One of the most famous and dramatic events to take place at Lancaster Castle almost 400 years ago were the Pendle Witch trials. Ten witches were charged with the murders of ten people using witchcraft, and were sentenced to death.
Lancaster Castle is an imposing building it occupies a city centre hilltop location on the site of three successive Roman forts. It consists of an extensive group of historic structures, including the 12th century Keep, the 14th century Witches' Tower, the 15th century Gatehouse, and the Female Penitentiary, which dates from the early years of the 19th century. It is a Grade I Listed Building, with the area to the north of it designated as a Scheduled Ancient Monument. Lancaster Castle has recently opened up its door to paranormal groups and ghost hunters, to find evidence of it's resident ghosts.
One of the most famous and dramatic events to take place in Lancashire occurred at Lancaster Castle almost 400 years ago, the Pendle Witch trials. The ten accused witches all lived in the' surrounding Pendle Hill area and were charged with the murders of ten people using witchcraft.
Pendle Hill, is almost a mountain, it is a hypnotic and very atmospheric place. In the year 1612 there stood a huge limestone tower known as Malkin tower where a family of local peasants lived. But not just an ordinary family, these so called peasants were in league with the devil, they made clay effigies and used human hair and teeth to make these effigies.
Several local villagers died of mysterious illnesses, some in great pain. The milk was said to have turned blue, cattle died without a mark on their bodies and the locals feared venturing on to the hill. The local magistrate Roger Nowell in great fear for his life arranged the arrest of two of the suspected witches. Both were sent to Lancaster Castle to be tried, two days later all the other witches met at the tower but within weeks all were taken to Lancaster Castle for trial and certain death by hanging, several of the woman died in the castle's prison before they could be sent to the gallows .
The remaining Pendle Witches were hung on Lancaster Moor, the supposed tomb of Alice Nutter can still be seen in St Mary's Churchyard. Many persons over the past centuries have sadly lost their lives on the hill and many locals still steadfastly refuse to go on the hill after dark due to the numerous sightings of ghosts and spirits that have been seen, felt and heard.
The witches ghosts reputedly haunt the village of Newchurch, which lies in the dark, shadow of Pendle Hill and is where one of the witches is said to be buried.
The whole area around Pendle Hill has become popular with ghost hunters after Living channel's top show Most Haunted visited the hill for a live investigation on Halloween 2004. The show's presenter, Yvette Fielding, said it was the scariest episode they had made to date, and the episode is still widely considered as the best episode of the entire series.
A local Film crew got a little more than they bargained for when making a documentary about the Pendle witches. As part of Pendle's Paranormal Road Map, presented by Clitheroe-based TV historian Simon Entwistle, the crew bravely ventured up to a barn on Pendle Hill to conduct a seance in the hope of contacting the spirits of the witches. According to Simon, the team got a fright when three of them 'became possessed', causing them to turn 'distressed and violently ill'.
At Lancaster Castle the ghost of a middle-aged woman with a young girl was seen moving around near the cells by a former inmate. On another occasion a different prisoner reported the young girl, but this time with a haggard old woman. The young girls has also been heard and sometimes seen running along the corridors of the castle.
The ghost of a monk has been seen, legend says that he was hanged at the prison. The monk is usually spotted on the ground floor of the Castle. The apparition of the monk is usually only seen after dark, its presence followed by an icy chill.
There have been numerous reports by people who attend the day-time tours of the castle who claim they are often pushed and shoved by unseen forces. This is such a common event that the guides who run the tours have now come to expect it and fortunately nobody has ever been hurt.