The Cauld Lad of Hylton Castle, one of Sunderland’s most famous ghost stories

What is known as the Cauld Lad is said to be a ghost which inhabits Hylton Castle. Derived from a local pronunciation of the word “Cold” as “Cauld”, the spirit is purportedly that of a young boy named Robert Skelton who worked in the stables around the year 1609.

As with most ghost stories, there are many different versions and myths concerning the story behind why he died, but all of them run with the theme that he was murdered by the Baron Hylton for some reason as some form of revenge for a misdeed, which the Baron subsequently got away with. This includes either making advances on his daughter, failing to prepare his horse for an important journey, or other things.

There is nonetheless some basis in fact that the 13th Baron Hylton did get pardoned in that same year on accusations of killing someone with a farm scythe. The story goes that a farmhand gave the baron an alibi that Robert died in an accident.

The Cauld Lad is said to have then became a vengeful spirit who has acted as a poltergeist around the castle, or has been heard saying “I’m cauld.” He is also said to sing the following song:

Wae’s me, wae’s me, (“Woe is me, woe is me,”)
The acorn’s not yet fallen from the tree,
That’s to grow the wood,
That’s to make the cradle,
That’s to rock the bairn (“That will rock the baby”),
That’s to grow to the man
That’s to lay me! (“That will exorcise me!”)

Claims of the haunting persisted for centuries, including stories that he would trash the castle’s kitchen, break dishes and empty people’s chamber pots.

However, the story goes that one day, a cook in the castle and his wife encountered the spirit and heard his cries that he was cold. They decided to help him by leaving out a cloak for him to wear.

As it goes, he responded by singing another song saying “Here’s a cloak and here’s a hood; The Cauld Lad of Hylton will do no more good.”

Some say after this, he disappeared, but inevitably people continue to claim they have heard the ghost of the Cauld Lad…