Elizabeth Castle on Jersey is the site of much bloodshed, history and hauntings over the centuries, says RICK HALE
Sitting atop a tidal island in the Parish of St Helier stands the iconic Elizabeth Castle, a popular tourist attraction.
This ancient fortification stands as a silent sentinel of the southern coast and has been the site of countless invasions and bloody warfare throughout its long history.
So, it should come as no surprise that Castle Elizabeth is still home to the many souls who lived behind its thick granite walls. One of these souls was St Helier, the patron saint of Jersey whose life came to an end at the hands of barbaric invaders.
History of Castle Elizabeth
In the 6th century CE, St Helier, an early Christian, fled his native Belgium after witnessing his pagan father viciously murder his mentor, St Cunibert.
When St Helier landed in Jersey, he took up residence on the island, as well as setting up a hermitage where he could commune with his god.
St Helier, worked tirelessly to warn his neighbor’s on Jersey of approaching invaders.
He created a system of flags to warn the mainlanders of approaching invaders. Unfortunately, this system wasn’t always foolproof.
Many years following the death of St Helier, a group of monks built monastic buildings to carry on the work of their patron saint.
Those holy days came to an end when the Crown seized the buildings and the island for military purposes.
In 1594, Paul Ivy, a Flemish engineer began work on the earliest parts of the castle as a new home for the governors of Jersey.
A little over a decade later, Sir Walter Raleigh, put the finishing touches on the castle and named it after his queen, Elizabeth I.
As the centuries rolled on, Parliamentary soldiers laid siege to castle during the civil war. They bombarded it day and night on a hunt for Royalist leaders.
The castle was used as a prisoner of war camp during the Seven Years War. French soldiers were imprisoned there, many dying from starvation and disease.
Lastly, Nazi forces invaded the island after the fall of Paris during World War II.
When Allied forces liberated France and the Channel Islands, Castle Elizabeth was shut down and eventually re-opened as a museum for the public.
The Hauntings of Castle Elizabeth
The history of Jersey’s Castle Elizabeth is a long and bloody one.
The ghosts that are said to haunt this island fortress are many and seem to span it’s history.
Beginning with the man who started it all and died a horrific death, St Helier himself.
The Ghost of St Helier
At the end of St Helier’s life, Saxon invaders managed to escape the aged saint’s signal and landed on Jersey.
The barbaric Saxons ran rampant throughout the coast of Jersey taking the heads of victims as reward for their conquest.
When St Helier was captured, he was beheaded while singing praises to God and praying for the souls of the invaders.
After beheading the holy man, the Saxons used his head as a ball and kicked it around the island, eventually kicking it into the murky depths of the channel.
Since that day, the ghostly figure of a disheveled old man in tattered clothes has been seen near the castle.
Witnesses claimed to hear the spectre singing Psalms and praising God as he stares out to the waters of the channel.
It would seem the ancient saint is still keeping a close eye out for invaders. Or, perhaps he’s searching for his head lost 1500 years ago.
According to castle lore, a young girl who was staying at the castle received the fright of her life.
Late one night, she was disturbed from her slumber by a curious sound coming from outside her window.
When she investigated the sound, she watched as a phantom garrison of soldiers marched into the castle grounds.
According to her, she watched as they faded away when they entered the grounds.
The White Figure
Guests and staff of the castle have reported the wispy form of a white apparition wandering the corridors of the castle.
This same white figure has appeared in the rooms of guests startling them with its intrusion.
The Wailing Child
Nothing is more disturbing than the plaintive wails of an infant when none are present.
Over the years, the sobs and crying of a baby has been heard drifting through the halls shattering the silence.
When people have gone in search of the child they of course find nothing.
Castle Elizabeth’s Feelings of Dread
Lastly, many guests and castle staff have reported an all-consuming sense of dread in several rooms of the castle.
They reported that it was a feeling that something terrible occurred there long ago. Those negative emotions are more than likely imprinted on the psychic fabric of the castle for all time.
Today, Jersey’s Castle Elizabeth is alive with the many visitors who come to experience the history of the Channel Island’s largest member.
Visitors are invited to walk the battlements of the castle, attend concerts and cultural events, as well as watch historical reenactments played out by the castle’s dedicated staff of historians and storytellers.
If you’re a spiritually minded person, you can take part in a pilgrimage to St Helier’s hermitage and attend an open air Christian service.
Jersey’s Castle Elizabeth truly has something for everyone interested in the history of the Channel Islands. Including ghosts.