Halloween: Harrogate ghost stories
North Yorkshire has more than its fair share of ghosts and ghouls. Here, we tell some of the best short ghost stories known across the district.
The spooky corridor - Cedar Court Hotel, Harrogate
Faces in a painting, visitors in the night, and a room that is always cold.... is the Cedar Court Harrogate’s most haunted hotel?
The old building, which has stood on the same spot since 1672, has been changed countless times in the last 300 years.
But one wing has stayed the same - and spooky corridor’, as it is known, is said to be home to some ghoulish guests.
“We’ve had guests say they’ve seen people dressed in old-fashioned attire, ” said general manager Simon Cotton.
“One guest went into their room and found two ladies dressed in Victorian clothes sat on the bed.
“And last year we had someone who swore blind they had chased someone from their room. We even checked the locks. But the door hadn’t been opened all night.”
A handyman at the hotel once walked into a room, and seeing that it was full of ladies in fancy dress, apologised and left. It was only later that it transpired there was no booking for that room - he believes he saw the ghosts of Victorian ladies.
The attic space, long deserted, is said to be haunted by the ghosts of soldiers who stayed there during the war.
One of the oldest tales is that of Mabel, a chambermaid who died nearly 200 years ago, and is said to still haunt a corridor, scaring staff, moving objects, and occasionally, cleaning rooms.
He said the staff all referred to the hallway as spooky corridor’.
“It’s done in a lighthearted way. We’ve never had any guests running down the corridor and saying they’ll never stay here again.
“But the funny thing is, if a guest says something has happened, it’s always down spooky corridor.
A young maiden is said to haunt a farmhouse in Hampsthwaite where she was beheaded centuries ago.
Local legend says the farm is still visited by her ghost, an upstairs door opening and closing of its own accord and a stain on the stone flags - no matter how many times it is cleaned - won’t wash away.
In A History of Hampsthwaite; Villagers’ Reminiscences, one villager recounts the tale as it was told to her.
Annie Pawson was born in 1901, and her grandmother owned the farm.
“It was known as the boggart house’ by everyone, ” she said. “Grandpa never allowed the girls to sleep in a particular bedroom, which had red stains.
“It was always said that a lady had been beheaded there and that she was heard, but never seen.
“Actually, people were frightened when they had no cause to be.”
Another tale that Annie recounts is of some spooky woods near to the old well.
She said: “There were some old elms down near the well trough that shone silvery white in the moonlight.
“We had to stand on tiptoe to look down into it and that was haunted too.
“One night a man was so frightened that he would not go past and he told Grandpa that the boggart was at the well.
“Grandpa went to look and found that one of the elms had blown down.
“In the space where it had been uprooted there were two florescent eyes as big as saucers!”
Phantom army, Haverah Park
A phantom army made up of hundreds of ghostly men was once seen marching in perfect formation in Haverah Park.
Two farmers, Anthony Jackson and Martin Turner, were returning home after a day’s work on June 28 1812, when they reportedly saw an aerial army marching over the brow of the hill in Beckwithshaw.
Dressed in white uniforms, and with their commander in a scarlet tunic, they were joined by a second body of men at the brow of the hill.
Reported in William Grainge’s The History of Harrogate, the two spectators, hidden in some heather 100 yards away, watched the army disappear before their eyes.
A thick cloud of mist descended, obscuring the spot, and when it lifted there was no sign that anything had ever happened.
The Harlow Hound
A spectral wolf known as the Harlow Hound is still said to haunt Harlow Hill.
The wild wolf and great Dane cross is said to have roamed free on the hill in the 1970s, worrying sheep and frightening farmers.
Angry farmers, banding together to kill the animal, tracked the hound, shot it, and strung its body up in the Ship Inn pub for all to see.
The Ship Inn has since been demolished, and Marks & Spencer now stands in its place.
The Ripley Ghost
A sad figure dressed in 19th century costume has been sighted at stately home Ripley Castle.
Said to be the ghost of Lady Alicia Ingilby, who lost her only twos children to meningitis in the 1870s, the figure is seen walking towards the children’s bedrooms before passing through a locked door.
Legend has it that Lady Alicia must still be caring for the children of the house in spirit and it is her image that is seen.
This stateley home, steeped in 700 years of history, has a wealth of even more mysterious tales and is hosting tours today to allow visitors a glimpse.
There are the stories of civil war soldiers, lined up and shot by Cromwell’s firing squad after the battle at Marston Moor.
They are said to haunt the castle walls, where the bullet holes can still be seen.
Inside the topmost tower, a poltergeist moves children’s toys and becomes agitated at the sound of babies crying.
And a priest hole where Catholic priest Frances Ingilby hid before he was caught, hung, drawn and quartered, is said to be haunted still by his ghostly presence.
The Spofforth Castle Spirit
An apparition of a half-human’ form has been seen falling to her death from the tallest tower at Spofforth Castle.
The bluish-white form is said to be seen standing on the tiny parapet at the top of the 18th century tower of the ruined castle, originally home to the Percy family of 1069.
She is seen hovering for a few seconds, and then falling rapidly to the grass path below.
A group of schoolchildren and their teacher saw the phenomena in 1969 and two picnickers also witnessed `the ghostly suicide` in 1973.
Bramham war horses
The thunder of heavy hooves has been heard in Bramham Park in the dead of night, said to be the gallop of phantom war horses.
Witnesses have seen these unusually large, light coloured horses, with flowing manes and tails, thundering past as they head into battle.
They are said to be the ghosts of horses that took part in the Battle of Bramham Moor on February 20 1408, during which the Earl of Northumberland was killed by Sir Thomas Rokeby and his army.
Alice, the ghost of Harrogate Theatre
A mysterious apparition called Alice, the victim of a terrible love affair, is said to haunt the stalls at Harrogate Theatre.
She has been linked to ghostly spirits, orbs of hovering light, sudden chills and the lingering scent of peppermint.... Yet there is no record of any Alice in the theatre’s archives.
“Every time someone new comes to the theatre the legend of Alice is passed on, ” said Harrogate Theatre’s Robert Lynch.
“She just manifests herself every once in a while depending what’s going on.”
Alice is said to be a friendly ghost. Although, with a habit of moving props and costumes, she appears to be a mischievous one.
An usherette, cleaning the balconies in the 1990s, said she saw a whitish-grey apparition after experiencing a sudden chill.
In March 2000 an electrician saw a pillar of brilliant blue light in front of the circle which shot across the auditorium, hovered and disappeared.
There are other accounts of sightings, as well as reports of unaccountably cold rooms.
Nicola Downing, wardrobe supervisor at the theatre, said: “Every now and again it is freezing up the stairs even though it is warm in here and outside. Quite a few people have also seen shadows...”
Filmmaker Adam Chandler, who works at the theatre and owns Red Film, has made a movie around Alice’s story, to be screened at Harrogate Grammar School on November 4.
His research suggested that Alice was alive in the 1920s, a young girl who was cheated on by her director boyfriend and jumped to her death from the balcony.
Other stories suggest she could be an usher, another a cleaner. One report say she was an actress that kept getting smaller and smaller parts.
But the stories all agree that she killed herself by jumping from the balcony into the stalls. Jonquil Claughan, education assistant, said: “She’s supposed to have been an actress who fell in love with a director, but sadly that love was not requited.
“She is said to have thrown herself off the balcony in despair.
“People who have seen her over the years have said there’s a smell of peppermint in the air... and nobody can explain why.
“She’s not a bad presence. Everybody is quite fond of her. But when the lights are all off, and it’s all quiet, it’s quite an eerie place.”
The Blue Lady
A blue lady’, said to have been “cruelly done to death”, still haunts the corridors of Fountains Hall.
The hall, made with the remains of stone from Fountains Abbey, was built by Sir Stephen Proctor between 1598 and 1604.
The ghostly blue lady is said to be the ghost of his daughter who haunts the hallways to this day.
The travellers of Martson Moor
Soldiers killed in battle are said to haunt farmland near Marston Moor.
Two travellers, crossing from Ripon to Wetherby, reported being passed by three ghostly figures.
Dimming their lights, they saw the outline of three men in the road, wearing long, dark cloaks, who wore their hair long and had their hats upturned at the side.
On passing, the travellers turned their lights on full, but the spooky sight had disappeared.
The starved sheepdog
A starved dog, abandoned by his owner, is believed to haunt farmland near to Kirkby Overblow.
The sheepdog is said to have been forgotten by his owner, who left him in the fields while herding sheep.
The starved animal found his way home, and scratched outside the door, but wasn’t allowed in.
A ghostly apparition of a green lady is said to appear in the clock tower and corridors of Harrogate’s Ashville College.
Said to be a former nursing sister who worked in the school’s sanatorium, she has reportedly been seen at all times of day and night since the First World War.
Legend has it she threw herself from the clock tower after learning of the death of her lover.
Ghosts at the Blubberhouses Inn
A well in the dining hall of The Hopper Lane Hotel is said to be haunted by the ghost of a young boy who fell down the well and his mother who searches for him.
The owners of the Blubberhouses Inn, which dates back to Georgian times, say they have experienced strange things including vases being knocked over and doors banging of their own accord.
“One night Jack, the chef, was closing the lights of in the bar area when he saw a women with a long dress and long hair sitting on the dining room chair next to the well, ” said Penelope Ward.
“He was so shaken up that he left on all the lights and avoided looking over again.”
The owners say many things have gone missing, light switches are turned on and the ghost of a young farm hand still haunts the old barn where he was hanged/
“On a night loud banging and footsteps can be heard, we have recorded proof that the fire alarm goes of from the whole building at around 4 am when the hanging was said to have taken place.
“Engineers state that the reason for this is a drop in temperature in the room and that the alarm is on a heat sensor but we believe it to be more sinister.”
An army of soldiers has been seen walking through a wood in Knaresborough before disappearing.
They were dressed in white clothing supporting swords, with the one leading the group wearing a red hat.
A mist which appears to show a fighting man has been seen in the dungeons at Knaresborough castle.
A photographer at the castle is said to have recorded the mist’, which took the form of a large person standing above another who was lying on the ground.
The taller entity appears to have his right arm raised as if to strike the prone figure.
The White Jockey
A white jockey was once seen in the grandstand of the former Ripon Racecourse, now part of the Cathedral Choir School in Whitcliffe Lane.
According to Ghost Stories from around Ripon and other Dark Tales of the Past, written by local historian Maurice Taylor and published by Ripon Civic Society, a khaki-clad First World War soldier has also appeared in the projection box of the former Palladium Cinema in Kirkgate, and a hooded monk at St Anne’s Almhouses on High St Agnesgate. Ripon’s first Mayor, Hugh Ripley, is also said to have appeared at the window of the Wakeman’s House, while clergymen and housemaids have been seen at the Old Deanery. A poltergeist, experienced by Mervyn Usher of the former Cobbler’s Corner in High Skellgate, is also featured in the book. Recalling the day in 2003, he said: “It just came flying across the room towards us. We got out of the way and the plate hit the wall.
“It didn’t smash, the middle piece just dropped out and stayed in one piece.’
Burnt Yates ghost
A fireside chair is reserved for the resident ghost of a pub in Burnt Yates.
The spectre of a former landlord is reputed to haunt the ancient building, home to The New Inn.
Strange noises have been heard in the cellar and some staff have reportedly seen him.
A mischievous boggle rattles inside the lead mines at Greenhow, frightening miners with his eerie echo.
According to Yorkshire Ghosts, by W R Mitchell, the evil spirit has been heard by many a miner.
The sound of clogs rapping on the roads nearby has been reported on the darkest of nights at Clayshaw Level.
Paranormal investigators spent a night at Harrogate’s Hales Bar after reports of eerie cackles, gas lights dimming, bottles spinning and shadows behind a closed door. Believed to be Harrogate’s oldest pub, Hales Bar is said to be haunted by Mary’, a mischievous ghost known for her tantrums, who throws bottles and glasses off shelves but never lets them smash.
“We can’t explain what happens, ” said bar owner Amanda Wilkinson. “Some of our regulars say they feel someone is watching them at times.”
Investigators from the Harrogate Paranormal Society, who spent the night there in October 2010, recorded sounds of a mechanical laugh, scratching, tapping and shushing.
The static camera also caught the image of a black shape floating behind an internal doors.