Written by Sarah-May Smith-Reed
Alnwick Castle, Northumberland, England, was built in 1096. It is the second largest inhabited castle in England, and has homed the legendary noble families of the North for over 920 years, but is it also home to The Alnwick Castle Vampire?
In more recent years, the castle itself has held host to a number of film and TV crews, including two Harry Potter movies, Black Adder, Downton Abbey, Elizabeth and Robin Hood; Prince of Theives.
Although the likes of Alan Rickman, Daniel Radcliffe and Morgan Freeman are certainly interesting visitors to the Castle, my personal interest lies in the frequent visitations of another character altogether.
A twelfth Century Historian, William de Newburgh, investigated reports of Vampires across England in the 1200s, compiling a journal of his accounts and experiences. His book Historia Rerum Anglicarum was released as a work of serious historic importance.
It is said that in the 1200s, an unnamed man from Yorkshire, England, who was known to have lived a disreputable life, was wanted by the authorities. Fortunately for him, he had allies in Alnwick and they allowed him to live and hide in the Castle. He lived there for so long that he in fact began to move up in the ranks and eventually became a Lord, and even married a young woman, also living in the Castle.
A few years passed and rumours began to circulate about the alleged infidelities of his spouse. Obviously he became wrought with anxiety over the mere idea of his companion with another man. So one night, he climbed atop the roof of his chamber and hung down the side of the building in order to see through the window. Of course, upon discovering that the rumours were in fact true, he lost his balance and fell through the roof, injuring himself fatally.
Knowing he was close to death, the wife sent for the local priest who attempted to take his last confession. Strangely, the man refused, merely cursing his wife until the moment he passed. The man was laid to rest in the church grounds, but soon returned from the grave to wreak havoc on the surrounding villages, leaving a trail of victims with their throats and wrists slashed, as well as sickness and plague to the visited homes.
On Palm Sunday, the priest led an angry mob to the burial place of the man, uncovered the cadaver and found it to be bloated and well-nourished. When they stabbed the corpse, blood gushed from the wound, almost proving their theory. They beheaded the body and burned the head at a crossroads on the outskirts of the village, thus lifting the curse.
Now, it should be noted that The Plague had made its ugly appearance in the surrounding area at the time, and a village of superstitious religious folk would often blame supernatural beings such as Witches and Vampires for the misfortune of their communities.
When we look back at the reasons that people were accused of witchcraft, is it really that far fetched to assume that maybe this was just another way to blame something for the afflictions of the village? Or was there indeed something more to this case?
The similarities between this case and the case of the Highgate Cemetery Vampire struck me whilst researching this. A young woman, buried in Highgate Cemetery and later exhumed to retrieve a book of poetry she was buried with seemed well-nourished and her hair had actually grown. The accounts of the Highgate Vampire surfaced in the late 1960s and led to a mass Vampire hunt. It has been suggested that Bram Stoker was inspired by the story of this young woman buried in Highgate and wrote Dracula soon after. Could he actually have been inspired by the Alnwick Castle Vampire?