REVEALED: Find out the ghostly goings-on in Stourbridge
From a haunted hotel room to strange mists and feelings of being watched - there are plenty of ghostly goings-on in and around Stourbridge.
In this week’s edition we talk with expert Andrew Homer – author of Black Country Ghosts and Hauntings – to find out more about some of the reportedly haunted landmarks.
It began life as a shadow factory for British Leyland during the Second World War producing aero engines.
During the Cold War Drakelow Tunnels became a nuclear bomb shelter designated as Regional Seat of Government 9.
It is possible to visit the tunnels at times and it is hoped it will be some day turned into a museum.
The tunnels were originally dug out of sandstone - explosives were used to blast out more than three miles of the underground complex and not without serious accidents.
One of the worst on record took place in October of 1941 when a roof collapsed in tunnel one and killed three men.
In the tunnels themselves 1940s war music has been heard - and when the source of the music is tracked it immediately stops.
Strange mists have been reported to descend on tunnel four and on one occasion a caretaker’s two German Shepherds were transfixed by a misty figure in the tunnel.
The dogs bolted off terrified and would not return.
People are said to experience the feeling of being watched and some claim to have been touched or pushed.
A male figure has been spotted and on one occasion disappearing around a fully lit doorway.
The figure has been given the name Oswald and is thought to have been one of the workers killed in the construction of the tunnels.
Mr Homer has carried out multiple investigations at the tunnels, and on one occasion caught what he believes was paranormal activity on camera.
He said: “That day we had got Drakelow Tunnels completely to ourselves
“We were in tunnel one and had booked it for the day.
“We had to leave by 6pm so we decided to all get together towards the end of the investigation.
“We were all just sitting and talking when there was an enormous bang.”
It was the night of Friday, November 4, in 2016 when Andrew Homer and a team of investigators took to the Bonded Warehouse in Stourbridge to try and capture something paranormal on camera.
The three storey canal side building, which has parts dating back to 1799, is reported to play host to a variety of strange activities.
Both staff and visitors of the Bonded Warehouse are said to have experienced objects moving, doors opening and closing by themselves and mysterious figures appearing.
Author Andrew Homer tells the Express & Star about what the investigation unearthed and how he managed to capture some of the supernatural goings-on with a small head camera.
Mr Homer said: “We had split into groups with one group downstairs and another upstairs spending about 45 minutes seeing if we could experience anything.
“The upstairs group had put a trigger object down – a chair in the middle of the room with a child’s ball on it.
“Then my group went up ahead of me because I had to change the batteries on my head camera.
“I made my way upstairs and realised that the rest of the group were not there - I then went over to the very edge of the room to switch my head camera on.
“What you hear on the video that it captured is the ball bouncing and I was nowhere near the thing – the chair was right in the middle of the room.
“We did try after that positioning the ball again and seeing if it would fall off on its own but it didn’t. It had originally been up there for at least an hour.”
It was 5pm on December 18 in 1812 when gentleman farmer Benjamin Robins was brutally attacked.
The 57-year-old was making his way back to his home at Dunsley Hall following a successful day at Stourbridge market.
He had been drinking in one of the taverns in Stourbridge celebrating when 32-year-old William Howe, a working-class joiner, clocked eyes on him.
William was known for liking quality hats and quality clothes and fancied himself as a bit of a highwayman without a horse because he could not afford one.
He was looking for somebody to rob and unfortunately Benjamin Robins was in the wrong tavern at the wrong time.
After leaving Benjamin was making his way down Fir Tree Lane, known now as Gibbet Lane, when he noticed a person behind him catching up rapidly.
Robins was just half-a-mile away from Dunsley Hall when William caught up with him and pulled out and cocked a pistol.
William then shot Robins in the back and robbed him - leaving him for dead on the lane.
Robins had got just over 21 shillings on him which was quite a lot of money in 1812 and a fine silver pocket watch.
But defying the odds Robins managed to crawl his way to Dunsley Hall and was looked after by two doctors.
He lingered between life and death for 10 days and died on the December 28 from his wounds.
This is said to have caused outrage in Stourbridge and Kinver. Gentleman farmers were scared by this and the fact that somebody could just be killed like this and robbed.
What the magistrates decided to do was to call in two Bow Street Runners to investigate the case.
If they were called to an area to investigate then the magistrates would have to pay half of their upkeep whilst they were there.
Very often if they could bring a murderer to justice then there was extra money in terms of rewards.
There was a reward of £100 from Robins’ own family and also £50 from Kinver residents and £50 from Stourbridge residents put up.
The Runners tracked down William Howe and arrested him. He was taken to Stafford jail but did not admit anything.
Though in the end there were two pieces of evidence that condemned him.
Firstly he had pawned the silver pocket watch in Worcester and the pawnbroker remembered his face. Secondly he had got a pair of pistols which were later discovered.
Whilst he was in jail he had got a fellow prisoners to pass a letter to his wife to tell her where the second pistol was hidden. It was hidden in a hay stack at Oldswinford.
The letter said to find it and get rid of it – though Howe had not been married very long and did not realise his wife could not read.
She had to give the letter to somebody else to read it and the game was up once this person read the letter and realized the content of it.
The trial did not last very long – just a few short hours. He was sentenced to hang and he was said to have confessed to the murder of Benjamin Robins on the scaffold.
Having hung him, they then also gibbeted him. His body was put in a very strong iron cage and the cage was hung on a tree very high up on the lane where the attack took place.
Mr Homer said: “It was hard on the Robins family as this character was hanging in a tree half-a-mile from their home on a path that they would have to have used.
“The idea was that he was gibbeted for a year and the body would rot away - what happened to William Howe after that year is not really known.
“It is believed that his bones were taken down and buried underneath the tree – and when he was buried under the tree they put a dagger through where his heart would have been. The idea was that the dagger is supposed to keep the spirit of the dead person in the ground.
“Clearly it didn’t work because the spirit of William Howe very quickly made himself known.
“Even whilst he was gibbeted there is a story that two school children in 1813 came along to have a look and one of them shouted up to ask William how he was. He got an eerie response back of ‘cold and clammy’.
“It is an eerie place, even in the summer on the nice day – there is something about it.
“People claim to have heard metal rattling around the area he was gibbeted, people claim to have experienced dark figures following them down the lane. Even today there are stories coming out of Gibbet Lane.
“We were up there one night and heard something that could have been chains rattling - we did get it recorded but it was quite quiet on the recording. It is clear something happened and it certainly has an atmosphere.”
The Talbot Hotel
It dates back to the 1630s and was formerly known as the home of rich and influential local ironmaster Richard Foley.
As a coaching inn later down the line, The Talbot was a social and business centre in Stourbridge.
Today an extensive network of cellars beneath the building extend under the street and the adjacent shops.
These tunnels are closely connected with the paranormal goings-on here and have been reported to take on a frightening and oppressive atmosphere at times.
During the 18th century a landlord of The Talbot Hotel had an affair with a younger lady who fell pregnant by him. The baby was stillborn and he hid the body behind one of the walls of the cellar in order to remove evidence of the affair.
Shortly afterwards the mother also died in room 19 and thereafter it was said to be haunted by a lady in white who wanders all over the building but particularly in the area around room 19.
She has been seen by staff and residents alike – a figure sobbing and searching for her lost baby.
- Andrew Homer’s latest book Black Country Ghosts and Hauntings is available on Amazon