Well, it's October and almost Halloween, so I just can't let the month go without a single mention of ghosts and legends. And, since I've been up to my eyebrows in edits and combing through the preliminary galley for my upcoming novel, "Court of the Hawk" (the story of which takes place in Wales) guess where my thoughts have taken me?
|Gwydir Castle by Jo Turner|
Nestled in the lovely valley of Llanrwst, Conwy, Wales, sits the enchanting Tudor courtyard house known as Gwydir Castle.
Just a bit of History:
In the 14th century, a man by the name of Hywel Coetmore is said to have possessed the original Gwydir structure, which was subsequently destroyed during the Wars of the Roses. Then, one of Hywel's decendents later sold the place to Meredith ap Ieuan, a decendent of Owain Gwynedd. According to history, somewhere around the year 1500, Meredith rebuilt Gwydir.
In turn, Meredith's son, John Wynn ap Meredith is responsible for increasing the size of the castle beyond its rectangular keep-like Solar Tower and the adjoining hall block. During the 17th century, a knight by the name of Sir John Wynn, doubled the size of the courtyard mansion. In 1816, most all of his contributions were destroyed, but fortunately, we still have the lovely porch that Sir John added to the front of the Solar Tower.
All right then - The Ghosts:
There are several spirits who call Gwydir home. Reports of their ghostly shenanigans date back as far as the 19th century. One can assume by the bevy of reports that are out and about, the ghost of a young woman doesn’t have a problem engaging with the living. She haunts the north wing, the paneled corridor, and the chamber behind the paneling, known as the “ghost room.” Reports of a foul stench will often accompany her ghostly jaunts through the castle. In recent years, she is more often felt than seen. Many times guests have reported an invisible hand on the shoulder, accompanied by a significant drop in temperature, as well as a most putrid odor. (I think I could do without that one...)
Who is she?
No one is really certain. However, according to an account published in 1906, Sir John Wynn the first--or wait maybe it’s the fifth baronet--of Gwydir (aren’t legends fun?) took advantage of a young, innocent, serving maid. Once he grew tired of the girl, for whatever the reason, he promptly murdered her. He then had her body walled up inside a chimney void. As one might expect, the smell of rotting flesh became a constant reminder of his heinous deed.
As an interesting aside, earlier this century they discovered a hollowed out area within the large chimney which backs the Ghost Room. This area, also known as the ‘priest’s hole’, is where they say John concealed his victim and this is where the foul odor is always the most potent.
Now what about that first versus the fifth baronet thing?
According to legend, the fifth baronet made a deathbed confession in the 17th century as to a murder he committed in his youth at Gwydir. Others hold fast to the tradition that the first baronet (1553-1627) is the most likely suspect in the girl’s death. After all, the local’s had deemed him a ruthless tyrant during his rule and that reputation followed him well after his death. During the 1770’s, Thomas Pennant tells us that the soul of the malicious baronet is trapped beneath the waterfall near Betws-y-Coed, “forever to be purged, purified and spat upon (by the waters) for the evil deeds committed by him in his days of nature.”
Not surprising then, the ghost of Sir John himself has been reported by numerous witnesses. The best place to catch sight of him is on the spiral staircase leading from the Solar Hall to the Great Chamber.
Sadly, many guests have heard the cries of children during their visit. A ghost dog is also reported to haunt the area (in 1995 canine bones were unearthed in the cellar, giving credence to this sighting), and finally, on the Great Terrace, near Sir John’s arch, witnesses have claimed to see a procession in the darkness of night…
If given the choice, would you visit a haunted house this Halloween, or do you prefer to appease the darling spooks that come to your door?