Guest writer GAYLE FIDLER takes on a visit to spooky Darlington, County Durham, to discover its most haunted places!
The historic market town of Darlington in County Durham has an important cultural and industrial heritage. In the 19th Century, powerful Quaker families brought much prosperity to the area. With this, came impressive architecture. Many of these buildings can still be seen today on a stroll through the town centre.
The first passenger steam train passed through Darlington in 1825 marking the beginning of the modern railway. A visit to Darlington’s historic sites is a worthwhile excursion. The town and surrounding area have many ghostly tales to hunt out. Here are five supposedly supernatural sites.
Darlington Hippodrome Parkgate, Darlington, DL1 1RR
Darlington Hippodrome opened in 1907. It was founded by the famous Italian quick-change artist, Signor Rino Pepi, who counted Queen Victoria among his fans.
Pepi’s life story reads a little bit like a romantic novel. Married to a beautiful Countess, he opened several theatres across the country. The pair were a colourful couple. Pepi was renowned for wearing a top hat and long overcoat, his wife carried a little Pekingese dog everywhere she went and wore beautiful ball gowns. Things were going well for the pair, until tragedy struck.
Visitor numbers to theatres began to dwindle due to the popularisation of the moving picture. Pepi was forced to close many of the sites he owned. Darlington, however, survived.
In 1915, his precious Countess passed away at the age of 46. Her little Pekingese died at the age of 11, the body of the dog was allegedly bricked into the walls of Darlington Hippodrome.
There have been reports of a spectral dog being seen at the bottom of the circle staircase. Could this be the little Pekingese looking for his mistress? During later building renovations, the skeleton of a small dog was found behind a wall. The skeleton was removed and given a proper burial
Determined to save Darlington from the same fate as many of his other theatres. Pepi booked Anna Pavlova to dance on his beloved stage. The show sold out and was an instant success. However, Pepi didn’t make it to the show. The night the famous ballerina danced at Darlington, Pepi died at home. He was 55 years old.
Does Pepi still visit Darlington Hippodrome? Sightings of a man in a top hat and long coat have occurred in the Royal Box minutes before the curtain goes up on a show. A ghost in similar attire has been seen in one of the dressing rooms. The room was previously a private apartment used by Pepi.
The Hippodrome is home to other hauntings. Jimmy, a scenery technician who died after becoming tangled in his own rope has been heard climbing up and down ladders. An old stagehand is said to lock doors when no one is around. The sobbing of an unseen child in dressing room 12 has startled many actors and actresses over the years, as they prepare to go on stage.
North Road Station, Station Road, Darlington, DL3 6ST
North Road Station is certainly worth a visit. Opened in 1842, the listed building now houses a museum and a working platform with regular trains running to and from.
The station has been listed as one of the most haunted railway stations in the UK. Here’s why.
In the 1850s a night-watchman was working alone at the station. He saw a man, dressed in a uniform accompanied by a black dog leaving one of the station buildings. Believing the man to be trespassing, he approached him demanding to know what he was doing there in the middle of the night. The trespasser turned around to face the night-watchman and punched him in the face. Then, to make matters worse, set his black dog on him. The dog bit viciously at the night-watchman’s legs. After the assault, the mysterious trespasser and his dog simply disappeared through a wall, leaving the night-watchman in complete shock.
Fearing himself badly injured, the shaken man felt his face and inspected his legs, expecting blood to be pouring from the wounds. He was horrified to find, no bite marks and no blood anywhere on his body.
After describing the incident to colleagues later that day, he was shocked to learn his description of the trespasser accurately described a man who had committed suicide at the station a few years earlier.
Sightings of the angry ghost and his faithful black dog have continued ever since. Local people still speak of their fear of having to use North Road Station when alone in the dark.
Walworth Castle Hotel, Walworth, Darlington, DL2 2LY
Situated 5 miles from Darlington town centre and dating back to 1150. Walworth Castle certainly has plenty of history. The building has its fair share of uses of the years. It’s been a family home, a prisoner of war camp, a boarding school and is now a hotel. It is no surprise that previous occupants have left their stamp, or maybe never left.
There is a tale of a servant girl, who became pregnant by one of the Lords. He was so enraged when he found out about the pregnancy, that he had the poor girl bricked up alive behind a wall in the castle. Her footsteps have been heard climbing the stairs and guests have woken up at night to find her standing over their bed.
The corridor that runs past room 17, is also said to be haunted. Guests have felt cold spots and heard footsteps. A member of staff once had her hair pulled when no one was there.
Then there are the dungeons, not a place to go alone. Staff have been pushed and frantic moaning has been heard from the depths.
The River Skerne
If you fancy a stroll along the river which flows under Darlington bridges, beware when picnicking on the banks. The river is supposedly the domain of a water spirit, known locally as Peg Powler. Peg is said to have long green hair and sharp claws. Locals tales warn that she emerges from the river to lure unsuspecting victims to their deaths.
George Coaching Inn, Piercebridge, Darlington, DL2 3SW.
The George is a beautiful 16th century coaching inn, set on riverbanks in the village of Piercebridge. A few miles west of Darlington, the village has an extensive history and is the site of a Roman Fort.
The George is home to a famous Grandfather clock. The clock was owned by two brothers and always kept excellent time. One day, one of the brothers died and with it the clock stopped. In the 1870s, an American songwriter visited The George and heard the tale of the clock. He wrote a song about it called “My Grandfather’s Clock”, which is still well known to this day.
The clock isn’t the only mysterious thing at the George. One of the guest rooms is said to be haunted by a jilted bride who hung herself on her wedding day. An apparition of a woman in white has been seen in the room standing over the bed. Voices have also been heard in the bar area, long after all the customers have left.
GAYLE FIDLER is born and bred in the North East of England, and has spent most of her life seeking out the stranger things in life. Gayle has a lifelong interest in the paranormal and the occult. She also writes fiction, usually with a dark twist. Besides writing and researching mysterious things, Gayle also collects bad taxidermy. She is a SFX make-up artist with a special interest in zombies and is also training to be a Viking blacksmith.