A ghoulish tale from Alnwick’s past is to be brought to life in a new spine-tingling Channel 4 series starting this weekend.
Tony Robinson’s Gods and Monsters investigates’ the extraordinary and shocking beliefs that built Britain – and helped change our history. From the brutal human sacrifices of Iron Age Britain through to the stomach-churning supernatural medicine of the Middle Ages and the horrifying witch hunts and exorcisms of the 16th and 17th centuries, Tony’s journey will take him to some of the darkest moments of our past.
And few are more hair-raising than the tale of the (alleged) Alnwick zombie as told in this Saturday’s first episode, which delves into the macabre world of the undead.
Tony, best known as Baldrick in the hugely successful BBC comedy Blackadder – the first series of which was filmed at Alnwick Castle – and as the enthusiastic presenter of the ground breaking (literally) archaeological programme, Time Team, said: “The first references to belief in staking the undead to stop them rising again are in the 12th century near the border with Scotland.
“There is a story that this rather dodgy bloke thought his wife was having an affair, so he crept up into the rafters at Alnwick Castle to spy on her and, sure enough, saw her having a bit of hanky-panky and slipped out of the rafters, crashed to the floor and died, whereupon he was buried.
“But then he broke out of the confines of his coffin at night and went into Alnwick breathing pestilence and spraying blood at people, before disappearing back into the grave. Eventually the local villagers ripped up the earth and plunged a stake into him.”
Perhaps even more strange – if that is possible – the 65-year-old actor reveals that until the 1800s anyone could seek permission from a magistrate to open up the coffin of a suicide victim and stake them so they couldn’t rise again.
There is, apparently, documented evidence of at least seven cases of that happening.
Gods and Monsters, which runs to five episodes, uses a mixture of experiments, demonstrations and dramatic reconstructions to reveal the terrifying world our forefathers really thought they lived in.
A world almost everyone, from royalty to commoners, believed was populated by demons, sprites, walking corpses, witches and evil spirits, all out to do them harm.
Each programme focuses on a major belief of our ancestors – the undead, evil spirits, supernatural causes of disease, witches, and gods.
Tony Robinsons’s Gods and Monsters starts on Channel 4 on November 26 at 8.15pm.