Curiosity enticed me there. I spotted it while passing by on the M2.
Of colossal height, it dominated the landscape
for miles and I found it irresistibly intriguing.
Medieval knights were pathetic people:
forever coveting their neighbours' lands, were
never satisfied with their own no matter
how much they already held.
I felt a need to get inside their heads,
to understand how they could live with themselves
after inflicting such carnage on their fellow man.
So I took the next exit and doubled back,
then followed the brown information signs
until I eventually arrived at the castle gates.
Close to, it was a gaunt, gutted monstrosity
composed of time-worn greyish stone.
Unglazed windows, like the eyeless sockets
of some macabre decaying skull,
gave me a sense of impending doom.
As I ascended steep steps
to the keep entrance and ticket office,
the disturbing notion struck me
that if I entered there would be no going back,
that I'd be trapped in the fabric of this sombre place
for all eternity. I almost turned and walked away,
but a thirst for knowledge overrode my fears.
The audio tour transported
this second millennia psyche back
to Good Friday 1264, where crusader Ralph de Capo
was bravely defending his castle
against the onslaught of Simon de Montfort,
Earl of Leicester, and his men.
I paused the commentary for a moment
in order to picture the bloody scene
in my imagination.
Only the odd flitting shadow, and
a half-heard whisper issued from the unseen life
that lurked in every corner.
I was disappointed, had expected to sense more
in this place so steeped in history.
Turning a corner, I entered a narrow passageway.
In the dank semi darkness a young female
rushed clean through me in an icy chill.
A glimpse of long black hair and torn clothing
barely had time to register in my brain
before she leapt through a window
and fell to the ground below.
'Blanche!' I blurted out, wondering why I'd said that.
Fascinated, I turned back to the commentary,
then later discovered that Lady Blanche de Warrenne,
Ralph de Capo's betrothed,
was rumoured to haunt the keep
sporting an arrow through her heart.
But I saw no arrow, just
a desperate, suicidal young woman.
I ascended spiral steps to the battlements,
my mind still immersed in thirteenth century events.
Then I saw him.
Out of time - both theirs and mine - his attire
and longish flowing hair set him somewhere
in the nineteen-seventies.
He appeared 'high' on something.
Alcohol? Drugs? Perhaps both.
There was a suggestion of others with him,
a group of them.
'I can do it,' he slurred, 'I know I can!'
'Prove it then,' a female voice mocked, 'Just do it!'
He stepped over the parapet,
seemed to hesitate for a moment:
then knelt on the edge of the pigeon net
that spanned the entire top of the keep,
before carefully stretching out flat on his stomach.
The net bowed but held his weight.
My heart leapt into my throat as I watched him
slowly begin to edge forward.
His companions audibly gasped.
I wanted to shout at him to come back, but
found myself unable to either move or speak.
So all I could do was watch in trepidation.
When he was roughly halfway across, the net creaked
and began to tear. I saw the look of terror on his face
as he began scrambling on hands and knees,
desperately trying to reach the far side wall.
Just a metre or so from safety, the net bowed,
distorted into a grotesque shape
then finally gave way beneath him.
Screams from the others hung in the ether
long after they'd faded back into their own time.
Sick to the stomach, I rushed to the edge and looked over.
Thirty-odd metres below, through the now intact net,
I saw a young man in flared jeans gazing up at me.
The expression of bitter regret on that sad young face
I felt such grief for his unlived years,
and deep sadness for the folly of youth
that had thrown them away.
And it really, really hurt.
The custodian later confirmed that there have been
two accidental deaths in Rochester Castle keep in
One, in 2010, was that of a forty-year-old man
who fell from the stage during a concert.
The other, years earlier, fits the description
of the younger man I encountered.
However, despite extensive research on the Internet
I have as yet failed to find any record of this
earlier incident, only of the one in 2010.
So if anyone does have any knowledge of
either the accident itself or of the identity of
the man involved, then I would be so grateful
if you would contact me by email.