Lancaster’s Spookiest Spots
Lancaster has a rich and fascinating history, spanning roughly 2,000 years. It’s no surprise then that the city boasts many stories and tales of spooky goings on and bumps in the night!
Lancaster was first mentioned in the Domesday Book, written in 1086, where it is referred to as “Loncastre“, roughly translating to “Roman fort on the River Lune“. The first wooden Roman fort in the city was likely built around 60CE based on Roman coin evidence, before being rebuilt in stone around 100 CE.
Lancaster Castle was first used as a prison in around the year 1200 and it’s likely many executions took place but ultimately went unrecorded. It wouldn’t be until 1737 that records began being kept, and between then and when executions finally stopped being carried out in 1910, a total of 295 people met their end in Lancaster. Lancaster’s most infamous event, however, took place in 1612, when the trail of the Pendle Witches began in Lancaster Castle. The trail lasted 3 days, after which a total of 10 people were found guilty of Witchcraft and were executed on the Moors above the city. It is no surprise that Lancaster earned its nickname, “The Hanging Town”!
Lancaster can certainly be a spooky city, with many ghost stories to be found. Check out the list of places below many of which you can still visit today, if you dare! 👻
This imposing building has a bloody history spanning around 1,000 years, and has seen many prisoners executed in the Castle’s infamous “Hanging Corner”. It is of no surprise then that several ghosts are reputed to still be wandering the grounds!
There have been reports of a jailer pacing the halls, jangling his keys, and visitors being pushed by unseen hands. There have also been many reports from past prisoners, guards and visitors of a ghostly little girl running up and down the corridors, often seen in the company of an old lady. But who are these ghosts? One explanation of the old lady is that it’s the spirit of “Old Demdyke”, one of the Pendle Witches who died in her cell before standing trail in 1612. She is also reported to haunt the ancient Well Tower. There’s also a Monk who wanders the Castle grounds, but who this Monk could be remains a mystery.
You can visit Lancaster Castle for yourself, and even visit the Hanging Corner where hundreds of people met their end.
Williamson Park and Gallows Hill
Home to another of Lancaster’s most recognisable landmarks, the Ashton Memorial, the park has existed since the late 1800s, previously being used as a quarry. Before that, however, the park was just moorland and home to Gallows Hill. The exact location of Gallows Hill isn’t known, some people believe it to have been the hill on which the Aston Memorial now stands, and other historical documentation points to it being somewhere close to where the Lancaster Royal Grammar School cricket field now lies. What is known however, is that before 1800, when executions began taking place within the Castle itself, people were instead brought up to Gallows Hill from the Castle and hanged. Hundreds of people met their end somewhere close to Williamson Park and it’s no surprise that the park and the Ashton Memorial are said to be home to some spooky residents, so much so, that the Most Haunted television program visited back in 2009!
The Golden Lion
One of Lancaster’s many historic public houses, The Golden Lion sits on Moor Lane, the path prisoners used to take from Lancaster Castle up to Gallows Hill on the way to their execution. Allegedly prisoners were allowed to stop for one final drink, including the infamous Pendle Witches. According to local legend, one tee-total prisoner refused his final drink and was hanged soon after. Had he taken a drink, however, he would have been in the pub when his pardon arrived by courier.
The current building dates back to the 17th century, and is reputed to be haunted by many spirits, one being a spectral nun who used to escort the condemned to Gallows Hill, as well as many spirits of the executed, still looking for their final drink!
2 Dalton Square
Home to Lancaster’s Town Hall, the Borough Pub and offices, not many people are aware of the grisly events that took place at 2 Dalton Square in 1935. The house was home to the Doctor Buck Ruxton which also doubled as his surgery. Buck was well liked in the community and very well respected as a family doctor, even occasionally waiving the fees of patients who couldn’t afford to pay. This made it even more shocking when, on the 14th September 1935, Buck murdered his wife Isabella in a jealous rage, and then his housekeeper Mary Jane Rogerson for being unfortunate enough to witness the crime. The bodies were dismembered, wrapped in newspaper, and dumped over an old stone bridge 2 miles north of the Dumfriesshire town of Moffat. One of the many pieces of evidence that tied Buck to the crime was the fact the newspaper he used was a local print only available in Lancaster and Morecambe.
The house has since been subdivided and turned into offices, but the outside of the house remains relatively untouched. There have been many reports over the years of curtains and blinds in the windows moving on their own, and the ghostly apparition of a woman stood in one of the upper windows has also been sighted. This building was also part of Most Haunted’s 2009 visit to Lancaster.
The Three Mariners
Reported to be one of Lancaster’s oldest pubs, this grade 2 listed building dates back to the 1600s, and there are even stories of an even older pub occupying the spot before then. The pub has played a large part in Lancaster’s history, from housing Jacobite soldiers to allegedly containing a secret tunnel that leads to Lancaster Castle. It’s also one of the only pubs in the country to have a gravity fed cellar, with the castle rocks above keeping the beer and ale cool!
Many spirits have allegedly been sighted here – a Jacobite solider is often seen seated by the fire and walking the lane outside, as well as 3 ladies who haunt the upstairs (although it is said they are very nice!). This haunted building is also rather unique in that the women’s upstairs toilets are apparently particularly haunted. Along with Williamson Park’s Ashton Memorial, The Three Mariners was visited by the Most Haunted television program back in 2009.
The Grand Theatre
As one of the oldest theatres in the country, Lancaster’s 239 year old Grand Theatre is said to be home to a few ghostly residents! The theatre has been in relatively constant operation since 1782 and has been a major part of the social and cultural life of Lancaster since. It survived being gutted by fire in 1908, reopening 8 months later in an Edwardian design to which it remains to the present day.
It’s not surprise that this theatre has gained some spooky visitors over the years, perhaps the most famous being the ghost of Sarah Siddons, took to the stage and played the part of Lady Macbeth in 1795. She seems to wander the theatre reliving her acting career, often seen in the dressing rooms, on the stage, and up in the stalls. Ghost hunters have also allegedly made contact with a travelling actor called Harald who stayed at the Midland Hotel in 1937 as well as a little girl who runs around and leaves ghostly handprints on the mirrors!