ghosts

Spirits in the Cotswold Hills

This post was first published on SPINE Online, October 17th, 2018.


The city of Bath and its surrounding towns have been host to a wide array of different societies and peoples throughout history—Iron age Britons, Romans, Saxons and Georgians, among others. So, it’s not at all surprising that the area still bears their marks, in architecture or in stories of a more ghostly nature. And if you believe those stories, then you’ll find that most deceased residents have decided to stick around.

The first, and perhaps the most infamous of the stories around Bath, is the legend of Sally in the Woods. So the legend says, Sally was a little girl who was locked in Brown’s Folly, the tall tower standing alone in the woods, and she died there.  Since then, people have reported seeing the apparition of a girl in the roadway, which is pitch black at night without lamps or moonlight coming through the trees overhead. Cars often swerve to evade the phantom and crash into the dark forest. As such, the legend lives on and residents continue to avoid that road at night, for fear that Sally will emerge in their headlights.

Photo courtesy of London Illustrated News. [Theatre Royal, 1888]

Photo courtesy of London Illustrated News. [Theatre Royal, 1888]

Another story, which has made the rounds in the past century, involves the Bath Theatre Royal on Sawclose, built in 1805, and still the most incredible work of Georgian architecture. I cannot personally attest to the accuracy of the following stories, as I did not see or feel or smell anything during my many visits as a child. However, others who have gone to see performances do experience some rather strange phenomena attributed to different spirits.

One of the spirits people report seeing is known to all as ‘the Grey Lady’. She sits in the top left box during shows, leaving behind the distinct smell of jasmine and a terrible depression that affects show-goers for days after. The Grey Lady is said to be an unnamed Victorian actress, who hung herself in the Garrick’s Head Pub next-door to the Theatre when she discovered her husband had murdered her lover.

Of course, we cannot speak about Bath without mentioning the outer towns. And this time, it’s Bradford-on-Avon, the quaint town built on a once thriving textile industry and the site of a few grizzly happenings. Where, in 1532, a local man was burned at the stake for heresy, now there is a zebra-crossing, or a crosswalk for those of you who are of a more North American persuasion. The road crossing is between a pharmacy and a charity shop. Residents and tourists pass over it daily, most without knowing what transpired there five hundred years ago.

Thomas Tropenell, the above mentioned Bradford resident, was arrested for denying the doctrine of transubstantiation—the belief that bread and wine given at the eucharist were quite literally the blood and body of Christ. For doing so, he was burned at the stake upon that very crossing. And sometimes it feels like the fires are still burning. People who cross the road often experience a sudden change in temperature, a sudden unexplainable heat on an otherwise cold winter day. Those who do feel it don’t know what to attribute the heat to, but author Jasper Bark theorizes that the execution of Thomas Tropenell left a permanent mark that can still be felt today.


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Natascha Wood

Say her name three times and she will appear.

Twitter: @oldvvitch

The Ghost of Watson's Mill

When I was a kid, my grandma told me my first ghost story. Maybe this doesn’t sound like such a big deal, but my grandma doesn’t like ghost stories. She doesn’t believe in them, she doesn’t tell them, they just “aren’t her cup of tea” as she’d tell me.

But she told me this one. So, without further ado, here’s a story this Voice has been meaning to tell from the beginning:

On the way out of Ottawa, Canada, there is a small suburb called Manotick. I’ve been there myself countless times growing up. It was where the best dancewear store was, so my mom would take me to buy all of my clothes and shoes. It’s where my mom rushed me to practice from school every day for the two years I was in the Nutcracker. It’s where my mom took me and my grandma for Sunday afternoon lunches when I was a kid.

Photo courtesy of  emkaplin  via Adobe Stock

Photo courtesy of emkaplin via Adobe Stock

It’s a peaceful, sleepy little town, with cute shops and beautiful scenery, The Rideau River runs right through.

But in the very heart of this peaceful, sleepy little suburb, it’s also where Watson’s Mill stands.

Watson’s Mill is not in itself a problem. It was opened in 1860, by Joseph Merrill Currier and Moss Kent Dickinson. They had obtained the water rights to the property just a year previous, and in fact, it’s Dickinson who’s said to have named Manotick in the first place, after the Ojibwa word for ‘long island’ or ‘island in the water’.

It was a powerful mill; according to Rideau-info.com, it “was capable of producing 100 barrels of flour a day and the sawmill could cut up to two million board feet per year.” The problem in this story was a combination of things.

In 1861, on the one year anniversary of the mill’s opening, Joseph Currier brought his new bride, Anne Crosby Currier, in for a tour. They made it all the way up to the attic, while Joseph pointed out all the machinery and inner-workings of the mill to his beloved bride. On their way back down, however, tragedy struck.

Photo courtesy of  bonciutoma  via Adobe Stock

Photo courtesy of bonciutoma via Adobe Stock

Anne was dressed in a flowing dress with a hooped skirt that allowed the dress to drag behind her. It was no doubt a beautiful dress, but an unfortunately disastrous choice to wear inside the mill.

On their way back down from the attic, between the third and second floor, a part of Anne’s dress got caught in one of the Mill’s rotating shafts. The rotating shafts moved too quickly for her to realize in time to pull herself free, and she was yanked against a pillar, dying on impact.

Joseph was so heartbroken that when he left the mill that day, he never looked back. He sold his shares to his partner, and never again returned. Anne, on the other hand, never left.

Over the years, many have reported seeing and hearing things that had no explanation while wandering in and around the Mill. Some reported seeing a woman peering out of a second-floor window, while others swore they heard light footsteps creaking across the upstairs floorboards, even when there was no one up there to make them. What’s more, some visitors to the Mill even report being grabbed or shoved while walking around the upper floors. Many believe it to be Anne, likely trying to warn them away from the same fate she suffered.


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Maggie Kendall

Maggie Kendall spent the first fifteen years of her life furiously avoiding all things horror, but then her friend forced her to watch Paranormal Activity, and there’s been no turning back. She still checks the bathroom mirror for Bloody Mary before getting in the shower.

West Coast Ghosts

British Columbia, on Canada’s West Coast, is known for many things. The Rocky Mountains, for instance, or perhaps the groups of killer whale that populate the ocean around Victoria and Vancouver. But B.C., much like many other places around the world, is also home to its fair share of ghosts.

Today we’ll be addressing what many refer to as the most haunted place in Victoria. It was brought to my attention by a friend of mine who lives out there, and now I’ll be bringing it to your attention in the hopes of giving you a few shivers yourself.

Photo courtesy of Victoria News

Photo courtesy of Victoria News

These days, Bastion Square is a pedestrian mall filled with shops, food, and the hustle and bustle of people going about their daily lives. But the same couldn’t always be said. Many of the buildings that existed back then have been converted into modern uses, but a number of their past residents and memories still remain. It’s believed that there are hardly any buildings in Bastion Square that don’t have at least a ghost or two within their walls.

What was formerly the old Supreme Court building now houses the Maritime Museum of British Columbia, which draws in a high number of tourists on a daily basis. But the visitors that walk these floors are not always of the living variety, and when you take into consideration the building’s history, you come to understand why.

Originally, the grounds upon which the old Supreme Court Building was built were home to the old jailhouse and the city’s first gallows. And to make matters even creepier, quite a few of the men who were hanged at this location still call the ground beneath its foundations their final resting place.The jail was knocked down in 1885, and the old Supreme Court building was taken over by the Maritime Museum in 1965, but some things about the site’s history were never altered. And they continue to walk the streets they once knew.

And it would seem that walking around the places they once lived isn’t the only thing these ghosts do. Visitors to Bastion Square and its various buildings have been known to report several different kinds of hauntings, and those who visit the old Supreme Court building in particular, talk of hearing footsteps running down the stairs (but coming from nowhere), whispers coming from unknown sources, and even some instances of objects moving around the gift shop on their own. Some guests have even reported hands pushing them while on the stairs.

But as I said, the old Supreme Court building is not the only place in Bastion Square that’s haunted, and it’s certainly not the only place where people have claimed to see or hear things that weren’t really there.

Photo courtesy of  Bobenis Rodriguez

Photo courtesy of Bobenis Rodriguez

One of the paths out of Bastion Square is Helmcken Alley, a place that, in the past, ran right by the jailhouse and gallows. Muffled footsteps and dragging chains are among the sounds that have been reported by those walking through here, but perhaps the scariest claim comes from those that insist they’ve seen a prisoner, still dressed in prison uniform and chains, following them through the alley.

It’s believed that at least two of the prisoners killed there were actually innocent, and one of them didn’t even make it to the gallows. Instead, he was murdered by a prison guard who was supposed to be taking him to his execution. It’s believed that the guard grew impatient with the prisoner, and decided to beat him to death instead of waiting for him to be hung. These days, many believe that the same prisoner is now the ghost that follows passersby through Helmcken Alley.

These are just a few of many stories that come out of Bastion Square in Victoria, B.C., so I encourage you to check into it some more if you’re curious. Or even better, maybe take a visit for yourself if you’re nearby. If not, I’ve heard many great things about Canada’s West Coast, and hey, I think a few spooks are the perfect thing to spruce up a trip.


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Maggie Kendall

Maggie Kendall spent the first fifteen years of her life furiously avoiding all things horror, but then her friend forced her to watch Paranormal Activity, and there’s been no turning back. She still checks the bathroom mirror for Bloody Mary before getting in the shower.

Waverly Hills and All Its Ghosts

One of the most haunted places on Earth started off as one of the most innocent. But then, I suppose that’s the way all the best ghost stories begin.

Photo Courtesy of Waverly Hills Historical Society

Photo Courtesy of Waverly Hills Historical Society

In 1883, Major Thomas H. Hays bought the plot of land in Louisville, Kentucky that is now known as Waverly Hills. It was an idyllic, peaceful plot of land, and it was there that Major Hays decided to build a school for his daughters to attend. One of the teachers that he hired for the school was a woman named Lizzie Lee Harris. She was the one who, however unwittingly, gave the fated location its name. She was a fan of a series of books titled “Waverley”, and so she named the school “Waverley School”. Major Hays liked the name so much that he elected to name the entire property “Waverley Hills”. (It’s worth noting that the loss of the second ‘e’ is not a typo, but simply happened to Waverly Hills over the years.)

At the time, tuberculosis had reached epidemic levels in several places. It was a particularly big problem in Kentucky because of the swampy areas which provided the perfect place for bacteria to grow. Because of this, in 1908, the decision to build the sanatorium was made. The other places in the area that had already been treating TB victims were far too small.

At the time, doctors were struggling to combat TB while faced with limited knowledge and no cure. They wanted to treat both the physical and mental health problems patients suffered because of TB, so they made an effort to keep patients’ morale up, and to make them as comfortable as possible. Some of the more pleasant treatments involved lots of fresh air, exposure to ultraviolet light, and access to sunlamps.

Photo Courtesy of Waverly Hills Historical Society.

Photo Courtesy of Waverly Hills Historical Society.

Unfortunately, there were also many more horrifying treatments that would not be acceptable when compared to modern standards. Some procedures were conducted by inserting balloons into patients’ lungs and blowing them up, and operations were done to remove two to three ribs from a patient in order to give their lungs more room to expand. These procedures were excruciating, and, more often than not, resulted in death.

Fortunately, a proper treatment was discovered for TB by the 1930s, and the sanatorium closed due to lack of need.

Between 1962 and 1982, the sanatorium was converted into “Woodhaven Geriatric Center”. It was eventually closed down due to not enough staff and far too many patients. There were also many reports of patient neglect and rumours of experiments being conducted on patients.

There have been many other proposals for conversions of the building over the years, ranging from a prison to a statue of Christ the Redeemer and  then to a set of apartment buildings. All were rejected or shut down due to lack of funding or public outcry.

Waverly Hills Sanatorium is currently privately owned by Charlie and Tina Mattingly, who are attempting to restore the building from its current state of disrepair. They allow paranormal investigators in and tours for the general public, and the money from these goes towards the repair fund.

Charlie Mattingly was originally a skeptic when he bought the place, but has now admitted to his own encounters with various ghosts that are believed by many to haunt the place.

Photo Courtesy of Joe Therasakdhi via Shutterstock

Photo Courtesy of Joe Therasakdhi via Shutterstock

From small children who roam the halls, nurses that have killed themselves, and elderly patients who walk around crying, there is no limit to the dead who just can’t seem to leave this place. For more information on the supernatural residents that exist forever within these walls, I encourage you to check out articles such as “Waverly Hills Haunted Sanitarium” and “Kentucky’s Hospital of the Damned”. I also encourage you to do your own research on the place, but here are a few of the ghosts that have been known to hang around:

Timmy

Timmy is a young boy who roams the halls of the old hospital, looking for something to play with. Some guests have been said to bring him balls, and those balls are then seen floating in the air or rolling down the hall on their own. Sometimes Timmy already has his own ball to play with.

No one is quite sure what his story is, whether he was the child of a patient, or a patient himself, but either way, he now haunts the place. He’s one of the more friendly spirits that exist within Waverly Hills’ walls.

Room 502

Room 502 was a patient room that was linked to a couple of suicides while the hospital was still running. The first was a young nurse who was said to have been pregnant and unmarried, and, unhappy with her life, she hung herself in the room.

Photo Courtesy of Jon Butterworth via Unsplash

Photo Courtesy of Jon Butterworth via Unsplash

Another victim, also a nurse, apparently threw herself from the roof one night, though nobody knows why. She also worked in room 502 while she was still alive.

Some tourists that visit the place while pregnant have reported feeling very uncomfortable in the vicinity of room 502, and a number of other tourists have been filled with the desire to jump off the room while up there looking around, and have had to be talked down.

Woman in Chains

Not a lot is known about the woman in chains except that she looks older, perhaps having been a patient while the hospital was a geriatric center. She walks around the halls with chains around bleeding wrists, and cries out for help. But whenever someone actually moves towards her, she runs away screaming.

The Creeper

The creeper is apparently one of the rarer presences among Waverly Hills’ residents. Like the woman in chains, not a whole lot is known about him beyond the feeling of dread that washes over anyone who gets near him.

He’s rumoured to crawl around on the floor, up the walls, and on the ceilings, and no one really know his past or what his intentions are. Some speculate that he was one of the horribly mistreated patients, and that his trauma in life has warped in death.

These are just a few examples of the apparitions that haunt Waverly Hills, but the current owners plan to turn the building into a hotel that targets those interested in the paranormal. Look out for that in years to come, and for those of you interested in a tour now, check out the Waverly Hills website for more information.


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Maggie Kendall

Maggie Kendall spent the first fifteen years of her life furiously avoiding all things horror, but then her friend forced her to watch Paranormal Activity, and there’s been no turning back. She still checks the bathroom mirror for Bloody Mary before getting in the shower.