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Durham's Ghosts

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Durham City and the surrounding area has myriad ghost stories associated with it. Here are just a few.

The Grey Ladies

Durham seems to have more than its fair share of ghosts known as 'Grey Ladies'.

The Grey Lady of the Castle

This is said to be the wife of one of the former Prince Bishops of Durham. She haunts the black staircase, built by Bishop Cosin in 1662, because she fell down it to her death. She can be seen walking the staircase, but since she died the level of the staircase has changed, as it was originally only attached to the outside walls of the Castle, and was found to be unstable. She continues to haunt the staircase but no longer walks at floor level.

The Grey Lady of Crook Hall

Crook Hall's staircase is also reputedly haunted by a Grey Lady...1

The Grey Lady of Crossgate

In 1346, the Battle of Neville's Cross was fought between English and Scottish armies. Among the men that fought and lost their lives on the English side, one left behind him a wife and newborn baby. But his wife didn't give him her 'farewell' as she hadn't wanted him to enlist.

People driving their coaches and wagons up Crossgate Peth would often stop for a drink somewhere along the way... and notice a drop in temperature. As they continued their journey they would notice the presence of the Grey Lady, with her newborn child, hitching a lift, staying sombre, sad and silent, until they reached Neville's cross where she would disappear, perhaps looking for the body of her husband on the old battlefield. She isn't regularly sighted now, however, since the demise of horse drawn vehicles. Perhaps she doesn't understand that cars could take her too, or maybe she found the body of her love after all.

Ghost from a Workhouse

More recently in the Crossgate area, a ghost of a young woman has been sighted, this time without a baby. This is said to be the ghost of a Victorian girl from a workhouse near Allergate who was murdered and then thrown down a flight of steps. Her attacker was a soldier, who later confessed to his crime years after the event while living abroad.

Jimmy Allen - Ghostly Piper

Jimmy Allen (1733 -1810) had a chequered history. He was a very talented player of the Northumbrian Pipes, he was even official piper to the Duchess of Northumberland for two years. But he liked to drink, and gamble, and he also liked pretty women, conning them out of money to support his drinking habit. As well as this he was a horse rustler, consequently he was almost continually on the run from various authorities. He travelled as far afield as India, the Dutch East Indies and the Baltic, making money from playing his pipes with his extraordinary skill.

The authorities caught up with him eventually, however, and he was caught in Jedburgh, Scotland, for stealing a horse in Gateshead, Co Durham. He was sentenced to death in 1803 and spent the last seven years of his life in a cell beneath Elvet Bridge, his sentence having been reduced to life imprisonment. He died a few days before a pardon came through from the Prince Regent. It is said that if you listen carefully, you may still hear his ghost playing the Northumbrian Pipes from the cell beneath the bridge.

1Evidently one's staircase is incomplete unless you too have a grey lady to haunt it.

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