KAI ROBERTS, author of Haunted Huddersfield, picks five places in the city with paranormal goings-on!
A magnificent example of Victorian municipal architecture—the poet John Betjeman described Huddersfield station as “a stately home with trains”—but even this beautiful building has its dark side: it is haunted by the ghost of a porter named Jonah Marr. Despised by his fellows for his ingratiating attitude, Marr was always able to wheedle larger tips than any other porter; thus, one day when he fell on the tracks—breaking both his legs—his colleagues were slow to come to his aid. Marr’s legs never set properly: he was unable to return to work and died shortly thereafter. Around 11:25am—said to be the time of Marr’s accident—staff at the station today report the sound of disembodied, malevolent laughter proceeding the sensation of being nipped or pushed. Meanwhile, the ghost of a crooked man pushing luggage has been witnessed in one of the adjacent pubs.
The Lawrence Batley Theatre, Queens Street
A cherished local theatre and arts centre, the Lawrence Batley Theatre was originally built in 1819 as a Methodist chapel and at one point it was the largest Weslyan Mission in the world, with a capacity of over 100. The undercroft—now the Cellar Theatre—served as a crypt for the chapel between 1819 and 1855. 84 bodies were interred here and forgotten about until the 1970s, when it they were exhumed with great care and secrecy lest infectious diseases such tuberculosis or typhoid had survived amongst the remains. Needless to say, staff at the theatre have reported a great deal of strange phenomena from the former crypt: locked doors open of their own accord; the house-lights flash on and off even though the control desk is unmanned; and an incongruous figure in dapper Victorian garb is sometimes seen walking through the corridors long after the building has closed for the night.
The Zetland Hotel, Queensgate
Located on the corner of Zetland Street and Queensgate—opposite the entrance to the University of Huddersfield—the Zetland Hotel is today primarily known as a student bar and the establishment changes its name with dizzying regularity. The premises were originally built in 1847; and from 1861 till 1901 they neighboured the armoury of the 2nd West Yorkshire Rifle Volunteers. A former barman at the pub recalled that during the 1950s the landlady of the Zetland—known affectionately as “Mummy”—often reported encountering the unhappy ghost of a young soldier in the cellars of the pub. Several decades later, in 1996, staff claimed to have experienced persistent poltergeist activity in the building: they found ashtrays overturned; chairs mysterious stacked on the stairs; and often heard unearthly noises after closing time. Significantly, perhaps, these witnesses were unaware of the earlier reports.
Church of St. Thomas, Manchester Road, Huddersfield
The Church of St. Thomas is not a particularly ancient institution—it was only built in 1859—but it became the scene of one of the largest ghost-panics in the region nonetheless. These flaps—which were common from the late-18th until the early-20th Century—have been dubbed a form of “urban recreation” by the historian Owen Davies. The affair at the Church of St. Thomas in Huddersfield erupted in early September 1926 when rumours that a spectral white lady had been witnessed outside the west door caused a crowd of almost 2,000 people to assemble hoping to glimpse the apparition. The congregation was so large and riotous that traffic was obstructed on Manchester Road and one child was knocked down; meanwhile, the police struggled to keep order as people threw stones at shadows and armed young braves patrolled the churchyard to impress their girlfriends.
Huddersfield Broad Canal, Gasworks Street
A thoroughfare known as Gasworks Street links the town-centre with its local football stadium and carries traffic over the Huddersfield Broad Canal by the unimaginatively named Gasworks Club. Needless to say, the road passes the site of an old gasworks and drinkers leaving the establishment as midnight approaches have reported seeing a shadowy hunched figure shambling across the derelict site, or they have heard the tap of his stick as he hums some music-hall tune. The ghost is thought to be the spirit of a Victorian bargeman known as Old Joe, who threw himself in the canal hereabouts when illness left him unable to earn a living. Some people have even reported witnessing a spectral figure jump into the water—yet no splash of water ever follows. It is merely a residual-haunting: the image of a tragic event somehow recorded by its surroundings and fated to play over again to those sensitive enough to perceive it.
Kai Roberts is a folklore and forteana junkie with a particular interest in the South Pennines and the old West Yorkshire Riding. He has written several books on regional folklore which can be purchased here. He maintains a personal blog at http://kairoberts.wordpress.com and records the folkloric traditions of the Lower Calder Valley at http://lowercalderlegends.wordpress.com