The Peak District and Derbyshire is seemingly rife with tales of ghosts, ghouls and strange apparitions with many locations telling legendary stories of strange going-on and bumps in the dark! Here’s our pick of some the most notorious in the area…
1. THE LEGLESS SOLDIER AT THE CASTLE HOTEL, CASTLETON
The Castle Hotel is highly haunted with many sighting reported over the years and continue to do so. Room 4 is home to a jilted bride, in the the cellar there’s a nurse and a legless soldier and in Rooms 7 and 10 a middle-aged man in a pin-striped suit.
2. BOLSOVER CASTLE AND ITS ‘GHOST BOOK’
Built on the site of a medieval fortress, Bolsover Castle is an extraordinary 17th century aristocratic retreat and is reputedly so haunted that English Heritage staff keep a ‘ghost book’ as they get so many reports of paranormal activity. There have been sightings of a female ghostly presence in the kitchen area and a child who appears in a fireplace before disappearing. Strange noises are often heard, smells appear for no reason and some visitors have reported hearing the sound of horses hooves passing through the walls. Staff and visitors are said to have reported being pushed, seeing apparitions and items being moved around the site…
3. EYAM VILLAGE & EYAM HALL
One of the most famous spots in haunted Derbyshire is Eyam Village aka ‘the plague village’! In September of 1665, the village tailor took delivery of some materials from his London based supplier. However, the parcel was rife with fleas carrying the plague. Within a week, the tailor was dead and by the end of the month 5 more people had succumbed to the plague. During the following month a further 20 lives were lost. The remaining villagers were terrified for their lives and want to leave for a nearby city. However, they were forbidden from doing so for fear of spreading the disease even further. The village was quarantined and was supplied with food and other essentials which were left at the village boundaries. The money for them was left in troughs of vinegar to sterilise them. The plague tore through the villagers for around 8 months and the final death toll was around 273. Just 83 of the population survived the epidemic.
Today, Eyam Village is a thriving community, but it is still best known for its tragic brush with the plague. Many of the houses have been kept in the style of the 1600s and The Eyam Hall which was built in 1676 is still standing. Needless to say, the village is also rife with ghost stories and there are daily ghost tours in the village. The plagued cottages are one of the stops and are apparently haunted by various spirits including a lady in a blue smock who wakes people up during the night! Eyam Hall is also said to be haunted by the ghost of Sarah Mills, a servant who drowned in the well and by an old man who is seen in an upstairs room that is now kept permanently locked. The most haunted building in the village is said to be The Miner’s Arms. Guests frequently hear footsteps and there are all manner of strange occurrences in the bedrooms – to the extent that a large number of guests end up leaving in the middle of the night!
4. POLTERGEIST ACTIVITY AT THE OLD BELL HOTEL, DERBY
Another one of the most haunted places in Derbyshire is The Old Bell Hotel This stunning Tudor style building has a distinctly Gothic atmosphere. It was built in 1680 and remains one of Derby’s oldest coaching inns. There are several paranormal tales linked to the property including the spirit of a woman in a blue Victorian style dress who appears in one of the downstairs bars. There is also the ghost of a murdered serving girl who apparently only chooses to reveal herself to children. Staff have reported some poltergeist activity in The Old Bell Hotel as well in the form of coat hangers being thrown around! The Hotel was closed down in 2012 over a ‘difference of opinion’ between the owners, but reopened around a year later. We can’t help wondering if the paranormal activity had anything to do with it?
5. MURDERED LOVERS AT WINNATS PASS, CASTLETON
This impressive limestone gorge is said to be haunted by a young couple called Clara and Henry who were murdered whilst eloping. The pair were ambushed one night in 1758, robbed and killed, their bodies were found years later buried near a barn. Their remains were re-interred in Castleton churchyard. It is said that years later a miner who was on his death bed confessed that he and four of his friends had committed the crime. He suggested that all of the perpetrators had met a sticky end.
6. HARDWICK HALL
Hardwick Hall is a country house, dating from around 1590. It was built for Elizabeth Talbot, Countess of Shrewsbury (Born circa 1527 – Died 13 February 1608), also known as Bess of Hardwick. It is said to house many spirits and ghosts but most famously by Bess of Hardwick, who was the most powerful woman in Britain next to Queen Elizabeth and it’s said that her apparition has been seen in the Long Hall.
7. KINDER DOWNFALL AND THE LEGEND OF THE MERMAIDS POOL
Kinder Downfall is the highest waterfall in the county, formed where the river Kinder meets the edge of the moorland plateaux. Far below the downfall, the dark waters of Mermaids Pool are reputedly haunted by a water spirit who manifests on the Eve of Easter, perhaps relating to a time of ancient worship in the area.
The origin of the Mermaid legend is obscure, but there are many solitary pools with similar legends and it may date back to before the Roman invasion.
Folklore suggests that staring into the waters will grant visions of the future, and, as is common with many water spirits the Mermaid has a treacherous nature either granting eternal life or pulling under those who have glimpsed her.
8. ROYAL DERBY HOSPITAL HAUNTINGS
On 30 January 2009 The Telegraph published the following story by Chris Irvine entitled ‘Hospital calls in exorcist after ghost spotted’:
A hospital has called in an exorcist after staff claimed they were being haunted by a ghost.
Staff at Derby’s new City General, soon to be renamed the Royal Hospital, which is built on the original City General site, claim a black-clad figure wearing a cloak is stalking the corridors and wards. Senior manager Debbie Butler has now reportedly briefed the terrified employees via email, explaining that they have hired an exorcist to come and rid the £334 million hospital of their unwanted visitor.
She explained: “I’m not sure how many of you are aware that some members of staff have reported seeing a ghost. “I’m taking it seriously as the last thing I want is staff feeling uneasy.” She added: “I don’t want to scare anyone any more than necessary, but felt it was best I made you all aware of the situation and what we are doing about it. “I’ve spoken to the Trust’s chaplain and she is going to arrange for someone from the cathedral to exorcise the department.”
One source told The Sun: “There have been dozens of sightings over recent weeks and people are scared witless. “Several have seen a male figure cloaked from had to toe in black darting between rooms and through walls – especially in departments near the morgue. “It’s affected morale so much that bosses decided they had to act.”
9. THE LEGEND OF DICKEY’S SKULL AT TUNSTEAD FARM, NR. CHAPEL-EN-LE-FRITH
Tunstead farm has a skull named Dickie that had its height of fame during the 19th century. The name seems strange in that legend suggests the skull is actually that of a woman, who was murdered within the house. Before she died she managed to blurt out that it was her wish for her remains to stay within the house forever. Over the years the skeleton was gradually lost until only the skull remained, and the tradition grew that if the skull was removed then all manner of things would go wrong at the farm. Accounts in the 19th century also suggest that the farm was haunted by the woman’s’ spirit who was seen as a guardian kind of figure. The other story is that the skull belongs to Ned Dixon – hence Dickie – who was murdered at the farm by his cousin when he returned from some nameless war in foreign parts.
The tradition of the skulls power was so well known in the local district that it was blamed on the diversion of the 1863 Waley Bridge to Brunton railway. A bridge was being built near to the farm, but had to be abandoned due to unstable foundations. This was attributed to Dickies influence, obviously not wanting such a noisy diversion to his purgatory slumbering.
The skull is also said to have been stolen and taken Disley, where the thieves were plagued by such frightening disturbances that they returned it to the farm. Along with other screaming skulls one owner is said to have provoked its wrath by burying it, inevitably having to return it to the farm to restore peace.
10. MYSTERIOUS LADYBOWER RESERVOIR
Ladybower Reservoir served as a testing ground for bombers during the Second World War, and the area is littered with the broken remains of aircraft, which have crashed over the years. According to sightings some of these flights may be subject to ghostly re-runs. A plane identified as a Lancaster Bomber has been seen by several witnesses in the area. One witness also reported a plane that crashed in a ball of fire, although nothing was found, even after a thorough search of the moorland.
Another candidate for ghostly flights is a United States Air force Dakota, which crashed on the 24th July 1945 killing all of its 8 crew, on a spot close to where the Lancaster Bomber came down.
Although these are the most readily identified with the ghostly flights, there have been many crashes in the area, most of them during the Second Word War.
The area has also been the focus for strange lights in the sky, the sightings of these and the ghostly planes may be related in some way.
11. THE DEVIL’S ELBOW, BETWEEN GLOSSOP & WOODHEAD
A curved stretch of road on the B6105 between Glossop and Woodhead is known as the Devils Elbow, it has been the scene of strange events and is associated with a Devil legend. Many place names in this area may have strange origins. Names such as Shining Clough and Lantern Pike suggest places associated with mysterious light phenomena.
In legend the Devils Elbow is said to have been a meeting place for two lovers, their father was against the union and swore that he would rather the Devil take his daughter than have them meet again. On their next meeting the Devil appeared and chased the terrified couple across the moor.
As the Devil reached out to claim his prize a mighty voice cried out and the devils bent arm turned to stone. He ripped it out and threw it on the moor forming the bend in the road.
In more recent times a strange black form sliding from the moorland across the road has been witnessed in the vicinity of the Devil’s Elbow.
12. PHANTOMS AT TISSINGTON HALL
A young girl called Wilhelmina Fitzherbert who died in 1862 when her nightdress caught fire is said to haunt the hall as well as a man dressed in black who appears in the cellar. Strange phantom noises have been heard and a bed has been known to shake of its own accord at night.
13. ROMAN GHOSTS AT BLEAKLOW HEAD
Bleaklow is said to be home to a Roman Ghost and this has prompted speculation that there is an undiscovered road which once cut through the area. When seen, The Legionnaires all appear to be travelling along similar routes.
14. LONGDENDALE – THE HAUNTED VALLEY
Longdendale, “the long valley,” stretches for ten miles, through some of the regions most remote and ruggedly beautiful countryside. Towering above it are two mountains whose very names conjure up mystical images “Bleaklow” and “Shining Clough.” It is untamed country. One road circles its outer reaches, but the only way to get into its remote hinterland, is on foot. It is bleak but beautiful, haunted and mysterious; or, as Daniel Defoe put it, “the most desolate, wild and abandoned country in England.”
Scattered across the high moor are the rusting wrecks of dozens of World War Two aircraft that crashed into these unforgiving peaks almost sixty years ago.
The fact that there are more ghostly encounters, unexplained happenings and UFO sightings here, than anywhere else in the Peak District, has led to it being dubbed in recent years “The Haunted Valley.”
15. LYME PARK
The cold and aloof exterior of the Stately home us not in the least bit inviting or even welcoming. Yet upon entering the house you find yourself wandering through a labyrinth of dark wood corridors and rooms that are both cosy and immense. One of the first owners of a house on this site was Sir Piers Legh who died while fighting for King and country in Paris in 1422.
His body was brought back for burial at Lyme Park and his grief stricken wife Lady Joan, watched the sorrowful cortege wend its weary way along the drive to her slain husbands final resting place at a site thereafter known as “Knights Low” or “Knights Sorrow.”
Unnoticed in the cortege was Piers mistress, Blanche, who following his interment made her way to the nearby banks of the river Bolin and pined to death.
When her body was discovered they buried poor Blanch on the spot where the meadow became known as “Lady’s Grave.”
A ghostly procession is said to move slowly along the drive and a little way behind drifts the white grief stricken figure of Blanch and her wailing cries. In the upper rooms of the house itself the impressive long gallery leads the intrepid visitor to the “Knight’s Bedroom, “which on account of the fact it is haunted is known as “The Ghost Room.”
There is a tradition that Mary Queen of Scots slept here while she was a prisoner of Queen Elizabeth 1st. In the 18th century the skeleton of a priest was found beneath the floorboards. The room is very dark with an ornate fire place the room is dominated by a massive four poster bed with demonic faces carved upon it. People have come out of the room speaking of the sweet though ghostly smell of oranges that seems to pervade the air. A young child visiting the room in 1999 suddenly went into hysterics and began pointing wildly at the bed insisting that he could see children playing on the bed. The white lady haunts the woods outside!