The Ghosts of Bolton’s Pretoria Pit Disaster


BECKY KEANE recounts the tragic tale of Bolton, Lancashire’s Pretoria pit disaster and some very spooky goings-on…

Pretoria Pit
Pretoria Pit

Pretoria Pit was owned by the Hulton Colliery Company and situated between Atherton and Westhoughton on the Hulton Parkland.
Employing approximately 2500, mining deeper  for coal was becoming  perilous for the miners to work safely, many complained of the harsh conditions, but their concerns  fell on deaf ears, due to there being little alternatives for local employment.

The miners would not only complain of the physical risks but also of paranormal activity and bad omens experienced down the mine. Sightings of black crows were regarded as a symbols of death and impending disaster, the sound of disembodied, frightened horses and clattering hooves were also reported.

On the 21st of December 1910, 898 boys and men began their daily shift underground, at 7:50am a terrible explosion ripped through the mine killing 344.

Only two survivors remained from the level where the other victims died, a third survivor was also found elsewhere but died later on after contracting pneumonia.  Rescue workers tried  to help as many as they could, but their efforts where sadly unsuccessful.
Known as one of the worst mining catastrophes in Britain, relief funds where established for families, as most of the victims were from the same families.

Paranormal activity rife near former Pretoria Pit mine

In 1990s paranormal activity became rife near the former mine, many believed the miners spirits had become unsettled due their demise being almost being forgotten.

Ghostly shadows were seen lying in the road, limping apparitions stumbling from bushes, a policeman reported seeing a disembodied arm in a tree and a smell of burnt meat was also well documented.

A man witnessed dozens of eyes in the darkness staring at him, he also heard a loud bang.  Several people also heard the noise and saw a bright flash; the area was even sealed off by the emergency services, but after a search of the area nothing was found.

Some time later a memorial with all the names of the victims was set up and blessed by a priest in a ceremony dedicated to them.
Since the ceremony all paranormal activity has seemed to have ceased.


  1. i was brought up just next to the rucks in atherton in 80s&90s..where the mine entrance main wall goes up is freaky&im sure i once came out of the bathroom in my rents house as a kid&saw a dirty man dressed in black all mucky flash in front of me for a second on the landing!!..i was scared but thinking now im older it was a pitman!i still walk my dog on manchester road over hulton&get a bit eerie at times:)thanks for the article

  2. Hello. We are a new production company ( stolen thread productions CIC) based at Victoria mill in Atherton. This awful disaster has really moved us and we are hoping to bring a theatrical piece to the area either at the site or in and around the mill. We have started doing some research already but would love some other ideas re paranormal as I think it would be an incredible story to bring to the local area.
    Thanks for all your hard work. I am finding your website fascinating. Kind regards sue .


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