CLAIRE BARRAND lists the five most haunted places in the South Wales Valleys Industrial town of Merthyr Tydfil.
Legend says the town is named after Saint Tydfil, a daughter of King Brychan of Bryncheiniog, who was slain in Merthyr (Welsh for Martyr) by Pagans in 480 and the town was renamed Merthyr Tydfil in her honour.
1. Ynysfach Works, Ynysfach Engine House, Ynysfach, Merthyr Tydfil
There are many grisly reports of charred corpses being discovered at the old Ironworks and Blast Furnaces as people would seek a warm place to sleep in the Coke Ovens.
After the ironworks closed in 1879, the area became known as “a den of debauchery” In the 1900s many people lived and died in the disused works. Notorious bare-knuckle fighter Tommy Lyons swore to haunt the area after his death. In June 1903 a decomposing maggot-ridden body was found in the cistern of one of the Engine Houses. Later identified as Sidney Holder aged 23 by the workhouse ticket in one of the coat pockets.
Known as “The White Lady of Ynysfach” prostitute Mary Ann Rees was murdered by her young lover William Foy in 1908, and she was found in a disused furnace with her neck broken. Foy was hung in Swansea Gaol. Her ghost has been seen in the college that stands on the site many times.
2. Llancaiach Fawr Manor, Treharris, Merthyr Tydfil
Labeled “The Most Haunted House in South Wales” strange things are experienced here in almost every room. The scent of lavender is common as is roast beef!
The ghost of a 19th century housekeeper called “Mattie” who tragically died here is said to haunt the house, and a little boy who died falling from an upstairs window makes his presence felt by tugging at your sleeve. Edward Pritchard the master of the house during the civil war is allegedly seen in spirit, seemingly deep in contemplation.
A mysteriously carved pentacle was found hidden within the walls of the manor which may be to ward off evil or could it have been a curse?
3. Cyfarthfa Castle, Cyfarthfa Park, Haunted Merthyr Tydfil
The ghost of William Crawshay allegedly haunts the building, and he is regularly seen around the castle. William was known as “The Iron King”. Stories say that he was buried upside down in order to detain his ‘evil soul.’
A Chinese vase discovered by a member of staff in the cellar of the castle gave people a strange feeling of falling, and it was later discovered that the vase was used to catch the severed heads of rebels executed in the Boxer rebellion. Many unexplained footsteps, falling items, cold spots and the feeling of being watched is all part of the experience at this amazing location.
4. Koolers Nightclub, The Kirkhouse Memorial, Dynevor Street, Merthyr Tydfil
An incredible amount of paranormal activity has been reported over the years at this haunted Merthyr Tydfil venue, attracting paranormal investigators. Dark figures described to be “not of this world”, strange mists and the spirits of young children have been seen here.
Built in 1940, other previous buildings on the site are thought to include a school or orphanage. The road leads to the notorious Chinatown area – a place where even police would not dare venture, described as “a den of drunkards, thieves, rogues and prostitutes” China was a nickname for the area which was the most notorious district in the whole of Wales.
5. The Notorious Goitre Pond, Gurnos Estate, Merthyr Tydfil
Gurnos was once a wooded area with farm and cottages; the farm supplied Cyfartha Castle with milk meat and eggs and the woods logs for the fires.
The notorious Goitre pond was the scene of many suicides and deaths. Now drained and the site of a housing estate, the last recorded death there was in the 1970s when a young boy was found drowned tangled in the weeds below the surface of the water.
The saying goes that so many people threw themselves into that pond to commit suicide here that their sad and distraught spirits are seen often wondering around that area.
This last location is a pond that no longer exists and I wouldn’t advise people to go wandering onto the Gurnos estate looking for ghosts as it is pretty notorious today, so nothing has changed much in that respect! Seems these places have a certain “vibe” about them that the centuries don’t dilute?