This is my Paranormal Town - K.J. Milsom
My home city is also responsible for my personal interest in the paranormal. It provided a pair of key locations to peak my interest during my much younger years. Consequently, two of the houses I grew up in during the 1970’s & 80’s were haunted. Firstly, a store at the lower end of St. Michael’s Hill caught my attention as a child - when an older man would tend to walk up from the old cellar and storerooms to wander around the house; including my bedroom. While his introduction was lengthy (a lot of footsteps and tuneless whistling) his disappearance was instant. Furthermore, teenage years spent at a house in Horfield, to the north of Bristol, yielded several interesting experiences. These included apparitions, footsteps and disembodied voices. At one time the land was owned by a religious order, which may have explained the partial apparition of a jolly-looking monk.
In recent years the centre of historic Bristol has altered with some key modernization, yet many parts of my birth city retain a Medieval, historical atmosphere – including numerous tales of the paranormal. One such location, at the end of cobbled King Street, is the ‘Llandoger Trow’. Originally built in 1664, this pub lies in King Street, Bristol, right by the river.
There have been many accounts of paranormal activity here since it was built. The most common occurrence is that of a disabled ghost who walks around the pub. People have often heard the sound of one foot being placed down on the floorboards, followed by the dragging sound of a lame foot. Occasionally, the footsteps will be accompanied by the sighting of a young boy, who seems not to have the use of both his legs. Sometimes the limping appears with the apparition of an older man. Whether this is the same person as a boy and grown up is debatable, or it could be two separate individuals. It has been reported that the name of the limping boy is Pierre. Footsteps have been heard all over the pub and these have often been captured by paranormal teams. Torches and lights have also been turned on and off during investigations.
A few years ago, security cameras picked up two men sitting in the pub long after closing hours (usually one in the main bar and another in the Jacobean Bar, at the same time). The pub has been claimed to house 15 separate ghosts over the centuries.
Further along King Street, the impressive ‘Theatre Royal’,( built in the 1760’s), still receives appearances from the famous actress, Sarah Siddons, (1755-1831). In 2012, eighteenth century manager Sarah Macready showed up during renovations. She was smiling sweetly at one of the workers before promptly disappearing. Indeed, it may have been one of the Sarah’s who frightened a skeptical security guard in the 1980’s. firstly by causing his Alsatian dog to freeze in panicked terror on a routine patrol, just before the arrival of an overpowering scent of lavender and accompanied by the disembodied words ‘Get out!’ from an insistent, female voice. Both terrified guard and dog duly obliged in record time.
Along with the ‘Llandoger Trow’, several Bristol pubs have been known for offering more than liquid spirits. The now-demolished ‘Lamb Inn’ in West Street, Bedminster, was subject to an unruly poltergeist throughout the whole of 1761 . Hurling glasses and furniture at both patrons and staff was a regular occurrence. Not to be outdone; the medieval ‘White Hart Inn’ near the main city bus station, has also experienced poltergeist activity in its time (plates and crockery being the preferred projectiles of choice), alongside a former barman who occasionally makes guest appearances within the cellar.
Meanwhile, in the oldest part of the city, near Bristol Bridge, ‘The Rummer’ sees visits from a ‘White Lady’ who roams the upstairs bar, while a young man with dark hair does regular shift-work within the pub’s cellar. The ‘Post Office Tavern’ on Staple Hill has also attracted attention. Mainly, due to the arrival of floating lights and odd aromas, complete with phantom footsteps.
Away from the bustling city centre, ghostly tales are equally common. A man approaches strangers in Stapleton Woods, as if to ask a question, before passing right through them. Perhaps the ghost is trying to ascertain why another spectral man has been seen hanging from the overhanging branch of a tree in the woods.
Near Isambard Kingdom Brunel’s ‘Clifton Suspension Bridge’ – itself the scene of apparitions from poor, suicidal souls who have leapt from its 331 feet height, lies the eleventh century Ashton Court. Now, best-known for a major, annual Balloon Festival, until 1946 it was the ancestral home of the Smyth family. Here, the apparition of a young lady with a knife protruding from her chest (possibly also the young lady who wanders through the Great Hall) joins forces with odd, misty figures hanging motionless from surrounding trees. Furthermore, a tool-throwing poltergeist (objecting to some improvements in the main house during 1960) and a headless horseman, roaming freely amongst the 850 acre grounds are also to be found.
In Clifton, a posh part of the city to the west; a monk in black wanders around All Saint’s Church in Pembroke Road (one of many monks still seen in Bristol), while, in 1840, an adjoining house was so badly haunted by the spirit of an elderly man that the owners tried jumping out of an upstairs window to escape the advancing spectre.
The Paranormal Home
Nearby, a horrific haunting was inspected by the prominent Bristolian paranormal investigator, Montague Summers (1880-1948). The investigation consisted of a large Clifton dwelling that was terrorized by the apparition of a young, hunchbacked girl, who had spent a pitiful, tormented life in the house, working as a maid. When a family bought the property in the early twentieth century, they were subjected to a frightening series of visitations from the hunchbacked girl throughout the house, attired each time in a dirty, pink dress and wearing a hideous smirk.
Once, she chased by a braver-than-average daughter, the search ended in an empty, lower room. Returning upstairs, the daughter was horrified to see the pale - floating head of the girl through a window, some thirty feet above the ground and grinning back at her. Needless to say, the family soon left. However, future occupants reportedly fared no better.
Still in the upmarket area of Clifton; a house in Bellevue has been party to odd movements of a poltergeist style, complete with eerie noises, while a large expanse of green in the area, known as Durdham Downs, in the same area of Bristol was once well-known for appearances from a highwayman and a dwarf…perhaps the same person in the spectral form of an 18th century outlaw called Jenkins Protheroe.
Over towards the southern area of the city, at Arnos Vale cemetery, apparitions of two separate ladies have been spotted over the years, along with the sound of mournful crying. Meanwhile, back in the upmarket area of Clifton, a house in Bellevue has been party to odd movements of a poltergeist style, complete with eerie noises. Durdham Downs in the same area of Bristol was once well-known for appearances from a highwayman and a dwarf (perhaps the same person) in the spectral form of an 18th century outlaw called Jenkins Protheroe.
Like any large city with a long history, Bristol has many more curious tales to discover, and these tales are merely a taster of my favourite city, making it one of the most haunted cities in the United Kingdom.
And yes, I am totally and utterly biased.
(Author K.J. Milsom)