The Cauld Lad of Hylton, the pathetic ghost of a murdered stablehand, still haunts Hylton Castle in Sunderland, L.H. DAVIES reports
In 1609, Robert Hylton, 13th Baron of Hylton was officially cleared of the murder of his stable boy, Robert Skelton.
It was said that Hylton had ordered his horse prepared for a journey of the utmost importance, however, the young boy over slept and failed to fulfill his master’s orders.
Upon finding his horse unprepared and the stable boy still sleeping in the hay, the enraged Baron is said to have murdered him.
At this stage accounts differ as to exactly how this occurred.
Some suggest he was decapitated, others maintain the boy was stabbed, however, it is generally believed that Hylton attacked the boy with his riding crop and that it was a blow to the head that killed him.
His body was discovered a few days later shoved down a well.
Around this time, unusual things began to happen throughout Hylton’s castle and in particular within the kitchens.
When staff entered in the mornings they would discover rooms that had been left in a mess the night before would have been cleaned or that those previously left spotless were now a shambles.
Hot ash would be taken from the fires and spread across the floor, an invisible being lying within them to create the image of a body across the flagstones.
On numerous occasions the castle chamber pots were found to have been emptied, their contents smeared over the castle floors.
On one of these nights the castle’s cook decided to remain up in an attempt to discover who, or what was responsible for the disturbances.
He witnessed the ghost of a crying naked boy who, on seeing the cook, exclaimed, “I’m cauld. I’m cauld” (I’m cold.)
The cook and his wife left out for the ghost a warm cloak and the next night the boy returned and was heard to say:
“Here’s a cloak and here’s a hood,
The Cauld Lad of Hylton will do no more good.”
The ghost disappeared and the occurrences ceased, thereby instilling in people the belief that the boy had been cursed and only by his being presented with a gift, could he be released.
To this day however, people still claim to have heard the boy’s song. A song that is apparently prophesying his fate:
“Woe is me, woe is me
The acorn’s not yet fallen from the tree,
That’s to grow the wood,
That’s to make the cradle,
That’s to rock the bairn,
That’s to grow the man,
That’s to lay me (that will exorcise me.)”