Haunting music and ghostly maids - the dark streets of St Albans
- Credit: St Albans Tour Guides
It's nearly Halloween and time for looking over our shoulders in the dark streets of St Albans... even for those of us who don’t believe in ghosts.
What is certain is that over the centuries the people of St Albans have suffered ugly deaths which may have caused them to return as vengeful spirits. Perhaps they were victims of the Black Death that swept St Albans in 1349? Or were they local leaders of the Peasants Revolt in 1381, brutally executed when it failed and left to rot in the gibbets?
So, are there ghosts in St Albans’ streets and houses? The Herts Advertiser should know. Outside Mallinson House, 40 St Peter’s Street, one day in 1872, a crowd of several hundred gazed fearfully at a ghostly figure in an upper window. Rumours were passed from mouth to mouth – what could it be?
The Herts Ad reported that police were called to disperse the crowd but found the locked house deserted inside. The ghostly figure could be dismissed as a trick of the light but In 1977, the ghost is said to have reappeared. Who was it? Will they return?
Ivy House in St Peter’s Street is believed to have a benevolent ghost. What is the story behind the staircase handrail, said to stay shiny and clean even when renovations leave the rest of the building covered in dust? Is there someone who doesn’t know they are long dead and that their work is done? Has anyone ever seen them?
And after it is closed for the night, ghostly music coming from the Cathedral has been heard by many, including Canon Glossop who lived nearby during the early 1900s. Those who hear it are alarmed, some are entranced, but if anyone puts out their hand to open the Cathedral door, the music stops abruptly and all becomes eerily quiet again.
We know that sudden violence and tragedy have taken place in some of our historic inns and alehouses. Over the years, staff have talked nervously of unexplained noises or of finding heavy barrels inexplicably moved. A woman, cleaning the bar before opening the pub formerly known as The Wellington, turned to find all ashtrays mysteriously returned to their tables with a packet of peanuts in each, it is said courtesy of a little boy who died in the inn yard and who wanted to help.
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Some people find their ghostly afterlife in literature. In 1840, the unfortunate Elizabeth Wilson, riding in the cheap seats on top of the Northampton coach, failed to hear the coachman’s instruction to duck as they passed under the archway into the White Hart. She broke her neck and died. In The Pickwick Papers her fate is immortalised by Dickens in the mouth of Mr Jingles.
Ghosts may not always be what they seem. In Sumpter Yard there is an old cedar tree and it is said that if you run round it at midnight clockwise, once for each ring of the midnight chimes, you will see your true love. But run counter clockwise and you will see the devil.
Late, one dark night, some choir boys tested it. Not as interested in love as in the devil they ran counter clockwise. Suddenly a tall figure in a flapping black cloak appeared, moving smoothly towards them. They fled in fear, not staying to find out what was coming. But there are people who know...
In the dark autumn and winter evenings St Albans Tour Guides run ghost walks with more tales of those said to haunt our historic streets. Bernard, one of the guides, says: "It is very enjoyable fun, but then again you never know who or what may appear..." Find out more at www.stalbanstourguides.co.uk