From unexplained sightings to the search for evidence of ghosts, this book contains a chilling range of spooky tales from the towns and villages scattered along the banks of the River Tees. Compiled by paranormal investigator Rebecca Hall, this collection features eyewitness sightings in long-abandoned factories; cold spots in public, houses, poltergeists in council houses and many other unexplained phenomena.
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By Rebecca Hall
The History PressCopyright © 2014 Rebecca Hall
All rights reserved.
PARANORMAL PUBLIC PLACES
The Ghost Room
Standing proudly in Middlesbrough's Centre Square is Middlesbrough Central Library. Opened just two years after the foundation stone was laid in 1910, the striking design is still a beautiful and recognisable landmark of the town. London architects Messrs S.B. Russell and T.E. Cooper entered their design for the building for consideration. Their classical style impressed the board, and was selected to be built from the 203 submissions that were received.
The two plots of land on which the library stands were donated for the cause. One was given by Sir Hugh Bell, and the other by Alderman Amos Hinton, who was granted the honour of officially opening the building on 8 May 1912 as the town's first purpose-built public library. It is a Carnegie library, meaning the construction of the building was funded by Andrew Carnegie, the Scottish-American philanthropist and businessman who ultimately donated money to build a grand total of 2,509 libraries stretching far across the world. At the time of his final donation in 1919, his funding had facilitated the building of almost half of the 3,500 libraries in the USA, a further 660 across Britain and Ireland and his literary legacy had even reached Australia, Mauritius and Fiji, amongst other countries.
The library has undergone many modernisations and renovations over the years. It has been brought into the twenty-first century, and it now holds computer suites instead of the antiquated 'ladies only' reading room and segregated boys and girls lending library with males and females separated with a screen. The grand marble staircase and dark, heavy wooden doors and fittings give visitors a sense of just how grand this building must have been when in its original state. A number of refurbishments have been made and in the 1970s an extension was added to the back of the library, but despite these modern additions many of the original features have been preserved, most notably in the upstairs reference library. It is here that people claim to have seen the ghostly figure of a woman standing above them in the gallery, and members of staff have witnessed one of the original sets of portable steps, used for reaching high shelves, moving around and making banging sounds of its own accord.
Before the neighbouring MIMA (Middlesbrough Institute of Modern Art) was built in 2007, some of the administration offices for the library were housed in a building annexed to the back of the main structure. The annexe had previously been used as an old police station and also a mechanic's garage before coming into the council's possession. The basement was used to store the unused taxidermy exhibits for the nearby Dorman Museum, and the offices were upstairs. The building was equipped with an alarm system, and on one occasion the caretaker had been called out in the middle of the night because the alarm had been triggered. When he arrived, there was no sign of forced entry, or indeed entry of any sort. Instead, an enigmatic exit had taken place. He was able to trace the path of the mysterious 'intruder' and, bizarrely, the movement had originated from within the building. The internal doors had then been opened, starting from the centre of the office area and travelling outwards in sequence as whatever was inside had made its way through the building and opened the front door before leaving! Unfortunately, this building no longer stands but I was able to meet with Sue, Julie and Andy, who told me about their unusual experiences and encounters during their time in the main library building.
Sue told me that the librarians and staff often see movement out of the corner of their eye, but when they turn to see what caught their attention there is nothing there to focus on. The majority of the activity takes place on the top floor, where one of the rooms has even been nicknamed the 'Ghost Room' due to its uneasy atmosphere. The feeling of being watched is experienced by almost everyone who enters. Females who enter the Ghost Room have often experienced the sensation of being touched or stroked on the arm. This is one of the reasons why employees believe that the spirit which they encounter is that of a man, to whom they have given the nickname of 'Fred'. On one occasion, Andy, the caretaker, had left the empty building locked up as he needed to pop out for a short while. As he was waiting to cross the road, he turned round to look at the building and noticed that there was a light on in the Ghost Room, even though he was sure that he had turned it out. He decided to give the situation the benefit of the doubt, making a mental note to go and turn the light off when he returned. This proved to be problematic as, when he was walking back towards the library, the light was no longer on.
Andy also told me how he would often lock up the building only to hear unexplainable noises. On certain nights the library stays open until 7 p.m., long after the shops have closed and the majority of visitors to the town will have gone home. When Andy locks up the building, he spirals his way across all four floors, locking windows and doors and checking each room as he goes. When he has locked and secured the building and is ready to leave, he will regularly hear a door loudly bang or slam from somewhere above him in the building. He is never able to place which door is making the noise, but in the early days of this happening he would go and conduct a second search of the building, convinced that someone had managed to stow away or that there was an intruder. This was never the case. He has come to accept the mysterious banging, and also the inexplicable footsteps that echo down the marble staircase directly above his head when he is alone on the lower level. He has heard voices coming from upstairs on more than one occasion, but once they were so loud he was convinced that he had managed to lock someone in. Of course when he went to check, there was no one to be found.
Sue told me that a previous caretaker had experienced similar phenomenon. On one occasion he had heard a loud and constant banging noise coming from deep within the building, when there should have been nobody else but him still on site. At this time the police station was just over the road from the library and he placed a call asking some officers to come out since he was certain there was an intruder on the premises. A couple of police officers came over to investigate, and brought police dogs with them. When they arrived the dogs strangely refused to venture further than the entrance. Many people believe that animals are very sensitive to the effects of paranormal presences because of their heightened senses. Could these highly trained and obedient service animals have been sensing the resident ghost inside, causing them to fear entry?
Doors seem to be a common and recurring theme for unexplained activity in the library. The double doors to the reference library are large, heavy and made of solid wood, with an identical set across the landing leading to a room that is almost always locked. (The only time that access is given to this room is when the library needs the room for an event.) On one occasion the doors had not been opened that day, or indeed for some time before. As Andy was conducting his rounds, he came out of the reference library and turned his back on the doors opposite in order to lock the reference library. As he did so, he was aware of something unusual happening behind him. Certain that something was not right, he turned round to witness the locked doors swing wide open. Naturally, his mind searched for a logical explanation but was unable to find one. The room had been locked. The windows were all closed, although even if the windows had been open it would have been near impossible for a gust of wind to be able to push the heavy doors wide open, even if they had been unlocked. Andy stood in disbelief and stared at the open doors before calling out into the quiet building to ask if anyone was there. No reply came and the doors began to slowly close themselves before his eyes.
Elsewhere, in the office area, the doors have also been known to behave strangely. The layout is such that there is a large communal space which houses some seating along with some other furniture. Smaller individual office rooms lead directly out into this area. When sitting in their offices, staff members will hear the main door swing open and then close but, when they look up to see who has entered, there will be no one there. A few moments later, enough time for someone to have walked across the central space, the other door will open and close. On several occasions they have tried to recreate this but have been unable to do so accurately or without being seen. Both of the doors make distinctly different noises, and the sounds of them opening and closing are unmistakable to anyone who is familiar with them. It is as though an invisible entity has walked through the office area, from one door to the next.
The staff members at the library have embraced its ghostly inhabitants and have even hosted a 'most haunted' evening for children, with ghost stories and pizza, to try and get them more engaged with reading and more involved with the library. They also hold ghost hunts to raise money for charities. On one of these, one of the psychic mediums in attendance felt compelled to use the name 'Andrew' to refer to a spirit that she reported sensing. Perhaps she was in contact with benefactor Andrew Carnegie, or maybe it was a message from one of caretaker Andy's mischievous door-opening 'friends'.
During the children's ghost night event, Julie decided that she would go from room to room and take some pictures to see if she was able to capture anything unusual on camera. It wasn't until the next day, when she was reviewing the pictures, that she saw what appears to be a humanoid figure. The dark apparition appears to have outstretched hands, and seems to be wearing an ominous black cloak or cowl. The room where it appeared is the same room where women have felt their arm being touched, and employees of both genders feel the hairs stand up on the back of their necks for no reason. It is, perhaps, no coincidence that this room is directly next door to the Ghost Room. Could this be the ghostly image of Fred, the ghost of Andrew Carnegie or some other after-hours visitor browsing the shelves? Whoever it may be, the employees of Middlesbrough Central Library feel sure that they are not alone.
Fright at the Museum
The origins of the iconic Dorman Museum in Middlesbrough can be traced back as far as the late 1860s. It was around this time that members of the Cleveland Literary and Philosophical Society Field Club started to collect specimens and artefacts in order to give a 'museum like' feel to their clubhouse premises which was located on Corporation Road. Originally this collection, consisting mainly of donations, was only available for viewing by members of the club and was not open to the public.
One of the first additions to the museum was a number of taxidermy birds that were bought for the club in 1874 by H.W.F. Bolckow. Bolckow was a highly influential man, who played an important role in the formation of Middlesbrough as we know it today. Born as Heinrich Bolckow in Germany in 1806, he became a naturalised British citizen in 1841 by Act of Parliament, and changed his name to a more anglicised 'Henry Bolckow'. Later he would meet established ironmaster John Vaughn while trading in the north-east of England, and it was Vaughn who persuaded Bolckow to venture into the iron trade with him. In 1864, after years of trading at their first iron foundry located in Middlesbrough on Vulcan Street, the pair established 'Bolckow Vaughan' as a limited company and opened Witton Ironworks. The ironworks produced the pig iron that was then transported to and processed at the Vulcan Street location. This was an expensive and lengthy process, as the material had to be transported to Middlesbrough from County Durham, so Vaughan hired a geologist to look for iron a little closer to home. When seams of iron ore were found in the Cleveland Hills at Eston, the businessmen were delighted. By 1868, Bolckow Vaughan was producing millions of tons of iron per year, and had become hugely successful. Their rapid success enabled them to expand their business to other areas of operation, including coal and limestone. These achievements contributed to the appointment of Mr Bolckow as the town's mayor and first Member of Parliament, and also explains why he is widely regarded as one of the founders of modern Middlesbrough.
After Bolckow's generous donation, along with many more donations from others over the years, the artefacts of the society's 'museum' were finally made available for public viewing in 1890 when the collection was put into the care of the Free Library Committee. The collection was displayed in several buildings, including the Town Hall, until it had grown to such a size that a custom-built premises was required to house it. The prospect of a donation from Alfred Edward Pease was one of the main factors that prompted the construction of a building specifically intended for use as a museum. He had offered to give the museum his extensive and impressive collection of Indian and African birds and animals, and much of this collection can still be seen in the Dorman Museum today. The striking architecture is the work of J. Mitchell Bottomley, who was commissioned to design the new building. The distinctive ornamental copper dome which sits atop the tower of this terracotta and red-brick construction, has become a familiar addition to the Middlesbrough skyline.
The museum was officially opened in 1904 by the colonel-in-chief of the Yorkshire Regiment, when it was christened the Dorman Memorial Museum. On 1 July it was presented to the town by Sir Arthur Dorman, who intended the museum to serve as a memorial to his son George Lockwood Dorman and all the other members of the Yorkshire Regiment who had lost their lives during the South African War, which was waged between 1899 and 1902. The Dorman Museum may have started life as a natural history museum, but it now houses varied and regularly changing exhibitions, making it a popular attraction in the town. The building was extended in the 1960s in order to accommodate more artefacts and exhibitions, and it is within this newer extension that one of the visitors claimed to see a little girl walking up a flight of stairs. Upon investigation, there was no little girl to be found. There were no visiting school groups on the day in question and, as far as employees of the museum were aware, there weren't actually any children present in the building at the time. The lady who saw the little girl remained undeterred, however, and asked the staff whether or not they had a 'walker', presumably meaning a ghost or similar.
Up on the second floor of the building, within the original section of the structure, lies a corridor that employees have come to call the 'Haunted Corridor'. The first instance of something strange happening was reported by the former senior curator, an intelligent and down-to-earth man who did not believe in the existence of ghosts or the paranormal. One evening, as he was closing up the building, he heard the sound of footsteps echoing along the corridor in question. He quickly finished locking up and left the building in a hurry.
On many occasions the sound of coughing has been heard. Those who have heard it believe it is a male, even calling out to male colleagues who may have been nearby and could have been responsible for making the sounds. When this happens, a reply is never received, and those who heard it discover that they are very definitely alone in that section of the building. On occasion, when individuals have been downstairs working at the reception desk, they have looked up to see a face at one of the windows that looks down on to the entrance area from the Haunted Corridor. This face appears when no one else is up there, and the area is out of bounds and unavailable to the public, so there is little possibility of a prank. Could these strange events be attributed to the spirit of the museums first assistant curator, Frank Elgee?
Born on 8 November 1880, Frank Elgee had a turbulent time with illness throughout his life. He caught scarlet fever while he was at school in North Ormesby leaving him partially deaf and short-sighted. Later in life he contracted pneumonia, which ultimately resulted in him undergoing an operation on his chest in 1898. His ill health left him unable to work, so instead he spent his time learning. He studied several languages, along with astronomy, botany and geology, amongst other subjects. By 1899 he had recovered enough to take a post as the honorary assistant secretary to the Cleveland Naturalist Field Club. He assisted with the cataloguing of the early collection displays in the municipal buildings, before the purpose-built museum was constructed. When the donation was made by Sir Arthur Dorman, and the museum officially opened for public enjoyment in the town of Middlesbrough, Frank Elgee was appointed as the assistant curator. His love for the museum was evident in the care he took with his work. He was largely responsible for transferring the collections to their new home, and maintaining them thereafter. When he was promoted and appointed curator in 1923, it is believed that his office would have been located within the corridor in question. Could it be his footsteps, accompanied by a lingering cough from his chest troubles, which can be heard as he continues to patrol the corridor to make sure that everything is in order?
Excerpted from Haunted Teesside by Rebecca Hall. Copyright © 2014 Rebecca Hall. Excerpted by permission of The History Press.
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Table of Contents
1 Paranormal Public Places 10
2 Something Dark is Brewing 24
3 Haunted Headland 32
4 The Little Ghost Girl and the Bad Man 41
5 Behind Closed Doors 49
6 Manors and Mansions 54
7 Invisible Snooker at the Old Aerodrome 73
8 Pubs and Poltergeists 78
9 Chilling Churches 87