly roams the abbey in tears.
Where? Chenies House, near Chesham
Who? Haunted by Charles 1 and Henry VIII
What happens? Once a royal prison for Charles I, there have been many royal guests sampling its hospitality. It is thought that the heavy footfalls are of Charles I which are close to a room where Elizabeth I once spent the night.
The current occupant, Mrs Elizabeth MacLeod Matthews, has experienced several unexplained and eerie events and is willing to share them with young visitors on special tours on October 28 and 29. Tel: 01494 762888 for details.
Where? George and Dragon, West Wycombe
Haunted by? A girl called Sukie
What happens? This lovely old hotel is haunted by a ghost called Sukie, or to give her real name Susan, who was a teenage waitress around two hundred years ago. Three local youths played a trick on her for showing favours to a gentleman. Enticing her to the nearby caves, they started to mock her and a struggle ensued, resulting in poor Sukie falling and striking her head against the cave. She died the next day.
Only a few days after her funeral her bedroom became unnaturally cold at times and no one else would sleep there. Sometimes a white figure appears in the corridors or in the garden. The widow of a previous landlord went up to the bedroom and saw a figure hunched by the fireplace, which slowly faded away before her eyes.
Objects have disappeared in the inn only to turn up somewhere else later. Footsteps have also been heard coming down the stairs, but these are thought to be those of a man who was said to have been robbed and murdered in one of the rooms in the second half of the eighteenth century.