Urban legends are great fun, but it’s a shame that many of them are just that – legends. A friend told me about a tale he’d heard regarding a mental hospital in Portreath, Cornwall. He said that during renovations of the property a hidden room had been discovered. Creepy. As the builders peered into the hole in the wall they’d made, they discovered a group of skeletons sitting on chairs (what, really?). The rumour was that they were victims of the plague that had been bricked up. I couldn’t find any further information on this so I’m pretty sure it’s just a myth, but it’s an interesting one all the same and it got me thinking about other stories I’d heard about people being walled up alive and hidden rooms.
Perhaps one of the most famous hidden rooms is the one in Glamis Castle, Scotland. Apparently towels were once hung from every window in the castle but one window remained without, suggesting that there was a secret room. So what did the room contain? There are various stories, one being of a horrifically malformed child born to the eleventh Earl who was hidden away in the room to prevent people finding out about the tragedy. Another story is that the family walled their enemies up in the room. At least you would always know where to find them.
Chillingham Castle has more than its fair share of ghosts, including the spirit of a little boy who was walled up in the castle’s ‘Pink Room’ during the time of the Spanish Armada. The little lad is alleged to have suffered immurement along with some important documents he had been given to deliver to the Spanish. His remains were discovered in the 1920s. Some of the documents sealed up with the child can still be seen on display at the castle.
Nuns always seemed to cop the worst punishments in days gone by. So much as wink at Brother Bob and you’re being whipped with stinging nettles and threatened with more Hail Marys than you can shake a stick at. Borley Rectory, perhaps one of the most famous haunted houses ever, boasts the ghost of a young novice nun who was discovered having an affair with a Borley monk (I’m afraid I can’t confirm or deny if his name actually was Bob, sorry). The monk was put to death and the nun was walled up alive in the vaults below her priory. It would seem that her ghost managed to escape the vaults and has been seen wandering around the Rectory, as has the ghost of the monk. I wonder if they ever manage to meet up to carry on where they left off.
Being virginal and virtuous used to be a pretty hazardous way of life. In Rome, if a Vestal Virgin was found guilty of breaking her vow of celibacy, she could be buried alive in a small cave with nothing but a small piece of bread and a drop of water to live on. Hey, come on, it takes two to tango. Why not bury the man, too? At least they can go out with a bang.
Edgar Allen Poe wrote an interesting short story about a nobleman called Montresor who, offended by a fellow nobleman, Fortunato, plots the man’s death by promising him Amontillado (sherry wine) but instead leads him into some catacombs where he walls the unfortunate man up alive. Yes, a truly eerie tale, but for those of you who aren’t into reading the classics, I have found the following short film on YouTube for you to enjoy instead. No giggling please, this is serious stuff:
©Nicola Kirk an http://www.nicolakirk.wordpress.com 2010
Update received 11.08.2016
I have received the following message from a resident of Portreath: