8 royal residences with a spooky history

Windsor Castle
Windsor Castle is said to be haunted by King George III. Bruno Vincent/Getty Images
  • Between executions and still-unsolved deaths, some former and current royal residences house dark histories.
  • Buckingham Palace is reportedly haunted by two ghosts.
  • Hampton Court Palace is said to be haunted by the ghosts of Henry VIII’s wives and a former servant.

Buckingham Palace is known as the primary residence of the British monarchy and Queen Elizabeth II, but most people don’t know the palace’s eerie history.
Buckingham Palace
Buckingham Palace. Pawal Libera/Getty Images
The site of Buckingham Palace is where a monastery once stood, and some have reported seeing the ghost of a monk who died in a punishment cell, cloaked in a brown cowl, according to VisitBritain.

Another part of Buckingham Palace’s eerie history was the death of Major John Gwynne, King Edward VII’s private secretary. After Gwynne divorced his wife, he is said to have shot himself inside one of the palace’s offices as a result of public criticism. Palace staffers have reported hearing the sound of a single gunshot coming from inside the office.

Windsor Castle is said to be haunted by numerous ghosts, including King George III, who was confined in the castle after he descended into madness.
Windsor castle ballroom
Windsor Castle ballroom. Tim Graham Photo Library/Getty Images
While ghost sightings inside Windsor Castle, the largest inhabited castle in the world, can be summed up as mere hearsay, no one can deny this royal residence’s creepy history. Windsor Castle is the final resting place of 10 British monarchs, some of whom were beheaded or poisoned.

Creepier still, after King George III descended into madness, he resided at Windsor Castle until his eventual death, and his ghost has been seen peering out from the window of the room where he was held, according to the BBC.

The Palace of Holyroodhouse was the site of a gruesome murder.
Holyroodhouse palace edinburgh
Palace of Holyroodhouse. Samot/Shutterstock
Now the official residence of the monarchy in Scotland, the Palace of Holyroodhouse has quite an eerie history.

Mary, Queen of Scots spent most of her life inside the palace walls, during which time her personal secretary, David Rizzio, was murdered in her private apartments on March 9, 1566, according to the royal family’s official website. Mary’s husband, Lord Darnley, was said to have disagreed with Rizzio’s power over the Queen, and thus orchestrated the assassination which was carried out with more than 70 other men.

According to The Tudor Society, Mary attempted to stop the attack but, being heavily pregnant, was restrained while it was carried out. She later reported that Rizzio was stabbed 56 times.

About half a mile away, on February 10, 1567, Lord Darnley was found dead after his living quarters were destroyed by an explosion. Lord Darnley’s death still remains unsolved, though many suspect Queen Mary and her third and final husband, the Earl of Bothwell, had a part in it, as they were married three months after his death, according to the National Archives.

Hampton Court Palace is said to be haunted by the ghosts of Henry VIII’s wives.
The exterior of hampton court
Hampton Court. Shutterstock
Over the years, Hampton Court has been the site of multiple ghost sightings, including two of the wives of notorious ruler Henry VIII. Jane Seymour, who died inside the palace after giving birth in 1537, is said to appear on her son’s birthday, according to Historic Royal Palaces, a charity that manages Hampton Court.

Catherine Howard, the fifth wife of Henry VIII, is also said to haunt the palace. Catherine was accused of adultery and treason, and she was arrested at Hampton Court. According to Historic Royal Palaces, she managed to escape the guards and ran through a hall, screaming for the king to be compassionate, but she was apprehended again and ultimately executed at the Tower of London. Visitors have reported hearing her screams in the hall, which is now known as the Haunted Gallery.

The palace is also said to be haunted by the ghost of Sybil Penn, a former servant at the palace who served as a nurse to both Edward VI and a young Queen Elizabeth I. While nursing Elizabeth I back to health as she suffered from smallpox, Penn is believed to have caught the disease and died. She now reportedly roams the castle as an apparition known as the “Grey Lady.”

Employees at Sandringham House reportedly said one of the downstairs bedrooms is so haunted they don’t want to work in it.
Sandringham house
Sandringham House. RDImages/Epics/Getty Images
Sandringham House, where the Queen and other members of the royal family spend Christmas each year, is said to be haunted. According to The Mirror, people working in the home were hesitant to hold a service with the Queen in one of the downstairs rooms where George VI lived during the months before his death.

“Some of the servants had complained that the room was haunted and did not want to work in it,” royal biographer Kenneth Rose wrote.

The Tower of London may no longer be an official royal residence, but its dark history means it’s rumored to be one of the most haunted locations in the world.
Tower of London
The Tower of London. Justin Black/Shutterstock
The Tower of London is the site of some of history’s most infamous deaths, including the 1471 murder of King Henry VI, who was killed while praying in his private chapel, according to Historic Royal Palaces.

The two sons of Edward IV were also presumably murdered inside the Tower of London after they went missing there in 1483. Many believe they were smothered in their sleep by a political rival who wished to be king and saw the boys as a threat.

The Tower of London was also frequently used as a site for the executions of many high-profile offenders. Both Anne Boleyn and Henry VIII’s fifth wife, Catherine Howard, were executed at the tower. Many others were executed there throughout history, a majority of whom were considered enemies of the state and the highest level of criminal.

The Winter Palace in Saint Petersburg, Russia, was home to Czar Nicholas II and his family prior to their executions.
Winter palace
The Winter Palace. Shutterstock/Brian Kinney
Though the Winter Palace was not the primary residence of Tsar Nicholas II of Russia, it is perhaps the most well known. What’s even better known, however, is the palace’s connections to eerie moments in history.

A costume ball commemorating the anniversary of the reign of Tsar Alexey Mikhailovich, the second Romanov tsar, was held in 1903. It marked the last major event hosted by the Imperial family at the Winter Palace.

In 1905, the Winter Palace would set the stage for the Revolution of 1905 and what’s come to be known as “Bloody Sunday,” during which more than 100 peaceful protesters were killed by police and several hundred more were wounded.

During the October Revolution of 1917, after Nicholas II had abdicated the throne, the Imperial family would never again see their home at the Winter Palace, as they were placed in a remote house in Yekaterinburg and later executed.

The Forbidden City in Beijing, China, is a complex of former imperial palaces, and guards say they have witnessed hauntings there.
Crowded forbidden city in china
The Forbidden City in Beijing, China. Frédéric Soltan/Getty Images
It’s believed that many deaths occurred within the walls of The Forbidden City in Beijing, China, which served as a royal residence for over 600 years. Guards have reported seeing crying women in what was once the concubines’ quarters, according to the city’s tourism bureau.

“Some people even say, that the Forbidden City’s haunted activities at night are the very reason why it never stays open to the public late at night,” the VisitBeijing website said.