Ghosts of Rochdale

It has become a tradition at Christmas time to tell ghost stories. Here are a few concerning our town.

The Goblin builders    This is an old tale told by Roby in his ‘Traditions’ about the building of the Parish Church. It seems that towards the end of the reign of William the Conqueror they decided to build a church in what was then Recedham on the banks of the river near to where Newgate is now. Timbers and large stones were gathered there and stakes driven into the ground to mark the spot. During one night however, all the stones, wood and tools were mysteriously taken up to the top of the hillside overlooking the town centre although no-one saw it happening. Next day everything was brought back down by the workmen only for it all to be removed again to the top of the hill next night. Gamel, Lord of Recedham thought that the workmen were playing tricks so ordered the materials back to Newgate. The following night everything was removed again to the top of the hill. Advice was sought from the church authorities and they pronounced that the church should be built above the town where the ‘goblin builders’ wanted it to be. And it’s still there now !

Ghosts around The Baum  The story goes that St Mary’s churchyard near to the Co-op Museum is a prime site for ghostly apparitions. Not only has a ghostly figure of a man been reported in the churchyard floating gently a few inches above the ground, but it was also the place where the Baum Rabbit was seen on many occasions. Recorded as early as 1876, this was the spectre of a vicious bunny ‘with fur as white as snow and eyes as red as blood’ which used to come out at night and terrify the children. Many a parent kept his child in check by saying ‘Don’t go to the back of Yorkshire Street because the Baum Rabbit will get you !’ You might even get a glimpse of it in this video captured brilliantly by Brownkhao at 

The Rake Cavalier    Kathleen Eyre in her book of Lancashire Legends writes about a soldier, presumably from the English Civil War who haunts properties near to Hollingworth Lake. It is alleged (although not proven) that Oliver Cromwell stayed in a small house near to The Rake Inn – thereafter sometimes known as Oliver’s Cottage (a cottage where Old Noll, a supposed witch, also stayed) – and where a Cavalier, no doubt chasing Cromwell, followed him. It is not known what happened to the Cavalier, perhaps he was killed by the Roundheads but the ghost of a grinning soldier dressed in support of the King remained – sometimes drunk – roaming the surrounding lanes and The Rake Inn itself, moving silently upon the landing, laughing to himself.

Owd Betts Ghost              Not many people can claim that they’ve filmed a ghost but Amazon TV producer and ghost hunter Sean Reynolds in 2017 says that, when filming at Owd Betts he experienced ice-cold air and saw a Bible and a cushion that had been owned by the landlady a century before moving on its own. For his series ‘Ghost Dimension’ he also caught on camera a ghost having a Christmas drink in the pub. All of these strange sights were accompanied by sounds of footsteps and voices all around the pub believed to be the movements and chattering of Owd Betty herself who died in 1893. Many regulars at the Owd Betts pub claim also to have seen the ghost of a woman behind the bar, often moving glasses mysteriously no doubt trying to fill them with spirits !

There have been many other ghostly sights in Rochdale, one featuring the public executioner, Rochdale’s John Ellis who died in 1932 but, some maintain, still haunts his father’s barbers shop on Oldham Road. Now a florist, this place is alleged to be the scene of tricks played on those alone in the shop, pushing them about in the room or, for some reason, slapping their behind ! And then there is the strange story of ‘internal rain’ at a bungalow on Hill Top Close. The residents in the 1980’s were puzzled by regular flooding which occurred in their property although there was no sign of where it came from. A phantom coughing and the smell of smoke in the house continued to puzzle the occupants. Maybe they should have checked the lodger or called a plumber ! Clegg Hall of course was the setting for a well-known Rochdale spook and you should see last June’s Streetwise for the full story of the murder of nephews for an inheritance leading to ghostly shades appearing in the Hall’s rooms. Or consider the tale of Sir Bertine Entwistle who was killed fighting in the Wars of the Roses at St Albans but came back to tap on windows at Foxholes or walk the streets in clanking armour. Finally, there’s the Prickshaw spectre of Healey Dell where the spirits of a dead farmer and children are said to stand at the windows of what once were worker’s cottages, pointing at passers-by. A photograph was taken in the late 1980’s and certainly, strange translucent figures – a man wearing a smock and two children – are plainly looking out. This might have been a hoax except that a neighbour who saw the photograph said that a farmer and his two children had been killed in a fire at that same cottage many years before ! There are more stories of Rochdale’s ghosts and poltergeists and we could be here all night telling them, but the candle is burning low and it’s time for bed. Think about the ghosts of Rochdale as you turn out the light tonight and …………. sleep well !

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