10 of the most haunted places in and around Lancashire
- Credit: Archant
As Halloween approaches, Mairead Mahon takes ghoulish delight visiting some of the region’s spookiest haunts
It’s no surprise that fans of things that go bump in the night, including television crews, descend on our county around this time of year.
After all, only last year, Lancashire was named the third most haunted ‘hot spot’ in the UK so this Halloween might just be the time to investigate some of the spooky goings on that our county has to offer.
Smithills, an ancient manor house near Bolton is home to many ghosts, including unnamed laughing children and a man who only appears as a reflection in an old mirror. One ghost has been identified - George Marsh, a Bolton farmer who was burned at the stake as a Protestant martyr.
George was questioned in Smithills’ Green Room, his ghost still haunts it and what’s more, he doesn’t take kindly to having any trace of himself removed. A flagstone, said to bear an imprint of his foot, was removed but was put back fairly sharpish when what was described as poltergeist activity began.
Samlesbury Hall is reputed to be one of the most haunted houses in England and it too has a ghostly relic that just won’t go away. It was well known as a place that sheltered Catholics during the Reformation. One priest was discovered by soldiers and executed on the spot. He bled copiously and, centuries later, it is said the stain still reappears.
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Samlesbury is also home to a Victorian owner who liked the high life so much, it got him in to debt and he killed himself. He still likes the ladies though and strokes any visitor who has long hair. A lady of the house, Dorothy Southworth, fell in love with a neighbour and, even though the family disapproved, she arranged to elope. On the given night, he and two friends came to collect her but her brothers were waiting and murdered them. She died of a broken heart and haunts her former home.
Hoghton Tower has more than its fair share of ghosts - so much so that staff even keep a Ghost File to record things that go bump in the night. The file is pretty thick - as one staff member points out, they have ‘a heritage of ghosts’.
Entries include the temperatures changing dramatically without reason; dogs refusing to enter a well house, maybe because a sceptre of a strange dog is often seen there, glimpses of a lonely monk and a Green Lady. This lady is clad in beautiful green velvet and likes to walk around the building gently laughing to herself. No-one knows why but many ghost hunters have vowed to find out!
Staff at Ordsall Hall in Salford have installed three online ghost cameras, which over 30,000 people a month tune in the hope of seeing a spook. There are two tragic ladies. One was a very young woman who was jilted on the morning of her wedding and, unable to cope with the gossip and heartbreak, threw herself to her death from the top of the main staircase.
The other is Lady Margaret Radclyffe, who also died from a broken heart, not for a lover but for her beloved twin brother, Alexander, who died at sea in 1599.
Rufford Old Hall
Rufford Old Hall is said to be haunted by Queen Elizabeth I. It’s unclear why she has chosen to manifest herself in West Lancs but many witnesses say they have seen her always in the same place, the dining room. As soon as anyone makes bold enough to approach her, she vanishes! She shares the hall with another lady, Elizabeth Hesketh.
Unlike her queen, Elizabeth did get married but shortly afterwards, some say that it was at the actual wedding breakfast, her new husband was called away to fight. She quickly became ill but refused to die until she could see him again. She never did but her ghost, they say, still waits, walking about the Hall, looking for her errant husband. There are other ghosts here at Rufford, including a man who floats above the nearby canal but, as far as we know, her beloved is not one of them.
Lancaster Castle operated as a prison for many centuries and many people met their ends here so it’s not surprising to hear that some now roam their last home as ghosts, sometimes giving an unfortunate visitor a shove. One old and very haggard woman is thought to be one of the Pendle Witches, who were held in the dungeons here.
However, there is also the spectre of a child running about and it is generally agreed that he is the child of a warden. As well as the human ghost population, young and old, the sound of urgent but invisible horses can also be heard outside.
Lytham Hall also hosts the spectre of a horse. Called Witch, it was the favourite horse of John Talbot Clifton. It was killed in a riding accident, over a hundred years ago and a stone was placed to mark the spot in what is now known as Witch Wood.
Of course, in a building as old as Lytham Hall, you would expect to find ghosts inside as well and it doesn’t disappoint. One of the early owners, Sir Cuthbert Clifton, is believed to wander his old home, stomping his feet in a second floor bedroom and generally making his presence felt: he is not a shy ghost!
The Grand Theatre
The Grand Theatre in Lancaster also has a ghost that likes the limelight: the famous Georgian actress, Sarah Siddons. She was related to the owner and appeared here as Lady Macbeth. Taking the maxim ‘the show must go on’ to extremes, she glides across the stage and, if lines from Macbeth are spoken, there is a noticeable drop in the temperature.
Sometimes, she takes a rest and sits in the stalls but she doesn’t want for company as there are several other ghosts who have made their home with her. No wonder actors remark on being watched, even in rehearsals!
Morecambe Winter Gardens
Morecambe Winter Gardens also claims theatrical ghosts. Some run across the stage, others push actors just when they are about to deliver their lines. Mysterious footsteps and voices can often be heard throughout the theatre and, in the case of one ghost, we know she is probably expressing disappointment.
This spirit never ventures from her dressing room, where she worked as a theatrical seamstress. However, it had been her life’s ambition to become a famous actress but she never fulfilled her wish. Even after death, though, she hasn’t given up the ghost!
Muncaster Castle near Ravenglass is one of the most haunted castles anywhere with a tapestry room that plays host to a range of sounds, including a woman singing, mysterious knocks, footsteps and shapes. As it was once a nursery, the cries of a baby and giggles of children are also heard. Some of Muncaster’s unearthly residents have names and histories like Mary Bragg, who was a housemaid here in the 1800s. Mary fell in love with a footman, unaware that he was promised to another. Her rival arranged for Mary to be murdered and thrown in the river but her ghost still walks the castle grounds where she met her end.
Mary causes no harm but the same can’t be said for Tom Fool, the castle’s jester who died around 1600. In life, he would often direct visitors to the deadly quicksands and when a local carpenter fell in love with his master’s daughter, he chopped the love-sick fellow’s head off. w