There are plenty of ghostly goings-on in pubs across the Midlands. Brett Gibbons seeks out a few regular haunts.
Halloween may be the only time of the year when most people revel in matters paranormal, but for a select band of pub landlords, ghosts and ghouls are the phenomena of day-to-day life.
Besides the normal alcoholic beverages on offer, there are – according to legend – a variety of poltergeists, spectres and unexplained phenonema lurking in cellars and bars and it seems the region’s hostelries could be among the most haunted in the country.
Spooks and spirits are said to regularly check in at Dudley’s Station Hotel, widely regarded as one of the UK’s foremost venues for paranormal activity.
Guests staying in rooms 214 or 217 have for decades claimed something went bump in the night, and an unnamed ghoul has been spotted sitting in a chair in 214 which has also mysteriously moved without anyone being near it.
Paranormal investigators regularly visit the location and all-night vigils are often held to try to contact visitors from the other side.
So why the Station Hotel? Murder, suicide and adultery could all be to blame for seeming poltergeist activity and screams in its dark cellars.
Legend has it that a former hotel manager enticed a servant girl into the beer store. Spurning his advances and threatening to tell his wife, he murdered the girl – strangling and stabbing her and then hiding her body in a barrel.
Rumours also persist that a local writer, George Lawley, knew of the murder and penned a secret ledger about the crime.
He hid the tell-tale document in the hotel, which was a regular “haunt” for stars appearing at the former Dudley Hippodrome Theatre opposite. To this day it has not been found.
Hotel duty manager Chris Swann said he was scared out of his wits by a recent incident when he was pushed in the back while he was in the men’s toilets.
“I was standing in the room when I was shoved forward. I turned around and no-one was there. It was really spooky.
“We also had guests spotting mysterious shadows on a landing and a bell on reception rings when no-one is there,” he said. “There have been all sorts of reports from staff members about the cellar. It can be absolutely terrifying down there and some people have vowed never to go in,” the manager added.
Bosses at the Court Oak pub in Harborne have also reported a host of unexplained noises and knocking sounds from the pub, which was built in 1932.
It is rumoured that the town gallows once stood near the site of the Court Oak, and a ghost, said to be the apparition of a woman dressed in black and white, was one of the unfortunates who was executed there.
Local legend has it that the woman was tried and hanged on a charge of infanticide – a crime that she didn’t actually commit.
A plethora of potentially paranormal activity has been reported at the pub, from bottles of wine smashing in the locked wine cellar overnight to objects regularly moving of their own volition and entire light fittings being pulled from their fixed positions.
Day trippers heading out of the West Midlands can also call in on one of the most haunted pubs in Britain.
The Acton Arms sits alongside the main Bridgnorth to Much Wenlock road at Morville – just a short drive from the Black Country and a favourite with visitors from Birmingham.
It is said that it receives a daily visit from a shrouded ghost who is seen in a bedroom and an upstairs corridor.
Little is known of the pub ghost except that he could be the figure of a Benedictine monk.
Locals suspect it may be Richard Manners, Abbot of Shrewsbury and last Prior of Morville.
The monk is mainly seen as a “white form” and only vaguely in the shape of a man. His appearances are daily and on occasion he has been seen more than once on the same day.
Nick Duffy of West Midlands Ghost Club said many pubs had their own ghosts.
“There is no doubt that the West Midlands is rife with incidents of paranormal activity – in pubs, homes, business and other centres,” he said.
“I would say that the Black Country and Shropshire have the most haunted places in the country. Bridgnorth is probably one of the most haunted villages or towns in the UK.”
* For more information go to www.westmidlandsghostclub.com