First of all I must apologise for the length of time between posting here of late. I have plenty of notes and ideas for future pieces to post here on Yo Liverpool but not very much free time do do so at the moment. Hopefully, I'll find a bit more time to research and type up some new articles soon. If there's anything you'd like to see covered here then please do drop me a line via the link at the bottom of the post - I'd love to hear from you.
For now I'm afraid all I can offer is another piece from the vaults which I hope you'll enjoy nonetheless.
This article first published in Paranormal Magazine #27, July 2008
Though today’s Liverpool is very much a city looking towards its future, the settlement is blessed with a rich and complicated history. Officially founded by the notorious King John of England in 1204, Liverpool’s roots actually stretch back to the 1st century Viking invasion of Britain, and beyond. As with many ancient settlements, Liverpool has more than its fair share of haunted locations and, with so many new visitors drawn to the city for the European Capital of Culture celebrations, there is an increasing demand for information about these paranormal places. The following are just a few of the city’s many easily accessible sites which have supernatural stories attached to them.
Speke Hall is a half-timbered mansion on the south east border of Liverpool currently open to the public under the management of the National Trust. The oldest surviving parts of the building date from the 15th century but the mansion has been re-modelled and added to many times during its existence. In fact, a hall was recorded on the exact same spot where the building now stands in the Domesday Book of 1086. Speke Hall’s resident spectre is known as The Grey Lady and is often said to be the spirit of a woman who lived in the house during the 18th century. The story goes that the woman cast her infant son out of one of the hall’s high windows in a fit of despair having been given some terrible news. Unable to live with what she had done, the woman is supposed to have rushed down into the Great Hall and taken her own life. According to Peter Underwood’s This Haunted Isle (Javelin Books, 1984) Speke Hall’s last private owner Miss Adeline Watt, who lived in the mansion until the 1940s, saw The Grey Lady on numerous occasions. The ghost reportedly even made an appearance at one of Miss Watt’s dinner parties (held in the Great Hall) and spoke with guests before eventually disappearing through a wall. Sightings of the Lady have also been reported in the bedroom where the infanticide is reputed to have taken place. Now known as the Tapestry Room, the bedroom houses a wooden Victorian cradle, alleged to have been seen moving as if rocked by unseen hands
The Royal Court Theatre as it is today was constructed in 1938 on the site of another playhouse which tragically burned to the ground. Standing on the corner of Roe Street, the art deco theatre is one of Liverpool city centre’s many iconic buildings. The Royal Court is reputed to be haunted by an ex-employee known simply as Old Les. Les is said to have been a caretaker and general handyman at the theatre who met his end on the building’s roof one bitter winter’s day after slipping on a patch of ice whilst carrying out his duties. For decades now, any unexplained movement of objects, sudden noises or general weirdness occurring within the building have always been attributed to Old Les. As well as being a celebrated theatre, the Royal Court is also home to the Rawhide Comedy Club and in October 2006 its promoter, Iain Christie and his colleague Mike Chapple, gave the Liverpool Echo their account of a personal encounter with the spirit. Ian and Mike decided they would test the stories out by seeing if they could see the ghost in action and went up into the old disused part of the theatre where the caretaker’s office used to be. The pair asked Les to open the office door if he was there and, sure enough, the door swung open. Not quite convinced, Iain then requested that the spirit close the door and Les apparently obliged. Chapple was reported as saying “It was definitely scary. And no, it wasn’t faked. There was no-one else around”.
Saint James’ Park lies at the bottom of a disused sandstone quarry at the foot of Liverpool Anglican Cathedral. Formerly known as Saint James’ Cemetery, the area was consecrated in 1829. The final burial at Saint James’ took place in July 1936, after which close to sixty thousand people had been laid to rest in the cemetery. After lying neglected for decades the graveyard was re-opened as a public park in 1972. Now a Grade 1 listed Conservation Area, Saint James’ Park has been managed since 2001 in conjunction with the Friends of St. James’ - a group made up of local residents. Mike Faulkner who runs the website www.stjamescemetery.co.uk recently informed me that “we have had paranormal groups visit the grounds on several occasions. Two groups felt the strong presence of a nun or matron not allowing them to go any further”. Though neither group seems to have made the connection, Mike wondered if the presence might be linked with some of the many orphanage graves in which scores of young children were buried; could their worldly protectors somehow still be watching over them all these years later? Saint James’ is also home to The Huskisson Monument – a memorial dedicated to the memory of William Huskisson who was the world’s first passenger railway fatality having been killed in 1830 by George Stevenson’s famous Rocket locomotive. The sound of heavy footsteps has reportedly been heard echoing inside the hollow monument as if someone were pacing impatiently within.
The Hanover Hotel is one of several historic public houses in Liverpool offering spirits of a somewhat unconventional kind. The hotel has stood on the corner of Hanover Street for more than 130 years, prior to which the building housed a bank. There is a story that during the 1960s the hotel was used as a temporary safehouse for a woman who was supposed to give testimony against a senior member of Liverpool’s police force. The woman is said to have been murdered in room number 42 on the eve of her appearance in court and her ghost is reputed to haunt the hotel ever since. The story was dismissed as a mere urban legend by new owners who took over the very dilapidated pub in the 1990s; largely due to the fact that the room numbers only went up to 41. However, during the course of their restorations, workers are said to have uncovered a bricked up doorway leading to an extra bedroom at the end of a corridor. Rather than turn the hidden room back into a tiny bedroom, the current landlord had it converted into an en suite bathroom instead. A mysterious man with slicked back hair and a moustache, thought by many to be the woman in room 42’s killer, is also said to haunt the pub. One of the bar’s current regulars told me his story of having seen the moustached man sitting in an alcove one evening a few years back. The man was alone and glaring angrily at the drinker who eventually looked away, not wishing to cause an argument. When the patron glanced back in the man’s direction he found that the glowering figure was now seated in a nearby but wholly separate niche which could only have been accessed by his walking past the drinker’s table. Realising that there was something odd going on, the patron asked his companion, who was sitting with her back to the moustached man, to turn around and look on the count of three. When the woman turned her head however, there was no-one to be seen. Speaking to the landlady of the Hanover the next day, the drinker learned of the story of the murder and was told that many others, including the landlady herself, had seen the figure.
Croxteth Hall was originally built in 1575 but, like Speke Hall, was added to over the centuries. The hall as it stands today is mainly 18th century in its style and décor. Owned by Merseyside County Council, the mansion lies about six miles east of Liverpool city centre and is open to the public. Most Merseysiders know that Croxteth Hall is reputedly haunted but it was not until Fiona Campbell conducted a survey amongst its staff a few years ago that the sheer frequency and variety of strange events properly came to light. Almost every member of staff had a story to tell Fiona and, though many were mere glimpses, half heard sounds and phantom smells, some were altogether more complicated and intriguing. Some ten or twelve years ago, in one of the hall’s elaborately furnished rooms a member of staff glimpsed a curious reflection in the large mirror which hangs above the fireplace. He saw a woman standing in the corner of the room behind him. He described her as wearing a gray cowl and a long, embroidered jacket. He told Ms. Campbell that the reflection was solid, “not spooky and see-through”, but that he couldn’t remember her having any sort of face at all. A similar faceless grey figure has reportedly been seen elsewhere in the building on several occasions.