Liverpool is a city that holds a rich, complex and often dark history. From world-famous maritime tragedies to hushed-up Victorian melodramas, there’s been plenty of murky historical stories told here over there years. And that means there’s often something spectacularly spooky about many of the city’s oldest buildings.
Get into the Halloween spirit this month by discovering Liverpool’s paranormal hotspots. From theatre poltergeists to long-lost seamen, enjoy an encounter with someone on the ghostly side of life at one of these spooky establishments in the city.
Liverpool Empire Theatre
The Liverpool Empire Theatre that stands in the city today was built in 1925 and was the second theatre to be erected on the site. It replaced an earlier theatre from 1866. And it’s long history doesn’t come without some spooky hangers-on…
There’s rumours of numerous ghosts floating around the backstage quarters of the Empire from the ‘Black Phantom’ to a ghostly schoolboy.
One ghost, nicknamed Old Pasty Face, is thought to have been an old actor from the first Liverpool Empire Theatre. Rumour has it, the show playing won’t be successful if he makes an appearance during a production. And it’s not just staff who have seen Old Pasty Face: Les Dawson, Deryck Guyler, Stanley Lupino and Morecambe and Wise have all claimed to have spotted this mysterious figure in years gone by.
On Pudsey Street, behind the theatre, there have also been reports of a well-dressed, tall man stalking around. Many believe it’s the ghost of the scouse crooner Michael Holliday, who passed away of a suspected drug overdose in 1963.
The Tower Building in Liverpool is a beautiful grade-II* listed building on Water Street in the city centre. Now a stunning residential property, its history holds much darker secrets.
During the 18th century, a jail resided on the site where the building now stands. Called ‘The Tower’, it had seven underground dungeons of only 6-foot square which housed up to 5 prisoners. In 1819, the jail was pulled down due to disrepair.
In 1908 a new building was built on the site but tragedy was to befall this property too when, during the blitz of 1941, the building was badly bombed leaving many killed and injured.
Today, residents of The Tower had claimed to hear the sound of chains dragging down stairwells while others have seen ghosts chained to the walls. Others still have reported an overwhelming sense of sadness being felt when you enter parts of the building and even moans of dying prisoners.
The Philharmonic Dining Rooms
The Philharmonic Dining Rooms might be famous for its beautiful bathroom and Paul McCartney’s surprise gig there this year, but it’s also gained a bit of a reputation as a paranormal hotspot.
It’s often spoken of as one of the most haunted pubs in the city and is said to have frequent visits from a Banshee who can be heard wailing in the cellars.
In one spectacularly spooky story, a ghost apparently walked in the pub in 1971 and ordered a gin. Walter Slim – a man who’d been dead over 83 years – allegedly strolled up to the bar in a top hat and cape and shouted:
“In the name of human charity, I’ll have your gin sir!”.
Later, police discovered that some pranksters had broken into Walter Slim’s tomb in St James’ Cemetery and opened his lead-lined coffin, performing a Satanic ritual on the body designed to bring it back to life. Could his rude awakening have seen Walter jump back into the real world for a quiet drink at his favourite pub?
Before it was renamed in honour of The Beatle’s famous manager, The Epstein was called the Neptune Theatre. And throughout its history, people have reported dark, chilling and scary paranormal goings-on in the building.
One such tale is of a ghostly man dressed all in black who’s head flops sideways on his left shoulder. Rumour has it this is the ghost of a former stage manager who committed suicide in the building in the 1920s. Numerous sightings of the man have left actors facing misfortune, and even death, in the days after they spy him. One actress, who reportedly saw the reflection of the man in her dressing-room, died herself a few days later. Her ghost now also apparently haunts the building with a number of reported sightings of a tall, slim, mournful woman wandering the stage.
30 James Street (Albion House)
Credit: 30 James Street (Signature Living)
Now a luxury hotel, 30 James Street was originally built as the headquarters for the notorious White Star Line shipping company and there are plenty of rumours that its tragic history might still be hanging around.
The White Star Line were the masterminds behind designing and building RMS Titanic, which was registered to the address. When the ship sank, the balcony at the front of the building was used to announce the tragic events of that horrific night.
Once a leading global cruise liner company, the fortunes of the White Star Line dwindled after the infamous loss of Titanic and the company eventually merged with Cunard Line, moving out of the building. The building was occasionally used as office space but was soon left to rot for around 30 years.
Shortly before it was transformed into a hotel, a photographer once reported that he’d gone inside the property to document that interior dereliction. When he arrived, he was greeted by a woman in Victorian-period clothing who offered to show him around. During the tour, the photographer swears he was surrounded by a number of odd-looking women all dressed in black Victorian-era dress and one man. After hustling him, the male apparition apparently screamed ‘get out!’, which the photographer did sharpish.
There have also been whisperings that the captain of RMS Titanic, Captain Edward J. Smith is still spotted around Liverpool. The lead sailor on the Titanic went down with the ship in 1914, but there have been numerous sightings of a man in full uniform with a strong white beard, exactly matching Smith’s description, all along the Mersey banks.
Since its transformation into one of Liverpool’s premium hotels, 30 James Street hasn’t had any further reports of ghostly goings-on, but with its rich and sometimes tragic history, we’re sure there must be some paranormal parades once in a while!
The Slaughter House
Another pub that’s earned itself a name for all things paranormal is the spookily-named Slaughter House on Fenwick Street. Staff have frequently described banging doors, murky figures on CCTV and a strong sense of never being alone. But it’s another particularly gruesome story that’s caught the eye of some…
Called as such due to once being located next to Liverpool’s abattoir, a particularly gruesome story surrounds an old landlord who worked at the pub.
Legend has it that the Victorian landlord was a former butcher, famous for his incredible pies which he cooked to perfection.
On a warm summer night, while cleaning up the pub after another messy night, the landlord heard three knocks on the door. Answering it, he found a man dangling a bag of gold, asking the landlord to bake him a pie with some meat he’d brought along. Enticed by the glinting coins, the butcher agreed and set to work preparing the meat and packing it into a pie crust. Along the way, he was amazed by the tenderness of the flesh and the occasional short blonde hair he found but couldn’t quite place what animal it had come from.
Once it was baked, the landlord received his gold and the man sat down to eat the pie, expressing how delicious it was before disappearing into the night.
Two days later, the landlord was shocked to see the morning papers: the headline ran “BODY FOUND ON BANKS OF MERSEY”, and the news story told of a young blonde girl found washed up, with bits of her cut off. Devastated by guilt, the landlord ended up killing himself and his desperate moans can still be heard today around the pub.
Britannia Adelphi Hotel
The Adelphi Hotel was once named ‘the most haunted hotel in the UK’ by supernatural investigator Tom Slemen, who claims he witnessed the ghost of RMS Titanic’s Captain Edward Smith and two unidentified officers from the White Star Line turning up for a talk he gave at the hotel.
The famous Liverpool establishment, which was completed in 1912, has had a number of ghost stories told about it over the years, many from staff of the hotel itself. Reports include regular sightings of a woman dressed in a grey, Victorian-era dress parading around the basement and a man, who’s been nicknamed George, calling out to the public from a window on the Brownlow Hill side of the hotel.
Raymond Brown, a 15-year-old pageboy at the hotel in the 1960s, also allegedly haunts the Adelphi, after he became trapped in a baggage room lift in August 1961. The diminutive ghost apparently picks up luggage and carries it to rooms across the hotels, before vanishing.
Newsham Park Hospital
It figures that Liverpool’s old psychiatric hospital might have some shadowy figures hanging around it’s corridors. Newsham Park Hospital was built in 1874 and was intentionally used as an orphanage before being turned into a hospital. At the time of its closing in 1997, it was being used as a psychiatric hospital.
The first reports of paranormal activity surfaced when the building was converted into a hospital and the nurses began complaining of strange goings-on. In particular, nurses reported the sounds of banging and shaking doors from the attic area, where naughty children in the orphanage would have been sent.
Visitors to the hospital, which has regular ghost hunts happening inside it, have claimed to see dark shadowy figures of children in Victorian dress flitting around the halls, as well as the sound of footsteps along corridors.
Looking for more suitably spooky Halloween ideas? Check out our blog on the scariest Halloween events in Liverpool for 2018.
If you’re not quite in the Halloween mood yet, why not get autumn-ready with this guide to the best autumn-based things to do in Liverpool this year.
Not a Halloween fan? Get away from the costumes and the trick-or-treating with a night out enjoying the best jazz the city has to offer.