The last recorded sighting of the Grey Man of Bellister Castle was over one hundred and fifty years ago, but before that time the Castle grounds and the forests around were known to be well and truly haunted by the Grey Man, whose appearance it is said foretold of death.
The origins of this spectre are shrouded in folklore, but it seems that during the reign of Elizabeth I, a wandering old minstrel came to Bellister Castle looking for shelter and food, for which he was willing to pay in song and story. However, the young Baron of Bellister drank too much, and his wine-fuddled mind began to play tricks on him, rousing paranoia and suspicions that perhaps the old man was an agent of his enemies, come to spy on him.
Perhaps the minstrel read the baron’s intentions in his eyes, or perhaps he noted the mood change, but after the castle settled down to sleep, the old man decided he’d chance his luck in the storm and headed out into the forest to find shelter. However, still fuelled by alcohol and suspicion, the Baron sent for him, only to find that he had fled. More convinced than ever that his guest had been a spy, the Baron let loose his hunting dogs… and they caught up with the old minstrel where he sheltered in the forest, and so the tale goes, ripping him apart.
Soon afterwards the Baron lived to regret his deed when the ghost of the minstrel became his shadow, following him wherever he went and looming over him with a stench of death and the wounds the dogs had inflicted still livid on his ghostly skin. The constant months of being stalked by his victim finally became too much for the Baron of Bellister, and he died an early death.
Following his death, the Castle changed hands and a new family moved in: but the Grey Man could find no peace and continued to prowl the castle and the surrounding lands for generations to come, the tortured soul of the minstrel appearing before travellers and farmers alike with hideously contorted features and a wail on his spectral lips.
– Originally published as an article in Otherworld North East: Ghosts and Hauntings Explored (Author: Tony Liddell, Publisher: Tyne Bridge Publishing, 2004)