Haunted locations in Essex: 10 of the spookiest places to visit

The Strood (c) Egmel, Flickr (CC BY 2.0)

The Strood (c) Egmel, Flickr (CC BY 2.0) - Credit: Archant

Spend Halloween hunting down ghouls and ghosts in the county’s most haunted places and spaces. We pick 10 absolutely terrifying locations to visit this October.


1. Borley Rectory

Built in 1863 on the site of an old monastery, Borley Rectory once held the title of 'The most haunted house in England'. It is believed the grounds are haunted by a spectral nun who was executed for falling in love with a monk. The mansion housed many owners, many of whom experienced some sort of paranormal activity whilst occupying the building.

The house has now been knocked down but the grounds still retain an eerie heritage like few other places in the country. Its reputation is such that the rectory has been the subject of a couple of films, although one of the flicks has received frighteningly poor reviews. Please note that the area of the rectory is now residential and anyone visiting should seek permission from locals.


2. Colchester Castle

As one of the oldest recorded towns in Britain, Colchester is a hotbed for spooky tales and haunting histories. The castle is the largest Norman Keep in Europe and by day, it is an enormously popular tourist attraction known for its heritage and Roman history. However, come nightfall it takes a more sinister turn as the ghost of Quaker martyr James Parnell is said to haunt the castle and its dungeons.

Imprisoned in the dungeon of the castle in 1656, Parnell's gaoler forced him to climb a rope in order to reach his food. After a particularly serious fall combined with poor treatment and lack of food, Parnell eventually passed away and was buried in an unmarked grave on the castle grounds.


3. Harwich Redoubt Fort

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The fort was built between 1808 and 1810 to defend the port of Harwich from French invasion, it has even been said that French POW's were forced to help with the construction.

During the Second World War, British troops awaiting trial were held at the fort and the graffiti they left can still be found on the walls of the cells today. Visitors often report seeing ghostly figures through the windows, being touched by invisible hands and most commonly the apparition of a decapitated solider searching for his head.


4. St Osyth

St Osyth is a small village in the northeast of Essex with a terrifying tale to tell. It supposedly takes its name from Princess Osyth who beheaded by Vikings after she refused to renounce her faith.

The legend goes, that after she was beheaded, Osyth rose from the ground, retrieved her head from the floor and walked to the nearby monastery where she knocked on the door three times before collapsing. It is believed that on the 7th October, the St Osyth ghost makes the same walk through Nuns Wood clutching her severed head.

There is also a history of witch persecutions in St Osyth dating back to the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. Fourteen women were trialled for witchcraft and some were convicted and sentenced to hanging.


5. Coalhouse Fort, East Tilbury

This Victorian fort is located in East Tilbury next to the River Thames; it was built in 1874 to defend London and the surrounding area from possible invasions from foreign countries.

The fort is renowned for its extreme paranormal activity, possibly due to it being used by the military for nearly 600 years. Visitors to the fort have often reported strange mists and ghostly apparitions being seen in the tunnels as well as voices and the mysterious sound of footsteps.


6. Canewdon

This little known village is hidden away on one of the highest hills of the Essex coastline near Rochford. The fourteenth century village church is supposedly deeply associated with witches and possibly even the Devil!

Local legend has it that if you run anti-clockwise around the church on Halloween eve the Devil will appear, but many locals describe the myth as completely ridiculous and running around the church will actually send you back in time.


7. The Strood, Mersea Island

Everything about The Strood screams horror film. This ancient causeway connecting Mersea Island to the main land is said to be the favourite haunt of a spectral Roman centurion who marches the length of The Strood during nightfall in October.

Locals have reported hearing the sounds of men fighting with swords and soldiers marching - even when the causeway has been flooded by the tide.


8. Manningtree

Anyone with plans to dress as a witch for Halloween this year would do well to avoid Manningtree. This tiny Essex village was once home to the self-titled 'Witchfinder General' Matthew Hopkins.

Hopkins and his assistant John Stearne, are estimated to have sentenced nearly 400 people to death in their time as witch hunters. It's said that on the evening of a full moon, the ghost of Hopkins haunts Mistley Pond in the village where he infamously drowned many people for witchcraft.

His ghost has also been spotted haunting The Mistley Thorn Hotel, The White Hart Inn and The Red Lion pub. It appears Hopkins loved a bar crawl…


9. The Red Lion Hotel, Colchester

The Red Lion is arguably one of the oldest inns in Colchester - and as everyone knows, old hotels are nearly always haunted. In this case the ghost most often encountered by guests and staff is that of Alice Catherine Miller.

Miller was a former chambermaid at the hotel and she was murdered by her lover in 1638. Miller is said to haunt various room throughout the hotel and on one occasion appeared before the hotel's assistant manager to ask if he was alright. Spooky.


10. Chelmsford Civic Theatre

The city of Chelmsford's biggest theatre is home to some of the best music, comedy and drama in the county. It also happens to be home to ghouls and ghosts too.

Many visitors are put off their popcorn when they're told that the kind old porter who guided them to their seats is actually the resident ghost. He is believed to be a former technician who was killed in the nearby Duke Street. Clearly, he loved his job very much.