The most haunted places in Derbyshire and the Peak District
- Credit: Archant
Derby is often labelled as ‘the most haunted city in Great Britain’ and Derbyshire has its fair share of haunted jewels, which have stood for hundreds of years and witnessed numerous sieges, murders and tragedies. Here are just a few…
With its history of imprisonment, death and misery, Derby Gaol is a strong contender for the title of ‘most haunted place in Derby’. Eeerily, the activity seems to be seasonal and ghostly sightings and incidents tend to occur mostly from October to December and then from June to July. During the restoration of the Gaol, one of the builders reported seeing doors close by themselves and had to leave the cell several times on account of feeling sick. Some visitors find themselves unable to go into the cells, reporting feelings of ‘darkness’ and sickness, or feelings of suffocation and discomfort. One gentleman once reported seeing two dead men hanging from a fixed beam inside the cell. There have been several reports of a bald figure wearing a sleeveless leather garment standing by the door or in the dayroom – incorrectly mistaken as an actor in costume.
The Old Bell Hotel, Derby
The former coaching inn, built around 1680, is steeped in history and is often listed as one of the most haunted buildings in the UK. The pub’s most famous ghost is that of Mabel, a linen maid. It is said that passing solders on a recruitment drive were buying drinks for the young men in the bar, and Mabel’s lover got drunk and took the King’s shilling. He was taken away to fight and was killed soon after. Mabel found that she was pregnant with her lover’s child and when she heard of his death she committed suicide, hanging herself in room six. The Bell is also reportedly haunted by the ghost of a serving girl who was murdered in 1745.
Ye Olde Dolphin Inne, Derby
Built over 500 years ago, the Dolphin Inne claims to have more spirits than the ones found behind the bar. Visitors have reported seeing a ‘blue lady’ - reportedly the ghost of a woman who had an affair with highwayman Dick Turpin - and a small child on the stairs. Perhaps the most gruesome story surrounds a young 18th century doctor, who had the body of a woman secretly delivered by two body snatchers in the dead of night. He took the body into the cellar and began to dissect it, only for her to suddenly awake with a scream having been buried alive - presumably in a coma. She leapt up from the table and ran round the cellar screaming hysterically before dying of blood loss. It is said that her screams can still be heard in the building.
St Helen’s House, Derby
Designed by Derby’s famous architect Joseph Pickford, St Helen’s House was built in 1767 for John Gisborne. Now leased as offices, it has been used in the past as a private residence and as an educational establishment. It is said to be haunted by a young lady who has been seen running down the main staircase in great distress. She appears to be looking over her shoulder at someone who is chasing her with evil intent. Possibly the most chilling story is that of the whispering ghost of St Helen’s – never seen, only heard. For many years the building was used by the WEA and staff frequently heard their name being called but on investigating found no-one within speaking distance. During its time as a school (1860s-1930s), there were often reported sightings of hooded monks.
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Jacobean House, Wardwick, Derby
The 17th century Jacobean House is believed to be the first brick-built building in the city and one of its most haunted. Over 10 ghosts are said to haunt the house and its grounds, including a headless coachman and a woman in a blue dress on the main staircase. There have also been sightings of the mysterious figure of a man seen standing in the entrance.
Elvaston Castle, near Derby
A grey or white lady is said to wander the castle and an apparition of a man has been seen – who looks like a gamekeeper or gardener. The ghost of a maid has also been spotted in the kitchen area, and it is thought to be that of a woman who killed herself after finding she was pregnant out of wedlock.
Another spooky tale revolves around a Roman Catholic chapel in Tideswell, which stood 600 years ago. It is believed that the worshippers’ spirits used to return to the chapel and the townspeople hear hymns beautifully sung by its choristers. Not only that, but the ghostly choir seem to pass in a slow procession along the stone passageways between the chapel and the singing slowly fades away. This has happened several times and always just before a death in the village.
Built on the site of a medieval fortress, Bolsover Castle is an extraordinary 17th century aristocratic retreat and is reputedly so haunted that English Heritage staff keep a ‘ghost book’ as they get so many reports of paranormal activity. There have been sightings of a female ghostly presence in the kitchen area and a child who appears in a fireplace before disappearing. Strange noises are often heard, smells appear for no reason and some visitors have reported hearing the sound of horses hooves passing through the walls.
Sutton Scarsdale Hall, near Bolsover
When driving along the M1, you may have noticed the large gaunt stately home of Sutton Scarsdale standing on the other side of the motorway to Bolsover Castle. Now in the care of English Heritage, what is left of the interior of the hall gives rise to stories of dismembered, floating arms beckoning visitors towards the entrance of the cellars. Footsteps are heard in the cellars and lights of various colours appear, before vanishing. There is also the tale of the ghost of a sobbing lady, dressed in white, who is often seen gliding between the Hall and the church.
Hardwick Hall, near Chesterfield NT
Built by the formidable Bess of Hardwick in the 1500s, there are many reported sightings of ghosts at Hardwick Hall, including that of a blue lady. The grounds are said to be haunted by the ghost of Thomas Hobbes – a philosopher, mathematician and writer - who worked at Hardwick as a tutor. His dying wish was to be buried in the grounds of the Hall, but this was not granted, and many believe that his apparition still walks the grounds. There have also been reports of visitors and staff hearing children’s voices, doors opening and closing of their own accord, stones being thrown at the windows from outside and individual books appearing on the floor. The mischievous activity is thought to be a playful poltergeist.
Kedleston Hall, near Derby NT
Heavy breathing, banging doors and phantom footsteps have all been experienced at Kedleston Hall, near Derby, and one of the most haunted parts is said to be the main staircase, where a lady wearing a mop cap and apron is said to be seen. She is believed to be the Hall’s first housekeeper. Others have reportedly seen the ‘Lady in Grey’, a young, slim woman dressed in a grey long coat with a black veiled hat, riding on a chestnut-coloured horse through the grounds.
Eyam Hall and Eyam Churchyard NT
The grit-stone Jacobean manor house of Eyam Hall, which dates back to 1671 , is said to be haunted by a ghostly apparition of the White Lady – reportedly the ghost of a girl who drowned herself in the wash-house well. The famous ‘Plague Village’ itself also has a ghostly presence. Catherine Mompesson, wife of the Rector at Eyam who encouraged the villagers to segregate themselves from all outsiders during the Black Death, is said to haunt the churchyard at Eyam, over 300 years after her death.
Carnfield Hall, South Normanton
There has been habitation on or near Carnfield Hall for over a thousand years and the privately-owned residence is often reffered to as one of the most haunted places in Derbyshire. There have been reported sightings of three ghostly children playing on the lawn, a ghostly coach leaving the back of the house, an elderly lady hurrying towards the old kitchen block and the figure of a man at the bottom of the stairs.
Winnats Pass, Castleton
The beautiful High Peak scenery of Castleton was the scene of a brutal murder in the 1750s. A young couple who had eloped in order to marry without parental consent were travelling through Winnats Pass as darkness fell. There they were attacked, robbed and killed by a gang of thieves. The lovers are believed to have wandered the pass ever since, still waiting to marry and there have been many reports of ghostly screams coming from the ravine as the sun goes down.
The Castle Hotel, Castleton
The town of Castleton itself is home to several ghosts, and perhaps one of the most haunted sites is the Castle Hotel in Castle Street, where a ghostly bride wearing her bridal dress has been seen on the minstrel gallery. It’s believed that she committed suicide at the hotel, heartbroken at being jilted on the morning of her wedding. The ghost of a nurse wearing her uniform has also been reported in the cellar of the hotel.
The Dark Peak Moors
Over the years, a number of military aeroplanes have crashed in the remote moorland area of the Peak District National Park known as the ‘Dark Peak’. There have been numerous reports of ghost planes in the area and many of the aircraft witnessed are wartime machines such as the Wellington Bomber, B-29 Bomber, Dakota and Lancaster. The reports of eyewitnesses are usually of a low flying, propeller-driven plane, which appears to be in difficulty before seemingly crashing into the moors.
Bleaklow, Peak District
Bleaklow, in the Peak District, has such a reputation for Roman ghost sightings that it has been speculated that an undiscovered road once cut through there. The Legionnaires all appear to be following the same path, across the National Park. It would have linked the Snake Path with Longdendale.
Please note: Always seek permission before entering any derelict or abandoned locations and do not trespass on private properties. Buildings under the care of the National Trust and English Heritage require visitors to pay an admission fee. Please see the relevant websites for further details.