Sunderland has many a grim and dark tale from its ancient history, says LH DAVIES. Even its name derives from the term, ‘sundered land’, so is it any wonder then that so many departed souls still linger?
North East Air Museum
The North East Air Museum is situated just outside the boundaries of the former RAF Usworth. The museum plays host to many paranormal investigation teams, drawn by the site’s regular activity. The museum is spread out over three main hangars, all of which have their own individual entities. The first hangar is said to be home to the spirits of two men, one rather more aggressive than the other. It is believed the one is trying to protect his former helicopter from those who might get too close, as it has been known to shake when people go near.
Loud bangs and laughter have been heard in hangar two, thought to be caused by wartime lovers, whilst the third and most active hangar has recorded sightings of two apparitions: a young girl seemingly searching for her mother, possibly the second (and only partial) spectre. The legs of an adult female have been seen navigating the hangar. Photographs have also caught mysterious mists that cannot be explained since the air at the time of the photo’s capture was entirely clear.
The Royalty Theatre, Sunderland
This theatre was originally built as a church in the 1800s and is spread across two floors. Boasting a 250-seat auditorium, other areas within, among others, include a bar and a rehearsal room. Throughout the First World War, the building was used as a hospital for injured soldiers, narrowly avoiding destruction in the Second World War after a bomb bounced over it before detonating not far away.
There have been many reports of activity over the years, from loud bangs and scraping noises, objects moving by themselves, to moans and whistling. Others claim they have witnessed slammed doors while alone in the building. Investigators have themselves witnessed fluxes in EMF readings and dramatic drops in temperature.
Ryhope Green Crossroads
The crossroads at Ryhope Green might seem to the majority of people to be a fairly ordinary place, in fact perhaps one of total mundanity. Yet for a certain few it has become a place synonymous with paranormal disturbance.
The first account occurred back in 1926, shortly after the erection of the local war memorial. It was October 30 when the initial witness was making his way home. Glancing over towards the monument, he noticed another man walking towards it from the opposite direction, a pickaxe thrown over his shoulder. He was however astonished to see the man carried a candle that appeared to be entirely unaffected by the strong wind blowing over the green. As the man approached the memorial he set down the candle and proceeded to hack at the ground with his pickaxe. Feeling he was a witness to an ensuing act of vandalism, the witness ran forward shouting. The man with the pickaxe took no notice, continuing his hacking before suddenly letting out a loud scream and vanishing. Hurrying home the witness made no mention of what he had seen until a week later when another observed the same man once again digging into the green around the memorial.
Initially, it was suspected that a local soldier had been killed, but his name not added to the memorial, but on conducting research no evidence for this theory was ever found. It was later concluded that the man was a young member of the Squire Tempests. Owning a large estate many years earlier, a younger son of the family fell in love with a servant girl. Cut off from his family when they refused to support such a union, he saw his young wife die just a year later in childbirth. So distraught by what had occurred, the young Squire Tempest took his own life. At this time the law dictated that any who took their own life could not be buried in consecrated ground, and the bodies of those who did were often disposed of at crossroads. It was believed that Squire Tempest had been buried beneath the green and that his tortured soul still wandered the area looking for his peace.
The Isis, Sunderland
Reputedly Sunderland’s most haunted pub, The Isis is a listed building on the city’s Silksworth Row. Owned by Jarrow Breweries and known now for selling quality traditional ales, it is thought to be home to Mary-Anne Cotton. Born in 1832, Cotton was believed to have murdered up to 21 people, predominantly with arsenic. Cotton was said to have buried the remains of two of her own murdered children in the tunnels beneath the building that lead down to the river Wear. Crying and screaming has been heard and singing from empty rooms whilst the apparitions of a young girl and a Victorian lady have been seen witnessed by both staff and customers.
The site of the Cherry Knowle Asylum
The building of Cherry Knowle Asylum began in 1893 and was completed two years later in 1895. A compound consisting of six ward blocks, facilities and a chapel, it was placed upon sloping fields just outside of a village with views that belied its dark purpose. Other accommodation was in place for staff and it remained open until 1998 when it closed after reports of abuse of patients. Up until 2008 the site was entirely accessible, however, after vandalism and fast deteriorating buildings making the site unsafe, the council erected wire fencing and employed security guards, however these guards were known to be more than willing to take guided tours around the dilapidated, yet immensely intimidating gothic style buildings. During this time many people are said to have born witness to numerous types of activity. A piano that had long since been disposed of still played throughout the corridors, others saw shadow men and saw stones being thrown. One group found their Ouija board moving by itself.
Sadly the council eventually made the decision to demolish the buildings, yet if history has taught those with an interest in the paranormal anything, it is that generally it is not the building itself that is haunted. No one knows for sure what the council plans to do with this strip of land, but with the demand for houses so high, you have to wonder what might be experienced by those who were to live on such a site were it to be developed.