In a land that overflows with haunted sites, the North East has certainly its fair share of spectral tales and locations. With a history coated in blood and eerie woods and hills that evokes all sorts of spine-tingling sensations, the region is rich in wandering spirits and gloomy ghost stories. From ghostly soldiers to heartbroken dames trapped inside the majestic castles, paranormal enthusiasts are spoilt for choice when in search of chilling apparitions and unexplainable experiences.
Whether you are looking to spend a sleepless night in a hotel with fleeting, transcendent, non-paying lodgers levitating along the corridors, or whether you are hoping to sip a beer in the company of a translucent spectre in a medieval pub, the North East will be able to satisfy all your petrifying requests.
Therefore, without further ado, let’s get ready to hunt down some of the North East’s most haunted places which you may truly wish to visit – or avoid – on your next adventurous outdoor trip.
Originally a 12th-century monastery, the medieval fortress in the village of Chillingham has recently gained the (un)enviable reputation of hosting the largest numbers of ghosts by topping TripAdvisor’s ‘most haunted historic castles’ list. Home to the spirit of a Spanish witch that is said to curse whoever steals something from the castle, as well as to a betrayed wife (Lady Mary Berkeley) who occasionally pops out of her portrait dressed in grey, there is undoubtedly an unsettling atmosphere inside its rooms and dungeons.
The castle’s most famous ghost, however, is probably the Blue Boy, a child who had been bricked up alive in blue clothes and whose skeleton has been found inside a three-metre-thick wall during some renovations. On numerous occasions, guests have reported seeing blue flashes of light both above their beds and from their bedroom’s walls. Fancy staying the night?
To give you an idea of this castle’s fascination, J.K. Rowling actually stayed here for inspiration when working on her renowned Harry Potter books. No wonder brides and grooms choose it as an atmospheric venue for their big Northumberland wedding too!
What is more, Langley Castle – today a hotel – has had an evanescent guest for centuries. It is thought that the ghost inhabiting the premises is Maud De Lucy, widow of Sir Thomas who built the tower in 1350. Devastated by the news of her husband’s death in the battle of Shrewsbury, Maud jumped out of the highest window of the castle from which she had been keeping a watchful eye for her soulmate to return from war.
Guests have encountered Maud sobbing and muttering Sir Thomas’ name repeatedly, and then throwing herself again out of the same window while tears stream down her cheeks.
The Old George Inn
If you are into blue blood apparitions, this former coaching inn in Newcastle is rumoured to be haunted by royalty. Indeed, in 1646, King Charles I was kept prisoner by the Scots in the nearby Anderson Place; sometimes, the man would be allowed to temporarily leave his cell and would regularly pay the Old George a quick visit for a drink.
To this day, the pub keeps on display the actual chair upon which the king would sit when in need of some refreshments, and customers believe to have seen Charles get comfortable in it in the form of a greyish fog.
Newcastle’s Castle Keep
Arguably one of Newcastle’s most emblematic landmarks, the 12th-century castle keep is the city’s oldest building. Needless to say, its ancient age guarantees the presence of ghosts and spirits. One of them is the so-called ‘Poppy Girl’; a flower girl who was imprisoned in the castle and who eventually passed away there. She has been sighted wandering around the building numerous times, and her apparitions are generally accompanied by the smell of fresh flowers.
It is fair to say, however, that not all ghosts residing within the premises are as innocent and harmless. Psychic World correspondent Matthew Hutton told us that while interviewing a member of staff at the Newcastle’s Castle Keep, the worker claimed that “he was thrown to the floor by an invisible force and scratched on the leg, causing a wound so deep that it required stitches”. Terrifying!
Counting just over 100 inhabitants, this pretty Northumberland village has a poetic name yet a chilling past, retraceable from the church’s graveyard where monks that were slaughtered in a bloody raid rest.
The story goes that as the Blanchland monks prepared to defend themselves from ferocious outlaws willing to ransack their abbey, a heavy fog blanketed the valley and disoriented the delinquents. Seeing this as a godly intervention, the monks started ringing their bells to celebrate the divine miracle. Sadly, the peal drew the raiders’ attention and helped them locate the abbey, where they eventually killed the monks.
From the day of the massacre, it is said that a funereal knell tolls in the distance and that the undefined silhouettes of the murdered friars eerily brim the cemetery.
The Ship Isis
A popular stop-over for local paranormal investigators, this Sunderland pub is said to be haunted by the ghost of serial killer Mary Ann Cotton, as well as by some of her 21 poisoned victims. Among them are two of the murderer’s own children, whom she allegedly buried where the pub’s basement now is.
With disembodied cries and screams filling the bar, and with sudden apparitions of a woman wearing Victorian-era clothing, you may inevitably end up spilling a drink or two.
Sat at the foot of the limestone cliffs in Marsden Bay in South Shields, Marsden Grotto is a very strong contender when it comes to assigning the title of Britain’s most haunted pub. With mysterious bare footprints on the bar floor which will simply not wash away and with frightful knocking sounds emerging from the cellar, it is little wonder that the place is believed to be packed with agitated spirits.
As if creepy noises and sightings of fully-formed ghosts were not enough, Marsden Bay is also thought to conceal a sea monster called ‘the Shoney’.
The Town Moor
Famous for the Hoppings – Europe’s largest travelling funfair which visits Newcastle every June – this 150-acre area on the outskirts of the city centre was once, in truth, the site of the town’s gallows.
Hundreds of people were hanged in this extended portion of land, including 16 for witchcraft. Therefore, as you jog among the cows in preparation for the Great North Run, do not be surprised if you happen to hear incorporeal screams or catch sight of shadowy figures walking past you.
Just over 500 years ago, Flodden Field staged the bloodiest battle in the history of England, with 14,000 combatants losing their life in the space of three hours only. Considering the scale of such carnage, it is not surprising to discover that some unexplainable activity has been recorded in the area. Indeed, ghosts of fallen soldiers from both factions can sometimes be heard and seen re-enacting the devastating clash.
The Lit & Phil Society
With its shelves alone containing an impressive number of books about ghosts, folklore and the supernatural dating back to the 17th century, the Literary & Philosophical Society is believed to host at least 16 spectres that roam freely around its three floors.
From CCTV footage of emergency exit doors suddenly opening on their own to sounds of people coughing and of book pages turning, it is possibly the only library in which you would be glad to be surrounded and disturbed by familiar, human noises.
To bring down the curtain on this list of spooky places in the North East, we conclude our haunted tour with Sunderland’s Royalty Theatre.
Originally built as a church in the 19th century, and then used as a hospital during World War I, the theatre is scene to poltergeist activity and to strange footstep sounds both on stage and in the wings. If you are attending a show and notice a pale-looking person behind you, it may indeed be a spirit: in fact, there have been several reports about a ghost sitting at the back of the theatre’s auditorium.
As we have ascertained, ghosts and spirits can appear in a number of ways. While chatting to people who have been able to make contact with spectres, paranormal reporter Matthew Hutton says that he has received varied responses, with interviewees experiencing “disembodied voices, signals on a spirit box, orbs, lights, full-blown sightings, smells, and even just feelings”.
Our unearthly trip around the North East has finally drawn to a close. If you have a passion for anything paranormal, ditch the Newcastle clubs for an evening and boogie to ‘Spooky Wonderland’ instead inside one of the city or region’s numerous haunted buildings.
Contributor: Matthew Hutton, Literary Correspondent for Psychic World