Crawley in West Sussex may not be an ancient town but it’s got plenty to intrigue ghosthunters and fans of the paranormal, says PETULA MITCHELL
Crawley in West Sussex is essentially a post war new town. Before the massive expansion started it was a small place centred around a core of old buildings that now make up the High Street.
Consequently most tales of haunting , or paranormal happenings, centre on the old original town.
Ramada by Wyndham Crawley (formerly the George Hotel)
High St, Crawley RH10 1BS
Firstly there is the well known tale of the George Hotel, where the ghost of the night porter is reported to stalk the corridors and foyer.
The story goes that one Mark Hurston (Hewton) , when he held the post of night porter would deliver wine to guests whether they ordered it or not. Any wine they left, he would then drink. This waste not, want not ended when one of the guests poisoned him.
Since his demise, staff have claimed to have uneasy feelings around the hotel. Lights flicker spontaneously and a shadowy figure has even been spotted on occasions. The charming old building however, remains in full use as a hotel today and part of a major chain.
Not surprisingly two further stories centred around this part of the town come from pubs. There was a long history of smuggling centred around the Sussex Weald and Crawley would have been en route to London. There are, allegedly, old tunnels under the high street where men could hide and store their contraband.
The Old Punch Bowl
101 High St, Crawley RH10 1DD
The second site of interest is the Old Punch Bowl. An old inn from the 15th century it has a pretty timber framed facade. Inside there have been reports of disembodied voices. Staff have heard a man calling out to them, but he is nowhere to be found.
The Brewery Shades
85 High St, Crawley RH10 1BA
Not more than a short stroll away from these two buildings is The Brewery Shades. This is a busy town centre pub, with a very comprehensive gin selection I have to add, with many a story to tell.
There is an old cell in the building where prisoners were held before being hung on the gibbet that was outside the George Hotel. The cell is haunted.
One of the managers of the pub once became trapped in there, even though nobody had locked the door.
Guests in one of the upstairs rooms have claimed that their covers have been pulled back in the night and they have felt someone touching them. They awoke to an empty room. The bed in the same room was also at the centre of another mystery when it inexplicably caught fire.
It has been said that a young boy and a woman are the spirits haunting the building.
Asda Superstore, Crawley
Pegler Way, Crawley RH11 7AH
Moving into the more modern parts of Crawley, where old had made way for new, the local Asda store seems to have been the centre of some strange sightings. It is built over the footprint of an old churchyard .
A little girl has been seen wandering in one of the aisles on several occasions. When offered help by concerned adults, as she is so obviously alone, she disappears. Perhaps she is one of the disturbed souls from the graveyard?
Night staff have also encountered a tall dark man in the building who may be responsible for poltergeist activity that they have witnessed. Goods have been seen flying off the shelves with no apparent cause.
When the redevelopment took place six of the interred bodies were reburied at Snell Hatch cemetery with Asda paying for the new headstones. All the other remains were put into a mass grave under the car park. A memorial plaque on a tree is all that marks their passing now.
Quakers Friends Meeting House, Ifield
Langley Lane, Crawley RH11 0NB
Leaving the town centre, and heading a couple of miles or so away from this concentrated activity, you soon reach the area of Ifield.
There is a Quaker Friends Meeting House there, a picturesque 17th century building in pleasant surroundings. There are records of two different hauntings in the building. A sailor has been seen there, but the main activity has been manifested by the spirits of two young boys.
They are reported to be in the attic causing mischief and moving objects around. People have had quite a scare from being up there, it is said. At one point it was claimed that the boys had been photographed, but any evidence has since gone missing.
So these five places in Crawley do really just scratch the surface of the tales from the town and surrounding areas.
Other haunted places include further ancient inns, a railway tunnel and the ever fruitful St Leonards Forest, which has a rich and colourful history and folklore all of its own.
Certainly in Crawley you can combine a supernatural hunt with a day of shopping and a good gin and tonic.
Tell us in the comments section if you’ve seen a ghost in Crawley!