After the year we have endured, you probably don’t need any more shocks, but as we’re on the run up to Halloween, it seems right to take this opportunity to discover the ghosts and ghouls of Yorkshire and Lancashire. Those apparitions that have become the stuff of legend around these parts over the years. We are blessed with a host of impressive historical buildings across the two counties, and where there are grand old piles, ghost stories are surety abound.
So, strap on your proton pack and let’s investigate the ghosts of Yorkshire and Lancashire. Who you gonna call? Northern Life. Obviously.
EAST RIDDLESDEN HALL
Just outside of Keighley in West Yorkshire stands East Riddlesden Hall. The current building on the site is a 17th century manor house and is a popular visitor attraction for families throughout the year. But there is a dark side to this destination above the River Aire too. East Riddlesden Hall has been labelled one of the most haunted houses in Britain. In 2016, a ghost hunter by the name of Michael Vernon claimed he had spotted an apparition within ten minutes of entering the building. Vernon even produced video evidence of a ‘cloud’ that followed him around the rooms as he explored. The Hall has some famous resident spooks, according to those close to the National Trust property. The Grey Lady is said to be the spirit of a one-time resident of the house, whose husband returned from the Civil War to find that she had been having an affair. The husband killed his rival and bricked his spouse up in a wall as punishment. Nowadays she apparently wanders the corridors searching for her lover, but was she also intrigued by the actions of a paranormal investigator? If it wasn’t the Grey Lady, could it have been the Blue Lady? She is the ghostly representation of a woman who fell into the fishpond and died. In addition, visitors have reported ghostly animals running riot around the Hall and one even witnessed a cradle rocking by itself.
Above Bolton stands Smithills Hall, recognised across the region as a hotbed of spectral activity. The Green Room is said to be the centre of spookiness at Smithills, according to legend, and there is no more haunting tale than that of George Marsh. Marsh was a preacher who was sentenced to death for heresy when he refused to convert to Catholicism. Under questioning in the Green Room, he apparently stamped his foot so hard in defiance that he left a mark in the flagstone. The foot print was removed, but this led to such a surge in ghostly goings on that they put it back. However, they installed it the wrong way round, incurring the wrath of the late George, who ensures that his footprint bleeds every year on the anniversary of his death. Well, so the story goes anyway.
Scarborough Castle has the honour of being haunted by a celebrity ghost. Piers Gaveston was the first Earl of Cornwall and big mates with both Edward I and Edward II. Although, because the ghoul that has been spotted rampaging around the ramparts is headless, it is not clear how anyone knows it is Piers for sure. It is true that Piers Gaveston was beheaded, so that works in favour of the story. However, his life came to an end in Warwickshire, which is quite the trek from North Yorkshire. Especially when you can’t see where you are going. Still, we all enjoy a break in Scarbados don’t we? Maybe it’s a summer season haunting job for Piers, just whilst he is in town.
Just east of Preston in Lancashire, you will find Samlesbury Hall in all its resplendent 14th century charm. It is a popular attraction in the area, not least because of its rumoured resident ghosts, of which there are a fair few. The White Lady is often spotted around the grounds of the Hall and is said to be the spirit of Dorothy Southworth. Dorothy, a Catholic, fell in love with an Anglican boy. They met in secret and on the night, they were due to elope, her brothers found out about the plan and killed the lover and his mates. The family sent Dorothy to a convent overseas, where she died of what is reported to have been a broken heart. The Hall is also said to be haunted by a headless priest, three women cleared of witchcraft and the spirits of the tragic Harrison family who were one-time owners of Samlesbury Hall.
Temple Newsam is one of the most famous estates in the north of England. Standing just outside Leeds, its gardens were designed by Capability Brown and it boasts multiple links to royalty throughout the 900 years in which the land has been built upon. The house is thought to be the home to several ghosts, including the Blue Lady who is said to be Mary Ingram. Mary was the granddaughter of former owner Sir Arthur Ingram who bought her a set of expensive pearls for her christening. At the age of 14, Mary attended a party wearing the jewellery, but had them taken from her by a highwayman who intercepted her on the way home. Mary is reported to have starved herself to death, distraught at no longer owning this item of great financial and emotional value. To this day, visitors report that she trawls the great house searching for her missing necklace.
RUFFORD OLD HALL
Scarborough may claim a friend of royalty amongst its haunters, but Rufford Old Hall aims even higher. There is the Grey Lady (yes, we are not too original when naming ghosts around here) and an Elizabethan man who both stalk the corridors, but there is also – apparently – Queen Elizabeth I herself too. Yes, it is a bold claim, but Rufford Old Hall is going all-in on the celebrity haunting claims with the Virgin Queen. There doesn’t seem to be any evidence that Elizabeth ever visited the Hall, so it seems strange that she would choose to make it her home for eternity, but it is a lovely place to come for a day out. Perhaps she has a special ghoulish National Trust card and wants to make the most of it. But we will never know for sure.