BARRY McCann asks why does haunted Palace Hotel in Lancashire have such a dark reputation…
The Palace Hotel on the seafront of Birkdale near Southport in Lancashire (now Merseyside) was a towering 75 bedroom building occupying a 20 acre site. Opened in 1866, its off the beaten track isolation ensured a chequered history and went into liquidation.
In 1881, it was refurbished as a hydro hotel, with the addition of a new wing and increased bedroom count to 220. Over the next 86 years, it went through a few changes as both a holiday and conference centre, its ballroom being a particular attraction. However, the loss of a local rail link and advent of cheaper foreign holidays dwindled its fortunes, leading to closure in 1967.
Building used in horror films
The building promptly became a production base for Tony Tenser’s Tigon Films, and used in The Sorcerers with Boris Karloff, What’s Good for the Goose with Norman Wisdom, The Haunted House of Horror with Frankie Avalon and The Dark starring Dennis Price.
Tenser subsequently approached Southport with the proposition of jointly buying the building and turning it into a film studio. But the council ruled out commercial partnerships and he gave up on the idea.
In 1969 workmen moved into the building to begin demolition, occupying one half of the building while working on the other. It was then things began to happen.
Workmen reported hearing voices coming from empty rooms, sometimes apparently arguing, and from the corridor on the second floor along with the sound of stiletto heels.
“Workmen reported hearing voices coming from empty rooms”
Then the four ton manually operated lift starting moving of its own accord. At one point its doors slammed shut as workmen entered the foyer and promptly elevated up to the second floor.
The team tried cutting off all electric power to the building, but the lift continued moving with doors opening and closing. Its emergency hand winding gear was removed, but that made no difference. Now apparently scared, the men moved out of the hotel and into lodgings. And they refused to work after dark.
The lift’s final movement was witnessed by a Mrs. K. Templeton who entered the building hoping to rescue antique mirrors. She testified that, while speaking to the workmen, the lift began to go up but made no noise while doing so. She followed two of the men up to the winding room only to find the lift brake was still on.
To prevent any further unsolicited movement, its cable was cut but the lift did not drop down. It was only after the forceful use of sledgehammers that it was sent crashing down the shaft into the basement below.
The explanation for the lift not dropping is simple. If the cable is cut or becomes slack, the lift controls automatically eject wedges from the car sides, holding it into the shaft walls. But, similarly, if power to the lift is cut off an electromagnetic brake immediately kicks in and holds it in place. And yet, even when the electricity supply to the hotel was cut off, the lift kept on moving unaided.
So what was behind the moving lift, the voices and even the stilettos? There was a story that the hotel was haunted by its own architect who committed suicide because it had been built inland facing instead of out to sea as intended. However, an investigation by the Merseyside Anomalies Research Association into the architects responsible for the Palace have shown this to be untrue.
But the fact that the building attracted such a dark reputation raises the questions as to where it came from in the first place? In 1961 a six-year-old Southport girl was abducted and murdered by one of the porters, her body found under his bed at the hotel. There is a rumour that two sisters carried out a suicide pact in the hotel and furthers murders may have occurred within its walls. Maybe these explain spirits apparently made restless by its demolition.