14 February 1903

ALLEGED HAUNTED HOUSE AT ASHTON
A Singular Ghost Story – Remarkable Scenes

Crowds of people have been gathering nightly during the past week in Ellison-street, a little out-of-the-way street, off Margaret-street, Ashton, endeavouring to clear up a mystery surrounding a house at present untenanted, midway down the street, and which is said to be haunted.

The house bears evidence of ill-treatment, for several windows are broken through stones having been thrown at them, and the front door has been battered and kicked by an excited mob, so much so that notices have been posted on the front of the house warning persons of the consequence of any damage. The Chief Constable (Mr J SNELL), in order to protect the property, drafted several policemen to the spot, and these have been on duty nightly assisting to disperse the crowd, which on some nights had grown to an enormous extent, creating great excitement.

The most singular part of the affair, which lends colour to the mysteriousness of the whole business, is the statement that since last Ashton Wakes there have been about half-a-dozen different tenants living in the house, several of whom bear testimony to the house being haunted.

They say that the mysterious occurrences usually take place about midnight and take different forms – one manifestation being the appearance of an apparition with a face blackened, apparently by coal dust, and attired in the garb of a collier, and carrying a pickaxe over his shoulder. He makes no noise on appearance, but glides along the bedroom floor, and vanishes into a corner of the room. This visitation has been associated with a collier named MORT, who was killed at Ashton New Moss Colliery a year or two ago, and whose widow and children came to live in this house, but left it some time back.

He is said not to molest anyone, although the mysterious visitations have struck terror into the hearts of those who have been eye witnesses. A notion got abroad amongst the residents of the locality that a sum of money had been left hidden in the house, and that this accounted for the visit of the spook. With a view of elucidating the mystery one of the tenants instituted a keen search, and took up several flags, but nothing could be found.

It was further suggested that the whole thing was a hoax, and that a sewer ran underneath the house, through which some mischievous person had been able to gain access. This supposition was found to be impracticable

Another nocturnal visitor is said to take a spectral form altogether indefinable, descending through the roof in a halo of shimmering light and fading away into a dark cloudy substance. Then, again, things like fire balls are vouched for as seen flitting about one of the bedrooms at night time and apparent flashes of lightning lasting a few minutes, followed by the appearance of a dark, cloudy substance gradually fading away.

Another manifestation is in connection with the bedroom door, which is said to have opened most mysteriously on several occasions during the night-time. No noise could be heard further than a slight sound accompanying the lifting of the latch, and when one of the occupants of the house ventured to close the door it opened again shortly afterwards as mysteriously as before. One woman states that she found a bottle of blood in the house on getting up in the morning.

No one seems able to account for the statements made, and the affair at present is wrapped in mystery. In the meantime it requires the constant attendance of police constables to keep the street clear at night, and the Chief Constable says he shall take proceedings for obstruction if people still persist in causing annoyance to the neighbourhood. Close by the alleged haunted house there lives a young woman who is dangerously ill and the noise and commotion have aggravated her illness,

The large family residing in the alleged haunted house were living in constant fear, until on Tuesday night they became so alarmed that they quitted the house, furniture and all, and took up their abode at the house of a neighbour. Since then the furniture has been removed to premises in Hill-street, and the house at present remains empty.

In spite of the many ghost stories, however, an old widow lady, who has lived in the house before, has boldly stated her intention to seek the tenancy again, as the house is suitable for her requirements, and it is expected that she will resume possession shortly.

The house, it is said, was formerly used as a shop, and in the middle of the wall dividing the house from the kitchen there is a window, and it is at this window that a man’s face, begrimed with coal-dust is said to show itself from time to time.

A story is told of an old lady of 80 who resided in the house, along with the last tenants. She was gazing at the window aforementioned when she saw something move. Being short-sighted, she got up to have a closer look, and on perceiving it to be what was apparently the face of a man, she fell back in a swoon, and received such a shock that she was ill for several days afterwards.

Several men vouch for the accuracy of the statement, and relate similar experiences. One night, last week-end, the tenants of the house became so alarmed that they sent for the Rev T W PUGHE-MORGAN, vicar of St Peter’s Church, who arrived in company with Dr MORRISON, and in order to pacify the members of the family the two consented to spend a portion of the night at the house.

In company with two men who averred that they had seen the ghostly visitor, they remained in the house during the critical hour of midnight “when churchyards yawn,” as Shakespeare has it, but Mr Ghost could nowhere be seen. In fact they were greatly disappointed, and being a little sceptical, and looking upon the matter as a hoax, they took a couple of dogs with them, ostensibly for the purpose of inflicting condign punishment upon the perpetrator.

A number of spiritualists from Ashton and district banded themselves together and set about the task of “Riddling the Sphinx.” They held a “circle” at the house, with subdued lights, and several of the mediums present went under control, the result being that after about four hours’ of psychological research they were able to communicate the fact to the bewildered multitude that there were three ghosts, namely a collier who appeared to have been in an accident, and an old lady beside him, whilst at the middle door of the house a skeleton was standing. Several spiritualists have expressed their desire for a further “circle,” whereby they hope to be in a position to give more information regarding the results of the occult science.

Amongst the crowds assembling in the street night after night there has been a great deal of good humoured banter. Whilst many expressed their belief in ghost stories, others showed their scepticism by singing songs appropriate to the occasion, the chorus of which was joined in right heartily, as follows:-

 

”And his ghost may be seen,
Walking every night,
Up and down,
Round the town,
Dressed in white.

They tried to shift him with dynamite,
They tried him with powder and shot,
But the only thing that would shift him was
A gallon of whisky hot.”

It was rather interesting to hear the account given of the affair by the tenant who removed from the house on Tuesday night. She said: I only went into the house a fortnight ago last Wednesday, and when I took it they told me it was haunted, and I said I did not believe it, and that I was not afraid.

We had been in the house two nights before we heard anything. Then the bedroom door opened rather mysteriously, but I did not take any notice of it at first. Then another night passed and we heard nothing, but the next night we were awakened by the door opening again, followed by something like a flash crossing the room, followed by a dark cloud. The nearest description I can give of it was like a flash from a looking-glass one sometimes sees boys carrying in the streets and holding up to the sun nearly blinding people, known by the name of a heliograph.

One night all the family went and laid on the bed without taking their clothes off, so afraid were they. On another night there were 15 persons staying in the house, and 13 of the 15 saw the manifestation, whatever it was. I was made ill. Others who have lived in the house also say they have seen it. One of them saw it seven times in one night. It frightened me when the chamber door kept opening, and a light was constantly kept burning in the room.

My mother, who is 80 years of age, saw the face of a man. The man looked like a collier, as he had a face covered with coal dust. He wore a belt and a white clean shirt. The only person who has died in the house to my knowledge was a Mrs LEE, the owner of the property, which was some years ago.

A collier living next door to the house in question said he had lived in the house six or seven years, and had never seen or heard anything.

On being asked for his opinion on the subject, the Rev T W PUGHE-MORGAN said he believed it was all imagination. They sent up to the Vicarage for him, and in response to the request he went down to the house in order to satisfy the inmates. Along with Dr MORRISON he stayed in the house from 11.30 at night until 3 o’clock in the morning, but they saw nothing.

Didn’t you find it tedious waiting? Oh, dear, no. We had good fire, and the time was occupied in conversation. The light was turned low, and it looked a bit weird. About 1.30 in the morning, the time when the ghost was said to generally make its appearance, we heard a noise like someone treading on the staircase. One of the watchers broke the suspense with the remark, "Hello, ther's someone there." Being unable to discover anything in the kitchen, we took a dog into the backyard, and lo! It was a cat which had made the noise in jumping from the backyard wall on to a mangle board. Pussy made off at a rare speed, with the dog in hot pursuit.

When asked if he could give a scientific reason for the affair, Dr MORRISON said there were so many conflicting statements that he discredited the stories on that account. In response to a request he consented to stay to stay in the house along with the Rev T W PUGHE-MORGAN, and he had made a study of the window through which the face was said to have been seen. His opinion was was that at a certain angle, if the onlooker chanced to look at the glass just at the psychological moment when the fire in the room temporarily blazed up, the room on the opposite side being necessarily darker, he would see his own face as through a looking glass, and if a little sensitive or excited, as the inmates of the house would naturally be, the figure might be taken as a spectre.

He quoted as an illustration the brilliantly lighted shop of Mr Will HOWARD, tobacconist, Stamford-street, with its arrangement of mirrors which served at certain angles to create a somewhat similar optical delusion. He quoted a case where a nurse, dressed in light-coloured clothes, once fainted at seeing a similar optical illusion. Many of the wizard entertainments of Messrs MASSIVENE and COOKS, he said, were conducted on a similar principle.

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