PHANTOM footsteps and a spooky sigh sent shivers down the spine of a Tamworth Castle guide when she arrived for work on Friday morning.
As Rachel Wanklyn put her key in the ancient door of the castle, she had assumed that another member of staff was already inside – and was shocked to find the castle completely empty.
She told the Herald: “I had just reached the door and I heard footsteps, the footsteps of a woman in heels. Then there was a long sigh. I said: ‘hello, hello!’ as I unlocked the door, expecting to find another member of staff there, but the castle was empty.
“My colleagues have all had ghostly experiences in the castle, but I’ve worked here for seven years and I’ve never seen anything and I’ve always been a bit sceptical.
“You do hear bumps and creaks which you expect in an old building, but this was the stone part of the building, so you don’t expect to hear anything.
“It was definitely a woman, it was the clip clop of heels and the sigh of a woman. I’m not sure I’d believe in a ghost unless I saw it standing in front of me, but there is no explanation for what I heard,” she added.
The two best-known ghosts of Tamworth Castle are the ‘Grey Lady’ and the ‘White Lady’.
Legend has it that the “Grey Lady” is St Editha, who appeared one fateful night to a cold-hearted Lord Robert Marmion and quite literally paralysed him with terror.
St Editha had founded a convent of nuns in Tamworth, but they found no favour with Lord Marmion, who turned them out of Tamworth and caused them to flee from Polesworth when they sought refuge there.
Appearing in her grey nun’s habit before Lord Marmion and striking him with her crozier, the ghost of St Editha promised that he would be lame for life unless he reversed his cruelty and restore the convents.
Terrified of the vision, he sent messengers beseeching the nuns to return – and his health was restored.
The other ghost, known as the White Lady, is said to watch from the battlements of the castle – from where in life, according to the legend, she witnessed the death of her lover, wicked knight of the Round Table, Sir Tarquin.
By all accounts she had been brought to Tamworth, hotly pursued by Sir Launcelot, who vanquished Tarquin in a fight in Lady Meadow.
High above the scene, the grieving lady wept from the battlements and to this day, still mourns for her lost love.
An article in a local newspaper in 1999 sparked an interest in the ghosts at Tamworth Caste. An employee of the castle commented that she experiences something weird on a daily basis that is unexplainable. One evening, she was asked to return to the castle to allow an engineer in to reset the alarm system that was probably disturbed by gusts of wind and to ensure no one was robbing the place.
She entered the castle and proceeded to wait in the reception area for the engineer. She waited for around 30 minutes and then began to hear strange noises in the room above her. She described it like "it sounded like some of the heavy furniture in the room upstairs scrapping across the floor". She started feeling overwhelming presence and felt as if she did not belong there. She jolted out the castle door to run into the engineer. He seemed quite surprised that it was her that he was meeting. He explained that just a few seconds prior to her running out the door, he had seen a figure in the upstairs window. The room in which he saw the figure was the Ferrers Room, which is the room where she had heard the furniture being moved around.
Two other staff members recalled an early morning apparition when opening up for the day. One walked into the Tamworth Story exhibition to be abruptly struck in the face and blinded for a few seconds, as the other staff member walked in to see why she was bent over and wiping her eyes, a blue mist swirled around the room and vanished out the window.