From brutal medieval torture methods to the grim crimes of Jack the Ripper, England has seen centuries of violence, gore and death. And relics of the country’s dark past can still be witnessed to this day – in the form of sinister prisons, gruesome torture chambers, infamous crime scenes and ghostly castles and churches.
At some sites around England, even the faces of the country’s past are said to still exist, with ghosts and spirits purported to visit from beyond the grave.
Here are 10 ghost tours perfect for those brave enough to dive into the country’s dark past. Expect tales of restless ghouls, sinister crimes and all manner of paranormal phenomena.
1. Pluckley: England’s Most Haunted Village, Kent
The English village of Pluckley was crowned ‘the most haunted village in England’ by the Guinness Book of Records and is reputed to be home to some 20 spirits and ghosts. Some of its most famed supernatural citizens include a highwayman, a horse and carriage and the body of a schoolmaster known as the ‘Hanging Man’.
Visitors to Pluckley can embark on a ghost tour through the village. Those with nerves of steel might like to join one of Ghost Hunt Events’ overnight tours through the village’s ‘screaming woods’, during which they’ll attempt to converse with spirits from beyond the grave.
2. Chillingham Castle Ghost Tour, Northumberland
The aptly titled Chillingham Castle makes for a spooky site that’s well worth a visit. It dates back to the 13th century, and as such the stronghold has seen its fair share of scandal, violence and invasion.
Chillingham is considered one of the most haunted castles in England and is supposedly a hotspot for spotting ghostly guests and paranormal events. Brave visitors to the former fortress can embark on evening ghost tours through its many rooms and dungeons, even venturing into its medieval ‘Torture Chamber’.
3. Chester, Cheshire
Chester, in northwest England, is considered to be one of Britain’s most haunted cities. It was established by the Romans and later proved a key battleground between warring Saxon and Welsh kingdom, so the area is steeped in history. And visitors to the city can uncover the darker side of the city’s past on a ghost tour through its historic streets and structures.
The ghost tour of Chester is an immersive, guided stroll through the city’s supernatural sites and eerie alleyways. The city is said to be home to dozens of ghosts and paranormal phenomena, so a tour through its most haunted locations promises to be an unmissable, though indeed unsettling, experience.
4. Jack the Ripper’s East End, London
The infamous serial killer Jack the Ripper terrorised Victorian London in 1888. His gruesome murders were never solved, and his true identity still remains a mystery. Many of the streets and alleyways he once stalked, and the sites of his crimes, can still be visited in the city’s East End to this day.
For an immersive guided tour, the East End Tour Company offers regular evening outings through the alleyways, streets and sites of Ripper’s London. Guides use projectors to shine clues and images on street walls, encouraging walkers to retrace the scenes of Jack the Ripper’s crimes and delve deeper into the mystery of his identity.
5. Oxford Castle and Prison, Oxfordshire
Arguably Oxford’s most unsettling sight, Oxford Castle is a looming 900-year-old fortress with a sinister history. It was built in 1071 and was later converted into a prison after the English Civil War.
In the Halloween period, Oxford Castle and Prison hosts Ghost Fest, an annual celebration of the supernatural perfect for the whole family. Visitors can embark on a terrifying tour through the stronghold’s walls and even venture into the castle’s crypt for a potion-making session.
6. The Ghost Bus Tour, London
Part comedy, part supernatural storytelling, the London Ghost Bus Tour is the perfect way to discover the city’s sinister history. The tour is hosted on a vintage Routemaster bus from the 1960s by a team of gifted, and sincerely funny, storytellers who spin tales of violence, slaughter and the supernatural.
Those who take a ride on the London Ghost Bus can expect to visit some of London’s most popular landmarks, from Downing Street to the Houses of Parliament, and learn all about their darker sides.
7. Shrewsbury Prison, Shropshire
Shrewsbury Prison is said to be one of the most haunted jails in the world, so a tour through its walls is not for the faint-hearted. Now a museum, the 18th-century structure hosts ghostly walks through its walls and grounds, which are said to be home to all manner of ghosts and otherworldly residents.
The tour sets off from the gatehouse before descending into the depths of the former jail. Visitors will learn all about the structure’s reported ghosts and spirits and discover the prison’s sinister history, hearing tales of gruesome executions and killings that took place within its walls.
8. The York Dungeon, Yorkshire
The picturesque city of York in northern England is not without its horrors. Take the York Dungeon, for example, an eerie attraction that immerses visitors in stories of torture, plagues and violence. A tour through the dungeons lasts some 75 minutes, during which visitors will journey through eerie cells and passages, hearing all about the city’s terrifying 2,000-year-long history.
The Dungeon is the second attraction of its kind, linked to the original Dungeon attraction in London. Both sites’ exhibits are hosted by live actors, who reenact crucial moments in English history, from the Gunpowder Plot to the bloody story of the Viking invasion.
9. Durham Ghost Walk, County Durham
The city of Durham in northeast England is home to burial pits containing dozens – if not hundreds – of anonymous dead bodies. Given its grim history, the city has become a popular spot for ghost hunters and supernatural sightings.
Now, visitors to the city can embark on the Durham Ghost Walk, a unique and immersive ghost hunting experience. On the tour, guests can operate ghost hunting equipment as they search for spirits around the historic city, and they can even attempt to harness their own psychic abilities.
10. Bodmin Jail, Cornwall
Cornwall’s Bodmin Jail has a long and dark history. Built in the 18th century, it has seen dozens of executions carried out within its walls, primarily by hanging, and has housed some terrifying violent criminals. It fell into disrepair in the early 20th century, but has since been restored into an unsettling museum.
Visitors to Bodmin Jail can embark on a guided ghost tour around the prison, during which they’ll hear all about the site’s paranormal phenomena, fearsome former inmates and its life as a Victorian lockup. They’ll also hear about other scary sights in the area, such as the mysterious ‘Beast of Bodmin Moor’.