All this talk of friendly corridors and nasty corridors leads rather nicely into my next trick.
For a while ago I paid a princely sum to be taken around Wolsey’s folly, Henry VIII’s old stomping ground, his love shack, Catherine Howard’s undoing: the little royal village by the Thames, Hampton Court.
And last night, as the sun was setting, my friends and I rolled up in the Historic Royal Car Park and parked the old Merc.
The light of early march is strange at best, the sunlight a pale peach wash. And the temperature was already falling there, next to the Thames, as we walked to the West Front of Hampton Court.
And at that time, just before six on a Saturday evening, everyone was somewhere else. The good people of Molesey, Surrey were returning from hectic shopping trips to make their tea, or propping up the bar in local pubs, or some such thing. They certainly weren’t here. The palace was utterly deserted.
And we stood there, the great west front of the castle bathed in Winter sunset, the Thames silver-peach behind the skeletal trees, and none of it seemed quite real.
For a ghost tour one must wait until darkness falls, surely: and thus it was with us. We strolled along the front and into the gardens as frame by frame, the light stole soundlessly away to another part of the world. At the far end of the gardens is Capability Brown’s old house. We strolled past the meadow trees – which are only a month or so away from their heady blossom days. They were cold and bare as we passed.
And when it was quite dark, we assembled to begin our tour.
We began on the great drawbridge with stone lions and unicorns towering over us as the tales began to flow. And the great locked Tudor gateway swung silently open to allow the feet of the earnest ghost hunters through. It was an impressive piece of theatre, adding piquancy to the anticipation of a night in the dark palace.
And then we were in, walking in the gloom of a Winter’s evening across the cobblestones of this ancient, tiny Royal village, where layer upon layer of human life have left their mark and the stories lie about waiting for someone to plunder them.
The voice of the great water spout in Fountain Court is usually drowned in all the bustle of a tourist attraction but in this dark silence it was almost a shout. It carries on, night and day, and as you walk past it rises for all the world like an ethereal white apparition with an agenda all its own.
And the castle, tonight, was ours. All ours. I knew it well enough to sense where I was and identify what lay in the dark doorways beyond the pools of light; and I, like the rest of my small party, feasted on sole ownership, on the lit vistas and shadowy turrets of a treasured ancient place.
The stories: well, each one is a post all its own.
And so that it how is will have to be. Over the next weeks, in between the business of passing time and the storytelling flotsam and jetsam thrown up on the shore every day, I’ll tell some of the tales I heard last night. They make excellent entertainment, as I’m sure some of them have done for centuries.
34 thoughts on “Walking the Ghosts”
Reblogged this on Oyia Brown.
we’ve been umming and urring about this every time we go down to visit Cinderella at University. Think 2013’s going to be the year we do it…
Go for it! I shall only be writing three stories but the tour is full of event. Brilliant night out, if a little pricey at £25.
I just can’t wait to hear the stories scream at us and wail the ghostly travails.
Love the pic of the Thames, so serene before the terror.
It looked so beautiful that night, Lou. Chilly, though.
I’m sitting here wide-eyed with wonder, anxious to hear your ghostly tales, Kate. I’m sure they will be spellbinding.
I shall have to do the ghost tour guide justice, Penny. Erk.
What a fun experience this must have been. Looking forward to hearing about those ghosts…
Looking forward to telling the stories, Carrie…
*staying tuned in*
Next episode soon…
What a wonderful experience! I would certainly have enjoyed it myself, but I’ll wait with delight to hear your telling! I could almost hear the fountain Kate. I loved the way you described how the sound is so often almost drowned out by the noise of tourists, but experienced in its fullness on this occasion. I heard it!
It was a magical evening, in truth, Debra. I shall never forget it as long as I live.
I’ve just left “Bring down the Bodies” by the fireside, so this post has neatly segued into my day. Lovely pics. When we lived in Hampton Wick, in my healthy youth, I used to run through Home Park, along the Long Water and back to Kingston Bridge down the tow path. Just seems like a nightmare now:)
The traffic’s a lot worse on the bridge than it used to be, Roger. You never forget for an instant where you are.
Ghost Walks ARE best undertaken after night falls. 😯
This was just tremendous, Nancy. It never got corny or silly; it was just a nice pieve of theatre, well staged. Excellent stuff.
I’ll be eagerly awaiting your ghost tales, Kate. When we visited London years ago, we went on a ghost tour – two, actually, if you count the Jack the Ripper tour. Wonderful story tellers.
London lends itself to such stories, Judy: but I bet there are some wonderful tours in some of the cities out there too. One day I shall come and sample a few.
The Hampton Court post is torture enough for me, Kate, but I eagerly await the stories it inspired.
Andra, when you get back here, you MUST do this. It is one of the things I shall remember on my deathbed,rushing past me with the rest of my life. Memorable is too weak a word.
What an eerie introduction! Look forward to the spectral tales 😮
Look forward to telling them, Madhu!
Did Isobel take you?
Is she an HRP guide, Pseu?
Looking forward to these ghostly tales, Kate… can’t wait in fact!
Hope they live up to expectation, Tom!
An eerily delicious tale. Henry, if anyone, would have left ghosts in his wake, and you wrote this perfectly! (I love the pictures, too.)
Hi Marylin! Thanks for taking the time to read and comment! A place as old and populated as this palace is bound to have shadows of former times: you can feel it as you walk round…thanks for your kind words.
I envy you for taking this historic ghost walk in one of my favorite settings, familiar to me only through history books. I look forward to the stories you plan to share!
Hi Bev! Thanks for stopping by to read. If you are ever in this neck of the woods you should try it. It is an incredible experience.
Eek! For twenty five pounds I would demand to see a genuine, certified ghost AND get his/her autograph!
Talk about atmostphere, though …
At most sphere? At mist fear? That was, of course, meant to be atmosphere.