On the trail of ghosts in haunted Sussex

From duelling swordsmen to a mysterious floating cat and a phantom drummer – Sussex has its fair share of ghosts and haunted sites.With Halloween looming now is a good time to explore the spooks which are alleged to haunt our county.

The ancient Cinque Ports town of Rye is home to many ghosts. The apparition of a whistling monk haunts Turkeycock Lane. Rumour has it that the unfortunate soul was bricked up alive in a wall as punishment for an illicit love affair.

The most haunted site in Rye is the 12th century Mermaid Inn. The Mermaid was once the haunt of smugglers, including the notorious Hawkhurst gang which was reported to have sat drinking with loaded pistols on the table.

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In Room 16 of the famous Inn, there have been reports of guests waking up to a duel being fought by combatants wearing doublets and hose and brandishing rapiers.

Herstmonceux Castle on a fine day, taken by David Ford using a Sony A7II. SUS-190919-102939001

Other guests have reported seeing a mysterious lady in white sat by the fireplace.

Arundel Castle is home to a number of ghosts. Its most famous is the first Earl of Arundel, who built the original castle.

The castle is also said to be haunted by a woman in white, who is said to have thrown herself from Hiornes Tower, the highest point of the castle, after suffering a broken heart. Her ghost has been seen climbing the stairs of the tower before vanishing as she jumps.

Another ghost haunting the castle has been dubbed The Blue Man due to the bright blue tunic he wears as he wanders the halls and corridors.

7/10/11- The Mermaid Inn, Rye ENGSNL00120110710122305

Eastbourne’s most famous ghost is the Grey Lady, who haunts the Royal Hippodrome Theatre. She has been seen on multiple occasions watching rehearsals in the Grand Circle and has even walked across the stage.

Others at the Victorian theatre have reported being pushed or grabbed by unexplained forces or feeling unaccountable drops in temperature.

According to local legend, the village of Lyminster, near Littlehampton, is home to water dragons called Knuckers, while the Sussex writer and historian Hilaire Belloc recounted stories of fairies coming out to dance in fairy rings at Halloween.

The Chichester Inn was said to be haunted by the ghost of a Roman centurion and, according to legend, a heron landing on Chichester Cathedral spire warns of the Bishop’s impending death.

The Royal Hippodrome Theatre in Eastbourne (Photo by Jon Rigby) SUS-180907-104842008

There is a legend linked to the Trundle, an Iron Age hillfort near Chichester, of a golden calf buried beneath it. The treasure is said to be protected by the Devil and those who try to seek it will disappear in a clap of thunder.

In 2015, there was a report of a possible ghost sighting on a Worthing bus when an elderly passenger vanished in the blink of an eye. The stately home Castle Goring is reputedly haunted and has been a location for a number of organised ghost hunt events.

Early in the 20th century there were a number of reports of a cat haunting the Gatehouse restaurant in Battle. The ghostly feline was seen floating along a corridor in the restaurant before vanishing through a wall.

There have also been reported sightings over the years of a phantom Norman knight galloping across the Senlac battlefield, while Battle Abbey is reputedly haunted by a phantom monk and a lady dressed in red.

Hastings Castle SUS-200721-132255001

Michelham Priory, near Hailsham is a one of the most widely reported haunted sites in Sussex. Visitors claim to have seen black, hooded monks and a lady dressed in Tudor clothing walking the corridors.

One of the most famous ghosts in Hastings can be found near Hastings Castle, built on a hill-top overlooking the sea, by William the Conqueror.

The ghost is that of a grey or white lady carrying a baby in her arms, who appears to jump from the cliff top.

One local theory is that she is the ghost of a young Victorian girl who had an affair with a fisherman who then abandoned her after her child was born, leading her to jump to her death.

Herstmonceux Castle, near Hailsham, boasts a number of Sussex ghosts, the most famous of which is a nine-foot tall phantom drummer who beats his drum from the battlements of the imposing 15th century castle, resulting in showers of blue sparks. Some say he is the ghost of a soldier killed at Agincourt, while other accounts have it that he is the ghost of eccentric Lord Dacre who was said to have played a drum to warn-off suitors of his beautiful young wife.

The castle moat is said to be haunted by a sorrowful lady in white.

DM16148208a.jpg. Wiston, looking towards Chanctonbury Ring. Photo by Derek Martin SUS-161110-160229008

One of the most haunted sites in Sussex is Chanctonbury Ring, a prehistoric hill fort on the South Downs, encircled by trees. It has an eerie atmosphere and it has been said that no birds sing in the trees.

Local legend has it that Chanctonbury Ring was created by the Devil and that he can be summoned by running around the clump of trees seven times anti-clockwise. When he appears he will offer you a bowl of soup in exchange for your soul. Variations on the legend have the Devil offering porridge or milk.

Workmen preparing the tunnels at Newhaven Fort as a tourist attraction, reported ghosts interfering with their work with one experiencing the sensation of someone pushing him.

The 16th century Shelley’s building in Lewes is reputed to be haunted with people experiencing poltergeist activity of furniture and items moving around and seeing the ghost of a Civil War cavalier on the staircase.

The village of Alfriston, on the South Downs, has its fair share of ghosts, including the ghost of a white dog which sits near the site of his murdered owner’s grave watching over it.

Arundel Castle has announced the last day it will be open to the public this year. Credit: Visual Air SUS-200610-105803001