A Chillingham Castle story

It is the norm to start talking about ghosts in Chillingham Castle. It seems that the guides in the various rooms are really keen on this subject and, for at least one moment, I almost felt the presence of one of the most famous ghosts of the castle, John Sage. It happened in the corner of the great hall, a place that according to the guides, is renowned for giving you the chills and sometimes the presence of pure evil is said to be present .

So who was John Sage? Some say he is another legendary figure like Robin Hood or King Arthur, but his legends are a bit like horror movies compared with them. Others claim he was a real man who served as a soldier in Edward I’s army. He got injured in one of the battles, making him limp, and gaining him a new nickname, John Dragfoot. When his fighting days were behind him, he needed a new job and he was given one by the King. He would become the head torturer of Chillingham Castle. When Edward went north, he was planning to face William Wallace in one major battle, but the Scottish did not plan on doing so and instead, commenced a guerilla war against the English.

Edward was not happy, and he needed to discover the place where Wallace was hiding. The English army started to capture Scottish prisoners and send them to Chillingham for interrogation. According to the stories, as many as 50 Scots arrived at the castle every week and they all had to meet John “Dragfoot” Sage.

It seems that John loved his job so much, he even invented some torturing devices of his own and he had plenty of prisoners to test his new inventions on. Thousands of Scots- men women and children- were tortured in the period where the English army was looking for Wallace and, finally, Edward got the information he needed and managed to meet Wallace in one decisive battle known as the battle of Falkirk. The English won and Wallace escaped and was captured only seven years later.

This meant that the services of John Sage were no longer needed, but he still had few prisoners left with no need to interrogate them. He decided there was no point in releasing them so, according to some stories, he burned all the adults alive in Chillingham courtyard whilst their children were forced to look on. After that was done, he took his axe upstairs where he butchered them ( making a very “logical” explanation for why the castle is haunted by infant ghosts as well). So how did the story of John Sage end? Well, villains always need to pay for their barbaric actions, right?

According to the accounts, John was captured by a group of Scots not far from the castle and he was hanged from a tree. They did not settle for a simple hanging and they kept themselves busy cutting some of his body parts whilst he was slowly choking.

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