The southern counties of East Sussex and West Sussex have a large number of stately homes and castles, so it is no real surprise that it also has its fair share of local ghost stories.
In addition, Sussex has quite a sinister history and has been the scene of much tragedy since it first welcomed settlers in the 5th Century. When the sun goes back behind the clouds, and those hunting happy memories take their money elsewhere, Sussex welcomes a different kind of hunter, one in search of ghosts, demons, and the unexplainable. The paranormal fanatics who visit Sussex all year round might be interested in any number of locations throughout the region.
Let’s take a closer look at the most haunted places in Sussex!
1. The Angel Inn at Petworth, West Sussex
The Angel Inn can be found in the heart of the bustling market town of Petworth. It is a Grade II listed building, parts of which date back to medieval times, although most of the building is actually from the 18th Century.
The hotel is reportedly haunted by the ghost of an old lady who died under some tragic if unusual circumstances!
The story goes that the lady saw her friend slip and fall down the hotel’s stairs, resulting in her death. The shock of seeing this tragic accident involving her friend killed her – presumably from a heart attack – and her spirit now seems to be bound to the hotel.Book A Room
2. Weald & Downland Living Museum, Singleton, West Sussex
Don’t be put off by the fact that the name of Weald & Downland Open Air Museum of Historic Buildings is a bit of a mouthful. It is still one of the best places if you are off in search of Sussex ghosts!
It is also a pretty fantastic place anyway! Imagine a rescue centre for old houses and you have some idea of what to expect.
The museum sits on fifty acres of land and consists of fifty different buildings, some up to 400 years old. These were buildings marked for demolition and were saved from all over the south of England. Each one was carefully dismantled and then rebuilt at the museum.
As you might expect, many of these old buildings seem to have brought their ghosts with them to their new locations because the site is said to be a veritable hotbed for paranormal activity!
Some of the eerie goings-on reported include dark shadowy figures hanging around a building that once housed a medieval shop.
Another building is haunted by a very tall ghost of a former male resident, and another Tudor house originally from Walderton also has a former tenant still in residence!
Staff have reported seeing a woman in a long dress walking from house to house on several occasions. One of the medieval thatched cottages regularly has a dark figure standing in the doorway.
However, this is nothing compared to the most haunted building out of all of the ones at the museum – the hall house from Midhurst. This building seems to be the focus of poltergeist activity, plus people have reported phantom footsteps and shadowy figures within the house.
3. Bramber Castle, Bramber, West Sussex
The village of Bramber is home to a ruined castle – Bramber Castle, which was a Norman motte-and-bailey style castle dating back to 1070.
William De Braose built the castle on a natural mound overlooking the River Adur, and it remained a De Braose family home until around 1326. From then on, the records are patchy, but there were a few battles around the castle in the English Civil War back in 1642.
All that is left now is the remains of the Gatehouse tower, a section of the curtain wall and the small church that stands opposite it.
As noted, historical records get a little sketchy, so it is unclear how the castle passed out of the hands of the de Braose family. Still, the popular belief is that William de Braose – 4th Lord of Bramber did something upset King John I.
His children were imprisoned in Windsor Castle and starved to death. It is said that upon death, the children returned home to Bramber Castle, where they are still seen frequently dressed in rags and begging for food on the grounds.
4. Ramada Crawley-Gatwick, Crawley, West Sussex
The Ramada Crawley was formerly a coaching inn, and it is made up of various sections from different periods. A hotel has stood on this site in one form or another since at least 1579.
None of the current exterior is original, although the hotel’s core could very well be the 16th Century. With that in mind, it is no wonder that this is one of the most haunted places in West Sussex.
One of the spirits who are believed to haunt the hotel is the ghost of Mark Hurston, a former night watchman who died after drinking poisoned wine. It is thought that this was planted for him to consume either by someone planning on breaking into the hotel or perhaps by a disgruntled guest that he had woken up!
Since his death, staff and guests alike have reported strange occurrences, including a broom cupboard door that keeps being left open despite being locked each night, lights turning on and off, and strange figures appearing and disappearing. Is Mark still patrolling the property even in death?Book a Room
5. Chanctonbury Ring, South Downs, West Sussex
When looking at haunted West Sussex, one of the strangest areas would be Chanctonbury Ring. This ancient hill fort dominates a hilltop above the village of Washington inside of South Downs National Park.
Chanctonbury Ring has an excellent position both from a military and a historical point of view. Over the years, it has been the site of several paranormal encounters and other mysteries, including UFOs!
In 1764, a young Charles Goring decided to plant Beech trees on top of the Chanctonbury hill-fort and his plans were met with public outcry from those who said that it would spoil the view of the South Downs. Charles went ahead despite this, and by the time he died in 1829, his trees had reached maturity.
However, as the trees grew, the roots disturbed some previously undiscovered ruins of a Romano-British temple buried on the site! A complete excavation took place in the 1900s, revealing a temple with a court that had sunk into the soil.
Several other significant finds include coins and objects dating back to Nero (54AD) and Gratian (375AD).
All of this is interesting but not exactly paranormal, although this unique history has contributed to the activity at the site. Chanctonbury Ring has long been associated not just with paranormal activity but also with witchcraft and UFOS.
One of the most compelling reports comes from a paranormal research group that camped at the location in 1974. One of them walked through the centre of the ring only to be lifted a few feet off the ground by an unseen force.
He was in some pain and was heard to beg ‘no more’ over and over again until he was suddenly dropped to the ground.
There have also been many UFO sightings over the last 50 years, with many reports only involving strange unidentified lights in the sky.
However, in October 1972, one man was walking in Chanctonbury Ring with friends when they saw what they thought was a bonfire.
However, on approaching, they realised that the dull red flickering light came from an object that hung above them in the sky!
6. Amberley Castle, Amberley, West Sussex
The Amberley Castle Hotel is a Grade I listed 12th-century building which started as a timber-framed hunting lodge in 1103. It was upgraded over the years and became a fortified manor house in 1377 when the Bishop of Chichester owned it.
Even after the Reformation, the church still owned the building, but it was least out to the crown. The castle fell into disrepair after it was partially destroyed during the English civil war, but in 1893 the Duke of Norfolk leased the property and began the renovation work. These days, the castle has been transformed into a luxury hotel.
Amberley Castle Hotel is reputed to be haunted by a young girl named Emily.
The story goes that Emily was working at the castle and fell hopelessly in love with a Bishop living there. Emily became pregnant in the very early stages of their relationship, and the Bishop immediately rejected her.
The girl was heartbroken and climbed the spiral staircases to the uppermost part of the battlements, where she jumped to her death.
Her ghostly presence is now felt around the battlements, particularly in the ‘Hertsmonceux Room’.Book a Room
7. Preston Manor, Brighton, East Sussex
There are dozens, maybe even hundreds, of haunted manors scattered throughout Great Britain, but Preston Manor is very much in a league of its own. The manor’s history dates back to the 13th Century, with its construction believed to have occurred in 1250.
Since then, it has seen many changes, growing in size and reputation, and is today a Grade II* listed building owned by Brighton and Hove City Council.
Owing to the site’s history, it is no surprise that the manor is said to be home to a variety of spirits, and the countless renovations carried out over the centuries are unlikely to have done anything but increase the infamous paranormal activity.
Among the many ghosts of Preston Manor is The White Lady, who first began appearing to visitors and residents in the 16th Century. Reports of the white-clad figure increased in frequency during the occupation of the Stanford family, who lived in Preston Manor for so long that they were nearly synonymous with it.
The family was aware of the ghost when they purchased the manor but didn’t think much of it until Eleanor Stanford’s children encountered it in 1896. The child attempted to touch the spectre, but it vanished before her eyes.
A guest of the Stanford family also claimed to have encountered the spirit during a stay at the manor. According to the guest, The White Lady spoke to him. She revealed that she had been a nun at the mansion during its days as a monastery and was excommunicated in the 1500s, later buried on unconsecrated land.
Shortly after this revelation, builders working on the house uncovered the bones of a middle-aged woman. The skeleton was dated to the 16th Century and received a secret burial in St. Peter’s churchyard.
8. Hellingly Hospital, Hailsham, East Sussex
Hellingly Hospital started life as the East Sussex County Asylum. It opened its doors in 1903 after the County Authority of East Sussex elected to build a new lunatic asylum to combat the severe overcrowding in Haywards Heath Asylum.
Like all psychiatric hospitals at the time, Hellingly Hospital was remarkably cruel to its inmates, which is a much better way to describe those who were sent there than “patients”.
Those deemed mentally unstable were subjected to various unpleasant treatments, and a lack of health and safety guidelines led to frequent disease outbreaks.
Advancements in medicine and ethics resulted in many changes to the hospital, but it never really achieved anything substantial, and the main building was finally shut down in 1994.
Despite the mass exodus of staff and patients, it seems that some were unable to find their way out of Hellingly Hospital. The abandoned building became the focus of hundreds of ghost stories and was a popular site for urban explorers.
Many daring explorers who visited Hellingly Hospital during its years of abandonment reported such paranormal activity as thunderous footsteps echoing throughout the building, unexplainable mists, and feeling physically ill.
The majority of people who entered the building reported hearing dozens of anguished voices, crying, yelling, and screaming for help. Some visitors even claim to have experienced time slips while inside the hospital walls.
Only a couple of years ago, the abandoned building which was at one time Hellingly Hospital was demolished to make room for a housing estate, though why anyone would want to live there is beyond me.
9. Pevensey Castle, Pevensey, East Sussex
Pevensey Castle dates back to the Roman occupation. It is known that it was constructed in 290 AD, but its original use remains a topic of debate to this day.
After Roman rule ended, the castle fell into a state of disrepair before being taken over by the Normans in 1066, from which point it was continuously occupied until the 16th Century.
After those medieval residents left, Pevensey Castle returned to its abandoned state and remained so until it came into the hands of the government in the 1920s. During World War Two, it became a surprisingly functional location when machine-gun posts were added to the castle walls to protect the area from German attacks.
Among the many reported ghosts of the castle is a lady dressed in white who has been encountered numerous times throughout the centuries. The most famous sighting of this particular white lady came when she appeared to a group of campers who had made their beds in a field near the castle.
According to the campers, the woman passed by them on her way to the castle walls, appearing sad and lost. Some pursued her to ensure her wellbeing but turned back once they realised she was not walking to the castle but gliding.
There have also been reports of a phantom army being heard approaching the castle walls. The human eye has not seen the spirits, but there is no mistaking the sounds of marching and chanting, which have become synonymous with conquest and defence.
There is no way to tell which period the invisible army is from. Still, some suggest it could be an entirely new army comprised of the soldiers who lost their lives in the many bloody battles which have taken place at Pevensey Castle.
10. Michelham Priory, Hailsham, East Sussex
Founded in 1229, Michelham Priory was originally used as an Augustinian friary, a role which it served right up to the Desolation of the Monasteries in the 16th Century.
After this, the church on the site was demolished, and the main building was turned into a place of residence for various members of the British upper class.
It evolved into a farmhouse sometime around the 19th Century and, much like Pevensey Castle, found new life as a base during the Second World War.
Michelham Priory is believed to be haunted by several spirits of varying intentions. One of the most famous ghosts is Thomas Sackville, who owned the manor at one point in time.
Sackville does not seem to have been a particularly pleasant man and continues his bad behaviour in the afterlife. He is said to get his kicks tormenting, not just those who visit the manor but his fellow spirits.
A frequent recipient of Sackville’s wrath is the spirit of a young girl, who is purported to take refuge in a tiny space at the top of the staircase to avoid the former Lord of the Manor.
Michelham Priory has been the scene of much poltergeist activity, though it is unclear if it is caused by Thomas Sackville or another unidentified but equally malevolent spirit.
Visitors have reported being pushed and struck by unseen forces, as well as seeing doors and windows slam shut, seemingly of their own accord.
Read more about the ghosts of Michelham Priory.
11. The Mermaid Inn, Rye, East Sussex
The Mermaid Inn is another Grade II* listed building in East Sussex, and the particularly avid paranormal fans reading this will be happy to hear it is still taking bookings.
This 15th Century building is unlike any other haunted hotel in the world as it does not simply offer one or two ghosts to do the whole building. On the contrary, it boasts a spirit for almost every room in the inn, meaning the chances of you sharing your bed with an entity from the afterlife drastically increase.
Room 1 is purported to be haunted by the spirit of a white lady who sits in a chair by the fireplace, watching guests as they sleep. Many who have stayed in the room have complained to the hotel staff about waking up to find their clothes or any other personal belongings left on the chair overnight soaking wet.
Room 16 is said to have been a key scene in a fight to the death between two men who, for whatever reason, deemed it necessary to duel inside The Mermaid Inn.
The feuding men fought throughout the inn until one of them was killed and tossed into the dungeon, where his ghost is said to haunt to this day. It seems the departed dueller is a sore loser, as he has taken it upon himself to terrify anybody who ventures into the basement of The Mermaid Inn.
One employee was moved to resign after encountering the spirit while tending to the basement fireplace.
Room 17 is supposedly haunted by the wife of notorious gang leader George Gray. Mrs Gray is said to sit in the corner of the room and watch guests while they sleep, much like the slippery ghost of Room 1.
These are just some of the ghosts said to inhabit The Mermaid Inn. If you want to thoroughly experience the spooky goings-on in the building, it may be necessary to spend a night there yourself.Book a Room