Most Haunted: Todmorden Church

Most Haunted may feature Todmorden Church in their fourth new episode (first airing 5 May 2017) in Season 19. That’s what I’ve read, anyway.

UPDATE: Yes, it was Todmorden Unitarian Church.

Most Haunted Season 19 - 2017
Todmorden Church was investigated by Most Haunted for Season 19

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.

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. (At the moment, I’m not sure which one Yvette & her team investigated.)

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 )

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.)

Todmorden Church Ghost Stories

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

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 your own ghost investigation 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.

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.

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.”

And, as I’m writing this, I’m really hoping it’s the Todmorden church that Yvette & team investigated. I’m eager to learn more about the site. (Update: Yes, that church was the focus of the Most Haunted episode. It definitely looks like a great research site.)

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.

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, be sure to 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.

The Duckett Family Curse

Duckett family curse - ghost huntingDuckett’s Grove in Ireland — featured in a March 2011 episode of Destination: Truth –  isn’t the only haunted location associated with the Duckett family.  A little paragenealogy reveals an interesting history.

The Duckett family’s ancestral homes was Grayrigg Hall, a medieval manor estate in Cumbria, England.

In the 17th century, Grayrigg Hall was owned by Justice Anthony Duckett (1636 – ca. 1692).  Duckett was known for being a persecutor of the Quakers a very new and controversial religion in that era.

One legal case involved Francis Howgill, a Quaker who’d refused to take an oath of allegiance (to King Charles II) and was sent to prison.

Anthony Duckett was one of the magistrates when Howgill was sentenced to jail.

The Origin of the Duckett Family Curse

During Howgill’s imprisonment, he was released for a couple of days to attend to some business at home.  While there, he visited Justice Duckett at Grayrigg Hall.

After the magistrate expressed surprise on seeing the prisoner, Mr. Howgill delivered this curse:

“…I am come with a message from the Lord. Thou hast persecuted the Lord’s people, but His hand is now against thee, and He will send a blast upon all that thou hast, and thy name shall rot out of the earth, and this thy dwelling shall become desolate, and a habitation for owls and jackdaws.”

Shortly after that, the Duckett family began to have problems.  All of Anthony Duckett’s male children died without heirs.  The estate failed and it was sold, around 1685, to a neighbor and family friend, Sir John Lowther.

The Duckett Family’s Irish Connection

That was around the time Anthony Duckett’s cousins began acquiring land at Duckett’s Grove in Ireland.

It seems that both the Duckett family and Grayrigg Hall itself were equally cursed.  In the 1777 book, The history and antiquities of the counties of Westmorland and Cumberland, here’s how Grayrigg Hall was described:

Grayrigg Hall being the ancient manor house, was a strong old building, in a quadrangular form, adapted for defence more than for convenience. It is now totally in ruins, most of the lead and timber thereof having been removed to Lowther.

So, the original (and possibly cursed) Grayrigg Hall is now gone.  If you’re looking for its location, here are the coordinates:  Latitude 54.3711, Longitude -2.6496

Another Grayrigg Hall was built near the church.  (Don’t confuse it with the old, reputedly haunted Grayrigg.)

If you’re looking for the remnants of the haunted Grayrigg Hall, visit Lowther Castle.  As described in the 1777 book, timber and lead from Grayrigg were used to expand Lowther Castle.

The "lost castle" of Lowther is in this YouTube video at: https://youtu.be/YvMy3kUwZnI

Did the curse continue there?  It seems as if it did.

According to Simon Marsden’s website, Lowther Castle was inherited in 1784 by Sir James Lowther, the 1st Earl of Lonsdale, also known as “Wicked Jimmy.”

By the time of his death in 1802, Lowther’s young wife had died, he had no children, and depression had driven him to madness.  His ghost has been reported at Lowther Castle.

To learn far more about Duckett’s Grove Castle (Ireland) and its ghosts, see Duckett’s Grove Castle, Ireland – Ghost Hunting Tips.

Next, here’s the full text of the Grayrigg Hall story and curse, from The Haunted Homes and Family Traditions of Great Britain, by John Henry Ingram, published in 1884.

GRAYRIGG HALL.

In Ducketiana it is stated by Sir G. B. Duckett, that not a vestige remains of those extensive foundations which, a hundred years ago, attested the solidity and importance of the Westmoreland Ducketts’ residence, the Manor House known formerly as Grayrigg Hall.

A strange story is told of the last member of this opulent family, who inhabited this fine old English mansion ere it was dismantled.

The narrative has been detailed with great similarity in various works, such as Ferguson’s Early Cumberland and Westmoreland Friends, and Backhouse’s Life of Howgill, and is popularly known as “The Quaker’s Curse and its Fulfilment.”

Francis Howgill, a noted member of the Society of Friends, resided at Todthorne, near Grayrigg, in Westmoreland, about the middle of the seventeenth century.

At one time he travelled about the south of England preaching, and when he visited Bristol, in company with his compatriot, John Camm, his preaching was made the occasion of great rioting.

In 1663 he returned to his own neighbourhood, whither his reputation had apparently preceded him, for, upon arriving at the market-place of Kendal, he was summoned to appear before the Justices, who were holding a court in a tavern.

They tendered Howgill the oath of allegiance when he came before them, and as he refused to take it they committed him to confinement in Appleby jail.

It may be pointed out, as a matter of history, that in the earliest days of the brotherhood, members of the Society of Friends were often subjected to severe penalties and much persecution for their refusal to conform to the taking of judicial oaths.

At Appleby the judges of Assizes also tendered Howgill the same oath and, on his refusal to swear it, ordered him to be indicted at the next Assizes. Meanwhile they offered to release him from custody if he would give a bond for his good behaviour in the interim, but this he refused to do, and therefore was re-committed to prison.

During his imprisonment a curious incident happened. Howgill was allowed by the magistrates to go home toGrayrigg for a few days on private affairs, and in the course of the time he was at liberty the Quaker felt himself compelled to visit a justice of the name of Duckett, residing at Grayrigg Hall, who was a great persecutor of the Quakers, and was, also, one of the magistrates concerned in committing him to prison.

Francis Howgill, on this occasion, was accompanied by a friend who, over the initials “J. D.” would appear to have left a written report of the interview.

Justice Duckett expressed much surprise at seeing Howgill, and said to him, ” What is your wish now, Francis? I thought you had been in Appleby jail.”

Howgill replied to this effect, “No, I am not, but I am come with a message from the Lord. Thou hast persecuted the Lord’s people, but His hand is now against thee, and He will send a blast upon all that thou hast, and thy name shall rot out of the earth, and this thy dwelling shall become desolate, and a habitation for owls and jackdaws.”

When Howgill had delivered this message, the Justice trembled, and said, ” Francis, are you in earnest?” To which Howgill responded, “Yes, I am in earnest, it is the word of the Lord to thee, and there are many now living who will see it.”

 

York, England – Golden Fleece Orb

Ghost of York, England - an orb discussion Orbs can appear anywhere.

They appear to be floating or gliding energy forms, so they can be anywhere at all.

I’ve heard reports from people who successfully asked orbs to move to certain locations for photos.  For example, they told the ghost to move the orb over a particular doorway or gravestone… and it did.

(Generally, I only ask ghosts to manifest however they can, if they’d like to appear in a photo. I’m uncomfortable with the idea of ordering them around.)

During many years of studying ‘ghost photos’, I’ve noticed an odd pattern among many orbs. They appear in consistent places. The trend is so predictable, we believe it’s beyond coincidence.

In an unusual number of photos, I’ve seen orbs directly over people’s heads. In most cases, the photos were taken at a significant event (such as a wedding or prom) or a family gathering.

Other orbs appear – in surprising numbers – over chairs, as if the ghost is sitting there.
York - orb over chair in Golden Fleece

For example, the photo on the right shows an orb ‘seated’ at the haunted Golden Fleece pub in York, England. (A group of us investigated at “York’s most haunted pub” in June 2007.)

Because that restaurant has many shiny surfaces, I discounted most orbs from that casual investigation. Nevertheless, the placement of this one caught my attention.

Is it a credible photo? I’m not so sure.  I’d like to return there for more research. I believe the Golden Fleece is one of York’s most intriguing haunted locations.

Also, I think we need to consider orb photos in a broader context. For example, if other odd things were going on, exactly when the photos were taken. Or, if someone – without knowing where an orb was hovering, in a photo or video – directly indicated something “ghostly” at the exact same place and time.

In other words, orbs may be one of those “you had to be there” phenomena. Out of context, taking orbs seriously can raise eyebrows.

I understand that, and it’s frustrating. Personal evidence can be the most personally convincing… and have the least credibility among fellow researchers, much less skeptics.

Here’s a quirky (and slightly silly) four-minute video about haunted York, including the Golden Fleece.

That YouTube video of haunted York is at: https://youtu.be/L_0KHH7_6NM

WHAT ARE ORBS?

To be honest, I don’t know what orbs are.

Many investigators call them ‘ghost orbs’ when we can’t explain them, after considering humidity, dust, reflected light, and so on.

In 2013, after several years of intense study, I concluded that humidity, dust, reflected light, and other apparently reasonable explanations rarely cause convincing orbs in photos.

(I stress “convincing” because – to an experienced investigator – it’s fairly easy to spot an orb caused by dust, pollen, and so on.)

So, I’m having to retract over 10 years’ advice that most orbs are the result of natural, reflective objects – large and small – at sites where the photos were taken.

They’re not. (Yes, that’s an embarrassing admission. I wouldn’t admit to it, except my tests have shown, conclusively, that convincing orbs really are anomalous.)

Ghost hunters have ample proof that unexplained orbs appear in haunted places in dramatically higher numbers. Orbs seem to appear in areas where EMF levels spike. We’re not sure if orbs contain higher levels of energy, but some researchers believe that they do.

ORBS IN PHOTOS v. ORBS YOU CAN SEE

A small – perhaps gifted – minority of researchers are able to see orbs in real life. However, the orbs that they see don’t usually appear in photos taken at the same time.

In most cases, researchers don’t see anything before, during and after taking photos that – when viewed on the monitor or printed – reveal orbs.

After over a dozen years of professional research, I’m still astonished when investigator see vivid orbs in photos, though we saw nothing unusual when the photos were taken.

SPARKLES AND ORBS

Years ago, I was the first ghost hunters to use the term ‘sparkles’ to describe an odd visual effect that occurs with some cameras.

I’ve learned that, when people see sparkles, there’s a good chance we’ll find orbs or other photographic anomalies in our pictures.

SENTIENT ORBS?

Ghost hunters aren’t sure if orbs are related to spirits that are aware of us and can respond to the people around them.

However, we’ve seen enough ‘ghost photos’ to know that orbs often appear in similar locations, as if they’re comfortable among us.

Whether they’re posing for group photos or sitting comfortably in a favorite chair, the placement often seems deliberate.