It might not seem like it nowadays but Somerset has a long and dark history. There are enough tales about ghosts and ghouls in the county to give anyone the heebie-jeebies.
From Shepton Mallet Prison and Glastonbury Tor to Sally in the Wood and Taunton Castle, we’ve taken a look at some of Somerset’s most haunted places.
1. Shepton Mallet Prison
Probably one of the biggest reasons people visit Shepton Mallet Prison, aside from its history and famous inmates, is the fact that it is EXTREMELY haunted. Ghost hunters from all over make regular visits to the prison, often staying the night to see if they can catch any ghostly activity on film.
Open from before 1625 to 2013, it ran as a house of correction and a state prison, where it housed criminals and later acted as a military prison, home to soldiers in the British and American forces.
Many hundreds of people were executed in the grounds over the years, by hanging and sometimes even firing squad. The bodies of some still lie under the ground itself, so it is no wonder that so many ghostly sightings have been reported.
The ghosts themselves range from a lady in white on the stairwell to an American soldier wandering the halls and kitchen area.
Photos have revealed ghostly photo-bombs and a member of current staff at the prison was even burned by an invisible cigarette end on his hand, while giving a tour.
One of the creepiest ghostly encounters has been reported a number of times by different visitors. On one of the prison’s ‘sleepover’ nights, a group of guests were investigating the outdoor yard that prisoners once used for their daily exercise.
The group noticed an elderly lady, wearing grey and sitting on the edge of a flower bed, crying. Worried for her welfare, they went to fetch a member of the prison staff who didn’t recall anyone matching her description at the event. When the group returned, the lady was gone and wasn’t seen again for the rest of the night.
2. Taunton Castle
A historic monument for the town and home to Taunton’s museum, chances are you will have noticed Taunton Castle if you’ve ever visited. It’s been home to Anglo Saxons, rebuilt as a priory by a Bishop, fortified by a Chancellor and eventually expanded into an actual castle in 1138.
Both sides of the English Civil War repaired and used the castle in some form or another, before it was partially demolished towards its end and later used by Judge Jeffreys – a notable figure during the reign of King James II.
In 1685, following the Monmouth Rebellion, Judge Jeffreys sentenced 144 of Monmouth’s supporters to be hung, drawn and quartered in Taunton Castle’s Great Hall.
Though it is unlikely you will spot any of those 144, there have been reported sightings of a Civil War cavalier on the stairwell, a young woman roaming the building and a lady in grey. However, the spookiest of sightings have been those of Judge Jeffreys himself.
Apparently he is likely to be stomping around the corridors, in order to terrify visitors. Staff have also mentioned the poltergeist activity and severe temperature drops in the Somerset Room. They try to avoid entering if they can help it.
3. Sedgemoor Battlefield
It won’t surprise you that battlefields may be hotspots for ghostly encounters – and there are many tales from Sedgemoor. The battle of Sedgemoor was fought on July 6, 1685, and was the final battle of the Monmouth Rebellion.
The government was victorious, while Monmouth escaped from the battlefield but was later captured, taken to London and executed. Around 1,500 men were killed on the Sedgemoor Battlefield and a memorial stone now stands there.
It’s no wonder there have been a number of ghost sightings. Farmers have reported seeing men on horses galloping through the field, as well as hearing voices requesting them to journey across the River Cary.
Others have seen Monmouth himself, retreating from battle. But the most haunting story associated with Sedgemoor Battlefield is one about a young girl who had been forced to look on as her love was executed – despite the opposing troops promising that he would be spared if he could outrun the horses.
Heartbroken, she drowned herself in the river, but many living human beings have spoken of seeing her spirit regularly return to the battlefield in search of her lost love.
4. Glastonbury Tor
It is a must-see for tourists and the location of Solstice celebrations and other spiritual gatherings. Renown for its links to spirituality and folklore, as well as its history and legend, Glastonbury Tor is actually a perfect spot for some otherworldly sightings. Or listenings.
Not only did the execution of Abbot Richard Whiting take place here in 1549, one story tells of a meeting between a monk named St Collen and the Lord of the Otherworld and King of the Fairy Folk (Gwyn ap Nudd), who used the Tor as a doorway to the dead.
The story goes that the monk, who was very superstitious, threw holy water at the King, banishing him and his army. Locals and visitors alike believe that, on some nights, you can hear the howls from his ghost hounds, hunting for souls.
5. King John’s Hunting Lodge, Axbridge
King John’s Hunting Lodge is a former wool merchant’s house, built in around 1460. It’s found itself serving a multitude of purposes over the years, with shops, workshops and even a pub using areas of the building.
In 1971, the lodge (a Grade II listed building), was bequeathed to the National Trust, who undertook repairs to reverse the damage that had come with the building’s age. It is now a local museum, including exhibits relating to local geology and history from the latter parts of the Stone Age, to the Second World War.
The lodge itself was named to commemorate Axbridge’s link to royal hunting parties, but it is equally as famous for the ghostly sightings some have experienced. There are at least two ghostly figures to have been spotted at the lodge.
One of which is a lady wearing a white Elizabethan dress. She doesn’t have an identity and is probably not a member of the royal family, and staff at the lodge don’t quite believe that she exists.
The second ghost is that of a tabby cat and has been sighted by a number of the local residents. The tabby is usually spotted in the doorway to the panelled room on the first floor of the building and many have seen and interacted with it in its entirety, though if you go looking for it, chances are it will be hiding from you.
6. The Plough Inn, Holford
The honeymoon destination of Virginia and Leonard Woolf in 1912, the couple returned here for a brief stint a year later, following the deterioration of Virginia’s mental health.
According to her nephew, Quentin Bell, Virginia’s condition failed to improve and she found herself believing that people were laughing at her. She also felt wracked with guilt and refused to eat and eventually she and her husband returned to their home in London.
Nowadays, the inn maintains some of the attributes that the Woolf’s fell in love with the first time they stayed here. There’s a fireplace, beams and plenty of friendly locals, who are more than happy to share their stories of The Plough’s resident ghosts.
Back in the 16th century, one story tells, a Spanish traveller arrived at the inn and got chatting to the locals. He was dressed in expensive-looking attire, with a full figure that led them to believe that he was sure to be carrying a stash of gold.
They waited for him to drunkenly stumble up to his room, before they crept in and strangled him in his bed. Upon searching the Spaniard’s belongings, however, there wasn’t a gold coin in sight.
Though many use this as a lesson in how not to judge a book by its cover, some believe that the traveller had, in fact, hidden the gold before he got into bed. His ghost has been spotted on the stairs leading to his room and, even when they were removed to make way for an extension, his footsteps could still be heard where the staircase had once been.
Many believe that he also takes the form of a dark, cloaked figure that has been seen in a room upstairs.
7. Wookey Hole Caves and Mill
This iconic Somerset landmark is a hit with families and young children. But did you know that hauntings take place here, too?
With caves that are said to have housed humans for some 45,000+ years, Wookey Hole is famous for its human-shaped stalagmite, known as ‘The Witch of Wookey Hole’.
Legend has it that she was once a real person, turned to stone for using her magic by a Glastonbury monk. It is said that her spirit still haunts the caves to this day.
Wookey Hole Mill is also a place of high amounts of ghostly activity. Several of the former workers at the mill seem intent on never leaving, after meeting their maker on the grounds.
Some of the most common reported sightings are thought to be a young girl in the lower floors (and basement) and an aggressive and mentally ill man who loves to haunt the Magical Mirror Maze attraction.
8. The journey from Nunney to Frome
In addition to Nunney Castle’s plethora of paranormal activity, the three-mile stretch of road linking the village of Nunney to Frome has also experienced some ghostly goings on over the years.
One story from the 1970s tells of a phantom hitchhiker, dressed in a flannel shirt and standing in the middle of the road to try and catch a lift. Some have even spotted him appearing in the back of their car, as they’ve been driving along.
As with every ghost sighting, there are those that are sceptical of any truth to this story and, instead, believe that the hitchhiker was a real and very much alive human being just looking for a way home.
9. The Choughs Hotel, Chard
This 16th-century hotel comes with a whole network of secret passageways and hidden rooms, making it an ideal stomping ground for ghosts and all things paranormal.
If you take a look at the tombstone-like structure set into the wall of the fireplace, you may be able to read the name ‘Winifred’ etched into the stone.
But try and take a flash-photo of this weird and wonderful bit of architecture and you’ll experience, first-hand, the weird and wonderful itself. Many have tried and failed to capture what lies here, with equipment malfunctions, blurred images and even a photo of nothing at all.
Landlords of the hotel warn prospective photographers that the ghost simply doesn’t like it. There are actually several ghosts reported to be haunting The Choughs.
Former owners of the hotel have encountered a knight in armour while walking along an upstairs corridor, who vanished when asked politely to move aside, whereas the ghost of a sinister-looking old man has often been spotted crouched by the bar’s fireplace.
Many believe that this man could be the ghost of Judge Jeffreys, who supposedly stayed in a room at the hotel, in which his coat of arms can still be seen on the wall.
In addition to these ghosts, there have been reports of the sounds of a woman’s voice and that of a man arguing with her. One guest who heard the pair, awoke from his night at the hotel to discover a deep red mark across his face, as if a whip had struck him.
In other parts of the hotel, drifting figures, slamming doors and objects moving of their own accord are common occurrences.
10. The George and Pilgrims’, Glastonbury
The George and Pilgrims’ Hotel was built in 1475 as a means to provide hospitality for visitors to the nearby Abbey. This means that there would have been plenty of people coming and going, so it is no surprise that it’s home to more than one ghost.
The first ghost is a monk who is most often spotted wandering the hotel’s corridors in the dark, early hours of the morning. Those that have seen him say that his feet make the floorboards creak, just like those of a living person.
The monk is said to be followed at times, by an elegant-looking lady who seems to pining for his affection. A visiting medium has claimed that the two had been lovers, but as the monk had taken a vow of celibacy, their love remained unconsummated even after death and their souls have forever been doomed to walk the halls.
11. Priest’s House, Muchelney
Named due to being the former home of the priests who served Muchelney’s parish church, this late medieval house is the location of many spooky tales. Most of these tell the story of a priest and a nun who supposedly fell in love and decided to get married in a secret ceremony.
He hid her in a private room that only he knew about, and they lived happily ever after until, one day, the priest returned from church business to find that she had died in the secret room.
Since then, those in the house have spoken of unexplained disturbances, such as the banging of doors at night and even the sighting of a monk. There is no information about the nun or how she died, so it is hard to determine whether these disturbances are down to her or the work of another ghostly being.
12. Yeovil Railway Station
Train stations can be pretty spooky if you find yourself waiting for a train at night and Yeovil is no different. There are many sightings of Molly, a tea lady who used to work in the buffet carriage on the railway.
She died on the station platform in the 1960s and her ghostly antics include swapping cutlery around and turning electrical points on and off. A somewhat friendly ghost, if you ask her politely Molly will always stop.
13. St Dubricius Church, Porlock
This Grade I listed building dates back to the 13th century and stands on the site of an even earlier church, said to date around 1120. So it’s easy to understand that St Dubricius Church could possibly be home to a number of ghostly beings from times gone by.
With its warped tree trunks and historic walls, it’s a pretty quirky sight during the day, but at night things seem a whole lot spookier.
One of the ghost stories the church is known by, is that of a pirate that haunts the church and churchyard, scaring villagers late at night with a distant cackle. After his death, priests at the church attempted to banish him.
They failed, but a priest from Watchet outwitted the pirate, trapping his ghost into an iron box and casting it out to sea.
14. Sandhill Park
Built in 1720, this now deserted house has served many purposes over the years. From a prisoner of war camp, to a hospital and even a home for children with special educational needs, it’s not hard to see how some ghosts have remained.
Locals know it as a place teaming with paranormal goings-on and visitors have spoken of doors slamming, whispers and other unexplained noises, lights switching on and off of their own accord and cold spells within the building.
15. Farleigh Hungerford Castle
Another castle to feature on this list is Farleigh Hungerford and it’s not surprising as the castle’s history is pretty gruesome. In the 15th century, two Hungerford family members were executed here and the notorious Lady Agnes Hungerford is said to have murdered her husband and burnt his body in the castle’s bread oven.
It is believed that her goal was to marry the Lord of the castle, Sir Edward Hungerford. Hidden in a crypt under the chapel, you will find eight human-shaped lead coffins.
16. The Francis Hotel, Bath
Bath is renowned for its luxurious venues, striking architecture and history. But at The Francis Hotel, which is homed in seven of the 18th-century townhouses that make up the south side of Bath’s Queen Square, it’s not only the living that enjoys lapping up the luxury.
Guests are reported to have seen a ghostly figure resembling a former housekeeper who hanged herself. One guest even said that they heard eerie scratching and tapping noises and their hot water bottle was thrown from the table in their bedroom.
17. The Crown Hotel, Wells
You may recognise The Crown from hit film, Hot Fuzz. It was used to portray the film’s famous ‘Sandford’ pub, where the police officers meet after work.
The Crown is actually a fully functioning 15th-century coaching inn with rooms to stay in and a cosy bar. It’s frequented by many in the city, living and dead.
One member of staff spotted the ghostly figure of a tall Victorian man staring at him as he stood next to the fireplace. There have also been reported sightings of an English Civil War soldier, a woman clutching a black suitcase and several ghostly faces peering out of the ground floor windows.
18. Barrow Gurney Mental Asylum
If the thought of walking through an abandoned mental asylum doesn’t instantly send shivers down your spine, then some of the reported ghostly activity spotted inside Barrow Gurney Mental Asylum surely will.
Though the asylum was demolished and replaced with new housing in 2017, paranormal activity was captured on film in the derelict building prior to this. One man discovered a whole host of creepy messages written on the walls when he visited the abandoned hospital a few years ago.
Venturing out in broad daylight, he spoke of graffiti, broken walls and even a forgotten ouija board. Paranormal investigators have also heard the cries of a baby, ominous footsteps and even whispering.
19. Sally in the Woods/Sally on the Barn
There’s a stretch of road near to Bath that is pretty famous to locals for being haunted by the ghost of a murdered young gypsy girl named Sally. Legends tell of how the birds in the woods do not sing and a child’s scream can often be heard among the trees.
There have allegedly been eight fatal crashes along that stretch of road, with seven of them still a bit of a mystery. Some believe that Sally has appeared in front of vehicles, causing crashes and many commuters flat out refuse to drive along the road.
20. The Theatre Royal, Bath
A place for theatre-lovers, opera, pantomimes and musicals, you would think that the theatre would be too busy a place for a ghost.
But, it would seem, ghosts love the theatre too. When you’re next at Bath’s famous theatre, take a look in the top left-hand box facing the stage.
This is the favourite haunt of the Grey Lady, the ghost of a woman who had fallen deeply in love with an actor and hanged herself because he didn’t feel the same way.
21. The Box Tunnel
Another railway haunt can be found in The Box Tunnel, situated between Bath and Chippenham. Over the years there has been a vast range of different ghost sightings, including those of four workmen on the track who heard the cries of a woman at the east exit.
When they looked, they saw a woman in a nightgown staring back at them, before vanishing in front of their very eyes. Reports also suggest that the sounds of a phantom train can often be heard echoing along the tracks in the tunnel.
22. Dead Woman’s Ditch, Quantock Hills
Dead Woman’s Ditch is an earthwork thought to be of prehistoric origin with an unknown purpose and is situated in Over Stowey. It runs for nearly one kilometre from Lady’s Fountain to Robin Uprights Hill.
But ghost hunters recently probed reports of an angry apparition who tells people to ‘f*** off’. Christine and Dave Thomas recently started to investigate the site which is allegedly named after the murder of Jane Walford by her husband John in 1789 on the Qauntock Hills.