Ten of The Most Spine-Chilling Ghost Stories from The Archive – The British Newspaper Archive Blog

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Ten of The Most Spine-Chilling Ghost Stories from The Archive

With spooky season now upon us, we thought we’d scour the pages of The Archive to find some of the most spine-chilling ghost stories ever published in our newspapers.

Illustrated Police News | 29 October 1881

So settle in and prepare to be scared by tales of ghostly armies, inexplicable apparitions and portents from the afterlife, all of which have been featured in the pages of the newspapers to be found on The Archive.

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1. An Army of Ghosts – Haverah Park, Yorkshire – 1812

Our first story comes from over two hundred years ago, from the fields at Haverah Park near Ripley, and it was featured in the Leeds Mercury, 18 July 1812. The newspaper sets the scene:

On Sunday evening the 28th ult. between seven and eight o’clock, Anthony Jackson, farmer, aged 45 years, and Martin Turner, the son of William Turner, farmer, aged 15 years, while engaged in inspecting their cattle on Havarah Park, near Ripley, part of the estate of Sir John Ingleby, Bart. were suddenly surprised by a most extraordinary appearance in the Park. Turner, whose attention was first drawn to this spectacle, said, ‘Look, Anthony, what a quantity of beast!’

But they were not beasts which young William had spied, farmer Anthony Jackson proclaiming  ‘Lord bless us! They are not beasts, they are men!’ What William and Anthony were witnessing, as they stood inspecting their cattle, were a ghostly ‘army of soldiers in a white military uniform.’ Stood in the centre of them was a ‘Personage of commanding aspect,’ who was clothed ‘in scarlet.’

Leeds Mercury | 18 July 1812

The army of ghosts then ‘began to march in perfect order to the summit of a hill,’ passing William and Anthony by about a hundred yards. And then:

No sooner had the first body, which seemed to consist of several hundreds, and extended four deep, over an enclosure of thirty acres, attained the hill, then another assemblage of men, far more numerous than the former, dressed in dark-coloured clothes, arose and marched, without any apparent hostility, after the military spectres.

Illustrated London News | 12 October 1850

Both assemblages of soldiers then started marching away, when, at that very moment ‘a volume of smoke…spread over the plain.’ It was so thick, so ‘impervious,’ as the Leeds Mercury describes, that William and Anthony lost sight of their cattle for a full two minutes. And when the smoke cleared, the ghostly armies had vanished.

2. A Ghostly Visitor – Mawlamyine, Myanmar

In 1878 the Banbury Advertiser printed a ‘Genuine Ghost Story,’ which was told by Lieutenant General Albert Fytche. Fytche had been posted to Maulmain, Burma (now known as Mawlamyine, Myanmar), and he swore that whilst there he ‘saw a ghost with [his] own eyes in broad daylight.’ He was so convinced of his sighting, that he ‘could make an affidavit’ of it.

Fytche began his story as follows:

I had an old schoolfellow, who was afterwards a college friend, with whom I have lived in the closest intimacy. Years, however, had passed away without our seeing each other.

He continued:

One morning I had just got out of bed, and was dressing myself, when suddenly my old friend entered the room. I greeted him warmly, told him to call for a cup of tea in the veranda, and promised to be with him immediately. I dressed myself in all haste, and went out into the veranda, but found no one there.

Banbury Advertiser | 18 July 1878

Fytche then began to search for his friend:

I could not believe my eyes. I called to the sentry, who was posted at the front of the house, but he had seen no strange gentleman that morning. The servants also declared that no such person had entered the house. I was certain I had seen my friend. I was not thinking about him at the time; yet I was not taken by surprise, as steamers and other vessels were frequently arriving at Maulmain.

Two weeks later, Fytche heard the sad news that his friend had died, some six hundred miles away. What made it all the more eerie was that Fytche saw his friend ‘about that very time’ he died. And that it was the ghost of his friend, Fytche was sure:

To this day I have never doubted that I really saw the ghost of my friend.

3. ‘Infatuated Adoration’

In July 1895 the Evening Herald (Dublin) published a short article entitled ‘A Countess Who Saw A Ghost.’ The countess in question was the Countess of Munster, who, according to the Strand Magazine, had seen a ghost.

Wilhelmina FitzClarence, Countess of Munster

The Countess had become ‘the object of the ‘infatuated adoration’ of a person of her own sex,’ who later passed away. And then, sometime later:

…the Countess was lying in bed when, just as the clock struck twelve, her friend appeared before her. The weird visitor was in her usual dress, as in life, and she had a smile on her face.

The Countess called out, and asked the figure what had brought her there. But:

as soon as her ladyship’s voice had ceased the apparition disappeared.

4. Tidings of Death – Blackwood, Caerphilly – 1907

In 1907 salt merchant Samuel Hughes took the wrong train home from Newport, Wales. His body was later found beneath a bridge at Crumlin.

And in February 1907 the North Down Herald and County Down Independent published an ‘extraordinary story’ surrounding Hughes’s tragic death, which it titled ‘Saw a Black Ghost.’

North Down Herald and County Down Independent | 1 February 1907

At the time of Samuel Hughes’s accident, his wife was waiting up for him at their home in Blackwood, early in the morning, when:

She opened the door, and saw a tall figure in black clothes and wearing a silk hat. In a minute he disappeared, and she went outside, but could not see anyone.

5. The Ghost Who Called ‘Mother’ – Henham, Essex

When Robert Wright, a retired farmer, appeared at the Stansted Sessions to claim possession of a house, he told a strange story relating to the house where he was at that time living.

The Western Daily Press, December 1920, reported on the ‘farmer’s story,’ which Wright related as follows:

At 2.30 one morning…he and his wife were awakened from sleep, saw their bedroom door open, and an apparition appearing in the doorway. It was that of a strange man wearing only a shirt, trousers, and braces. The apparition called ‘Mother’ several times, and disappeared.

Illustrated London News | 28 December 1878

Wright went to check on his son, the only other person in the house at the time. His son was fast asleep, and protested that ‘he had not been dreaming, and had not left his bed.’

The retired farmer was to see the ‘apparition’ a second time, ‘when it was crouching in a corner on the landing.’ The sightings had so upset Wright and his wife, that ‘it was affecting their healths.’

6. A Ghostly Fall – London, 1934

In July 1934 the Sunday Mirror reported on a ‘Girl Typist Who Saw a Ghost Fall in City Street.’ The typist in question was passing an office building when she fainted, after which she was ‘carried into a chemist’s shop in Aldwych.’

When she came round, she declared:

 …that she had had the impression, as she walked, that a girl had fallen from the window of a high building and fallen at her feet. The shock was so great that she collapsed.

Sunday Mirror | 29 July 1934

And some eighteen months before, ‘the tragedy she described actually happened.’ A young woman had fallen from ‘an upper story and was killed at the very spot where the typist…fainted.’ As if that wasn’t coincidence enough, the typist who saw the apparition had never heard of the tragedy before.

7. The Phantom Pedestrian – Torquay, Devon – 1951

In July 1951 taxi driver Jack Driscoll was driving back from Newton Abbot, Devon, early one morning in ‘drenching rain,’ when ‘he saw a ghost.’

The Torquay Times, and South Devon Advertiser reports how:

…he was just nearing Lawe’s Bridge when he saw a man step off the pavement by the Torbay Hospital driveway. Thinking it must be a ‘fare’ he slowed down. The man carried on walking, without glancing left or right, and Jack had to brake hard to avoid an accident.

Jack was incensed, and pulled over, getting out of his car ‘to give the jay-walker a piece of his mind.’ But, to his great surprise, there was no one there for him to berate. The roadway and pavements were bare,’ with ‘no possible place for anyone to hide.’

A view of Torquay | The Sphere | 13 April 1963

Jack told reporters:

It sent a chill down my spine, I can tell you…I just jumped back into my seat, put my foot down – and got away as quickly as I could.

And going to the press put Jack into a difficult situation. He was mocked by his colleagues at the Luxicab Garage, which was situated opposite Torquay’s Odeon Cinema, with some suggesting that Jack’s encounter was down to an over-active imagination. But Jack was adamant, and no one could offer a ‘satisfactory solution’ to what had happened to him that early Monday morning:

I couldn’t have been mistaken…The fellow – he was dressed in a light raincoat – was there all right, and my headlights were full on him – besides, there is plenty of light just there.

8. The Blue Lady – Westwood House, Droitwich – 1953

Westwood House, near Droitwich, Worcestershire, dates from Elizabethan times, with its Elizabethan banqueting hall, and was home to Pakington family. But in the early 1950s, it was home to some alleged paranormal activity.

The Birmingham Daily Gazette, in November 1953, reported how a 23-year-old railwayman, named Ray Ward, had seen a ghost near Westwood House, shortly after midnight. Ray lived in a cottage behind the historic house, and was returning from ‘shift work’ when he ‘saw the figure of a woman bathed in a kind of blue light.’

The woods near Westwood House | Illustrated Sporting and Dramatic News | 12 December 1925

Ray was walking around the side of the house when he caught sight of the woman’s figure, which was ‘framed in an archway which leads to the garden.’ Ray related how:

I could not see her face clearly, but she was tall and graceful and there was a phosphorescent light about her, as clear as day. She must have remained there for about three seconds before she vanished.

The apparition had ‘long hair and wore a bodice and crinoline like a girl at a party.’ Ray, who had previously scorned people for believing in the supernatural, was now a believer. Meanwhile, the appearance of the so-called ‘Blue Lady’ was not the only strange occurrence at Westwood House that year.

The Birmingham Daily Post spoke with the new owner of the house, Mr. H.G. Browne, who was sat ‘before a roaring log fire in the great hall.’ Mr. Browne told the newspaper:

I have lived here only 12 months, but in that time at least eight people have claimed to see or hear things. One saw a horse and rider on the drive near the lake, and both my wife and her friend are convinced they have seen a man walking about the house. On another occasion friends staying here thought they heard their two children running down the passage in the night, yet both of them were fast asleep. Other people have noticed a strong smell of flowers in the cellar.

A hunting party at Westwood House | Illustrated Sporting and Dramatic News | 1 December 1939

Mr. Browne had not experienced any of these strange phenomena; but he would not sleep in the ‘huge four-poster in Queen Elizabeth’s room.’ He told the Birmingham Daily Post:

I tried it once, and felt as if someone was pressing down on me all night. We put some relations in there and they never slept a wink.

We think that sounds scary enough! Mr. Browne finished his interview by telling the newspaper how he knew of ‘no great tragedy or legend which might be linked with the apparitions which seem to haunt the house.’

9. George and Kruger – Hawthorne Hill, Berkshire – 1965

In Berkshire, 1965, a ‘courting couple‘ were ‘sitting in a car on a lonely field path’ at Hawthorne Hill, as reports the Reading Evening Post in October 1967, when all of a sudden they:

were startled by the loud noise of galloping nearby. Acting on a sudden impulse the girl switched on the headlamps of the car and they were both astonished to see a powerful looking horse ridden by a young man in a jockey’s cap and colours, which was visible for a moment or two as it passed through the headlamp beams.

Coursing at Hawthorne Hill | The Tatler | 23 October 1946

The resourceful couple made inquiries, and it seemed that no one knew of any horses ‘being exercised at night in the area.’ But a visit to a local public house gave an interesting explanation as to what they had seen, a young man remarking to the couple:

I reckon what you saw was George and Kruger. My grandfather says he often saw them up by Hawthorne Hill of a winter night.

A jockey at Hawthorne Hill | The Tatler | 23 March 1910

The young man’s grandfather was tracked down, and he professed his belief that ‘both the jockey and the horse were ghosts.’ He told the following story:

In the Winter that Queen Victoria died there had been a tragedy at Hawthorne Hill racecourse. A lad of nineteen, whose name was George, had ridden a normally quiet five-year-old called Kruger in the last race of the day. It had been the young jockey’s first race and it proved to be his last. The horse fell at the open ditch near Redstone Farmhouse and rolled on him. Young George was killed but Kruger got up and ran off and lived for many years afterwards.

Scenes from a Hawthorn Hill steeplechase | Illustrated Sporting and Dramatic News | 15 April 1916

Apparently, the ghostly apparition had only appeared twice since 1945. Meanwhile, it got us here at The Archive wondering, was this a true story? For if it was, surely it would be reported in the newspapers at the time.

And the shivers ran up our spines when we discovered it was. Just as the old man had said, a jockey called George was killed by his horse Kruger in November 1900, with the Reading Mercury reporting on a ‘Fatal Accident to a Jockey at Hawthorne Hill Steeplechases.’

Reading Mercury | 17 November 1900
10. The Co-Op Ghost – Wishaw, North Lanarkshire – 1966

In September 1966 police were called out to a carpark in Wishaw, near the Electricity Board’s offices in Hill Street and the Co-operative building in Russell Lane. But this was not a usual call out.

Indeed, a group of teenagers at the carpark claimed that they had seen a ghost, and ‘were so scared by what they saw,’ as reports the Wishaw Press, that ‘they made a 999 call to police.’ The police, as can be imagined, were not impressed, the newspaper remarking how:

We are not sure what action the teenagers expected the police to take in apprehending a ghost but the officers’ problem was solved when they discovered on arrival at the scene that the spook was gone. They treated the incident as a near hoax, but of course they answered the emergency call, and put the young minds at rest.

Wishaw Press | 2 September 1966

The teenagers, who were around eighteen at the time, however, were ‘adamant that they saw something supernatural.’ Anne Renkevic, speaking for the group, told the Wishaw Press how:

We were standing in the car park, when we saw the figure of a woman up at one of the windows in the gable-end of the Co-operative building in Russell Lane. She had short blonde hair and had staring eyes. Everything about her was white and, as we watched, she waved her hand to us as if she was asking us to come up to her. The hand seemed as though it was coming through the glass of the window although it was closed.

Given the lateness of the hour (it was about eleven o’clock at night) there was no need for anybody to be in the building. Meanwhile, one of Anne’s friends actually worked in the building, and said that the room they saw the figure in was only ever used ‘for junk and empty boxes.’ It was little wonder, then, that the group was scared.

But not ‘too scared, however,’ as the Wishaw Press commented. Anne actually had returned to the carpark, and had ‘seen the same apparition all over again.’

We hope you enjoyed our selection of ghost stories from The Archive. Do you believe any of them to be true? Which of the stories sent shivers up your spine? Let us know on Twitter and Facebook, and meanwhile, find other ghost stories by searching the pages of The Archive here.

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