by Antony Morris
Every town, village and city in Britain is ripe with tales of the dead coming back to the land of the living to fulfil some manner of task – typically wandering aimlessly or playing pranks on suspecting believers. While I am yet to have a ghostly experience, I am no less intrigued by people’s interpretations of unexplained occurrences. Given that extraordinary claims really do require extraordinary evidence, I am currently happy to place any mysterious incidents in the ‘I don’t know’ category. By looking at ghost stories related to some of Huddersfield’s paranormal hotspots we can learn a bit about history and get a sense of how these tales have contributed to local folklore.
This line of ghostly inquiries was a topic requested by charity shop employee and paranormal enthusiast, Oliver, who asked if this was something I would be interested in writing about. To pique my interest, Oliver relayed a personal experience that took place in our fellow West Yorkshire town, Pontefract. In 30 East Drive, a house that some consider to be the home of Britain’s most active ghosts (Frame, 2020), Oliver and his friends witnessed several curious incidents. Tugs on clothing, moving shadows and falling fixtures were just some of the occurrences that they experienced. With me intrigued and on board to write a historical piece, Oliver provided me with a list of areas local to Huddersfield that are said to be haunted. That list included the following: Black Dick’s Tower, Huddersfield Train Station, Longley Old Hall, Ravensknowle Hall (Tolson Museum), The Royal & Ancient Pub, Standedge Tunnel and Storthes Hall. In this first part, I will be introducing you to these sites and the entities that are said to haunt them, before delving into some of their historic contexts in parts two and three.
Before tucking into these historical Huddersfield landmarks, let us explore some of the common factors that can lead to experiences that are like those relayed by people who describe seeing or sensing the supernatural. Aside from the more obvious reasons people have for sightings – psychoactive drugs, neurological changes or sleep deprivation (Shermer & Linse, 2020) – there are several others that are perhaps so common as to be everyday occurrences.
In addition to mild auditory hallucinations being a common occurrence for lots of people (Blom, 2015), as humans, we regularly recognise patterns and apply meaning to them. While not a form of hallucination, an extremely common form of visual pattern recognition is known as pareidolia. This occurs when we make out familiar shapes in clouds, rocks, shadows, etc, that we often think resembles a human form. Another phenomenon that may be related to paranormal activity is one know as ‘sensed presence effect’. This is a regular experience for mountain climbers, endurance athletes and others who spend long periods in isolation and it is closely associated with factors such as darkness, cold, hunger, tiredness and fear (Shermer & Linse, 2020).
Putting any natural causations behind us, I would like to add a disclaimer. While I am personally sceptical as to the existence of ghosts, I do acknowledge that for most individuals who claim to have encountered one, their experience was real. This information on potential causation for ghost sightings is not an effort to discredit experience, only a means to further understand the context in which our local ghosts may have arisen.
So, without further ado, allow me to introduce our subjects and their rumoured ghostly inhabitants.
Black Dick’s Tower is a folly on the edge of Mirfield that was built between 1752-4 on the grounds of the Whiteley Beaumont Estate (Pattern, 2020). A prominent family throughout the history of Huddersfield and its surrounding areas, the Beaumont’s have left an enduring legacy of parks, streets and family names. It is the most historically notorious amongst them that we are introducing today. Richard Beaumont (1574-1631), or as he came to be known, Black Dick, was a northern politician who sat in the houses of commons (Hulse et al., 2010). While the evidence is scant, some sources have Richard Beaumont as a party-throwing hedonist (Number One London, 2011) guilty of dabbling in magic and treachery. It is said that these deeds led to Beaumont gaining the name Black Dick of the North. Furthermore, it is he who is said to haunt this wonderful little folly, making a gruesome appearance every year on the 5th of July (Hemingway, 2013). In Part 2, we shall learn more about the folly and the body parts the ghost of Black Dick of the North is said to be missing.
While most are more than familiar with our town’s award-winning train station, perhaps fewer are aware of rumours of paranormal activity there. Return for the follow-up article to read more about the ghosts that are reported to wander this 1947 structure. From floating orbs caught on camera to the ghost of Johan Marr, a porter who was injured at the station, this local hub of activity is home to a couple of ghost claims (Gildea, 2015).
Longley Old Hall was once home to perhaps the most prolific family in the annuls of Huddersfield, the Ramsdens. Taking ownership of the Longley area in the 16th century, the hall was the family’s seat of power for around 400 years and in 1884, when it was restored, it became the building still there today (Pattern, 2019). Said to be haunted by a young boy in breeches and an older lady dressed in a black gown, Longley Old Hall offers some intriguing details that may tell us more about its history (YorkshireLive, 2003).
Another landmark that some believe to be the home of a ghost purportedly caught on film is Ravensknowle Hall, better known as the Tolson Museum. This mid-19th century manor house was owned by Legh Tolson from 1889 until 1919, when he gifted the land to ‘the people of Huddersfield’, with his wish being that the building be converted into a museum (Kirklees Council, 2016). While there are no specific stories of ghosts to attach to the apparent video footage, Legh Tolson’s story is one that may reveal a tragic link.
One of a few drinking holes in Kirklees that is said to be haunted, The Royal and Ancient is a pub on a site with a history stretching back to 1780. Once used as a temporary morgue for 17 children who had died in a local fire, both staff and customers have reported strange occurrences. Expanding on the pub’s history in the next article, we will seek to understand more about the children, specifically a young girl, who is said to haunt this old pub (Roberts, 2012).
Standedge Tunnel, built between 1794 and 1811, is a behemoth passageway from Marsden to Diggle (Robinson, 2018), where both employees and visitors have reported experiencing strange lights and unexplained sounds. During its construction, it is thought that over fifty people died in numerous work-related accidents. In addition to these unfortunate deaths, locals in the early 1980s claimed that the tunnel was being used for black magic rituals (Delahaye, 2018). Could these rituals be responsible for the unexplained occurrences?
Last on our list is Storthes Hall. Establish in 1904 as an asylum for the mentally ill (Shaw, 1999), this is perhaps the most notorious site on our list. Admittedly, much of that notoriety is perhaps due to early twentieth-century medical practices in such hospitals, but still, rumours of the paranormal here are well known. While there are not any specific ghost stories to investigate, the next article will consider the reasons we might attach hauntings to such a building.
So, that is our list of some of our town’s landmarks that are said to be haunted. With introductions to our sites and their purported ghostly inhabitants out of the way, Part 2 will delve a little further into what these stories can tell us historically.
Blom, J. D. (2015). The Human Auditory System. Science Direct; Handbook of Clinical Neurology. https://www.sciencedirect.com/topics/neuroscience/auditory-hallucination
Delahaye, J. (2018, September 25). New paranormal investigation could reveal Standedge Tunnel’s spooky secrets. Mirror. https://www.mirror.co.uk/travel/uk-ireland/standedge-tunnels-spooky-secrets-gruesome-13300758
Frame, N. (2020, October 30). Ponte’s poltergeist home named among Britain’s most haunted in new poll. Wakefield Express. https://www.wakefieldexpress.co.uk/news/people/pontes-poltergeist-home-named-among-britains-most-haunted-new-poll-3020361
Gildea, S. (2015, October 24). Haunted Huddersfield: Dare you visit these spooky sites for Halloween thrills? YorkshireLive. https://www.examinerlive.co.uk/whats-on/whats-on-news/haunted-huddersfield-halloween-ghosts-ghouls-10314696
Hemingway, A. (2013). Black Dick’s Tower. Andyhemingway. https://andyhemingway.wordpress.com/category/black-dicks-tower/
Hulse, L., Ferris, J. P., & Healy, S. (2010). Beaumont of Whiteley. Cambridge University Press. http://community.dur.ac.uk/reed.ne/wp-content/uploads/BEAUMONT-OF-WHITLEY-BEAUMONT-Records-1.pdf
Kirklees Council. (2016, September 1). The story of Tolson. Www.kirklees.gov.uk. https://www.kirklees.gov.uk/beta/museums-galleries-history/tolson-story.aspx
Number One London. (2011). The Story of Whitley Hall. Number One London. http://numberonelondon.net/2011/05/the-story-of-whitley-hall/
Pattern, D. (2019). Longley Old Hall, Longley, Almondbury – Huddersfield Exposed: Exploring the History of the Huddersfield Area. Huddersfield.exposed. https://huddersfield.exposed/wiki/Longley_Old_Hall,_Longley,_Almondbury
Pattern, D. (2020). Black Dick’s Temple, Whitley Beaumont Estate, Whitley Upper – Huddersfield Exposed: Exploring the History of the Huddersfield Area. Huddersfield.exposed. https://huddersfield.exposed/wiki/Black_Dick%27s_Temple,_Whitley_Beaumont_Estate,_Whitley_Upper
Roberts, K. (2012). Haunted huddersfield. The History Press Ltd.
Robinson, A. (2018, August 23). Standedge Tunnel named “engineering marvel” – despite the “S” bend blunder. YorkshireLive. https://www.examinerlive.co.uk/news/west-yorkshire-news/standedge-tunnel-recognised-engineering-marvel-15057323
Shaw, A. W. (1999). The Mansion (Storthes Hall Hospital), Kirkburton. Historic England. https://historicengland.org.uk/listing/the-list/list-entry/1313310
Shermer, M., & Linse, P. (2020). Why People See Ghosts (And Gods, Angels, Demons, And Aliens And Why They Float, Fly, And Travel Out Of Their Bodies). In Skeptic. https://www.skeptic.com/downloads/why-people-see-ghosts.pdf
YorkshireLive. (2003, October 22). `Noises in the dead of night’. YorkshireLive. https://www.examinerlive.co.uk/news/west-yorkshire-news/noises-dead-night-5093852