Warwick Castle is one of England's most impressive historical sites. However, a look at its long history explains why it is also one of the best-known haunted houses in the country. The site of the castle has been occupied since 1068, when William the Conqueror founded the castle, and was owned by the Greville family from 1088 to 1978, when it was opened as a tourist attraction. In 1153 Warwick Castle was captured by Henry of Anjou, soon to be King Henry II of England, and during the fourteenth century it was used to hold French prisoners taken during the 1356 Battle of Poitiers, a great English victory of the Hundred Years' War. In the fifteenth century, King Edward IV was imprisoned there after he had alienated his cousin, Richard Neville, 16th Earl of Warwick, also known as 'the Kingmaker'.
In the early seventeenth century the owner of the castle, Fulke Greville (1554 – 1628), a poet, statesman and dramatist, spent more than twenty thousand pounds to transform it into a country house, and in later years antiquarian William Dugdale wrote that he made it "a place not only of great strength but extraordinary delight". Nonetheless, the castle again figured in war in 1642, when it was besieged by Royalist forces during the English Civil War, and later used to hold Royalist prisoners.
With such a rich, yet troubled history, it is hardly surprising that the castle has its share of ghosts. But the ghost most vividly associated with Warwick Castle is that of Fulke Greville, who put so much of himself into its renovation and seemed eager to make it into a place of peaceful retreat rather than war and imprisonment. Greville was an intelligent and cultured man, and a writer of great renown; to this day, there are many who believe that he was the real author of some of the plays attributed to Shakespeare. His official title was Sir Fulke Greville, 1st Baron Brooke, having been made a peer of the realm by King James I in recognition of his services as a statesman. His death, however, was hastened by an unexpected and shocking act of violence.
On 1 September 1628, the seventy-four-year-old Greville was in Holborn, London, where he had travelled from Warwickshire on business. While helping the elderly man to dress, his servant, Ralph Haywood, suddenly attacked him with a knife, stabbing him in the left side. He then fled the room, locking in his victim to delay discovery, and locked himself into his own bedchamber, where he used the knife to take his own life. No explanation has ever been found for Haywood's actions, though it has been suggested that he was not satisfied with the provisions Greville had made for him in his will, which Haywood had witnessed and signed. It is recorded that, when help reached him, Greville immediately asked for clemency for Haywood, "desiring not that any man should lose his life for him". Greville lived for a month after the attack. Ironically, he might have survived his injury if his doctors had not attempted to heal the wound by applying fat to it. The fat was rancid, which resulted in a fatal infection.
Greville's tomb can be seen in the Collegiate Church of St Mary, in Warwick. The southern tower of Warwick Castle, where Greville lived, was called the Watergate Tower at the time of his death, but is now widely known as the Ghost Tower, as events since Greville's death in 1628 suggest his spirit is unwilling to leave the castle where his life was centred. Extreme temperature changes have been recorded in Greville's old rooms, and mysterious footsteps have been heard in his former bedchamber and the corridors that connect the rooms. Visitors to the castle have sensed an invisible presence in the room that was once his study, and even glimpsed someone watching them from corners. A portrait of Fulke Greville as a younger man hangs in this area of the castle, and it is said that his ghost comes out of the frame to revisit his home. The Ghost Tower, not surprisingly, is now a focal point of the castle's Ghosts Alive! Attraction. This re-enacts the murderous attack on Greville and his subsequent death, although neither took place at Warwick.
Another ghost associated with Warwick Castle is that of Moll Bloxham, who, in medieval times, sold milk and cheese produced within the castle to the people of Warwick. She was unpopular with the townsfolk, many of whom suspected her of being a witch. When she was discovered to have been overcharging her customers to keep money back for herself, the Earl of Warwick punished her in a way that humiliated her before them: details are uncertain, but she was either forced to stand in the pillory to be jeered at by the townsfolk, or banished from Warwick. In revenge she laid a curse on the castle, and locked herself into a room at the top of its Beauchamp Tower to escape from the Earl's soldiers. When they broke into the room, they found a large and terrifying black dog with red eyes and fangs, which promptly threw itself over the castle battlements. Moll Bloxham was never seen again, but the black dog has haunted the castle grounds ever since, particularly targeting those walking alone at night. Its appearance is thought to mean that death is close.
The castle now holds regular séances and ghost hunts, but these, too, have contributed to the paranormal activity on its site. Frances Evelyn 'Daisy' Greville, Countess of Warwick (1861 – 1938) was very interested in spiritualism, and it is said that a séance she held in the castle's Kenilworth Room released a malevolent spirit. Its demonic energy can still be felt in the area, as unexplained banging noises are heard, and visitors report strong feelings of nausea. The Kenilworth Room was closed for some years after the séance. In 2009, when the castle dungeons were being converted into a new tourist attraction with a ghostly theme, it seemed that real ghosts were intervening in the process. Workers reported that the unexplained smell of lavender was constantly around them in the dungeons, and many left the site in terror after they saw the figure of a woman in old-fashioned clothes watching them from a doorway; others reported the apparition of a man in a medieval tunic and trousers. CCTV footage later recorded an indistinct and ghostly figure appearing to follow the workers as they moved around the dungeons.
Visitors to the dungeon area continue to experience strange and unsettling events, such as lights appearing in locked rooms with no electrical connection, and the feeling of unseen hands pulling their hair. Probably the most pitiful ghost associated with Warwick is that of a young girl, often given the name Rosa Lee, who is thought to have been abused and murdered at the castle at some stage of its history, before her body was hidden behind a dungeon wall. She materialises as a shadowy figure in the lower dungeon; cries and screams heard in the dungeons are also connected with her.
In Sonnet 88 of his Caelica sequence, Fulke Greville writes of the contrast between the living and the dead, when life leaves the body "to see itself in that eternal glass, / Where time doth end, and thoughts accuse the dead, / Where all to come is one with all that was . . . " Many of those who visit Warwick Castle can claim that they have been shown the spirits of its former residents, through the "eternal glass" of its historical, but haunted, atmosphere.