Fort St Angelo has a vast and chequered history. It was originally a castle known as Castrum Maris and its history has been charted as far back as 1241. At that time, the castle belonged to the di Nava family and was virtually the only major construction on the peninsula.
In 1530, the Knights of the Order of St John came to Malta and Grandmaster L’Isle Adam had his first residence built within the castle. It was subsequently embellished through the reign of the next two grand-masters. It was a bustling hive of activity at the time of the British, with the victualling yard and Navn I Bakery based nearby. But the war changed all that, reducing much of its majesty into ruins.
The fort received 69 direct bomb hits during World War II.
The officers billeted there had been moved to new premises, as the ones they had were too far from the air-raid shelters, and a series of tunnels was set up to hold all the personnel.
By the end of 1942, the vacated dormitories were being used as a wardroom and dining room ..
On this particular day, the ward was full of Sick personnel. It may have been the war, but even so, ill health still struck.
The ward was allocated to those recovering from relatively prosaic problems like gastric flu, pneumonia, appendicitis. Some of the men were propped up in their beds, reading, chatting, playing cards. A few of them wandered around in their dressing-gowns and slippers. All of a sudden all room went cold and still. The men looked up in surprise. The figure of a woman appeared out of nowhere at the end of the room. She floated across the air, looking at the men with a worried expression on her face, her white, flowing dress drifting behind her as light as a feather. She swept her arm anxiouslly in the air, as if calling the men to her.
They looked at her in stunned amazement. Was this the famous ghost of the Grey Lady?
But the men did not have time to worry about the manifestation. The woman’s gestures were becoming more and more frantic and she floated towards the doorway.
One man spoke up.
“I think she’s trying to tell us something,” he said. “She seems to be trying to tell us to follow her.”
“Do you think we should?” asked another.
And then the woman disappeared. The men thought about it for a few seconds and then decided to follow. One by one they got out of their beds and staggered and limped their way outside.
No sooner had they walked out past the amazed nurses than a bomb fell on the ward.
A lone plane had managed to evade the anti-air-craft fire long enough to get over the Grand Harbour and drop its lethal cargo. Had the men not walked out of the ward the moment they did, they would all have been wiped out.
In his book “The Ghost of Malta”, Joseph Attard traces the legend of the Grey Lady of Fort St Angelo.
He identifies the Grey Lady as one of the two women in the life of Captain di Nava. At one point, it seems that her attention became unwelcome and he ordered two of his guards to get rid of her. She was killed and her body thrown into a dungeon.
For the past 450 years, her ghost has apparently haunted the fort, seen in various places. There would be tell-tale signs: a cold blast of air, the slowly opening doors, and the rustle of skirts. Many people have reportedly seen her, including young children who describe her as beautiful but sad.
Restorations a few years ago uncovered the entrance to the dungeons, and the story goes that three skeletons were found there, two male and one female. Was it the Grey Lady’s?
This post was written by Albert Saliba