A Warwick Castle Guide's Tale

Warwick Castle from Mill Street gardens
Anne Langley

In the late 1990s I took a seasonal job as a guide at Warwick Castle. The experience was fascinating and it was a privilege to see behind the scenes and access areas not open to the general public. This included visiting a suite of rooms where officers from the Civil War had written messages on the walls with charcoal while imprisoned; opening a secret door to a reveal an escape route leading down to the river and seeing centuries-old footprints in a priest hole.

Locked in after hours!

Guides were required daily to unlock the castle before the visitors arrived and lock up after they left. Ancient keys, some of them huge, are still used for the older parts so it was with a great sense of history that we operated creaking locks on heavy oak doors. We also had to check that all tourists had left at end of the day. Unfortunately I still managed to lock two American tourists onto the battlements! They eventually found their way down to the torture chamber and banged (rather desperately) on the door! Luckily a passing steward, who did not believe in ghostly noises, heard them. They probably remember it as the best part of their holiday – but I never lived it down!

Ghostly goings on…

Most of us did not believe in ghostly noises, despite tales fed to us by long-serving guides. Nevertheless we still avoided locking up the Ghost Tower at night and persuaded a brave young student to do it for us. One evening, however, he was absent. A nervous female colleague and I had no choice but to take on the task. The routine was to enter the ‘murder room’ through an inside door and switch off the spooky music and lights. Exit, with a torch, was via a spiral stone staircase to the souvenir shop below. All went well until we found that, even with apparent disconnection, the music refused to switch off. It was if a ghostly presence had taken over. We decided to turn off the lights and leave as quickly as possible, which was when we discovered we had forgotten the torch! The two of us clung to each other as we stumbled down the stairs in total darkness with the spooky music still playing above us. Never have I been so glad to be in a souvenir shop!  Luckily I recovered and spent three months working in the beautiful State Apartments and the Armoury. It was a relatively short time but one I will never forget.

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