The Hanging Pub and Other Haunted Stories of Wales
It’s late, almost midnight. A man is making his way home, driving from Black Bridge to Waterston in Wales. Up ahead, a blue light appears. As he approaches and passes it, the driver sees a very old woman in a ragged ankle-length dress walking along the side of the road. She is clutching a bundle to her chest. A blue glow and orbs of light flicker around her. The man pulls to the side of the road, shaken. He feels crushed by sadness and dread. Recovering, he looks in the rear view mirror and finds the woman has vanished. But the man is not alone. He is one of many people who have had Otherworldly experiences along that road. There have been frequent reports of odd things happening there: sudden drops in temperature, dogs behaving strangely, and horse drawn carriages which suddenly appear then disappear. And the stories of spectral sightings aren’t restricted to this one road. Like its Celtic cousins—Ireland and Scotland—Wales is quite haunted.
The Beast of Carew Castle
Perhaps the strangest ghost story from Wales is about Carew Castle. The place claims to be inhabited by several ghosts which range from a Celtic warrior to a kitchen boy to a princess. That’s not so unusual but this is: the castle is said to be haunted by the ghost of an ape. The beast’s spirit climbs up to the Northwest Tower’s battlements on stormy nights and howls. According to the story, the ape turned on his master and killed him. Hearing the man’s screams, servants rushed in to find the man’s bloody body lying next to the ape—which also was dead. The story doesn’t explain how or why the ape died. Perhaps it haunts the castle and howls because it has been falsely accused? Maybe if someone could and would prove its innocence, the ape’s spirit could rest in peace.
The Walled Up Lady
Gwydir Castle also is haunted by an animal, the ghost of a gray wolfhound. The poor dog’s story has yet to be told as is that of the woman in a yellow Tudor style dress who haunts the courtyard. The story of another of the castle’s ghosts, however, is known, and it is heart-breaking. She is believed to be the ghost of a servant girl seduced by the lord of the castle. When she became pregnant, he murdered her and buried her inside a wall. People report seeing a white or grey lady who appears in the north wing of the castle (where her body was walled up). They say when she appears, there is a sudden cold air and the smell of rotting flesh.
The Hanging Pub
Of course not all ghosts are stuck in dreary old castles. There are a number of ghosts who hang out at the pub at Skerrig Mountain Inn. The place is over 900 years old and is one of the oldest pubs in Wales. Considering its age, it would be surprising the pub weren’t haunted! Add to its age the fact that the place also served as a courthouse and jail where, in the 17th century alone, 160 people were hanged, and the pub is like a Petrie dish for ghosts. Numerous disembodied sounds, from laughter to footsteps to the thump of soldiers marching outside the inn have been reported by the pub’s patrons. They also claim to feel the rush of air and hear the swish of petticoats as the ghost of Fanny Price bustles passed. She worked in the pub in the 19th century and died of tuberculosis at the age of only 34. By the way, the beam from which prisoners were hanged is still in the pub. It's right behind the bar.
Sounds aren’t the only disembodied things in Welsh ghost stories. In the story of the Corpse Candles of Aberglasney House, the manor’s housekeeper, one night in the 17th century, sees five candles being carried through the newly plastered Blue Room. But no one is holding them. At least, no one visible. The next morning, five serving girls are found dead in their beds. Since the charcoal stove had been left burning to help dry the plaster, it is likely that the maids died from asphyxiation. Nevertheless, this story started the Welsh superstition of Cannwyll Corff or Corpse Candles, an omen of impending death.
A Ghost of a Mother-in-Law
While many ghost stories are connected, at least loosely, to actual historical events, others are oral legends whose real life origins have faded in the retelling. That doesn’t keep them from being good stories, though, like the following tale about a widowed wife haunted by her mother-in-law.
On her deathbed, a mother-in-law pressured her son’s widowed wife to divide the estate among all the family members. After the old woman died, however, the daughter-in-law kept all the property and money herself. So, her mother-in-law’s ghost returned to haunt her, keeping her from sleep by pinching and punching her all night long.
“Tell the family of your deceit,” the old woman insisted, “and give them a share in the inheritance or throw the money in the river. Only then will I stop haunting you.”
The daughter-in law decided to throw the money in the river. But, cunningly, she made sure to throw it upstream so she could retrieve it later rather than downstream, as it would have been washed out to sea.
Witnessing this, the angry ghost pushed her daughter-in-law into a whirlpool. The woman struggled to survive and nearly drowned, but finally managed to climb up onto a river bank. Later, some townspeople found her lying there, battered, bruised, and exhausted. When she died, her ghost came back to haunt the descendants of her mother-in-law who had inherited the estate and never again gave them any peace.
The Lady of the Lake
Since Wales is the home of Arthurian legend, I had to include this ghost story about the Lady of the Lake. Oh, not the famous one. This lady haunts a lake called Llyn-Nad-y-Forwyn near Caernarfon, Wales. The lady is said to be the spirit of a woman whose husband was a lying, cheating scoundrel. And he was even worse than that. The bugger not only cheated on her, he murdered her. He pushed her into the lake and drowned her. Since then, her spirit has been seen often, rising from the water, her hair disheveled, her hands waving frantically. It is said that her shrieks and moans can be heard miles away, especially on dark, stormy nights.
These are just a few of the ghost stories that are so much a part of the Celtic collective consciousness. I hope you enjoyed them. If you did and you haven’t read my posts on Irish and Scottish ghosts, just click on the links to access the stories.
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