LONDON Some claim to have heard her screams as she begs for mercy from her unforgiving husband. Others have seen her running through a gallery.
For centuries, visitors and staff at Hampton Court Palace in west London have reported encounters with Catherine Howard, fifth wife of Henry VIII, one of England’s famous ghosts.
The gallery she is said to haunt is the center of one of the biggest and most scientific investigations into ghosts. This week, experts from the University of Hertfordshire in England are using sensors to monitor temperature, light and electromagnetic fields in the palace’s haunted gallery. Visitors will be asked about any strange experiences.
The investigators do not expect to film Catherine Howard, but they are hoping to find a scientific explanation of why some rooms affect people.
Catherine was beheaded for adultery with Thomas Culpepper, a courtier. She was locked in the palace while Henry deliberated on her fate. One day, legend has it, she escaped and ran along the 40-foot gallery to hammer on the king’s door, begging for mercy. Guards dragged her screaming to her cell. She was sent to the Tower of London and beheaded on Feb. 13, 1542.
The scene is informally known as the haunted gallery. At least two women have fainted at the same spot in the corridor, complaining of cold and feeling as if they had been kicked. Others have heard noises or seen an apparition fleeing down the gallery.
Richard Wiseman, who leads the researchers, said: “We will be asking people to walk through the gallery and mark down where they may have felt anything unusual. That should give us a few locations and some control areas where nothing has been reported.”
His team will use thermal cameras, electromagnetic sensors and light sensors to monitor ghostly spots. “We will be able to see if the spots are colder than the control spots and, more importantly, if there are any interesting electromagnetic fields.”
Illinois University studies suggest that weak electromagnetic fields from power cables may affect the brain, triggering “microseizures.” Mr. Wiseman said: “These are reported as being tiny amounts of brain activity. Some people say they have odd tastes in their mouths, or feel a drop in temperature.
“These experiences are similar to those reported by people who believe that they are having a ghostly encounter. The team wants to see if any areas where strange encounters are reported have unusual electromagnetic fields.”
Some spots in the gallery are linked to ghost sightings, but the team has not been told where they are. More than 1,000 visitors to Hampton Court are expected to take part in the experiment, which runs all week.