copyright 2008 by Gary L. Pullman
Occasionally, the castles in such novels are modeled upon, in part, at least, actual castles, and the one in Peake’s novels, Gormenghast, is comprised of a mixture of features from various actual castles as well as cities, mansions, and universities: its walls are like those of Normal castles and those of ancient Chinese cities, while the buildings resemble those of Gothic and Regency mansions and English country houses. The professors’ living quarters and the courtyards within Gormenghast are similar to those at Oxford and Cambridge.
Bran Castle (Dracula's Castle)
In other instances, the castles are based upon a single actual fortress. Frankenstein’s castle is modeled upon eighteenth-century Lord Konrad Dippel Von Frankenstein’s residence near the small village of Muhltal, not far from Darmstadt, Germany, and Dracula’s residence, is derived from Bran Castle (now a museum), which stands near Bran, Romania, on the Transylvania-Wallachia border.
Because of their antiquity, the privileged lives of the nobles who dwelled within their walls, the horrible punishments endured in their dungeons, their remote locations, and their vast, dark and dank interiors, many castles are said to be haunted, including, in England alone, Arundle Castle (Sussex), Bamburgh Castle (Northumberland), Berkeley Castle (Berkeley Gloucestershire), Berry Pomeroy Castle (Berry Pomeroy Devon), Bramber Castle (West Sussex), Castle Rising (Castle Rising, Norfolk), Chillingham Castle (Northumberland), Corby Castle (Cumbria), Corfe Castle (Wareham Dorset), Dacre Castle (Cumbria), Dunstanburgh Castle (Northumberland), Dunster Castle (Somerset), Featherstone Castle (Northumberland), Hever Castle (Kent), Lowther Castle (Cumbria), Morton Corbet Castle (Shropshire), Muncaster Castle (Cumbria), Okehampton Castle (Devon), Pevensey Castle (Sussex), Pontefract Castle (West Yorkshire), Raby Castle (County Durham), Tamworth Castle (Tamworth, Staffordshire), Tintagel Castle (Tintagel Cornwall), Tower of London, Warkworth Castle (Northumberland), and Windsor Castle (Berkshire). Castles in Ireland, Scotland, Wales, and mainland Europe are also said to be haunted. For example, Windsor Castle, built by William the Conqueror to “guard the western approaches to the capital,” is believed to be haunted by several ghosts, among them Queen Elizabeth I, who favors the library and a boy’s ghost, who favors the chapel. The grounds and nearby forest are also rumored to be haunted, the former by a band of interlopers, the latter by King Richard II’s favorite huntsman, Herne the Hunter. Likewise, the Tower of London, which was also built by William the Conqueror, as were many other English castles, is reportedly haunted by the ghosts of Saint Thomas a Becket, the murdered sons of King Edward IV, Anne Boleyn, one of King Henry XIII’s wives, Catherine Howard, Sir Walter Raleigh, and many commoners who were tortured and executed in the Tower’s dungeons and torture chambers.
Oddly, the castles in the United States (yes, there are several, in addition to the Hearst Castle in San Simeon, California) seem quiet and restful in comparison to their European counterparts.
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue
The White House is said to be haunted, though, by no less illustrious a ghost than that of its former occupant, President Abraham Lincoln. In yet another example of our tax dollars at work, the official White House website shares videos in which staff members relate stories of their encounters with Lincoln’s ghost.
Stanley Hotel, Estes Park, Colorado
Despite the availability of American castles, Stephen King has preferred to locate some of his more contemporary ghost stories in hotels. The action of The Shining takes place in the Overlook Hotel, which is based upon the Stanley Hotel in Estes Park, Colorado. The movie 1408, based upon King’s short story of the same title, which appeared in Everything’s Eventual (2002) used exterior shots of the Roosevelt Hotel in New York City to depict the exterior of the film’s Dolphin Hotel and shots of a London hotel’s lobby to depict the Dolphin Hotel‘s lobby, but the short story was inspired by stories of parapsychologist Christopher Chacon’s investigation of a supposedly haunted room in the famous San Diego, California, inn, Hotel Del Coronado. In America, where everyone’s a king or queen, hotels seem the logical--or, at least, the democratic--alternative to castles and manor houses for traveling or long-term guests of the ghostly variety.
“Everyday Horrors: Castles and Hotels” is part of a series of “everyday horrors” that will be featured on Chillers and Thrillers: The Fiction of Fear. These “everyday horrors” continue, in many cases, to appear in horror fiction, literary, cinematographic, and otherwise.