Ghosts of the West Midlands
In terms of being a county, the West Midlands is a relatively new addition having been formed in 1972 from parts of Staffordshire, Worcestershire and Warwickshire. It is dominated by the city of Birmingham and is the second most populous county in England. In terms of hauntings, the West Midlands has plenty and the history of the area means there are ghostly residence from all different eras. Here we glimpse a snapshot of the ghosts of the West Midlands.
Aston is an area of central Birmingham to the north-east of the city centre and was a village as far back as the Domesday Book. Just outside it is Aston Hall, a grade I listed Jacobean house that was built from 1618-1635. The hall is haunted by the former wife of an owner of the property, named Holt or Halte, who was locked in the loft of the building by her husband after she accused him of having an affair. She died there and her ghost appears as a grey lady. Another ghost is a servant boy who killed himself after being caught steaming while a green lady is a former housekeeper seen around the building.
Birmingham dominates the West Midlands in terms of size and population and while there is evidence of the city going back centuries, it saw development in the 1100s when the lord of the manor Peter de Birmingham gained a charter to hold a market in his castle and planned a market town around it. The city expanded rapidly during the Industrial Revolution including seeing the development of the steam engine by James Watt and Matthew Boulton in 1776. It suffered during World War II and saw much redevelopment in the 1950s and 1960s.
The Alexandra Theatre is known for the ghostly presence of Leon Salberg, the former director who stands at the back of the stalls. A former wardrobe master can be heard pacing around – recognisable as he always wore carpet slippers and the sound can be recognised even though the area is now carpeted!
Birmingham and Midland Eye Centre is also known as the City Hospital and in 1996, while being constructed, a woman in grey was seen on CCTV footage. A search of the building could find no-one. Another encounter saw a ward sister appear on a corridor, but only from the knees up, obviously walking on the floor level of the former building. Cries frightened a construction crew so badly they fled to a room and found themselves locked in – no cause of the cries could be found.
The Broadcasting Centre on Pebble Mill Road is one of the largest and most famous of the BBC’s buildings around the country and was opened in 1971. During construction a worker had fallen to his death and during the showing of the play ‘Ritual of Stifling Air’ in 1977, strange noises and an oppressive atmosphere was reported. The dead workman has even been seen by staff and security personnel over the intervening years.
Coventry is an older city than its neighbour Birmingham, being a Bronze Age and Roman settlement. It became the centre of the cloth trade in the 14th century then later in the 18th and 19th centuries, it was the centre of the watch and clock industry. Coventry was badly damaged during World War II including the historic cathedral and much of the city centre – it suffered more damage than anywhere in the UK save London, Portsmouth and Hull.
The most haunted location associated with Coventry is actually outside the city. Coombe Abbey is a Cistercian abbey built in 1150 that later became a royal property, owned by the daughter of James I. It was bought by the local council in 1964 and is now a privately owned hotel. One ghost is named Matilda and is described as a young green eyed girl who became pregnant by the master of the house, who refused to accept responsibility. She laid a curse on him that his children would all die young, many of whom seemed to have. She is reported around the building and is blamed for slamming doors and a feeling of not being alone in a room.
Dudley is a town 8 miles north-west of Birmingham that was one of the birthplaces of the Industrial Revolution and became an important 19th century centre of iron, coal and limestone industries. It is well known for the Black Country Living Museum, Dudley Zoo and Dudley Castle.
Dudley Castle is a ruined castle that has the zoo within its grounds. It has sightings of the resident ghost that date back to the 1870s when a local man, Harry Bentham, collected stories of the haunting. In the 1930s, a tour guide reported seeing two elderly people dressed in clothes from the 18th century walking with linked arms through the grounds. The guide followed them but they vanished. A monk is reported to linger in the undercroft while there is a grey lady, said by some to be the wife of a former Royalist second in command who died in childbirth back in 1646.
Dudley Zoo also has ghosts associated with the castle and its long history according to noted ghost writer Andrew Green. These include the sound of steel clashing, from sword fights no doubt while a woman in a white gown is often said simply to be an albino peacock who was resident in the zoo at the time â€“ though a restaurant worker was quite adamant he knew the difference between a woman and a large bird.
The railways station in Dudley opened back in 1850 and the associated Station Hotel was considered quite an upper class place to stay during the 1930s with the likes of Bob Hope and Laurel and Hardy staying there. Hauntings include that by a former manager who murdered a serving girl in the hotel after she was going to tell his wife about their affair. In 2002, a guest report leaving a football shirt hanging on the door in room 217. During the night he saw a woman dressed in black with dark hair in his room who disappeared when he turned on the light. Next morning, the football shirt was folded up at the bottom of the bed.
Walsall is a town 8 miles to the north-west of Birmingham with a long history. It saw massive growth during the Industrial Revolution when it saw production across a wide range of industries while limestone was mined nearby.
One of the noted haunted locations in the town is the Black Country Arms. This building dates to 1627 and has been a magistrate’s court as well as a pub and is Grade II listed. Feelings of someone standing close when no-one is near having often been reported but the lady in the blue dress is the most commonly witnessed ghost. Her appearance is even more notable as she stands at a window where there is no longer a floor! Some researchers believe she is the wife of a former landlord dating from the 1700s who lost three children while living there.
West Bromwich is 5 miles north-west of Birmingham and historically part of the Black Country. Like many towns in the area, it saw a period of significant growth due to the Industrial Revolution. It was bombed during World War II and 58 civilians were killed, most of them on 19th November 1940 to the west of the town centre.
The Manor House dates from the 1270s and is now a museum. It has been the location for a number of paranormal investigations and witnesses have reported seeing balls of light as well as heard footsteps and slamming doors when no-one was present. The spirits include a man with a beard seen staring sadly from a window, a grey haired woman and a young girl who appears at the top of the staircase. Whether the cloaked figure walking down the stairs is one of these or another resident is unknown.