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Dunstanburgh Castle

Investigation Report

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Northumberland has been described as the County of Castles, and of them all Dunstanburgh is one of the most beautiful and atmospheric, occupying a spectacular site on a prominent headland.   The Castle is within site of Bamburgh Castle, which was once the royal seat and capital from which English Kings ruled Northumbria.  The 14th Century castle at Duntanburgh was built by Thomas Earl of Lancaster on a size and scale grand enough to intimidate his then cousin King Edward II at Bamburgh, and thus it occupies a site larger than most in Britain.  Though massively reduced in size, the ruins of the massive gatehouse still intimidate and impress all who approach.   Anyone who visits Dunstanburgh will instantly understand why it was a favourite of the painter Turner, who was equally impressed by the haunting atmosphere and romantic location overlooking the North Sea.
Dunstanburgh is also known for its many ghosts, and for this reason three local residents who are members of Everything Ghost decided to pay a visit one summer night in 2008.  Although this wasn't an official vigil of Everything Ghost, this is one of our favourite locations and their report is of interest and so is included here.  

"This is our report of what happened on 5th July 2008 at Dunstanburgh Castle.  We always knew about Dunstanburgh and what a great place it was, and had heard from friends who had visited it, including some spooky experiences, so one night we decided to pay a visit and do our own unofficial vigil.  We didn't have any night vision camcorders, laser thermometers or EMF meters like the Everything Ghost team usually do, but we are experienced investigators so we took our torches, cameras and an MP3 voice recorder so we could try and capture anything interesting we saw or heard.

We picked a heck of a night for it, as there had been a storm all evening, really black clouds and lots of rain, so we just prayed it would be fine by the time we went there, and when we arrived we were lucky that the rain had stopped.   But, it was really spooky as the sky was clear over Craster but really angry black clouds around.   We parked the car and then walked the 2 mile path through the countryside to the castle, which is really isolated on its own and no trees or buildings for a mile or so.

I'll do the report based on what I recorded on our MP3 recorder so you can see exactly what happened and what was said, like a usual Everything Ghost report, as when I went through it there was a lot I had forgotten.   The event started at 11:40pm and went through til about 4:00am.  Here it is:

11:30:00pm:  We set off from the car park on the path that goes around the golf course to the castle.  Stormy night and not a soul in sight, and very very spooky weather indeed.  It had stopped raining and seemed to have blown itself out, but very black clouds so we had good coats, and torches.  We had Al's dog Holly with us, quite calm but excited to be on a walk.

11:42:27: We had been walking for quite a while, and Jon said he head something moving in the bushes near the path, and sounded very concerned.  We said it was probably just an animal, but he didn't seem convinced.   He then said "It really doesn't sound like that, I keep hearing it. I didn't want to tell you, but I've been hearing it since we left the car park, something has been following us for a while".  Later he said he was convinced we were being followed, had heard footsteps.

11:45:00: Jon had mentioned the sound near the footpath again, that he was sure something was following us just off the path, when suddenly the dog became very interested in something just beyond the path.  Al says it's probably rabbits or something and reassures the others that if a person was around Holly would go nuts.  Jon again says he's still hearing something out there.  Al investigates and there are no sheep near us in the fields.   We are approaching the castle walls, Al says it feels really nice, like a happy place where loads of people lived, not an evil prison like some castles.  Jon just says about the sounds of someone near again, and Al reassures that if something's there then the dog will react.

11:45:20: We all three of us see a "white thing" moving in the distance, not far from the castle, discuss what it could be but don't know.  It isn't a light or a torch, more like a moving object but brighter than a sheep.  Despite this we are all in very good spirits, jovial as we approach the castle walls and walk around the outside path, although the dog suddenly is getting more interested and has her attention near the edge of the path where Jon says he heard something several times.  Again, no sheep or animals are obvious.  Jon says he can now hear what sounds like kids, but Al says it's probably sea birds.

11:57:00: Still walking to the Castle, Jon is alarmed and says "did you hear that?!" and just as he says this, there is the sound of a heavy growl and the dog suddenly jumps on the path ahead then leaps back about 3 feet, startled.  The growl sounds deeper than the small dog we have, not like her. Again no sign of any sheep or animals near the path. The noise doesn't pick up on the MP3 player but we all discuss hearing it.   Al says it doesn't feel bad nor threatening here.

The MP3 tape then ends, we don't know why, but we started it again later at 1:15 am while we were at the top of the tower, then cut out again later.  We had been wandering around the castle, had seen no sign of any ghosts or haunting phenomena, and were all just really chilled out at this beautiful place.   The sky is clear and fantastic, watching shooting stars, and the Castle is really serene.  Nor mentions the serenity, sound of the waves crashing on the cliffs, says she could stay here forever.  We agree how it's not spooky at all, not horrible like Newcastle Keep or Chillingham, just get an atmosphere of people living peacefully, the Castle being a place of safety and strength for them.  Al says only thing that would freak them out would be live people coming in, as we probably shouldn't really be there, though we just walked through the gate.

01:45:40am:  Downstairs again, Nor mentions how she felt something strange down here before, but chilled out.  Just as she says that there is a strange moaning sound on the MP3 recording, like a long moan, and at the same time the dog goes ballistic barking aggressively which shocks us all, but we didn't hear anything. On listening to this we decide it could be wind whistling through a small space somewhere, but we aren't sure.  It's odd how we didn't comment on it at the time, and how it never happens again in the time we are there. I didn't notice such a sound at the time, as the wind sounded differently.

01:46:00am: Straight after the sound and dog barks, Nor says " I could have imagined it, but I was looking through the camera viewfinder and thought I saw a figure, and points where. It could have been eyes playing tricks, but it looked like a female.  My thought was, well, who's she?!   Then I just got the feeling I was looking at the past, like a time slip, like she could see me too in my time."  Nor then goes up to the wall where she saw the figure and feels it, says "there's something here!" then says her legs suddenly feel tight, like tired muscles used too much.  Says it's weird, but she doesn't feel scared, feels friendly.  

03:12:00  Al says her batteries just drained on her camera, says it's odd as they usually last ages, but she has to go get new ones. We had left our bags in the Gatehouse, or Guardroom, which has a roof unlike other rooms so is sheltered.  MP3 player also has been off for some reason and we just noticed. We had been doing a vigil calling out in the rooms at the base of the turret, Jon had seen lights and we had many "orbs" that had appeared in areas where we heard sounds or in response to questions, but unfortunate we don't have the recording of exact questions.

03:15:20   It's now 3:15 am and we are now back in the Guardroom by the main entrance, we were there a short while and then the atmosphere started to change.  Al said "What's that sound?! Like trundling or something" and she imitates it "trundle, trundle, trundle".  She mentions hearing it again, says it sounds like someone dragging something, and it's coming from just beyond the guardroom, like it's outside the castle.   Three of us all go very quiet to listen, Ali asks if the others can hear it, and Jon says yes, definitely.  We are all speaking very quietly as we are sure someone is outside.  Ali says "it sounds like a heavy cart or trailer being pulled over rough ground, sounds very real, I'm sure someone is out there with a vehicle or cart.  Trundle trundle trundle, like a rolling sound. "   Jon again says he can hear it too.  Nor says she can't hear it.

We listen to this for several minutes, afraid someone is going to come in, but eventually we decide to go and investigate it.   Al discusses how it could be wind buffeting the heights, but we also hear a dragging sound, like heavy wooden wheels rolling over the ground outside, doesn't sound like the wind at all.  Jon agrees with this.   We all of us mention how the atmosphere has changed in the room, like it's heavy and threatening, fearful, feels like there is an enemy outside there by the gate who is going to come in.  We sit a while listening but all say how it feels really horrible, threatening, totally different to earlier.  This sound continues for a while, both Jon and Al listening, Al is worried someone, a real live person must be out there and going to come in any second, and say we aren't supposed to be here.  We decide to try to leave, get out of the Gatehouse.

We investigate the area near the door, then go outside.  Can hear the wind and sea in the distance, and above the towers, but the trundling noise is still there for a few seconds outside the castle where there is nothing for any wind to hit - then it suddenly stops. Al again says it sounded like a really heavy cart.  Jon then says "it sounds like a siege engine would sound, really heavy, that's what I thought it sounded like, being dragged"  Ali then says "Yes! That's it! But also this feeling like someone's going to come in and get us, do harm, it's coming from outside the castle and the fear is in the Gatehouse and just inside the gate.  

Al goes to investigate outside the gate to see if anything is there, and there is nothing.  Al and Jon discuss the wind again, but there is no buffeting and the sea is too far away.  They wonder if it is wind rushing through a hole somewhere, but agree it sounds nothing like that, - the sound is definitely like dragging something heavy toward the castle, with wheels on.   They see no one out there, and can see for miles around.  Al mentions how Tom got audibles when visiting before.

03:27:15: We all decide to go back in the Gatehouse and see if it's still going on, what the atmosphere is like.   We go back in, and at first there is nothing, but then we hear the sound again, rolling wheels, Al mentions it's so loud and audible you'd think someone is coming in.  

Also as soon as they get back in the Gatehouse, the atmosphere is black, heavy and fearful again, feeling threatened by something outside. The sense of this is very tangible and different.  Immediately the dog starts trying to get out of the room, doesn't like it and is pulling and fretting.  We hear the sounds again and the dog is now desperate to get out, feels like something dangerous is out there.  

Nor says it doesn't feel like the rest of the castle and how it did earlier, she can't hear the sounds but can feel the atmosphere and just wants to get out, feels intimidated.   We all then discuss how we don't know any history of the place or what happened, we will need to check it out.

03:30:00: Nor says she suddenly feels sick, "physically, never felt like this in my life".  The dog is now frantic to leave the room.  Dawn starts happening straight after this, but just before this the night is very dark.  We discuss how this is the only time they feel bad at this castle, in the last 15 or 20 minutes just before dawn.

Jon says "maybe a siege happened here sometime, just before dawn is often the time when they would start to attack.

03:32:00: They leave the Gatehouse, and as they step out Jon says he suddenly feels sick too, Al mentions the thick sense of fear in the room.

03:33:00: Jon looks to the middle section of the castle where there are low ruined walls of buildings, and says he saw a figure behind them in the center, then saw an orange light.  Nor repeats how there is a heaviness in the area by the Gate, in the room she felt sick, then she says finally she can also hear a drumming sound, then the trundling sound.  Al again tries to be logical and says maybe it's the sea hitting the cliffs, but Nor says "No!" and Al agrees it's not that.  Nor says "I've never felt suddenly sick like that, ever, nor heard sounds like that"

03:36:00: They are investigating the area where Jon saw the figure, he saw a head looking over the wall.  Al then says "did you hear that?!" Jon and Nor both say yes, and Al says "like Clop Clop, like a horse", and Jon agrees.   Al mentions how she's just worried it's someone real, no thought that this can be paranormal as it's just too real, the sounds must be someone.  But we inspect and no one can be seen for miles, outside the castle or around.

Al then says this is probably the most active time, the Dawn.  Jon says that's the time they usually fire siege engines.  We investigate the wall and there is no figure behind there, no one in the ruined buildings, and we then have to go back the way we came. Nor says "No way!", and the dog is pulling away from the gate as we went back, doesn't want to go back there.

03:44:22: We then go into the far left side of the gateway into the ruined rooms.  Al says there is a sense of sadness in here, not like the other serene parts of the castle, which is so nice.

03:46:00: In the room to the left side of the Gateway, Nor & Jon both hear a tap.  Nor then says she feels dizzy, when she walked in the room it was there but suddenly it's intense, then feels sick again, unsteady. Al takes pictures of the area where they heard the noise and where Nor felt dizzy and gets orbs again, whereas she doesn't get them without a perception like this.

03:47:00: Jon mentions how he saw the figure above the wall, saw a head appear like a real person.  Nor says she just wants to get out of this place now, Al is worried there's a real person somewhere and investigate the outside but still no one there.

03:48:00: Jon hears a whistle from a corner of a wall, at the same time Al captures a photo of an "orb" in front of Jon where he says the sound is from.  Straight after this the dog starts pulling hard frantically trying to get back into that room again where Nor felt sick, the dog goes back in aggressively, Al takes a picture and gets an orb above the dog's head.  Al says it's a lovely castle but something funny about this room, as well as the Guardroom.  Says when she came in the daytime she felt something odd here then, felt a female presence and thought she saw a noble woman in green, like medieval looking into the past, but was sure it was a mental image.  Nor mentions how this happened to her earlier.

Al is interested to point out that she's not getting these "orb" phenomena on her camera except in the case when someone hears something, senses something, or when the dog is reacting, she's taken 100s of pictures and only gets them at these exact times.  "Orbs" can often get discounted as dust or moisture, but in these cases they are coincident with the phenomena and in exactly the right places.

We then went off around the other sections of the castle, to the Lilburn Tower, as the dawn is breaking.  We are just wowed by how beautiful it is, and the atmosphere of serenity has returned, the heaviness has all lifted.

We leave around 4:15am, just totally chilled out again, but absolutely stunned at the experience we had in the Gateway, like nothing we have had before or since on a vigil, as the sounds were unique and so realistic.  We decide we have to investigate if a siege ever happened here, as we are convinced we heard sounds relating to something similar.

After this vigil, Al then spent some time investigating the history of the Castle, she bought a book from English Heritage and later phoned the Custodian, as she didn't find much online, in the way of exact dates or details.

When she rang the Custodian she was amazed to find there had indeed been sieges at the castle, two during the time of the Wars of the Roses, and that excavations had occurred some years earlier.  We found that the guide books and literature say "there were several sieges, but the castle was not assaulted, and it was starvation not bombardment which caused the men of the garrison to surrender".   This made us think our notion of siege engines must have been incorrect, though it sounded like a heavy cart or vehicle.  However, we were amazed to discover a new fact when Al rang the Custodian, and found the excavations have occurred since the books were written.  He then said: "We do now know there were siege engines used against the castle, as a few years ago just in front of the Gatehouse, in the swamp below we found huge siege engines and catapults and slings preserved in the marsh"

What is more, we found the last siege to have taken place in the summer of 1464, at a time that was almost the same as the time of year we were there.

Could it be that we had witnessed and heard a remnant of Dunstanburgh's past, like a Time Slip, Nor and Al "seeing" a medieval lady, Jon seeing a ghostly figure on the wall, and all three hearing the siege engines pulled up to the gate to begin the dawn bombardment, and felt the fear of the guards as they listened in their Guardhouse?

Whatever this was, psychological or paranormal (and we don't agree it was psychological, due to the checks we did, the way the dog behaved), we know what we feel about it: we were skeptical when we arrived as we felt so calm, but we now believe that this Castle is haunted, and we are convinced we experienced the remnants of it's past in some form or other, or at least all three of us had an adventure we will never forget nor explain in a hurry.  We will also never cease to be impressed by and love this otherwise beautiful and serene gem of Northumberland."