Some places associated with historic happenings (or where dreadful events occurred) are thought to retain an aura or atmosphere which can make the hairs on the back of your neck stand on end, giving rise to susceptibility or heightened imaginings. Even though there is a distinct lack of concrete evidence about the existence of ghosts1, some people swear they have encountered them. Not all of these encounters can be put down to hallucination, over-excitement or too much alcohol, though. Really interesting are the reports from several unconnected people of the same ghost seen at different times.
There are people who like to believe in the paranormal and others who just relish blood-curdling stories. That spine-chilling feeling can be quite addictive, and people who have seen ghosts are very popular on ghost walks and camping trips. Television shows such as Most Haunted hosted by people like Yvette Fielding and Derek Acorah garner enough viewers to keep the more obscure networks going, and there are usually some Halloween specials featuring spooky special guests on the main terrestrial TV channels around the end of October annually. Credible witnesses who have had close encounters of the spectral kind can end up on morning TV programmes being interviewed by the likes of Richard Madeley, but we don't want to scare you too much too soon.
Some Lincolnshire Ghost Stories
Chapman's Pond, Cleethorpes
Chapman's Pond is a large natural body of fresh water within a stone's throw of the River Humber. The eastern edge of the pond is a very short distance from the Cleethorpes railway line. The south side houses an industrial estate, and the other two sides are bordered with homes. Some of the gardens back directly onto the shore of the pond. The area was a magnet for bored schoolchildren in the days before the invention of game consoles and the internet. Home-made fishing rods and nets were utilised for the capture of such treasures as sticklebacks, which were carried home in leaking sand buckets by the tired and hungry youngsters to show off as trophies to parents and siblings. Sadly, some children never returned home because they drowned in the pond. One, it seems, quite often re-enacts her last few minutes alive in quite a dramatic fashion – there have been several independent reports of a young girl splashing about in Chapman's Pond and screaming for help. While the alarm is being raised, however, she vanishes without trace.
The Saint and the Danish King
On 25 December, 1013, the Viking invader Sweyn Forkbeard was crowned king of England. Just over a month later, at a fortified camp said to be in the position now occupied by Gainsborough Old Hall, King Sweyn awoke screaming with his body gushing blood from an unseen wound. His attendants witnessed his last words, that St Edmund had speared him with a lance. Now, St Edmund was England's original patron saint prior to St George. He was the former king of East Anglia in the mid-9th Century who had been tortured before being beheaded by Vikings. St Edmund had been prayed to by the people of Beadoriceworth (now Bury St Edmunds, Suffolk) when the invading Danes commanded by Sweyn Forkbeard drove King Æthelred3 from England. Whether he had really been run through by the ghost of a vengeful martyr or a more earthly assassin who successfully escaped, King Sweyn's ghost has been heard repeating his agonising death screams throughout Gainsborough Old Hall.
Diana, Princess of Wales Hospital, Grimsby
This hospital building was officially opened by Diana, Princess of Wales in 1983. At the time, it was named the Grimsby General Hospital, but it was renamed after Princess Diana following her death in 1997. A shrine grew below the princess' portrait in the main entrance hall, with staff noting that the flowers lasted rather longer than usual, and sometimes the portrait shifted. Nurses, patients and domestic staff have reported numerous paranormal activities, in particular a tall matron-type wearing squeaky shoes, a long black dress and a high white starched hat. In 2008 a patient woke from surgery and imagined her late father was with her, stroking her hair. She fell into a natural sleep and commented upon her 'dream' the following day at the breakfast table. A fellow patient from the bed opposite said that she had seen a kindly-looking old man beside her, but when she asked him what he was doing, he turned, smiled and said: Don't worry, this is my daughter, then he seemed to vanish - she assumed she had been dreaming!
Sir William Massingberd, 2nd Baronet (1650-1719) commissioned Gunby Hall in Burgh-le-Marsh in 1700, and the architect constructed the building in the style of Sir Christopher Wren. The Massingberd family lived there until 1944 when it was handed over to the National Trust. Along with the fixtures and fittings of the magnificent plum-coloured mansion and 1,500-acre park came a resident pair of ghosts - Sir William Massingberd's daughter and her lover, a servant of the house. The angry father had them shot and their bodies disposed of rather than allowing them to elope and face the disgrace of his daughter marrying beneath her class. Their ghosts are said to tread the path known as the Ghost Walk, which is beside the pond where their bodies were unceremoniously dumped.
The Haddington Monks
Apparitions of monks abound at the Corner Farm in Haddington. One monk regularly digs in the garden while another stands in front of the farmhouse entrance. Family members have also been startled by the appearance of a soldier walking around upstairs and even in the bedrooms. There is an attic bedroom and when someone sleeps there, the occupant sometimes reports that they hear a knock on the door, but when they investigate, there's no one there.
The Humber Bridge
The Humber Bridge was officially opened by HM the Queen in July 1981. One worker who was killed during the construction of the bridge is said to haunt it. The bridge crosses the River Humber4 from Barton-on-Humber in Lincolnshire on the south bank to Hessle in Yorkshire on the north bank. There is a toll for vehicles5 crossing the bridge, but pedestrians and cyclists are not charged. In the two decades since its opening, a few hundred people have chosen to commit suicide by jumping off the bridge and drowning in the murky depths of the River Humber below. Some of those unfortunate souls don't rest in peace; one man's ghost recreates his death-leap each year around the anniversary of his jump, to the horror of witnesses who report the occurrence at the toll booth.
The Irby Bride-to-be
In November 1455, a betrothed couple took a stroll through the local woods on the eve of their wedding. Villagers reported hearing screams and the pair did not return. Sometime later the missing bridegroom returned to Irby, where he was questioned about the disappearance of his fiancée. He insisted she had left after they quarrelled and he presumed she had gone home. He was exonerated but the bride-to-be could not rest in peace. It is said that her ghost appears to lovers who wander along the same path, but only in the month of November.
Lincoln is the principal city of the county of Lincolnshire, dating back to Roman times. The place is atmospheric and contains enough Roman walls and architecture still standing to keep generations of history students happy.
Along with the attraction of the Roman connection, there are stories of ghostly goings-on at the Castle, which once housed criminals destined for a date with the hangman's noose. In 2004 at the Observatory Tower, a family were taking photographs and one of the prints featured a strange figure of a man who had not been in the viewfinder of the camera. They reported that the area where they had been standing was noticeably colder than anywhere else during their visit. Some years previously, other witnesses stated that they saw two figures ahead of them on the external stairs of the Observatory Tower, but by the time they had reached the top flight the figures had disappeared.
The High Street in Lincoln boasts a variety of shops both old and new. Jesters Fancy Dress shop owner Hazel Smith and her son James say their shop is haunted by the ghosts of two children from the Victorian era. James Smith has witnessed 'a hand slide through the wall, push a hanging costume and leave it swinging backwards and forwards'. Even shop staff have heard ghostly footsteps when the Smiths have not been present.
Lincoln Cathedral has multiple ghosts – it is so notorious that it has its own organised Ghost Walk. Even its steps are reputedly haunted by a 17th Century cleric who witnessed a murder, but before he could escape and report the misdeed, the killer silenced him permanently.
There is a ghost of a young girl who is sometimes sighted near the London Road railway crossing at Little London, Spalding. There have been half-barriers at the crossing for some years, but they are easily skirted by anyone not wanting to wait until it is safe to cross the train lines. Perhaps this unfortunate spirit serves as a warning to others to take more care of themselves than she did.
Marton Church, Gainsborough
A new vicar at Marton Church in Gainsborough reported an apparition of a former church choir member from the Victorian era. The vicar's description of a long-haired elderly man wearing a dark green cassock matches other sightings through the years. Not to be outdone, several workmen reportedly saw a woman in a grey dress float through the church doors, then vanish before their astonished eyes.
Newsham Abbey and Woods
Research has discovered that a Bishop Redman of Newsham Abbey excommunicated two people in 1491 'for their acts'. The abbey no longer stands but that hasn't put off the ghosts. Where the abbey stood is now Newsham Woods, but the foundations of the abbey can still be discerned. Newsham Woods has a lady ghost, as well as a white-robed, headless companion. The monks of Newsham Abbey used to wear white robes... The two ghosts appear to walk through a doorway of the long-gone abbey. Reports of their appearances have been made by campers and conker-hunters. Interestingly, the late-18th Century Newsham Bridge6 which spans Newsham Lake on the nearby Brocklesby Park estate has statues of gargoyles and one headless bishop – perhaps it's just a coincidence, or maybe the builders had encounters of their own.
Old Coach House, Grimsby
The Old Coach House is Grimsby's oldest public house. It had a barn which served to look after the punters' horses while they were partaking in their own refreshment inside the pub. One young lad, aged around ten years old, who had been employed to help care for the exhausted mounts, was killed in an unfortunate accident while helping a blacksmith. He had been instructed to hold the horse's leg still and bent while the blacksmith replaced a bent horseshoe, but the horse reared and knocked the boy to the ground. Before he could get out of harm's way, the horse's hoof crashed onto the lad's head, smashing his skull and killing him instantly. Since then a dark shadow, no more than four foot tall, has been witnessed shuffling along the pub corridor and bar staff have occasionally reported unexplained drops in temperature.
Haunting the Sun Inn in Saxilby is Tom Otter, who murdered his wife and was subsequently hanged near Lincoln.
Many years ago there was a gibbet close to Pilfer Bridge, on the outskirts of the village of Normanby-by-Spital, near Market Rasen. The bodies of executed criminals were once displayed upon this gibbet; the rotting corpses would be easy meat for scavenging birds and wild animals. The putrid stench from the decomposing remains was supposed to act as a deterrent to other would-be thieves, discouraging them from following their path in life. Not even their bones received a Christian burial in the churchyard of St Peter, the 12th-Century parish church. There must have been a dark aura about the place, as no horse would cross Pilfer Bridge no matter how much their rider spurred them on.
Wonderland in Cleethorpes used to be an indoor amusement park complete with Ghost Train attraction. According to local legend, a lonely old man called Mr Poll used to hang around the exit and offer sweets to comfort frightened children when they left the scary ride. Apparently he was harmless, but some parents complained about his potential motives, with the upshot being that he was banned from the area. Sometime after, Mr Poll hanged himself inside the Ghost Train ride's entrance. Thereafter, visitors reported hearing their name being called when no one else was around who knew them, and even Wonderland's owner Dudley Bowers has spotted a sad-looking old man who vanished before his very eyes. The site where the Ghost Train once stood is now an indoor market and stallholders sometimes comment how cold that area is compared to the rest of the place.
Multiple phantoms have been spotted at this former WWII Royal Air Force Bomber Command station, including an apparition of a plane, the Missouri Waltz. One poor pilot, who obviously died a horrendous death, runs across the landing strip with his flying suit completely ablaze. Another ghost in turmoil has had his arm wrenched out – he is really scary for witnesses as he is said to emit a blood-curdling scream.
The Ruskington Horror
On the lonely stretch of road known as the A15 near Ruskington, a dark shape runs straight in front of cars and when the drivers stop, it prostrates itself across the windscreen. When the drivers realise it is supernatural they drive off, and the spectre raises a hand. Witnesses sometimes describe the figure as a witch. The last woman from Ruskington to be tried as a witch and executed was supposedly innocent, and she apparently became the black-garbed ghost.
Thornton Abbey was founded in the 12th Century by Sir William le Gros, Earl of Yorkshire. A 14th-Century Abbot of Thornton Abbey was Sir Thomas de Grethem, who was accused of lax living by the father of his illicit girlfriend. The Abbot's punishment was to be walled up in the Abbey, and this is where workmen found his skeleton in the 1830s. In 1440, some of the brethren of the Abbey reported to Brother John Sywarde that they had difficulty getting off to sleep due to being 'disturbed by evil spirits', so he arranged a separate room for them to study and pray. Today all that is left of this once-magnificent building is ruins, but it is still a tourist attraction. The gatehouse, which Abbot Thomas' spirit is said to haunt, has an atmosphere felt by many visitors.
Utterby Halt Railway Station
On a foggy day in January 1953, lone railway worker John Edward Lancaster set off for Ludborough Station along the track of the Louth to Grimsby line. He chose to walk the track as visibility was so poor – it was less than ten yards (nine metres). He heard an approaching train and stepped across to the other track, straight into the path of the Cleethorpes train travelling in the opposite direction. Lancaster was killed close to the Utterby Halt station, which is where his form has been seen lingering around the track. The Utterby Halt station closed for good in 1961. Cars still have to cross the railway track at that point and several have been known to stall on the tracks for no apparent reason. One relieved couple reported that their car would not budge and when they heard a train approaching, they were too terrified to leave the car and save themselves. Amazingly, they felt a train speed right through their car, and when all was quiet, the vehicle restarted with no problems. What the couple didn't know at the time was that their encounter with the ghostly train occurred over a decade after the line closed in December 1980.
The Vine Hotel, Skegness
The spirit of Lincolnshire's famous poet Alfred Lord Tennyson allegedly haunts the Vine Hotel. Chambermaids and a chef at the hotel have reported seeing a likeness of the bard walking his two dogs around the hotel garden. Also, a man dressed in the 18th-Century attire of a Customs and Excise officer is said to manifest in Room 8 and the adjoining corridor of the same hotel.
A memorial to the fallen men of No 100 Squadron was unveiled in November 1978 by Wing Commander Peter le Marquand at Holton-le-Clay, which was the squadron's home between 1943 and 1945. The figure of a phantom airman paying his respects at the memorial has since been reported by passers-by.
The Lady In...
Brown: Doddington Hall near Lincoln was built in 1595. It has a resident ghost dressed in brown who, it seems, has a penchant for weddings, as she is most often reported by brides who have just tied the knot.
Green: Louth's most famous ghost, the Green Lady, supposedly the wealthy Spanish noblewoman Donna Leonora Oviedo, allegedly haunts Thorpe Hall. There's a Green Lady ghost over at Fillingham Castle as well – she apparently pines for a lost love.
Black: Local legend the Black Lady of Bradley Woods in Grimsby apparently appears if someone shouts: Black Lady, Black Lady, I've stolen your baby! three times, but it has to be on Christmas Eve or nothing happens, other than being arrested for disturbance of the peace, of course.
Grey: The 16th-Century Inn, the Black Horse, now a restaurant, situated on Bardney Road, Lincoln, has a blurry-faced phantom clothed in a long grey dress. So scary is her appearance that a cleaner working at the premises who witnessed the apparition fled, never to return. The Grey Lady has also been spotted outside the restaurant, standing as if waiting for someone.
Uniform: One apparition witnessed multiple times by different people is that of WAAF7 Catherine Bystock from Horncastle, also known as the 'Metheringham Lass'. The story goes that just before the end of WWII, a Flight Sergeant stationed at RAF Metheringham8 and his 19-year-old fiancée Catherine were returning to the base from a dance, with Catherine riding pillion on his motorbike. The bike skidded and crashed; the Flight Sergeant was not badly injured but Catherine was killed instantly when she was thrown off – the impact on landing broke her neck. Since then, after 9.30pm during the month of February on the B1189 road, a distressed female has been reported to ask passers-by for help because her boyfriend has been injured in a motorbike crash down the road. She has stopped motorists, cyclists and pedestrians, who, upon investigation of the place she points out, say that the apparition vanishes when nothing is found, leaving behind just the scent of lavender. Each witness describes the Metheringham Lass as wearing a green coat with an RAF wings badge pinned to the lapel, and a grey or light blue chiffon scarf covering her head. One man who had an unforgettable encounter was Charles Espin, who revealed that:
I could not see her eyes, or horribly, no eyes in the sockets at all, the frontal skull orbits were empty!
Poltergeists are heard but usually not seen; they are generally thought responsible for unexplained things that go bump in the night. They are supposedly violent, but don't always involve moody teenagers, hidden alcoholism or an excuse to move from a council house.
The Wesley Poltergeist
Epworth was the location of a famous case of poltergeist activity, which began in December 1716 at the Parsonage. Each member of the Wesley family and some servants heard unexplained noises which occurred intermittently for about two months. This included the sound of shattering glass bottles9, coming from the direction of where the empties were kept. Also heard were running footsteps, the groans of a dying man, a door latch being tried many times, and the sound of a pot of coins being emptied onto the floor. Some members of the family nicknamed the poltergeist 'Old Jeffrey', although only the family dog, a large mastiff, seemed terrified of it. The rector Samuel Wesley reported that he was shoved by an invisible presence, and noted that the poltergeist seemed more agitated when grace was being recited, particularly at the point when the Royal Family were being prayed for. The teenage daughter Hetty Wesley seemed to be the most physically affected – she could sleep through the loud rapping noises but other family members noted that her body shook during the disturbances. What is strange is that none of Hetty's letters about the incidents exist, although she was known to have written them – Susannah ('Suki') Wesley distinctly states that her 'sisters Emilia and Hetty write so particularly about it' – and John Wesley (whom they were all in correspondence with) diligently kept all the letters with regard to the supernatural events occurring at his family home.
A council house in Newton Grove, Grimsby, reportedly had a malevolent uninvited guest who apparently had the ability to manipulate gas taps. Unsurprisingly this led to some families putting in requests for rehousing, which only ceased when the house was converted to all-electric.
Single mother Jade Callaby and her nine-year-old daughter Courtney put up with the activities of a poltergeist in their council house in Prial Avenue, Lincoln, for almost seven years. Ms Callaby endured electrical appliances turning themselves on, crockery moving of its own accord, unexplained noises and unnatural shadows. Ms Callaby asked the Church for help; although they sent representatives to bless the house, the haunting didn't cease. After the third such blessing failed to banish the poltergeist, Ms Callaby fled with her daughter in February 2010, vowing never to spend another night in the house. A City of Lincoln Council housing official said:
Even though there has never been any tangible evidence of haunting, we will do everything we can to support Ms Callaby. However, if she feels she can no longer live at the property, she may, of course, apply to move to alternative accommodation.
No, not the scary spiderweb-in-your-face and cackle-laugh amusement attraction at theme parks, but a genuine ghost train. The Louth to Bardney train line closed in 1956 and the track was removed. According to locals of nearby Hallington, they can sometimes hear the unmistakable sound of a steam train passing by, usually in the stillness of night.
Eager for More?
If this Entry has whetted your appetite for more readings of a ghoulish nature, here are some other ghost stories in the Edited Guide: