Colchester is known as the home to one of the most haunted castles in England. Part of the reason for this lies in the long history of activity on the site. The castle is set on the foundations of the Roman Temple of Claudius, and was completed over a period of 30 years, being completed in 1100. It was besieged and finally captured by King John in the struggles that lead to the signing of Magna Carta.
It was in 1645 that Matthew Hopkins, the Witchfinder General becomes involved in the story of Colchester castle. He imprisoned many suspected witches within the castle, as they passed through on their way to execution.
In 1648 the castle was besieged again, This time the Parliamentary forces captured the castle after a siege which lasted 12 weeks. It was after this siege that several royalist leaders were executed. Tradition says that the spot, which is marked by an obelisk today, is still barren as the grass will not grow on it.
From 1668 onwards the castle was used as the county prison, and the prisoners brought here were frequently left to die, untended, or simply forgotten about.
With all these layers to the castle history, and so much blood split outside the castle walls it should surprise no-one that this is a very active location. Castle staff have witnessed many strange events, and visitors have frequently been terrified by their experiences here.
Two of the castle ghosts are particularly famous. The Quaker James Parnell who was held captive at the castle and died there in May 1656. He was forced to climb a rope every time he wanted to eat, and as exhaustion and ill treatment slowly took their toll he fell to his death in May 1656. The other manifestation is unusual because it is non-human. Colchester castle holds the distinction of being home to the oldest ghost cat in Britain.