All towns have their share of ghost stories and supposedly haunted locations. My own home town of Blackpool, a down on its luck tourist town on the coast of the Irish Sea, is no exception. Many of our most well known attractions date back to Blackpool’s Victorian heyday and have accumulated a host of rumoured spiritual residents over the years since. Here, I will run through a selection of some of the supposed hauntings of Blackpool.
The Pleasure Beach
One of the UK’s most popular attractions, the Pleasure Beach packs 38 rollercoasters and other rides into a relatively small site at the south end of Blackpool’s ‘Golden Mile’ of promenade tourist attractions (in reality, around 1.6 miles in total length). Founded in 1896, many of the current rides and attractions are approaching 100 years old. This includes the Ghost Train, built in 1930 and the first of its kind anywhere in the world, originating the term ‘ghost train’ itself.
Rumours that the Ghost Train is inhabited by real ghosts have been around since as early at the 1950s, and its most famous spectral inhabitant has become easily Blackpool’s most well-known ghost story. Referred to affectionately as ‘Cloggy’, a former ride operator named for his choice of footwear, his clunking footsteps are said to be commonly heard by both riders and maintenance staff. The general consensus seems to be that Cloggy is a fairly benign character, rarely if ever being seen but with track maintenance workers describing a feeling of something or someone watching over them. However, some guests have complained to staff about being grabbed during the ride, sometimes assuming it is part of the attraction before being told otherwise.
Outside of the Ghost Train, a number of other locations within the Pleasure Beach are reportedly haunted. The figure of a young girl has been seen on multiple occasions in Sir Haram Maxim’s Gift Shop and objects moving of their own accord in the shop are attributed to her. The Star pub within the park is also supposedly rife with poltergeist activity, with nighttime workers also reporting seeing an apparition passing through the bar or in the cellar.
Finally, the ice rink, located beneath the Pleasure Beach, is said to be haunted by a malevolent spirit. Lighting and sound equipment moves without explanation, doors slam shut, and many people have reported the sound of skating on the ice when nobody is there. Workers have described the sense of a frightening presence looming over them as they work during night shifts.
Perhaps even more so than its tower or the Pleasure Beach, Blackpool is famous for its annual lights festival, the Blackpool Illuminations. Running for 66 days every Autumn and stretching more than five miles along Blackpool’s seafront, the Illuminations feature over one million coloured bulbs. When not in use, the illuminations are stored in an expansive depot.
Before being repurposed and used to store, clean and repair illuminations, the building was a stables housing the numerous donkeys used to offer children’s rides along Blackpool beach. Workers have long reported a range of strange occurrences in the building that suggest the present of ghosts. Staff working at night have reported unexplained cold spots, whispered voices, and a depressing, ominous presence. A medium visiting the site claimed to make contact with the ghost of a man called Ted, who had drowned in a boating accident.
Once the trams that offer transport up and down Blackpool promenade have been retired for the night to the neighbouring transport depot, there have been claims of an additional, phantom tram traveling silently along the tracks.
Now something of a tourist trap pub in the centre of the Golden Mile, the Foxhall today couldn’t be more different to the site’s original 17th century use. At the time of its construction, the area that would become Blackpool was a remote and desolate strip of coastline. This remoteness is thought to be behind the decision of Thomas Tyldesley to build his home of Fox Hall here, named after a fox that was kept chained up close to the building.
The building was littered with secret passages and priest’s holes, offering a refuge to priests during the turbulent years that followed the English Restoration and the Church of England being restored as the national church. Tyldesley was also said to provide lodging for smugglers that operated along the Irish Sea, alongside hosting members of the aristocracy. Today, the original building is long gone, but the site is still said to experience frequent paranormal activity. Staff and patrons alike have reported numerous ghostly apparitions over the years, with figures resembling priests, smugglers and aristocrats all being seen.
Carleton Cemetery and Crematorium
Known locally as ‘Carleton Crem’, this extensive cemetery is located between Blackpool and the nearby market town of Poulton-le-Fylde. Among those buried there are a number of well-known entertainers that plied their trade in the venues of the Golden Mile, as well as the celebrated children’s author and illustrator Beatrix Potter. First opened in July 1936, in December of that year a taxi driver reported seeing a ghost with a green face appear near to the cemetery gates. The appearance of the apparition was enough to send his female passenger running from the cab screaming, while the driver watched the face circle the front of his cab before disappearing. He later described it as an old man with ‘sunken eyes, long dark hair, a Punch-like nose and prominent chin’.
While the taxi driver described the face as male, other witnesses have described a similar female green face, leading to the suggestion that the ghost is that of Abigail Whalley. A former teacher, Abigail had a reputation of being cantankerous and eccentric, living alone at the age of 85 in a house on Robbins Lane, where the cemetery now resides. She was found by neighbours having been battered to death by an intruder in 1931, five years before the cemetery was constructed adjacent to her former home.
Blackpool is separated from its more affluent neighbour Lytham St. Annes by around a mile of steep, shifting sand dunes. An important sea defence and habitat for a range of wildlife species, the dunes are also home to numerous sightings of a lone, ghostly figure. In the early hours of Christmas Eve 1919 the body of 26-year old Kathleen Breaks, known to friends as Kitty, was found in the dunes. She had been shot three times.
Her lover, Lieutenant Frederick Rothwell Holt, was arrested and charged with her murder after footprints matching his boots as well as his service revolver and bloodstained gloves were found amongst the dunes. At trial, he initially claimed to have gone for a long walk on the night in question, although this was contradicted by his father, who claimed he had been at home all evening. His defence team then switched to a plea of insanity, supported by two doctors, but this too was rejected and he was sentenced to death by hanging.
Ever since, locals have reported sightings of Kitty’s distraught ghost wandering the dunes in the early hours of Christmas Eve. Others describe her running through the dunes, believing she is re-enacting her final moments of attempting to escape her killer.
The Old Coach House
Now a bed and breakfast, the Old Coach House was built in 1851 and is thought to have been the first building constructed in the South Shore area of Blackpool. it also served as a vicarage at some point during its history. Set back from the promenade and close to the Pleasure Beach, the building has retained much of its original Tudor-style character up to the present day.
While the current owners have never encountered either of the ghosts said to haunt the building, guests regularly report sightings. Many tell of being disturbed by a male figure in a black cloak and cap that stares intently at them during meals in the dining room. Another, a female apparition referred to as Shirley, also frequents the dining area. Unlike her male counterpart, she seems to be largely unaware of guests, instead preferring to simply watch over the room.