All ghosts frighten most people, but the ghosts of children, whose young lives have been
tragically cut short, excite pity as well. There is always tragedy in the death of a child.
In olden times there were many of these young ghosts, but it is an interesting fact that the
number of ghostly children has considerably decreased through the centuries, and the reasons for
this are not hard to find.
Peoples of the ancient world did not care for their children in the way we do in modern
times. It was not unusual to sacrifice a child to ensure protection from the gods and to ward off
evil spirits. Children were used as foundation sacrifices and walled-up live in buildings, even in
churches, and small skeletons have often been found in ancient walls as horrifying evidence of
this pagan practice of long ago. The ghosts of these unfortunate children were relied upon to
haunt the buildings in which they were immured and ward off the evil spirits. In some cases the
haunting has gone on for centuries.
Relatives of the unwanted could be equally cruel to children in their charge, and everyone
knows about the legend of the Babes in the Wood, who were Norfolk children and whose rascally
uncle paid two cut-throats to take them into Wayland Wood and murder them. However, their
innocence and sweetness so touched the heart of one of the paid killers that he persuaded the other
that instead of killing the children they should leave them to their fate. The children never found
their way out of the wood, and ever after it was haunted by the two little ghosts wailing and
bemoaning their fate.
Another well-known story is that of the little Princes in the Tower-twelve-year-old
Edward V and his ten-year-old brother, Richard Duke of York-who were believed to have been
murdered at the command of their uncle, Richard III. According to the narrative of Sir Thomas
More, the Constable of the Tower, Sir Richard Brackenbury, had refused to have anything to do
with Richard's plan to kill the Princes. The unsavory task was said to have been undertaken by
Sir James Tyrrell, one of whose ancestors was said to have murdered William Rufus. Tyrrell
hired two ruffians, Miles Forest and John Dighton, who smothered the boys with their pillows as
they slept. The Bloody Tower was haunted for centuries by these two pathetic boy ghosts. In
1674, during certain structural alterations at the Tower, a wooden chest was discovered inside
which were found two small skeletons. It was presumed at the time that these were the remains of
the two Princes, and Charles II had them buried in Henry' VII's chapel, after which the Princes'
ghosts were never seen again in the Bloody Tower.
The cessation of the haunting might have been considered reason enough to believe that
the skeletons found in 1674 actually were those of young Edward V and his brother. But the
authorities needed further proof apparently and the urn containing the skeletons was opened and
examined in 1933. A celebrated anatomist concluded that the remains were those of two brothers
of the age of the young Princes, and that the skull of the elder boy bore traces of death by
suffocation. In December, 1964, the remains of eight-year-old Anne Mowbray, the child bride of
the younger Prince, Richard, Duke of York, were found in a casket on a Stepney building site. It
is not known how this unfortunate little girl met her death. Some think that she, too, may have
been murdered, thus completing the circle of death which encompassed the innocent lives of these
tragic royal children.
It is worth noting incidentally that the examination of the remains of the Princes in the
Tower in 1933 was completed in five days. Three months after the discovery of the body of Anne
Mowbray in 1964, the experts were still at work on the remains, despite protests by Lord
Mowbray, Anne descendant. But the authorities pleaded historical and scientific necessity.
In medieval times children were often given in marriage at a tender age for political and
other reasons. Girls were considered to be grown up at fifteen and it is evident that they ripened
more quickly in those days. Well-to-do families often sent their daughters away to be educated at
a convent where they would learn to read and write, spin, embroider and sing.
Boys were also boarded at monasteries, or they might be sent away as pages to a
nobleman's household, or taught at home by the chaplain. One boy who was sent to be a page at
Hayne, in Devon, ended up haunting the Manor where he had worked and from where he had
vanished together with a quantity of his master's silver.
When the master first started to see the ghost of his missing page boy he took no notice,
thinking that he was dreaming, or that his imagination was playing tricks, as he had been
considerably upset by the loss of his valuables. But the page-boy ghost was not to be ignored and
appeared more and more persistently, always at the foot of his bed and beckoning to his old
master as though asking him to follow him when he left his room.
Impatient at his continual loss of sleep, the man eventually got out of bed and followed the
ghostly boy-page, who went ahead along the passage, down the stairs, across the hall and through
the great front door, constantly turning back and beckoning, obviously anxious to lead his former
master to some place. The man opened the front door and went out into the night to find the
apparition awaiting him in the garden. The boy ghost beckoned again and continued on its way,
always a little ahead of the man. Whom he led into a nearby wood. Eventually the ghost stopped
at the foot of a large hollow tree, and there he vanished.
Convinced now that the ghost of the page-boy was trying to tell him something, the man
had the tree chopped down, and inside the hollow trunk were the remains of the page boy, who
obviously had been murdered. Underneath the body was some of the missing silver, the recovery
of which, with the help of the ghostly page-boy, eventually led to the culprit-the butler, who had
been taking the silver and hiding it in the hollow tree piece by piece until he could dispose of it.
The page-boy had found out and the butler murdered him to silence him and put his body in the
tree along with what was left of the stolen silver. The page-boy had returned from the dead to
clear his name.
Some little ghosts are able to convey to the living what has happened to them, or what
appears to worry them. Others are not able to do so, as in the case of the of the unhappy little girl
who haunts St. Helen's Church in Worcester. She is often to be seen wearing dark clothes,
groveling about on the floor of the aisle as though searching for something. She has been seen be
several visitors to the church, most of whom do not realize that she is not of this world. Her
white, unhappy little face as she searches the floor with tears in her eyes has brought many
sympathetic words from visitors who want to know what the little girl has lost and whether they
can help her find it. Some have even offered her money, thinking that she looked ill and undernourished,
but any approach always sends her running off in the direction of the chancery where
she disappears. But she returns again another day to begin her search all over again. No one
knows who she is or what she is looking for.