Corfe Castle, Dorset, England
© Ross Hoddinott/Minden Picture
Corfe gets creepy
Spying the crooked silhouette of Corfe Castle above the rolling, foggy hills of Dorset, England, you might not guess at the ruin's former palatial beauty—you'll more likely sense its long history of intrigue, and maybe feel a chill down your spine.
Corfe's tale begins with a betrayal. Rumor has it this mound is where the teenage King Edward the Martyr was assassinated, likely by his half-brother and successor Æthelred the Unready, in 978—a century before the original stone structure was built. The castle became a favorite of 13th-century ruler King John—whose luxurious renovations hid a feared dungeon where the calculating monarch starved numerous prisoners. In the mid-1600s English Civil War, noblewoman Mary Bankes—wife of the castle's new lord, who was off fighting in the war—doggedly defended it against antiroyalist forces in a three-year siege. But Mary was given up by members of her entourage and captured, and the castle was toppled into the craggy heap you see now—another betrayal to end its story.
Nowadays the remains of Corfe Castle are preserved as a Scheduled Ancient Monument by the UK—but that status might not be all that's protecting the site. Reports of children's sobs echoing through the air, unexplained flickering lights, and—most notoriously—the headless apparition of a white-clad woman have some believing specters of a millennium past still haunt the ruin.