Ghosts of Ripon Prison and Police Museum, Yorkshire, England

For an unusual mix of ghosts, Ripon Prison in Yorkshire (England) stands alone. Here’s what to know before you go.

I became interested in Ripon’s ghosts when Most Haunted’s Season 19 took viewers into haunted Ripon Prison and Police Museum. It’s a compelling site.

Ripon Prison’s Enduring History

Ripon Prison historical plaqueThe Ripon Prison – originally known as Ripon Liberty Prison – dates back to the 17th century. The current building was the prison site from around 1816 – 1878.

After the enactment of the Prison Act of 1877, the building was empty for about nine years. Then, it became the local police constabulary station through 1958.

It became a museum and visitor attraction around 1984. Today, it offers many opportunities for ghost hunters.

Ripon’s Ghosts – George, Mary, or Margaret

From my current research, no reported ghost has a specific name and history that can be verified.

Several researchers reported a spirit called “George.” (That seems to be a surprisingly popular name among British ghosts.)  He’s described as a warder, not an inmate.

Note: When addressing prison ghosts, try using both “warder” and “warden.” The former is an older term and more popular in Britain, especially in connection with prisons.

However, warder’s secondary meaning (in history) includes “a truncheon or staff of office or authority, used in giving signals.” (ref. Dictionary.com) So, a warden might carry a warder, and a “watch out for the warder!” message might be more about an impending assault than a prison guard.

Another spirit is called Mary, Meg, or Margaret. She’s too young to have been a prisoner, unless she was there with her mother. (In past centuries, babies and very young children might be in a cell with their mothers, particularly if there was no one else to take care of the child.)

Deceptive and Dangerous?

Always be cautious when a prison ghost claims to be very young. In some cases, the spirit is actually malicious. (Remember: Prisons held criminals.) That spirit may be hoping you’ll drop your guard/protection, and he (or she) can achieve viciously self-serving goals.

At Ripon Prison, something very dangerous – possibly not a ghost, but something much darker – might be loose.

One of the most useful triggers I’ve found in my research was the 2013 opening of an exhibit of photos of “lady prisoners,” at Ripon Prison.

Link: The wanted Victorian women: History mugshots reveal the cunning faces of England’s Nineteenth Century bad girls.

From my experiences, images of possible ghosts – especially unsavory men and women from the past – can leave an imprint. This can trigger a residual energy haunting, or even give the ghost a reason to actively haunt that location. (After all, people see him or her there.)

In the case of Ripon Prison, those photos may help investigators match ghostly figures and apparitions – as well as psychic impressions – to specific faces and names.

Good Guys and Bad Guys?

A casual survey suggests that Ripon Prison’s ghosts are an equal mix of prisoners and wardens or police officers.

That’s unusual.

In most prisons I’ve investigated, the ghosts were mostly prisoners or mostly wardens and guards, not in equal number.

Ripon Prison is the first haunted jail to break that rule.

If you’ve been to Ripon Prison and Police Museum, I hope you’ll leave a comment with your observations.

A Tidal Wave of Emotions

Note: Remember that many hauntings are related to extreme emotions and feelings.

So, at any prison, you may feel a mix of power and self-righteousness (wardens) or a wave of fear and sorrow (innocent or regret-filled prisoners).

You may get better results if you use questions that show admiration (for spirits reliving their glory days) or sympathy (for those unjustly jailed).

In-between, you might start with a comment like, “What great patience you’ve had.” Or, “Such forbearance!”

If you’re hoping to record some EVP, those kinds of comments might prompt responses from either a proud jailer or a miserable prisoner.

Ripon Ghost Reports and Risks

Ripon Prison and Police Museum seems very active and offers many kinds of ghostly encounters.

Most report:

  • Footsteps where no one can be seen
  • EMF spikes, including some that respond to yes/no questions
  • A screw (prison machine) that turns by itself and makes loud metal-on-metal noises (Reported by Simply Ghost Nights)
  • Physical manifestations, such as objects moving on their own, including table tipping.

However, since Ouija boards and dark rituals have been used at Ripon Prison – in recent years, and possibly while the building was empty – be sure to use strong spiritual protection for yourself and your team.

The Grantham Connection

Also, before visiting Ripon Prison, research Thomas de Grey (1781–1859), 3rd Lord Grantham, the designer of the cell block.  Sometimes, designers and architects leave their own imprint (or even revisit) sites they’ve built. That’s doubly true when the designer’s name is permanently visible on the building. (See the plaque in the photo, above.)

I’d also explore ghost stories and anomalies reported at Newby Hall, Grantham’s home, and look for connections. I’d especially look for references to “alchemy” associated with Newby Hall or Grantham.

Note: The most famous (or infamous) “ghost” of Newby Hall is from the 1963 photo by the Rev. F. K. Lord. To me, it looks like the photo was altered or it’s a double exposure. (Photo analysis in the 1960s wasn’t entirely reliable.)

Link: The Ghost of Newby Hall

However, the photo’s provenance prevents me from dismissing it altogether.

Take a Virtual Tour

Here’s a short YouTube video that shows the Ripon Prison building. As an investigator, I note at the amount of metal (which can hold residual energy) and the age of this building. Also, all prison sites feature “trapped inside” and “you can’t leave here” cues.

To me, Ripon Prison and Police Museum looks like a great place for a ghost vigil… as long as you take adequate precautions, of course.

 

Is the Ghost of Albert Williams Real? Slaughter House, Liverpool

Is the ghost of Albert Williams real? Or was that a convenient fiction for a  2017 Most Haunted episode?

I expected the latter.

I was wrong.

When I watched the April 2017 “Most Haunted” episode filmed at the Slaughter House in Liverpool, I was intrigued.

Albert Williams is a name that Yvette received from spirit, during the investigation. According to Yvette’s impressions, Albert “looked after horses.” Around 1913, he may have been pushed down the Slaughter House stairs, and fell to his death.

Was he the same spirit in the “possibly 19th century” impression received by Billy in the earlier investigation?

Or, did two young men die there, in separate tragedies?

And was the searching (and probably distraught) mother Emma, not Meg or Mary? The names sound similar and could be confusing, especially if the psychic impression isn’t clear.

It’s too early to be certain.

Meanwhile, I was not optimistic about finding a likely Albert Williams. Williams is the third most popular surname in modern Britain, with nearly 300,000 people sharing the name.

Also, the given name of Albert – often a tribute to the memory of Queen Victoria’s husband – was very popular in that era.

I expected to find too many “Albert Williams” around Liverpool.

To my surprise, a likely match emerged early in my research. In fact, this was one of those times when the research seemed too easy.

Did he want me to confirm his identity? I can’t rule that out.

Here’s the most likely match for the Albert who contacted Yvette.

Albert Williams (1900 – c. 1913)

Albert Williams was born in 1900 in Liverpool, Lancashire, England, to Emma Graham, age 36, and Alfred Williams, age 40.

“Our” Albert Williams is shown in the following screenshot from the 1901 English census. I’ve circled his name on the census page. The family lived on Anglesea Road in the town of Liverpool. (Note that, in 1901, Albert’s father was a blacksmith.)

Albert Williams Slaughter House 1901 census

Next, here’s the 1911 census. (Again, I’ve circled “our” Albert Williams.)

Albert Williams - 1911 census - Liverpool

In 1911, Albert’s father was working as an Engine Smith (engineer) for the Cunard ship line.

Blacksmith workshop, photo courtesy GraphicStock

One of Albert’s older brothers, George, was an Apprentice Blacksmith.

(Remember, their father had been a blacksmith for most of his adult life.)

So, in 1913, it would be reasonable – in fact, likely – that young Albert (around age 12 or 13) might have “looked after horses” in Liverpool.

He might have worked in or near the Slaughter House location, too. It was a popular commercial area.

So, is this a match for young Albert who haunts the Slaughter House?

It’s more than likely. Here’s why.

I’ve found no records for this Albert Williams after 1911.

That suggests that he died young. Maybe as early as 1913.

Of course, there may be another explanation. Maybe I’d find this Albert Williams in later records, if I dug deeper.

Or, maybe this is the Albert Williams who died at the Slaughter House location around 1913… just as Yvette said.

Most Haunted? Ghosts at – and Near – Todmorden Church

Most Haunted may feature Todmorden Church in their fourth new episode (first airing 5 May 2017) in Season 19. (UPDATE: Yes, it was Todmorden Unitarian Church.)

So, I decided to research Todmorden’s ghosts, anticipating a chilling Most Haunted episode, when this one airs on Really (Fridays at 10 PM).

I wasn’t prepared for what I discovered about Todmorden.

You see… some sites offer scant historical evidence to support a long-term haunting.

I can spend weeks researching them, and find nothing weird, strange, or unusual. It’s all urban legends and fiction.

Todmorden is the other extreme.

It has so many creepy and supernatural stories, I’m not sure where to begin. From bizarre crimes to UFOs, and from faeries to multiple hauntings, Todmorden offers more paranormal activity than most large cities I’ve investigated.

First, there are Todmorden’s many churches. Just one of them is the subject of the Most Haunted Season 19 episode.

According to Google, Todmorden’s churches include: Todmorden Unitarian Church, Central Methodist Church, St. Mary’s Church,  Roomfield Baptist Church, Vale Baptist Church, St. Joseph’s RC Church, St. Michael’s Parish Church, and Walsden Methodist Church.

In addition, Todmorden features at least one former church, now privately owned.

Only a few of Todmorden’s churches – past and present – seem connected to ghost stories. Here’s what I found…

Christ Church, Todmorden

According to Wikipedia,

A double murder took place at Christ Church, Todmorden on 2 March 1868. The victims’ graves lie in the churchyard.

Miles Weatherhill, a 23-year-old weaver from the town, was forbidden from seeing his housemaid sweetheart, Sarah Bell, by the Reverend Anthony John Plow.

Armed with four pistols and an axe, Weatherhill took revenge first on the vicar and then on Jane Smith, another maid who had informed Plow of the secret meetings.

Miss Smith died at the scene, while the vicar survived another week before succumbing to his injuries.

Weatherhill also seriously injured the vicar’s wife.

Local legend has it that the face of a young woman is sometimes seen in the window of the vicarage, now in private ownership.

The full story (at Rootsweb) is even more tragic. Some of the photos (at a related Facebook page) from the site are impressive. And creepy.

From everything I’ve seen, that site looks like a great place to investigate… if you have permission, of course.

And then there are Todmorden’s Unitarian sites. They present lots of research possibilities.

Todmorden Unitarian Chapel & Church

Todmorden Unitarian Church
Todmorden Unitarian Church, photo courtesy Alexander P. Kapp

The story of Todmorden’s Unitarian Church isn’t simple.

(That alone could make it an intriguing site for research.)

In fact, there were two Todmorden Unitarian Churches, both created by the wealthy Fielden family of Todmorden. (Their castle, Rossendale, is also supposed to be haunted.)

John Fielden (1784-1849) was the head of the family. He was a radical thinker, an MP, and a generous man.

In the 19th century, his family’s Waterside works – a cotton mill – became  Todmorden’s major employer.

Fielden was also a Quaker who converted to Methodism. Later, he became one of the founding members of the local Methodist Unitarian Society.

Joseph Fielden, Todmorden, Yorkshire
Joseph Fielden

When the early Methodist Unitarian community outgrew their meeting room at Hanging Ditch in Todmorden, Fielden helped to build a chapel and then he cleared the Society’s debt.

Today, he’s buried in a plain grave (with no headstone) in the yard next to that original chapel.

(If I were nearby, I’d definitely explore that site for EVP and photos. Sometimes those “no publicity, please” types are the same ones with a lot to say, in retrospect.)

In 1864, after John Fielden’s death, the congregation was large enough to need a full-sized church. So, John Fielden’s three sons built what’s now known as the Todmorden Unitarian Church on their land at Honey Hole in Todmorden.

(“Hanging Ditch” and “Honey Hole”…? Those names are so odd, they’d be unbelievable in fiction. But, in Todmorden, which translates to “death murder” – see below for details – I guess those names are normal. They certainly increase my interest in visiting the area.)

Then, after the new Unitarian church was completed, the old chapel became a Sunday School.

For a more complete history of the chapel, the church, and nearby burial grounds and memorials, see the church’s Rootsweb page.

Supporting history was at Shadows of the Night, which hosted vigils at the church. (That link vanished in May 2018, but – in case it returns – the URL was: http://www.shadowsofthenight.co.uk/todmorden-unitarian-church Meanwhile, it’s not at the Wayback Machine.)

St. Mary’s Church in Todmorden

The oldest Todmorden church, dating back to the 15th century, is currently holding services. It has a fascinating history, but no reported ghost stories. (Without specific ghost stories and research permission, I generally won’t investigate a church that’s currently in use.)

Secretive Ghosts?

So far, everything I’ve found is vague, even at the two churches with ghost stories.

That combination – ghosts suggested, but few actual ghost stories – is odd, and even more strange in a community with such an extraordinary history.

I don’t want to say they’re hiding something, but… Really, this is extraordinary, even in the context of my “weird, as usual” research.

Christ Church in Todmorden

This church (and what looks like a neglected burial ground) seems to offer the most promise as a ghost hunting site, but I’m told that it’s privately owned. For that reason, I can’t recommend initiating ghost investigations there.

The only consistent story I’ve found is related to the spectral image of a murdered young woman. She’s probably the one in the story I quoted earlier (above).

Her face appears in windows, and I found a story about her – as a “figure in white” – fleeing her killer, and running through the burial yard. So, I’d start by observing the burial yard… from a safe and legal distance, of course.

Todmorden Unitarian Church

As I explained above, this church (and related chapel) might be haunted. A few story elements indicate something paranormal. But, my research hasn’t turned up anything credible and concrete.

Putting the pieces together, from “a creepy feeling” to the sound of phantom footsteps, and from moving shadows to “the feeling you’re being watched,” it sounds like residual energy… but maybe shadow people (or “shadow figures”), too.

Some groups offer ghost vigils at this Todmorden church. Initially, I wasn’t interested in visiting. The lack of specific stories left me unimpressed.

But, with more research, I’m becoming more intrigued. (Understatement.)

Todmorden Castle, Rossendale

For me, the tipping point was Rossendale, Todmorden Castle.

According to Haunted Rossendale, it was built by John Fielden, the son of the man who built Todmorden’s original Unitarian chapel.  (John was also one of the brothers who built what’s now called the Todmorden Unitarian Church.)

From start to finish – including an unhappy marriage, a reclusive wife, and this John’s tragic accident that followed his second marriage – Todmorden Castle’s story is bizarre.

And then there’s John’s first wife’s unmarked grave at Todmorden Unitarian Church. I’d bet she has something to say, if you’re able to record EVP there.

In my opinion, if even half the Rossendale tale is true, it’s classic “ghost story” material, and powerful enough to bring the church into the eerie, paranormal loop.

So, my interest in Todmorden Unitarian Church leaped from “ho-hum” to “can’t wait to visit.”

Todmorden’s Other Paranormal History

Todmorden Town Hall, England
Todmorden Town Hall, photo courtesy Tim Green

Todmorden is an odd, very German-sounding name. It also matches the profile of Names To Run Away From. (And The Week article about names with “mor” in them.)

When I heard that, in German, “tod morden” means “death murders,” I was sure it was a hoax.

It’s not (see for yourself). That’s odd. (And, if you know how I choose research site, you also know that “odd” is what interests me.)

However, as Todmorden residents insist, there’s more to that story.

Todmorden in the Domesday Book

There is a written record of the area in the Domesday Book (1086), and a 1610 map shows the name as Todmerden (see the red arrow on the map, below).

Earlier names included Tottemerden, Totmardene, and Totmereden, generally translated as “Totta’s valley” or – less likely – “marshy home of the fox.”

I’m not sure that completely dismisses the German translation. “Double meanings” can leave an energy impression on a site.

Totmerden map
1610 Map showing Totmerden

The Pagan history of the town includes Blackheath Barrow, a (possibly) Bronze Age ring cairn above Cross Stone in Todmorden. The four cairns were positioned at the north, east, south, and west points of the compass.

That’s unusual enough to interest me.

The earliest paranormal legend is attributed to the 17th century, when lady Sybil, heiress of Bearnshaw Tower (above Cornholme), sold her soul to gain supernatural powers. (A pot of gold may have been part of the deal, as well. It’s definitely part of the Bearnshaw Tower legend.)

That story has so much support, as well as unusual consistency in the telling, I’m intrigued.

But, when it comes to strange and eerie events, that’s the tip of the Todmorden iceberg.

Todmorden Paranormal Reports

The following are just a few more of Todmorden’s paranormal connections and stories.

  • Bacup Road – Crypto reports of a brown cat that walks on her hind legs, accompanied by her pet dog. (Story from Masons Arms, which may now be closed.)
  • Barcroft Hall, Walk Mill (near Burnley Way) – A helpful entity (perhaps a faerie) who later cursed the family and led to its demise.
  • Between Todmorden and Mankinholes (once a Scandinavian settlement) – A Black Shuck (or a pack of them) that appears (and wails, loudly) on the night before Halloween. Maybe. (See The Paranormal Diary 2009 [PDF]. I’m not sure if “30 October” was misreported, and meant the 31st. )
  • Burnley Road and Todmorden – UFO reports in 1980, leading the town to be called “UFO Alley.” See The Mysterious Death of Zigmund Adamski, at Historic Mysteries. As UFO/abduction stories go, this has more credibility than most.
  • Centre Vale Park – Do beliefs create reality? Someone planted the story that patting a dog sculpture in the park brought good luck. Since that 2010 tale, similar (and darker) variations of the story became popular. I might want to see the sculpture, but I don’t think I’d touch it.
  • Garden Street – Spectral figure of an old lady walking up & down the street. (I found no documentation for this, so it could be wishful thinking.)

More about Todmorden haunts

And, for a fascinating urban exploration, see the documented visit to The Abandoned Auditorium of Todmorden.

If you’ve investigated Todmorden’s haunted places, I hope you’ll leave a comment, below.