Do you believe in things that go bump in the night? According to Visit Britain, half of adults think ghosts might exist. And as Halloween approaches, spook-seekers all over the UK are getting ready to spot headless horsemen and ladies in white gowns. But I’m happy to report that some British ghosts are considerably more original and entertaining than the classic apparitions of Victorian times.
Here are 10 facts about British ghosts which you may not know:
1.) The Daily Telegraph claims there have been almost 1000 ghost reports in the last twenty-five years.
2.) Britain has had a ghostly research society since 1882, when The Society for Psychical Research was formed.
3.) The spookiest county is Yorkshire, with Devon and Somerset close behind in the sightings league table.
4.) Pubs seem to lead the way in reported encounters, possibly because these buildings are often centuries-old highway taverns, or possibly because we all see things when we’ve had one-too-many…
5.) Theatres come close behind for unexplained performances, including some rather impressive flying wigs at the Victoria Palace in London.
6.) As well as making hairpieces fly, British ghosts sometimes exhibit more down-to-earth obsessions. At one pub in Yorkshire, a woman with only half a face gained a reputation for flushing the toilet repeatedly. On one occasion – with the local police present – the unexplained flushings went on for four hours.
7.) Reflecting the diversity of the British population, UK ghosts come in all shapes, sizes and sexual preferences. Male staff at the Queen’s Theatre in London report feeling watched as they change into their uniforms before performances. Some have even reported their bottom being pinched. Meanwhile, at a pub in Amersham, Buckinghamshire, a female ghost dressed all in black is blamed for inappropriate pinching of the barmaids who work there.
8.) But not all ghosts take human form. Yorkshire boasts a ghost goose, Highgate (London) claims a half-frozen chicken, and in Dorset, there’s even a ghost monkey. The unfortunate creature was apparently the only witness to a teenage suicide in a secret room, and couldn’t escape before starving to death.
9.) Moving beyond the animal kingdom, some British hauntings are attributed to smells. Among the ghostly aromas which plague Blighty residents are ladies’ perfume (at the Tower of London), violets & lavender (Wales), and roast beef (also Wales).
10.) If you believe in spirits, you’re in great company: Winston Churchill, Lord Byron, Queen Elizabeth II and Mick Jagger are all reported to have seen ghosts.
Pauline is British by birth and moved to the San Francisco Bay Area nine years ago and, apart from a yearning for afternoon tea and historic homes, has never looked back. Her work has been published by House of Fifty, Toasted Cheese and Alfie Dog Fiction. Her first novel, Saving Saffron Sweeting, was released in Spring 2013. Visit her website here.