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Blackpool's Most Haunted

LukeLore Blackpool Hello everyone, and welcome to LukeLore. A quick deep dive into a folklore topic, where I share some of the stories from around the world that have piqued my interest. I recently nipped over to Blackpool to catch up with an old friend, and this led to my usual favourite pastime when I’m travelling anywhere in the UK: Folklore hunting! Sadly Blackpool’s Alien UFO & Paranormal Exhibition was closed when I was over, but that just gives me a reason to go back sooner rather than later. I grabbed a couple of books while I was over there, and very happily have circled around to some extra research to bring us tales from Blackpool! The most popular resort in the country since the 1800s, and according to some its most haunted… SECTION BREAK – A Haunted Icon I’m not sure how much international appeal Blackpool has, it being somewhat subdued compared to the more modern tourist resorts that have built up worldwide. It’s no Disneyland, for example. The majority of Blackpool proper is a Northern English town that could do with some major investment in it, the only real distinguishing feature being that it has a lot more arcades than you would expect to see of a general town or city. The main draw is the coastal road, which is jam packed with tourist attractions and having multiple piers filled with things to see and do. There’s one thing a Brit is most likely to think of first when you mention Blackpool, however, and that is Blackpool Tower. The tower has had a storied history, based on the Eiffel Tower in Paris while it never reached the heights of the original when it was opened to the public in 1894 it held the honour of being the tallest manmade structure in the British Empire. A mere 158 metres, or 518 feet, compared to the Eiffel Tower’s 330 metres, or 1,083 feet, it’s still pretty bloody tall. I don’t much fancy the “walk of faith” glass panels you can walk over at the top of it. It currently hangs in there as the world’s 125th tallest free standing tower. What most people simply call Blackpool Tower refers to all the Tower Buildings: a complex that includes the Tower itself, the Tower Circus, the Tower Ballrooms, roof gardens, what used to be Jungle Jim’s (a big activity play area for children) but is now a giant bar called The Fifth Floor, plus a newer Dungeon attraction that opened in 2011 – part of a countrywide chain of macabre Dungeon attractions that are generally pretty awesome (so I should definitely pop over again soon). From its opening on the 14th of May 1894 it has had pretty much uninterrupted public service as a tourist destination. For World War II the top was repurposed as a radar tower for the RAF (although that was apparently a failed project), and it has also been a little bit on fire at intervals across the years. For its first 30 years no one thought to paint it properly or otherwise preserve the structure, a bad idea generally but a terrible lack of forwards thinking on a coastline. There was some discussion of just demolishing the whole mess but it was instead rebuilt in stages from 1920 to 1924. That exceptional undertaking now has the Tower being thoroughly painted in a 7 year cycle so it never has to happen again. While it has never stopped being a tourist attraction, it’s also very much a historical landmark, getting designated a Grade I listed building in 1973. Which gets us to the good stuff… What ghosts and other assorted spooky weirdness infests the place! Putting aside the obvious terror of the Circus, which is where the clowns are contained, the Ballroom especially seems to be haunted if going ghost hunting is on your Blackpool To-Do list. There are multiple spectres that are pretty vividly visible up until the point they fade without a trace. The gallery has a well known Lady haunting it, who doesn’t seem to do too much apart from sit watching the floor below. This can happen at times the ballroom is empty, or when there’s actually something to watch, this particular haunt seems like some sort of out of time afterimage of a person. There are multiple stories of being able to see the Lady in the Gallery from anywhere in the Ballroom when she appears, but if you watch her for long enough, or else are bold enough to try and approach her, she will disappear. The Lady isn’t the only curious out of time style phenomena at the Ballroom, there’s also an old couple who like to dance. They can be spotted sat at a table like any other customer, lifelike enough that staff have tried talking to them and brought them cups of tea, just minding their own business. Eventually they will stand up, the old man leading his partner to the floor, and they will join in with whatever show is on that day, only as they dance they will then fade away. The Lady and the dancing couple just seem to be joining in as they once did in life. There are other more active spirits that play merry hell with the staff of the Tower. There’s a story of two members of staff closing up for the night who were just doing their usual rounds. The lights were dimmed, and there was no one but them in the building as they locked up. Or, at least, there shouldn’t have been anyone else… One member of staff was on the Ballroom floor, one was elsewhere in the Tower Buildings, and as the first member of staff crossed the Ballroom floor they look up into the balconies only to notice a dark figure walking along up there. They radio their co-worker, asking if it was them wandering about. The reply is surprise. There’s an intruder in the Ballroom. They both run to catch whoever is lurking around after hours, shouts to stop are ignored, and the two members of staff nearly get them! They both turn a corner to spot the shadow ahead of them walk through a door. Let me emphasise what happened, they walk THROUGH a door, without opening it. The staff charge to follow them out, only to collide with a locked door! Whatever was in there, that has now left, did the impossible. There’s a chance this same apparition has been seen by confused guests over the years, too. Preceded by rapid drops in temperature, if a customer looks around to see what caused the draft they can see a dark shadowy figure passing by. Should they follow, they can see this figure walk through a door without bothering to open it first. I mean, I say there’s a chance it’s the same apparition, there’s a much worse alternative there’s lots of them lurking around the place… If you want a chance at experiencing these hauntings for yourself, I have a fun suggestion. While there are plenty of big events there, and even specific ghost hunting nights, the ballroom hosts family friendly Halloween events! Round up some ankle biting relatives, dress up, and go have fun in style: all while keeping one eye out on the Gallery for an extra spooky guest. SECTION BREAK – The Ghost of the Ghost Train Quick aside… Are Ghost Trains more of a British thing? Not trains that are haunted, that seems to be worryingly common worldwide, but the little rollercoasters through a novelty haunted house? While researching the topic, and managing to confuse myself quite a lot in the process, I have seen the product designation “Tracked Dark Ride”, although that didn’t clarify much for me, not least of all because a “Dark Ride” doesn’t have to have a spooky theme. This is one of those things I’ve taken for granted from childhood that now, as I try to look into in more detail, it seems kind of weird. I know one was in an old episode of The Simpsons, so they ARE out there! International listeners please let me know how common these are for you. Is it just the name that is different? The US has plenty of spooky thrill rides such as Disney’s The Haunted Mansion which takes you around on “Doom Buggys”, but Ghost Train is synonymous for this style of ride in the UK - it’s like calling a vacuum cleaner a “Hoover” after the best known brand. A British Ghost Train funfair attraction is technically a rollercoaster, but usually not a white knuckle ride. Slow for the most part, just taking you around the spooky displays, with some exceptions where they will speed up at times for dramatic effect. There are travelling fair Ghost Trains, usually bigger attractions as they can take up a big chunk of space, and there are also fixed attractions at various tourist spots around the country. Blackpool Pleasure Beach is one of the most famous amusement parks in the country, if not the world, and the Ghost Train there boasts a unique feature. The novelty haunted ride has an actual ghost within its dark confines. A little more history first, I rambled a little about the actual concept of a Ghost Train, and do you want to guess where the first ever in the world was built, originating the name for the type of ride? That would be the Blackpool Pleasure Beach Ghost Train, which first opened in 1930. It took only 6 years for its first redesign, and its last complete rebuild was in 1957, but we’re not that far off the 100 year anniversary of the first Ghost Train. It was originally a Pretzel ride brought over from the United States, a single track dark ride which had a fair chance of being ghost or devil themed, but given that it wasn’t a brand the British tourists would recognise it got the simple and now iconic rebranding as The Ghost Train, the name of a popular theatre show around the time. This is something which even travelled back across the Atlantic to in turn get Pretzel rides such as the one at Lagoon Amusement Park in Utah’s 1940s Pretzel Ride installation named after the Blackpool attraction. This is a weird topic for me to unpack. I know what a Ghost Train in a gut level is, to actually deconstruct what it is feels a little awkward! They are usually decorated in luminescent paints, then lit with black lights so they’re pitch black dark with glowing attractions. A series of scenes line the ride based on horror story tropes or else specific movie pastiches, frequently not having an official license. When there are actual lights, it’s usually for a strobe light effect to disorientate people on the ride or light up a surprise set piece. Hot or cold air can be blasted, attractions can move, mirrors can be used creatively, staff may get involved (whether by design or out of boredom), and creative use of sound is a huge part of the experience. Nothing like a cackling witch blasted from a speaker down your ear to keep your nerves frayed as you ricochet about in the dark. Which is all the fun normal scares, and in what should be a surprise to no one I absolutely love Ghost Trains! The first and oldest Ghost Train has more history than just the conventional, however, and that brings us to Cloggy. I don’t have Cloggy’s original name, only that he was called this due to his love of wearing clogs and the distinctive sound they would make as he walked. Details remain light about the man himself, more with a sense of him living on: He absolutely loved his job. Fighting for high customer standards at a time when there was little in the way of government legislation, he was especially fond of the Ghost Train and he would go out of his way to make it as spooky and thrilling for people riding it as possible. This leaves us with the ghost of Cloggy being someone who stuck around after their end out of a love for their job, not being related to unfinished business or a malevolent force. Not that this makes Cloggy any less terrifying for those he takes a hand in startling! That is, after all, part of the job. In general, the unmistakable footsteps of Cloggy can be heard by guests or staff as he does his rounds checking the Ghost Train. He’s also been known to be extra active on those rounds after hours, staff who know of the stories will dare each other to go into the dark ride after hours (tales of such dares tend to end in people fleeing the loud footfalls of Cloggy stomping over to see who’s breaking in at night). He’s even something of a guardian angel to workmen, who for several generations now swear there’s someone or something watching out over them when they do maintenance work or renovations. What really gets to people are times he decides to be an extra authentic part of the attraction. Some of it is innocuous enough, the odd push on the car or tap on the shoulder in places where there are no special effects set up to do this. Things that people wouldn’t even realise aren’t a part of the ride for the most part. Then, there’s the real special treatment… There’s a story of a husband and wife who had been enjoying the park one day out. The wife loves the white knuckle rides, and had been enjoying all the regular rollercoasters on offer, but while an adrenaline junky she wasn’t one for horror based scares. Her husband, partly driven by sheer mischief, kept pushing for her to take the Ghost Train. She eventually gives in, and they give the spooky ride a go. Everything was fine until one of the sudden bends in the track, where a rapid strobe light began along with a cacophony of screams being blasted from the speakers. This wasn’t so bad in itself, but the wife saw the figure of a man on the tracks ahead of them. With every flash of light he was only getting closer and closer, the wife expected this to be a part of the attraction and the car would either pivot away or else the creepy figure would be revealed to be a prop that got pulled away at the last moment, only neither thing happened. The shadowy apparition only got closer and closer with each flash of light until the car SHOULD have hit them, only they vanished right before contact was made. When the ride ended, the wife complained to the husband about how the ride was fine except for that one part where a looming figure came for them in the strobe lighting. Only… He hadn’t seen a figure in there, it had only appeared to the wife… Which was poor form Cloggy. You should have scared the husband! I really like the story of Cloggy. It’s a bonus bit of fun to think that someone loved their job so much they hung around in the hereafter to keep their Ghost Train both as safe and as scary as possible. It’s also interesting to speculate just how active Cloggy may be, how many people will recognise that they received a tap on the shoulder somewhere there are no active props on a ride designed to thrill with scares? He could just be there all the time, and people aren’t even noticing… SECTION BREAK – The Bells Beneath the Waves Coastlines can be funny things. Human settlements are extremely common on them. There’s the obvious convenience of travel by sea, plus you can find a river delta and get even more value out of freshwater and access to the inland. Only the coastline isn’t always going to be consistent over time, which can lead to the phenomenon of smaller settlements being straight up swallowed by the shifting tides. Wales is what springs to mind first for villages lost beneath the waves, but over a long enough span of time it gets worryingly common. This could just be a consequence of what is ultimately a rather small collection of islands. One such village is right off the coast of Blackpool, the Lost Village of Kilgrimol. As a best estimate Kilgrimol was near what is now Blackpool airport, being a halfway point between the smaller Blackpool of the past before it truly began to expand and Lytham St Anne’s, there’s not much in the way of physical traces of it today. It’s on old maps, as well as Lytham St Anne’s having several streets and landmarks named after Kilgrimol, but it’s just kind of… Gone now, and it vanished before the modern era so no photographs are handy. Records up to the 16th century mention the village, then at some point towards the end of the 1500s there was no further mention except for some county Parish border disputes being frustrated the landmark was gone. I’ve seen some theories that shifting sand dunes may have swallowed up some of the vanishing villages of the British shorelines, but there’s a disturbing detail to suggest that Kilgrimol truly was lost beneath the waves. The village had a church with an attendant graveyard, and when the sea was particularly rough it had a habit of spitting out the coffins of the poor souls interred at Kilgrimol. Driftwood from former coffins and rotten bones were reported to have been churned up for up to 50 years after the border disputes complaining the village had vanished beneath the sea were made. It appears as though there was a tsunami around 1554 that could account for multiple vanishing villages, the coastline at the time being heavily forested and extending an extra 2 miles out in certain places. Until suddenly, it didn’t. Low enough tides today can even reveal evidence of the buried forests. The ocean spitting corpses out at intervals is bad enough, but sadly normal for the nightmare corpse soup that is the sea. There’s also some weirder stories… The bells of the lost chapel can still be heard from beneath the waves, pealing forth on moonless nights and at New Year’s Eve. There are also stories of the long lost villagers singing sea shanties, should you be unfortunately close enough to the drowned village at the wrong time. Something that seems a little unfair, since people aren’t quite sure where the evidently cursed patch of ground is now submerged. There have been assorted walls and cobblestone paths discovered by scuba divers when the sands are just right, but that isn’t necessarily going to find Kilgrimol. There were a total of 12 villages lost along the West coast of Britain around the same time between Carlisle and Southport, Singleton Thorpe being another one near Blackpool! You’ll just have to search for the location of Kilgrimol using traditional methods: Following the ringing church bell and songs of the damned until you’re right above the spectral noises… Then use the What 3 Words app or something if you survive the experience. SECTION BREAK – A Trip to the Pub We’re kind of at the natural end point of an episode already, the extra history seems to have filled one of the usual four topics in its own right, but I love finding a haunted pub to talk about when I do a Britain’s Most Haunted topic. It’s quintessentially British! Both popping over to a pub, and then finding it has a ghost story or two to its name. Traditional British pubs come with incredible history, even the most unassuming tends to have some outstanding tales of warfare or misdeeds that have crossed their thresholds as you go far enough back in time. The local drinking spot in a given place could be centuries old, and will have inevitably Seen Some Things, which leads us to Frenchman’s Cove on South King Street. Frenchman’s Cove has only been a bar/restaurant since the 90s, so it doesn’t seem to fit the usual pattern of an old pub with too much history, but it was renovated from a longer standing Tobacco Warehouse. As it was renovated into the novelty tourist spot with a pirate looking down from an upper story balcony, workmen regularly complained of feeling like they were being watched. Once open to the public, it started to have a very specific haunting: doors in the ladies toilets have a nasty habit of opening and closing themselves. It’s not exactly an uncommon occurrence either, with plenty of stories of startled customers getting a nasty surprise when they’re alone in there late at night. The current owner believes he has found archive materials that name the resident spook: One Laura Schoons, who originally came from Scarborough. The ladies toilets are at least easy to flee from, although please do wash your hands if you can. Staff unfortunately also feel uneasy down in the cellar, and are stuck constantly popping down there for work… Seems like the food is good and the venue is fun, though! Anyone who does visit, let me know if you get spooked or not. SECTION BREAK That’s all for Blackpool for now. I say for now, it’s pretty haunted at a glance, so we may turn our gaze back that way before too long. I need to head over to go around the Ghost Train if nothing else, and I can’t challenge others to check out Frenchman’s Cove without going myself! LukeLore is a Ghost Story Guys production. 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