While Essex is full of beautiful countryside and fun attractions, there is a darker side to our wonderful county.
Without doubt there are some scary sights and chilling old buildings that would test the very bravest visitor at night time.
To make matters worse, many of them have spooky stories attached to them to make them even more terrifying.
There have certainly been lots of cases of people claiming they’ve seen ghosts and ghouls around the county.
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If you love being scared then this is the best guide – and if you’re a scaredy-cat here are all the places to avoid.
The Cage, St Osyth
If a building is dubbed one of Britain’s most haunted houses, you probably want to take it seriously.
Several paranormal TV shows have filmed at The Cage since it went up for sale in 2015, and it took a total of 12 years for a buyer to be interested.
The cottage was formerly the prison for notorious Essex witch Ursula Kemp who was hung in 1582 after being accused of causing the deaths of two children.
It is said that Ursula was a midwife but cursed a child when the mother decided to choose her neighbour to deliver the baby instead.
The infant later died and she was accused of cursing the family.
Witch hunters tracked her down after rumours grew that Ursula was able to cure and inflict illnesses.
The current owner of the house, Vanessa Mitchell, has also appeared on TV talking about what she witnesses at The Cage house.
She lived there for four years but was constantly bothered by ghosts, flying objects and spooky happenings in her house. She has even reported being pushed and hit by spirits and seeing ‘satanic’ images inside and outside the property.
She spoke to EssexLive about what she saw, read it here.
Kelvedon Hatch Nuclear Bunker
The bunker is the location of large-scale Halloween events every October – and with good reason.
Popular TV show Most Haunted have filmed there and it’s now been called one of the most notorious haunted locations in the county.
Hidden 125 feet below picturesque countryside, this ‘secret’ bunker is said to be teaming with ghostly figures and paranormal sounds.
Legend has it that concrete was poured day and night for weeks during its construction. But one day, a worker’s hard-hat was found in the wet concrete but he was nowhere to be seen, leading everyone to believe he had been accidentally buried alive within the walls.
An ancient burial ground was disturbed during the building of the bunker too and there is also believed to have been a suicide in the main stairwell.
Brave visitors have reported seeing ghostly figures and hearing growls and heavy thumps.
The bunker is open with social distancing measures in place.
Pitsea Mount (St. Michaels Church)
Foreboding black dogs have featured heavily in literature over the years, including in The Hound of the Baskervilles and Harry Potter.
Both were used to foretell the coming of death.
But did you know that two ghostly black dogs have been spotted on Pitsea Mount, where the remains of St Michael’s Church lay.
The church dates back to the 13th century and only the tower and the cemetery remain.
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In 1988, a group of youngsters were playing in the churchyard and said they saw two black dogs.
The dogs were described as being very large and had red eyes.
They had seen the animals at the north side of the church near to the ‘Witches Grave’.
The group tried to climb higher and get away from the dogs but they vanished as quickly as they appeared.
They are known as the Black Shucks of Basildon and have gone down in legend with some believing that a sighting is an omen of death.
The village of Canewdon has a long history with witchcraft and the paranormal.
It is apparently home to witches and warlocks galore and has dozens of ghost stories, mostly focused on the church. It was even once dubbed ‘The village where witchfinders feared to tread’.
Legend has it if you if you walk around it seven times on Halloween you’ll see a witch, 13 times you will become invisible and if you run round it anti-clockwise, the Devil will appear, meaning Essex Police have even sealed this area off previously on October 31 to avoid hordes of people prepared to give it a go.
The most widely seen apparition is that of a faceless grey lady who has been spotted floating on moonless nights from the church’s west gate towards the river.
Many of these ghosts are believed to be the spirits of supposed witches who wander the earth unable to rest due to injustices committed against them when they were alive.
The Spiderman of Stock
This is an unusual one.
Back in the 1800s, a man named Charlie (nicknamed the Spider) developed the alter-ego of ‘Spider’ to entertain guests – and to fund his drinking habit.
He would disappear up the chimney in one of the rooms with a pint of beer, drinking it before descending down a different chimney and appearing in a different fireplace.
The ghost of the Spiderman is said to occasionally haunt the Bear Inn even today.
The Red Lion Hotel, Colchester
When you look at one of the oldest inns in East Anglia, a few ghostly happenings go hand-in-hand.
The Red Lion is said to be plagued by the ghost of Alice Catherine Miller – a chambermaid who was brutally murdered by her lover there in 1638.
Sightings have been startling staff and guests since the 1800s. A couple of centuries ago the hotel owner was so terrified by the ghost he bricked up her old room to stop the hauntings, but in vain.
Her ghost has been seen in various rooms and staff have heard her talking to them. She has also been spotted disappearing through one of the walls to her bricked up bedroom. The assistant manager also saw her in an old rocking chair, and when he asked if she was alright, she replied ‘yes’ before vanishing into thin air.
For more information and their covid-19 booking procedures, click here.
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Hylands House, Chelmsford
One of Chelmsford’s most iconic buildings has seen its fair share of mysterious happenings. It was built in 1730 so it’s had plenty of time to build up a few spirits.
Staff have reported various unexplained encounters over the years including a man wearing a Victorian long coat and a top hat on the landing of the first floor.
An eerie voice has also told staff to “get out!” while they’re in the cellar.
An angry man has been reported in the library, as he doesn’t like strangers in the house, and a young girl often appears in the drawing room when the piano is being played.
The Fox and Fiddler, Colchester
A young chambermaid called Sarah is said to haunt this Colchester pub.
However, although some are scared of her, Sarah is apparently a ‘fun loving ghost’ who has been known to play pranks on the pub’s members of staff as well as the guests.
It’s said that Matthew Hopkins, otherwise known as the Witchfinder General, was responsible for the death of Sarah.
The story says that he dragged her down into the pub’s cellar and bricked her up in a disused tunnel under the inn.
The prison was made famous for being used in the sitcom Porridge, but did you also know that there are claims it is haunted?
To start with, there are reports of apparitions of a woman “wearing a crinoline dress and bonnet” and a figure of an “old-fashioned prison warder” carrying a lamp.
Both staff and prisoners have told of strange apparitions with some also reporting the ghost of a priest.
Noises with no apparent source have often been heard over the years including disembodied voices, the sounds of children playing, unexplained bangs and footsteps.
If you ever get a chance to be inside the prison, you may hear the sounds too.
The castle was built way back in 919 and is said to be one of the most haunted castles in the UK
Originally the prison was maintained by private enterprise which meant that prisoners were kept in the most barbaric of conditions and often left to rot or to die.
The spookiest rumours that surround the castle involve a Quaker called James Parnell who was arrested and imprisoned in Colchester Castle in 1656.
After refusing to pay a magistrate fine he was imprisoned, treated badly and died in April 1656.
Matthew Hopkins – the Witchfinder General – also features in the history of Colchester Castle – in 1645, he interrogated and imprisoned suspected witches there.
Many of the women were executed despite protesting their innocence.
Visit here for more information.
Layer Marney Tower
Lord Marney himself is said to haunt the halls of this historic building.
It is thought the Lord haunts his former home because he is unhappy the building was not completed to his liking, his son dying two years after he did (1523), leaving no male heirs to continue the construction.
He’s been spotted, in full armour on horseback, climbing the staircase of the tower.
Although the building dates back to Tudor times (Elizabeth I stayed here), the majority of the ghosts seen in the grounds are wearing Victorian clothing. Poltergeist activity in the east wing has been witnessed with objects moving in front of people, and the ghosts of servants and workers have also been seen in the building.
Royal Hotel, Purfleet
Room 31 is said to be haunted by the ghosts of a young couple.
The story goes that the girl was murdered by her boyfriend after an argument about his gambling habit.
There are reports of figures standing at the far end of the balcony, with items mysteriously moving and drinks been thrown onto the floor.
Most guests refuse to sleep there, making it the least used rooms in the hotel.
Essex Regiment Museum, Chelmsford
In horror movies, there’s not much scarier than a spooky child’s voice.
Yet, in recent years, there have been reports of staff hearing the laughter of a child in the early hours at the museum.
The slamming of a door has also been heard.
Manningtree is known for once being home to the self-titled ‘Witchfinder General’ Matthew Hopkins.
Hopkins and his assistant John Stearne are thought to have sentenced nearly 400 people to death in their time as witch hunters.
The ghost of Hopkins is said to haunt Manningtree at full moon and particularly Mistley Pond where he drowned many people for witchcraft.
Several people have also said to have seen his ghost in different pubs around the area including The Mistley Thorn Hotel, The White Hart Inn and The Red Lion.
Tilbury Fort is an English Heritage site which is steeped in history. Queen Elizabeth herself rallied her troops to fight against the Spanish Armada in 1588.
The ghosts of her soldiers can apparently been seen guarding the walls at night but they disappear when you approach them.
Some have also claimed that they have heard phantom soldiers marching day and night from the parade grounds.
St Osyth is an unusual name and it is said to have been taken from Princess Osyth, the royal figure who was beheaded by Vikings after she refused to renounce her faith.
The story goes that after she was beheaded, the Princess rose from the ground, picked up her head from the floor and walked to the nearby monastery where she knocked on the door three times before collapsing.
Every year on October 7, it’s said that the St Osyth ghost makes the same walk through Nuns Wood clutching her severed head.
The New World Inn, Great Warley
It is said that it is essentially impossible to spend a night in room 14 of The New World Inn in Great Warley, now known as De Rougemont Manor.
This is because the room apparently contains the spirit of the previous inn owner, Mrs de Rougemont.
The sound of a phantom party has also been reported inside the hotel.
Click here to find out more.