Posted on 31st July 2014
72 miles into my journey and a short stop over to Skipton now. Skipton Castle dates mainly from the fourteenth to the seventeenth centuries but it’s dungeons are believed to be haunted by the ghosts of prisoners who were kept there during the fifteenth century.
It got me thinking about what the prisoners of today leave hanging in the air once they are gone. In a novel I have been working on for some time, set within prison, I described the observations of a prisoner leaving his cell:
“The wing had the look and feel of a church. It was long, thin and tall, with a pointed roof and an atmosphere thick with lost hope and decaying dreams.”
I don’t believe for a second in ghosts in the traditional sense, but I do believe that emotions have the capacity to colour the air around you, and it is that lost hope and those decaying dreams that I believe form the ghosts of prisons past and present. Under those conditions the atmosphere actually feels tangible. You can truly feel it. You can nearly touch it. And some places are worse than others.
I remember the worst prison I’ve ever been in – Stoke Heath. I’m sure part of the feeling in that place was due to the wild nature of the young short term prisoners, and another part came down to the invariably hostile demeanour of staff there. But even my visitors commented on how thick the atmosphere felt within those walls, from the second they walked through the front gate.
However, none of that is due to the ghosts of people. In reality, it is merely the ghost of hope itself.