Halloween: Liverpool’s haunted hotspots
Tales of ghouls and spectres haunt Liverpool’s past, as bone-chilling myths have become synonymous with many of the city’s famous buildings and landmarks over the years.
From terrors at Tower Building to spooks at Speke Hall, these urban legends are now the basis for prime visitor attractions including murder mystery evenings, ghost tours and other horror-themed hijinks for those who like nothing better than a good scare.
With Halloween upon us, Your Move turns paranormal investigator and explores the haunted histories of these sites and how they double as spooktacular entertainment hotspots.
Words by Mark Langshaw
Catch the shivers
Liverpool city centre plays host to more ghost tales than a career-spanning collection of Stephen King stories; sinister myths which loom large over many buildings and landmarks.
Legend has it that a screaming banshee once lurked around the Wellington Rooms on Mount Pleasant – a 19th Century hall which served as the city’s Irish Centre until its closure in 1997 and is now a sombre shadow of its former self.
Across town, on an abandoned shadowy street, lies the remains of Cornwallis Street Swimming Baths – a public pool where the spirit of a young boy is said to have lingered since 1919.
And let’s not forget Tower Building on The Strand, which is allegedly one of the most haunted locations in Merseyside.
References to this imposing structure stretch back to 1256 but it was during the Napoleonic Wars that it gained infamy, serving as a jail where 4,000 French prisoners were incarcerated in the most ghastly, inhumane conditions.
These days, Tower Building houses modern apartments but echoes of its gruesome past reverberate thanks to the number of supernatural occurrences residents are said to have reported, from the sound of chains being dragged down the stairways to a chilling atmosphere.
Local ghost tour operator Shiverpool is doing its bit to ensure these urban legends endure, with a repertoire of street theatre-style performances enhanced by historical accuracy and a wardrobe full of genuinely creepy costumes.
Shiverpool’s walking tours take steely-nerved punters to these ominous Liverpool landmarks as well as other haunted attractions – and between 29 and 31 October, the company’s Ghost Bus Tour is returning to spirit passengers away on a comedy-horror roadtrip.
Newsham Park Hospital
Hospital of horrors
Broken beds, rusted wheelchairs and discarded trollies litter the decaying wards of Newsham Park Hospital and rows of ‘naughty cupboards’ where misbehaving children were once locked away occupy its dusty attic.
It’s easy to see why this Grade II-listed building in Tuebrook is considered one of Liverpool’s most eerie locations and is now a popular attraction among the region’s chill-seekers.
The site was originally an orphanage for seamen’s children before becoming a sanatorium in 1879 and later a hospital for patients with severe mental health issues and the terminally ill.
Now abandoned and in a state of disrepair, Newsham Park Hospital has had more than its fair share of alleged paranormal happenings over the years, dating back to its time as a medical facility.
Such tales have drawn ghost hunters from across the country and modern-day visitors to the former hospital have purportedly encountered everything from mysterious tapping noises to prods from unseen fingers and unexplained temperature drops.
The public can sample Newsham Park Hospital’s oppressive atmosphere by booking a ghost tour through Haunted Rooms, which sees brave visitors explore the site’s darkest nooks and crannies overnight under the supervision of pro spook hunters.
Those who prefer things that go thump, rather than bump, in the night can check out Newsham Park Hospital in all of its chilling glory and enjoy safety in numbers at Cream’s Cocoon @ The Asylum techno event on 29 October, during which DJs Sven Vath, Ilario Alicante, Tim Green and Jemmy will deliver hell-raising sets to revellers decked out in Halloween costumes.
Speke no evil
There’s something about grand old halls that makes them prime real estate for spirits, and if the stories are to be believed, Speke Hall is no exception.
This striking Tudor mansion sits on the banks of the Mersey and is surrounded by picturesque gardens, but one legend surrounding the site has cast a dark shadow on its history since the 1700s.
Mary Norris – a descendant of Speke Hall’s original owner Sir William Norreys – is rumoured to have died in the manor under tragic circumstances and now haunts the spot of her demise.
Hall staff and visitors over the last century claim to have spotted a translucent figure slinking about the tapestry room, an entity which has become known as the White Lady.
The legend of the White Lady is one of many creepy tales from the Speke Hall archive and the building’s custodian, the National Trust, is keen to play up to the myths and keep them alive with regular ghostly attractions and spooky events.
This Halloween, a series of haunting half term activities for youngsters will run between 26-30 October as part of the Spooky Speke School programme.
If child’s play isn’t your thing, the Circus of Horrors event on 28 and 29 October is no laughing matter. This immersive experience is described as a “thrilling and horrific gothic adventure” in which guests must solve a mystery surrounding the disappearance of a young girl.
On haunted hill
Across the River Mersey in the Wirral suburb of Bidston, one of the Liverpool City Region’s highest and arguably most haunted locations can be found.
Bidston Hill is a 100-acre area of heathland and woodland which plays host to historic buildings and ancient rock carvings, but its beautiful views are offset against a sinister past.
Local legends speak of everything from grisly murders and satanic worship, to ghost encounters and even werewolf sightings occurring there. The plot is also a hotspot for UFO sightings as many visitors have reported strange lights in the sky overhead.
If that’s not enough, Bidston Hill hides more dark secrets underground, sitting on a network of subterranean tunnels built during World War II, which are said to have once been used by a coven of witches. These passages have since been sealed for public safety, and that’s probably for the best.
Community group the Friends of Bidston Hill watches over this picturesque conservation area and assists with its upkeep. Its members have always embraced its haunted heritage, using it as a vehicle to raise the profile of the site as a Wirral tourist destination.
On 31 October, the organisation will gear up for the witching hour with an evening of ghost stories told to a select group who book in early over mulled wine and hot chocolate.