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Historic hauntings at Hampton Court Palace

A screaming queen, a grey lady and a man in a mask – meet our famous phantoms!

A screaming queen, a grey lady and a man in a mask – meet our famous phantoms!

We all love a good ghost story. But nobody knew better than the Victorians that terror sells tickets.

In the early 20th century, the darker episodes of palace history were retold for enjoyable chills, and ghostly legends grew until visitors expected an ectoplasmic encounter around every corner.

But is there more to the faked-up photos and spooky sightings than we like to think?

      
An early postcard depicting a 'ghost' in the Horn Room.
The ghost is that of King Henry VIII's fifth wife, Catherine Howard. Charged with adultery, the young queen was placed under house arrest at Hampton Court. The story goes that she managed to escape from her rooms and run to the Chapel where the King was at Mass. Before she was able to reach him, she was seized by the guards and dragged screaming back to her rooms. It is said that her ghost still haunts the palace today.

Restless royals

The best-selling postcards at Hampton Court in the early 1900s were of spectres in historic spaces, with these faked up double exposed photographs offered as spine-tingling ‘proof’.

Stories persist today that at least two of Henry VIII’s wives haunt Hampton Court Palace: his beloved third wife Jane Seymour who died after giving birth in 1537 and most famously, his fifth wife Catherine Howard, executed for adultery in 1542.

Image: This typical early 20th-century postcard claims to reveal poor Queen Catherine, ‘captured’ on film in the Horn Room at the palace

Illustration of Jane Seymour (c1508-37), King Henry VIII's third wife and mother of King Edward VI.

The Spectre of Silverstick Stairs

A sad white wraith carrying a lighted taper is said to be Henry VIII’s third wife, Jane Seymour. Jane died from post-birth complications at Hampton Court, only a few days after delivering Henry’s longed-for son, Prince Edward. While delighted with his male heir the King was devastated at the sudden loss of his ‘perfect’ queen.

A pale figure is reported to appear on the Silverstick Stairs, which once led up to a room in which Jane gave birth, and died, on the anniversary of Edward’s birth in October 1537.

Image:  Jane Seymour, the only one of Henry’s six wives to lie beside him in the royal tomb at Windsor Castle

The Haunted Gallery.

The Screaming Queen

The ghost of Catherine Howard, Henry VIII's fifth wife, is reportedly far more vocal than Jane Seymour's and her the sightings more regularly reported.  

Catherine was beheaded at the Tower of London in 1542, aged 19, for adultery and treason. It is claimed that after she was arrested at Hampton Court, the terrified teenager broke free of her guards. She ran along what is now called the Haunted Gallery, screaming out to the King for mercy.

She never reached Henry, who was at prayer in the Chapel. Guards dragged her away and she never saw Henry again. It is said that her anguished ghost now repeats this heartbreaking journey, screaming through eternity.

Image: Hampton Court Palace. The Haunted Gallery

Take a look around the Haunted Gallery on our 360-degree image, created in partnership with Google Arts & Culture.

BROWSE MORE HISTORY AND STORIES

The story of Hampton Court Palace

Home of Henry VIII and the Tudor dynasty

Life at the Tudor court

In the Tudor period, a monarch’s home was centre of the nation

Henry VIII

Who was the real Henry VIII?

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Wolsey Closet

Explore this hidden Tudor space that is thought to be the only surviving room of Cardinal Wolsey's apartments.

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William III's apartments

Enjoy the beautiful State Apartments and private rooms of William III and Mary II at Hampton Court Palace as part of your visit.

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The Wilderness

Wander through this treasure of the Hampton Court Gardens, which was once Charles II's formal pleasure garden and is now a wild meadow.

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