Constructed between 1531-1536 and commissioned by King Henry VIII, St James’s Palace was built upon the site of the former leper hospital in dedication to Saint James the Less. It is said to be haunted by the ghost of Joseph Sellis, Valet to Ernest Augustus, Duke of Cumberland, who himself was the brother of George IV and William IV.
It’s most famous haunting dates back to the early hours of May 31st 1810 in which the Duke of Cumberland was woken up from deep sleep at 2:30 AM, before he knew it, he was being attacked viciously, a sharp bladed weapon began slashing away at his padded nightcap and gown. He tried his best to deflect the attacks, as a result his hands and wrists had been cut, out of desperation, he let out a scream for help. Cornelius Neale, Valet to the Duke, had come running to give aid, as he got there, he noticed the Dukes sabre completely covered in blood, laying next to the door.
The doctor was called upon for his services, and as the wounds were being tended to, the Duke had called for Joseph Sellis to be summoned. Two servants were sent to wake him up however, by the time they had got to his door, they were surprised by a loud gurgling sound from inside the room. Upon entering the room, they had found the corpse of Joseph Sellis laying on his bed, his throat cut back all the way to the spine, his head almost severed from the body. An inquest had been assembled in a rush and the conclusion had been made that the dead Valet had attempted to take the life of the Duke and out of guilt, hurried back to his room and committed suicide.
Gossip had begun to spread around the court however, and there was talk of a cover up, suggesting the Duke of Cumberland himself had murdered Sellis. Also, there was evidence suggesting Sellis’s hands were clean and that there had been bloodstained water found in his wash basin. Many people had begun to wonder if he would have had the time or be in the right frame of mind to wash his hands having just almost completely cut his own head off.
Several versions of events had soon began to circulate as to what really might have occurred. One version that keeps cropping up is that Sellis had walked in on the Duke with his wife in bed and in the middle of the ongoing struggle, he had been murdered in order to prevent the exposure of Ernest’s adulterous nature. Another story suggests the Duke had slept with Sellis’s daughter, upon realizing she was pregnant, she had committed suicide and when the Duke was confronted by Sellis, he decided to kill him in order to avoid a scandal from breaking out.
It is said that up to this day, Joseph Sellis’s ghost haunts St James’s Palace, apparitions of him are often seen sitting up in bed with his jaw hanging over his slit throat, some visitors have even claimed to have seen a dark figure roaming the corridors with the smell of fresh blood accompanying it.
At the scene where Joseph Sellis had died, staff at the palace have persistently complained about the feeling of being watched, certain areas of the room that are particularly cold, items going missing and reappearing in strange places. Even guests without any prior knowledge to the buildings history have picked up on the strange atmosphere in the room.
St James’s Palace is currently the residence of Charles, Prince of Wales whenever he is in London.