Guildford has a rich vein of paranormal history to investigate. PETULA MITCHELL tells us five of its most spooky places to visit!
The handsome town of Guildford in Surrey has a bustling town centre with a mix of old and new buildings. The River Wey runs through the town past the now closed site of Debenhams department store and joins the canal. You don’t have to be far from the hustle and bustle to find nice pubs and riverside walks.
Overlooking the University town is the bulk of the cathedral built during the 20th century with its imposing brick facade, making it a busy and popular location. The local ghost tour covers twenty haunted sites, making Guildford a must visit for explorers of the paranormal and thrill seekers alike!
The King’s Head
27 King’s Road, Guildford GU1 4JW
Like many town centres there is a selection of lively pubs on offer. The King’s Head is apparently the most haunted pub in town and has been the subject of serious paranormal investigations.
The record of activity started in fairly recent times during the 1980s. There have been strange reports of sightings of an old woman, a girl in Victorian dress skipping from the front door to the back garden and electrical equipment malfunctioning while on the premises, but working perfectly once it was removed.
Staff have heard their name being called by a woman and on investigation found nobody present. One of the landlords had problems with his dog barking furiously at the site of a blocked up doorway.
91 High Street, Guildford GU1 3DP
Perhaps the most interesting haunting in Guildford is at The Angel. The figure of a soldier in a foreign uniform has been sighted in the bedrooms and the cellars. On one visitation the spirit lingered long enough for a guest to make a sketch of him.
It is thought that it is the heir to the French Imperial throne who stayed there in 1876. The Prince Imperial, Louis Napoleon, had fought in the Franco -Prussian War which would explain his uniform style. On the abolition of the second empire he moved to England, the rest of the imperial family following.
When his father died he remained the last hope of the Bonapartist faction in France to restore the monarchy. While here he was granted a dispensation to serve with the British army in South Africa and was killed in a skirmish with Zulu warriors in 1879. So he died a long way from home, but his spirit seemed to long for a return at least as far as England.
Other apparitions have been reported in the 13th century cellars including a nun surrounded by an aura of golden light. There are tunnels from the pub to neighbouring houses, and it is said that they were used by people to hide or escape during the times of religious persecution that crossed the land.
Some of Guildford’s spectral activity takes place in the open air. Silent Pool is a prime example. During the 13th century it is told that a woodcutters daughter was bathing in the waters of the pool when a nobleman came upon her. She was desperate to get away from his unwanted advances and while trying to escape him stumbled into a deeper part of the pool and drowned. This has given rise to the sightings of Alice/or Emma in some histories, being seen floating above the waters at night wearing a white gown. Sometimes the silence of Silent Pool is broken by her screams for mercy.
Another place that seems to be a hotbed of the paranormal is The Mount. It is the highest point seen from the town centre and was the spot where executions took place in full view of the townspeople.
The Mount Cemetery
The Mount, Guildford GU2 4JB
The Mount cemetery is the burial place of author Lewis Carroll. It is also where one of the most remarkable photos of an alleged ghost was taken by Mark Baker. It shows a shadowy figure walking between the trees – a spectre, a trick of the light or a little artistic licence perhaps? Whatever the truth, it’s definitely a strange photograph worth investigating further!
Castle Street, Guildford GU1 3SX
Guildford also boasts an ancient castle, founded in the 11th century. It is a popular spot for a day trip out. However after renovations in 2003 disturbing reports came of people having to remove their near hysterical children from the castle. The children had reportedly seen figures chained to the walls of the ground floor. Unbeknown to the children this was the part of the castle where prisoners were kept prior to execution.
The A3, Guildford
But not all of the reported apparitions belong to the distant past in Guildford. In the winter of 2002, one night, local police received eye witness accounts of a car veering off the road along the A3. When they went to investigate they could find no trace of the accident. No tyre marks, no flattened grass, no breeches in the undergrowth.
It took until dawn the following day to find the dark maroon car that had been reported to them as the unfortunate vehicle. However it turned out the car had been there much longer than one night. The car was in a ditch and invisible to the road above. The mortal remains of the driver were found outside the car and it appeared that the driver had tried to reach the road by crawling up the bank and didn’t make it.
When the driver was identified it turned out the man was Christopher Chandler, wanted by the police for questioning over a robbery and who had been reported missing by his brother five months previously. Yet more than a few witnesses on that always busy stretch of road had reported the accident the previous night.
Guildford certainly has a long and varied history and a rich vein of activity for the followers of the paranormal to investigate. Even the town centre is haunted by the ghosts of three witches executed during the 17th century and many stories and sightings abound in other buildings. This article has hardly even scratched the surface…
Have you seen a ghost or something spooky in the comments section below?