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Tales of the unexpected - the West Midlands' ghostly goings-on

Staffordshire | News | Published:

From the famed Grey Lady of Dudley Castle, to the beggar who was turned away at the Starving Rascal pub to apparitions at West Bromwich's Manor House – the Black Country and Staffordshire has a centuries-long reputation for ghostly goings-on.

And as the nights quickly draw in and with Halloween just around the corner the thoughts of many are turning towards the supernatural and the downright strange.

Dudley Castle is regarded as one of the most haunted castles in the world with a number of ghost sightings reported there over the years.

One of the most famous is the Grey Lady, believed to be the ghost of a woman named Dorothy Beaumont.

She lived at the castle and gave birth to a daughter who died. She herself asked to be buried beside her daughter and for her husband to attend her funeral.

Her requests were not carried out and she is reputed to still roam the grounds of the castle.

Another ghost seen at the historic site is that of a drummer boy killed by a 17th century musket.

West Bromwich's Manor House, which dates back to the 13th century, is believed to be haunted by three spirits, including a bearded man and two young girls, who are thought to live on the kitchen stairs.

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Over the years, numerous stories have cropped up at the former pub of poltergeists hurling glasses behind the bar and apparitions galore which include the ghost of a cat.

In 2012, TV presenter Michaela Strachan visited the site to film an episode of Great British Ghosts.

Other pubs in the region are featured in a book by Halesowen-based paranormal investigators David Taylor and Andrew Homer called Beer and Spirits two years ago. The book recounts spine-tingling tales of strange phenomena at more than 60 inns and taverns.

Mr Taylor, aged 44, ranks the Manor House as the most haunted site in the region.

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He lists Dudley Castle as his second, followed by The Starving Rascal pub in Brettell Lane in Stourbridge. The pub is reputed to be one of the most haunted pubs in the country and is said to be cursed by a beggar who was turned down for food and accommodation by its then landlord before later dying.

The pub was previously called The Dudley Arms and goes back to the 1800s, but in the 1970s it changed its name to fit the story.

Mr Taylor, who has investigated sites across the region for 25 years, said: "The pub is always a good one for hot and cold spots as well as shadows on the walls. We've heard of bottles coming off the shelves and shadowy figures down the cellar – it is a fascinating place."

Landlord Steve Robinson took over the pub seven years ago. He said: "Having been here a while I have certainly seen or heard things which I cannot explain. I think it is great to have a pub with so much history which is also popular with the public. We're proud of the pub's folklore."

Oak House, also in West Bromwich, is another firm favourite among fans of the paranormal and has played host to a number of ghost tours.

The building dates back to to 1590, but the first recorded occupiers were the Turton family which held on to it from 1634 until 1768.

It is now a museum. Museum assistant Mike Edwards said: "Every month we seem to have a paranormal group coming in and spending the night here. They find quite a lot happening in the kitchen and also the main bedroom.

"The stories I hear from them are that of servants who are unhappy working at the house - but I must say I haven't heard or seen anything, and I'm the one who goes round after them all in the dark to lock up."

Also apparently haunted is the Giffard Arms, in Wolverhampton. There are believed to be a number of ghosts which haunt the pub, in Victoria Street.

One of them is believed to be the spirit of Anne Horton – a 'lady of the night'. Her ghost has been reportedly seen following young men back from the pub at night. There have also been sightings of a girl around the age of 11 who is often seen playing with wooden play bricks in the main bar.

The Highgate Brewery Stores, in High Street, Walsall, is also a reported hotspot for restless spirits with one workman once claiming that while he was carrying out renovation work at the site, he was confronted by the disembodied head of an elderly bearded man.

The Somerset House in Enville Street in Stourbridge, also gets attention. It hit the headlines in 1998 when it was found that full pints of beer would stick to the wall, totally unsupported.

And there are reports of dark figures being seen at Castle Ring, an Iron Age hill fort, in Cannock along with sightings of a large black cat.

With so much supernatural activity it is little wonder an annual tour around one town's most haunted sites has continued to grow and this year is celebrating its 20th anniversary.

Another pub in Cannock which gets plenty of attention from paranormal groups is The Four Crosses in Watling Street.

Investigators Eerie Evenings hold regular ghost tours at the pub, which is said to be haunted by long-gone residents who remain in the pub's uncovered rooms and passageways.

Two ghostly sightings include a Roundhead soldier in the men's toilets, and a man in a long cloak standing in the car park on a rainy evening.

A ghost tour at the pub, which dates back to 1636, for next Saturday is fully booked.

Ghost tour guide Jo Percival said: "The Four Crosses is one of our most popular ghost walks. People are taken aback by the age of the pub, its traditional look and the ghostly stories inside."

Another ghost tour company is the Original Dudley Ghost Tour, which was launched back in 1993. It was the idea of Keith Cheetham who, at the time, was director of now-defunct Black Country Tourism.

One person also there at the very beginning of the tour was theatre designer Craig Denston, who now runs the annual event.

Mr Denston originally became involved when he was commissioned to create the costumes and masks worn by the 'ghosts' visitors see on the tour.

And it is something he continues to do up to the present day – alongside writing the script and taking residents on the tour.

Mr Denston said: "A lot of changes have been made to the tour since it was first launched back in 1993. For a start the script is now completely different.

"Our aim has always been to make it just as much about the town's history as it is about ghost stories.

"I have never stopped searching for new information to fill the stories out. People are also asked to share their own knowledge of ghostly happenings in the town.

"Obviously it is a great achievement to reach the tour's 20th anniversary.

"It is still very popular with people who want to learn more about some of the town's most haunted sites."

Mr Denston aims to create new ghost costumes and masks each year. "Because I create masks for theatre performances if there is one I make which I think will be suitable for the tour I create a second one," he said. "There are no problems with copyright because I make them.

"It is great so many people are so interested in the tour."

The first tour took place in September 1993. Black Country Tourism closed in 1997 when its government and European funding came to an end. But in February 1998 a new theatre company called The Original Dudley Ghost Tour was formed to ensure the popular annual event continued.

Mr Taylor said he believed the strong interest in ghost walks and tours was down to the public's urge for a good story.

Mr Denston said the tour dates this month for Original Dudley Ghost Tour had sold out although spaces were still available for tours on November 6, 13, 20 and 27.

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