Spooky Tales in Lancaster
History runs through the cobbled streets of Lancaster. This compact city naturally has its fair share of ghost stories and other legends. With Halloween soon approaching we thought we would share a spooky tale or two…
The Grand Theatre has been a major part of social and cultural life in Lancaster since 1782, making it the third oldest active theatre in the UK! It’s no surprise then that over its 237 year life, it has become home to more than one spooky resident. Sarah Siddons, who played Lady Macbeth at the theatre in 1795, is said to haunt the theatre as a Grey Lady, who has been seen sitting in the stalls and wandering in front of the auditorium. As well as Sarah’s spirit, paranormal investigators have also said to have made contact with a travelling actor named Harald, who stayed at the Midland Hotel in 1937. The theatre occasionally holds ghost hunting nights, so keep an eye out for these events for a chance to meet Sarah in person!
The castle harbours a long and dark history. Used for the Lancashire Witch Trials in 1612, as well as 265 public hangings, and more recently a Category C Prison, it is no shock the castle has restless spirits. Spooky sightings have included shadowy figures, floating orbs, sudden low temperatures and the sounds of crying. Daily tours of the castle are available as well as occasional special haunted evening events throughout the year.
Seeing as Lancaster was known as the Hanging Town, it’s no surprise that there are plenty of ghost stories associated with the place. The fabulous tours will tell you all the goriest details (they even host a series of Ghost Hunts) but here are a few of the less scary tales…
A monk with a noose around his neck is said to roam the grounds and one of the Pendle Witches, Elizabeth Southerns, is also said to make her presence felt. Some visitors have even reported a feeling of being pushed as they wander around the grounds, though with so many ghosts to choose from it’s hard to know which one is most likely to be doing the barging.
A few miles south of Lancaster lies the hamlet of Thurnham and, presiding over this small community, the beautiful Thurnham Hall. Built sometime in the 1100s, the hall has since been passed to multiple families, has survived fire, and has been renovated multiple times. It’s not surprising then, that there are multiple reports of spooky goings on within the walls of this historic family home. The house has some very interesting features, such as a Priest Hole (a hiding place for priests built into houses when Catholics were persecuted by law in England) built into the back of a chimney. One terrifying report from the house involved a night porter who saw on the security monitor that the piano in the main hall was missing, and in its place, stood a priest. Upon checking the hall, everything was back to normal. Another spectre said to wander the halls, is Elizabeth Dalton, one of the many previous owners of the building. She is said to walk up and down the corridors and wander in the gardens, picking up sticks. Strangely, she is reported to be bright green! Aside from Elizabeth, a cavalier has also been spotted along with numerous reports of poltergeist activity!
Dating back to the 1600s, the Three Mariners (previously the Carpenters Arms) is one of the oldest pubs in Lancaster and is steeped in history. It’s also one of only 2 pubs in the UK which has a gravity-fed ‘cellar’, with all the beer being stored upstairs! Due to its long and varied history, the pub is said to be home to multiple ghosts! During the Jacobite uprising in the 1700s, it is believed a Jacobite was stabbed to death during a card game, he can still be seen wandering outside the building. It is also said that the women’s toilets and the cellar upstairs are the most haunted parts of the pub, with a blond lady frequenting the toilets and poltergeist activity being reported in the cellar, which was allegedly used to house prisoners from the Castle on occasion. There are plenty of reports from previous owners of the pub of strange noises, voices, footsteps and things moving on their own. Why not pay the pub a visit? You might just encounter an angry poltergeist!
There has been a pub on the site of the Golden Lion since the 15th century and was allegedly used as the final drinking place for the condemned who would then be taken out to the gallows on the moors, including – legend has it – the Lancashire witches!
A famous tale involves a teetotal man who was sentenced to death refusing the offer of a final drink in the pub. Had he accepted the offer, he would have been in the pub when a pardon arrived by courier. Unfortunately, the man had already been hanged when the pardon arrived.
The Golden Lion as it stands is said to be haunted by a nun who escorted the condemned to the gallows in the 16th Century and who can be seen wandering the cellars.
Morecambe Winter Gardens
Not only is Morecambe’s Winter Gardens the town’s oldest surviving theatre, it’s also one of the town’s most haunted buildings! So haunted, in fact, that the paranormal investigation programme “Most Haunted” paid a visit to the theatre in 2008 in a 2-night special. It’s seen many visitors over its 122 year life and some, it seems, never actually left!
One ghost is said to be that of a seamstress who never achieved her dream of becoming a dancer and so still haunts the dressing rooms, but you’re not safe anywhere; people have reported ghostly goings on in the auditorium, the stairwells and the bar. Thankfully the many events they still hold there are incredibly popular so you’re unlikely to be left there alone. There are also numerous stories of people being poked, prodded, slapped and pushed, as well as a brown cloaked figure running around backstage.
The theatre is said to have a “good side” and an “evil side”, along with a very sinister presence lurking beneath the stage and apparitions walking on the staircase. The theatre is open for guided tours most Sundays so why not pay this beautiful but spooky building a visit?
Palatine Hall has a much more recent haunting than others on this list, only dating back to the 1930s. The actual building itself was constructed in the late 1700s as a Roman Catholic Church, before becoming a public hall, music hall, cinema, before being renovated and turned into offices. In 1930, the house became the home of Dr. Bukhtyar Hakim, better known as Dr. Buck Ruxton. Despite being very well liked in the area, and even offering free treatment to those who could not pay, Buck Ruxton was hiding a violent temper, which, on the 14th September 1935, resulted in Buck murdering his wife Isabella in a jealous rage. Then, either because the housemaid, Mary Jane Rogerson, witnessed the murder, or to prevent her from discovering it, he strangled her to death too. Despite protesting his innocence, the “Savage Surgeon” was found guilty and hanged in 1936. No one lived in the property again after this and it fell into disrepair, before being purchased by the Council and turned into offices.
There have been many reports of spooky goings on in the building. During the time it was derelict, there were reports of the curtains moving on their own, movement inside the house and faces at the window. The building is said to be so haunted that the paranormal investigation programme ‘Most Haunted’ visited for their 2009 Halloween special. In more recent years, a late-night cleaner apparently came face to face with a ghostly woman on the top floor and refused to ever set foot in the building again!