Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Okehampton Castle

In the center of Devon county, England, near the northern border of Dartmoor, there was once a farmstead on the River Okement. It grew into a little township known as Okehampton. Just outside Okehampton, standing guard on a wooded spur overlooking the rushing waters of the River Okement is the haunted Okehampton Castle.

Okehampton Castle

Photo of Okehampton Castle - Courtesy of Howard Somerville

This imposing structure of stone began as a simple motte and bailey castle. In the 14<sup>th</sup> century, Hugh Courtenay, Earl of Devon, developed it into a luxurious residence. Then in 1538, Henry Courtenay, the last owner of the castle, got on the wrong side of Henry VIII. The owner became headless and the castle became ownerless. Without anyone to maintain it, Okehampton Castle decayed into the ruin that it is today complete with its fair share of paranormal sightings.

Okehampton Castle and its surroundings are permeated with a romantic ambiance. Champions of bipedal locomotion will find a lot to walk and talk about. Students of paranormal phenomena will also find a lot of supernatural activity to excite their ghost-sensor devices to chatter frenetically like a Geiger counter near a leaky nuclear reactor.

Historically, there was a dame named Lady Howard. She was wedded to four different men, presumably in sequential order. In the end she became a lonely widow, having outlived everyone of them. This out-of-the-normal state of affairs gave birth to the eerie legend of Lady Howard.

Okehampton Castle Paranormal Activities

In the legend, Lady Howard did not outlive her husbands in the normal course of events at Okehampton Castle. She was reputed to have murdered each and every one of them. How she managed to do that so many times without being caught remains a mystery. However the remains of her former spouses were put to good use. It was said that she used their bones to construct a macabre carriage.

An artist with a lively and ghoulish imagination would be able to illustrate this carriage in a number of gruesome ways. Perhaps their four skulls were fixed to the hubs of the four wheels. Or they could be fixed to the tops of the four posts of the cab itself, maybe, facing four different directions. Their long leg bones could be put into service as the axles. Or as the shafts holding the horse in place.

In the case of Lady Howard’s carriage, however, there was no horse. The carriage was drawn by a skeletal hound. Must have been quite a big one to get the job done. Keeping the ghostly dog running in the right direction was a ghostly coachman. A headless coachman, actually. So it was more likely that the dog had a better view than the headless coachman about where it was going.

Okehampton Castle

Photo of Okehampton Castle - Courtesy of Philip Blayney

According to the legend, every night Lady Howard would leave the castle in the carriage. Her job was to take a blade of grass from the castle grounds to Tavistock. This was her punishment for having committed so many sins, not the least of which was to cause the untimely demise of four husbands. Legend has it that when she had finished transporting every single blade of grass, the world might come to an end. Now people keen on saving the world can add grass-growing to their list of recommended activities. However, going by the abundance of grass still growing around Okehampton Castle, the situation is still quite some way from red alert status.

While waiting for Lady Howard to make her nightly run, seekers of things that go bump in the night are also advised to keep an eye on the windows of the castle. Specifically, they should keep a look out for activity in a window at the top of the keep. One visitor had photographed a strange ghostly shape in one of those windows. Perhaps with the right turn of luck and quick click of a handy camera, ghost-hunters might capture another ghost making an appearance. While snooping around the grounds of the castle, they should also be careful not to step on the tail of a ghostly black dog. This cadaverous canine had already been sighted many times.

Of course, paranormal aficionados on the prowl should not be startled to hear gunshots nearby because Okehampton Castle is quite near a firing range used by the Ministry of Defense. Taken altogether, it would make for a heart-thumping visit to a castle that was the only fortifications of its kind listed in the Domesday Book of 1086.



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