ANDREW HOMER picks five of the most haunted places in Dudley in the West Midlands to visit this Halloween…
Dudley Castle, Castle Hill, Dudley DY1 4QF
Dudley Castle has a long history of ghost sightings but perhaps the most frequent is that of Dorothy Beaumont. She is better known as ‘The grey lady’ who haunts the area around the base of the Castle Keep. She was the wife of the Deputy Commander of Royalist forces at the castle during the siege by Parliamentarian soldiers in 1645. Dorothy gave birth to a daughter, Frances, in 1645 but the child only survived a few months and her body was buried at St Edmunds, known locally as ‘bottom church’. Dorothy never recovered from this loss and passed away herself during the siege. Her body could not be buried with that of her daughter as the church was destroyed prior to the siege to stop it being used as a vantage point by the Parliamentarians. Dorothy’s body was allowed to be taken through the Parliamentarian lines to be buried at St Thomas’s Church, known locally as ‘top church’ but her husband was not allowed to accompany the funeral procession. Since then the ghost of Dorothy Beaumont has been seen many times floating down the steps of the keep or passing through the buildings of the Sharrington Range.
The courtyard alongside the Sharrington Range has also had more than its fair share of ghostly sightings over the years. Most frequently reported are black robed monks. Outside of the entrance to the Undercroft there used to be a building holding the aquarium. Black hooded monks have been seen in the aquarium itself and on the patch of land after the aquarium was relocated. Black monks have also been seen walking across the stone entrance way to the courtyard and at the other end of the Sharrington Range near to the Queen Mary Ballroom. Nearby Dudley Priory was a Cluniac order who were known for wearing black habits.
The Station Hotel. Castle Hill, Dudley DY1 4RA
The Station Hotel lays claim to a number of ghosts haunting its rooms and a particularly tragic story. Some 200 years ago a lecherous landlord ordered a young servant girl down into the cellars ostensibly to look for a leg of pork. The landlord tried to have his wicked way with the girl but she bravely resisted his unwanted advances. In his anger the landlord clubbed the unfortunate girl to death and hid her body in a barrel. Her anguished screams are sometimes heard to this day coming from the depths of the cellars.
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Hotel rooms in and around 214 are also haunted by a gentleman dressed in black who wears a pointed hat. Guests have woken up in the early hours of the morning to see him standing silently by the bedroom window before disappearing.
St Edmund’s Churchyard, Castle Street. Dudley DY1 4PS
Saint Edmund’s Church is better known locally as ‘bottom church’. The church is associated with a local hangman, Edward Croaker, who is buried in the churchyard there. Local legend maintains that at the stroke of midnight the ghost of Edward Croaker rises up from his grave to be pursued by the shades of those he had executed.
One popular story of ‘Croaker’s Ghost’ concerns a group of young men drinking in the nearby Hawke’s Head Inn. They dared one of their number to spend the hour after midnight sitting on Croaker’s grave for a bet. In order to prove he had done it the young man was to leave his dagger plunged in the earth over the grave. The drunken young man was seen to enter the churchyard but no-one else had the nerve to stay around to witness the deed. The next morning the young man was missing. A search revealed his corpse laid out alongside Croaker’s grave with a look of sheer terror on his face. The young man had died of shock. Naturally this story added greatly to the ghostly legend of Edward Croaker.
Dudley Canal Tunnel, Birmingham New Road. Dudley DY1 4SB
Dudley Canal Trust runs frequent tours into the limestone tunnels beneath Castle Hill. Travelling on electric boats visitors are treated to a fascinating glimpse into a subterranean world.
If you take a trip through the tunnels, after the first section from the entrance the boat enters the Castle Mill Basin. It is here that the ghosts of two children have been seen near to the entrance to the Wren’s Nest Tunnel. The story is that the youngsters tried to get through the tunnel on a home-made raft and perished in the attempt. They are briefly seen standing just above the water line as if awaiting rescue by the tourist boats as they pass by there. A man in old fashioned working clothes has also been seen in the deeper parts of the limestone caverns. Visitors often comment on how authentic he looks until told afterwards that no present day employees were working down there at the time of the sighting.
Black Country Living Museum, Tipton Road, Dudley DY1 4SQ
With such a large number of old buildings it is no surprise that the Black Country Living Museum has had many reports of unusual happenings. The museum is well worth a visit but allow plenty of time as there is so much to see and do there.
The Bottle and Glass public house was moved from its original location in Brockmoor and continues to serve real ales to museum visitors. Before the move to the museum, one of the small bedrooms in the pub was notorious for things getting moved and going missing. On one occasion a mother and daughter staying in the room awoke to find all their belongings piled up in the corner. They had heard nothing during the night. The pub is still subject to unexplained noises in what should be empty rooms.
Many costumed staff work at the museum but in and around the area of the chemist’s shop a group of three old ladies in fine old period dress have been seen on occasions. Visitors normally think nothing of it until they glance away and look back to find the ladies have simply vanished into thin air.
These and many other haunted locations in and around the Black Country can be easily explored using the GhostNav: Black Country Ghosts Android app by Andrew Homer and Nick Williamson available on the Google Play Store for just 62p. Further details and information on Andrew’s books can be found on his website at www.andrewhomer.co.uk.