Saturday, August 5, 2017

HGB Ep. 215 - Haunted Derby

Moment in Oddity - Wang the Human Unicorn

Human unicorns have been reported throughout world history. The term describes exactly what you might think. This is a human with a horn growing out of their head. Before 1900, there were over one hundred documented cases of humans growing horns. Elderly females cases were the most prevalent. One human unicorn that was made famous by Robert Ripley was a Chinese farmer named Wang who was from Manchukuo. He was discovered in 1930 by a Russian banker who took a picture of him and sent it to Ripley. The picture showed Wang sporting a fourteen-inch spire-like horn growing from the back of his head. Ripley tried to find Wang and bring him to his Odditorium, but no one could find the man. Ripley even offered a huge cash reward. These horns that grow from human unicorns are not really horns. Most of them are caused by benign calvarial tumours. This is due to an aggressive variant of a condition known as cornu cutaneum. These horns can grow on any part of the body. It was actually very rare for them to just appear on the head. Today, there are nearly no cases of people growing horns because modern medicine stops them before they can become a problem. Humans growing horns from their bodies, certainly is odd!

This Month in History - Anne Frank's Last Diary Entry

In the month of August, on the 1st, in 1944, Anne Frank penned her last entry into her diary. Three days later, a car pulled up outside of a spice warehouse at 263 Prinsengracht in Amsterdam. Inside the car were an Austrian Gestapo officer and some Dutch soldiers. They had come to arrest the eight Jews hiding in the attic of the warehouse. One of those Jews was Anne. In her last entry she had written in part, "I'm afraid that people who know me as I usually am will discover I have another side, a better and finer side. I'm afraid they'll mock me, think I'm ridiculous and sentimental and not take me seriously. I'm used to not being taken seriously, but only the 'lighthearted' Anne is used to it and can put up with it: the 'deeper' Anne is too weak. Believe me, I'd like to listen, but it doesn't work, because if I'm quiet and serious, everyone thinks I'm putting on a new act and I have to save myself with a joke, and then I'm not even talking about my own family, who assume I must be sick, stuff me with aspirins and sedatives, feel my neck and forehead to see if I have a temperature, ask about my bowel movements and berate me for being in a bad mood, until I just can't keep it up anymore, because when everybody starts hovering over me, I get cross, then sad, and finally end up turning my heart inside g out, the bad part on the outside and the good part on the inside, and keep trying to find a way to become what I'd like to be and what I could be if… if only there were no other people in the world." Anne would be taken to Bergen-Belsen concentration camp in Germany and die there at the age of 15 from typhus in March of 1945. We'd like to believe that Anne became exactly whom she could be because her diary survived and has sold more than 30 million copies.

Haunted Derby (Suggested by listener Nellie Johnson)

Derby has been described as the "Ghost Capitol of England." The city claims to have 159 known ghosts. The center of the city lies on a series of rolling hills and claims a history that goes back to Roman occupation and forts. While it was once a place of strife and fortification, it became a center for the Industrial Revolution. The vast number of pubs still located in Derby serve as a testament to the value given to public houses for centuries here. And just under the din of the night life are the stories of those things that go bump in the night. Come with us as we do a pub crawl and travel to a gaol and hotels in search of spirits to find out if Derby really is one of the most haunted cities in Britain!

The Derby area was first settled by the Romans. They began to build a series of of forts to protect the boundary of this newly conquered area. One of those forts was across the Derwent River on the east side and they called it Derventio. A civil settlement grew up around the camp and the Romans stayed for over three centuries. The Saxons were the next group to arrive and many historians believe that the Vikings were here at the same time and that both groups co-existed. The Saxons changed the name of the fort to Little Chester and it still has that name today. The name Derby came around this time and is derived from the Danish words deor, which means deer settlement. The settlement grew from a place of fortification to one of trade and by the 10th century it had a mint and a market. The town was filled with blacksmiths, carpenters and comb makers. Derby was about mid-sized with a population of about 2,000 by 1086.

The Domesday survey said of the town, "Derby was a self contained agricultural community grinding it's own corn, fattening it's own livestock, shaping its own crude farm implements, weaving it's own cloth and even catching it's own fish from the Derwent and eels from Sinfin." Domesday also mentions six churches in the region: All Saints, which became Derby Cathedral in 1927, St. Alkmunds,  St. Michaels, St. Peters, St. Werburghs and St. Marys. In the early part of the 13th century the Market Place of Derby was a busy commercial center with shops and stalls. The reign of Henry VIII would change things in Derby with the King closing the priory, the leper hostel and the friary in the 1530s. A tower was added to the All Saints church at that time. During Bloody Mary's reign, a woman named Joan Wast was burned for heresy in Derby. Severe outbreaks of plague hit in 1636 and 1665.

The town later became a center of defense with Sir John Gell becoming Governor of Derby in 1643 and he set up a garrison of Parliamentary troops that helped defend Nottingham during the Civil War of 1642–1646. These troops took part in the defense of Lichfield, Hopton Heath, Staffordshire, Cheshire and Derbyshire. Bonnie Prince Charlie would set up his camp in Derby a hundred years later and his council of war room that was at Exeter House has been set up as a replica at the Derby Museum in the city center. From the middle of the 18th century porcelain was made in Derby. Gas began lighting the streets of the town in 1821 and the railway arrived in 1839. A new town hall was constructed in 1842 and a hospital for sick children was opened in 1877, followed by the Derby School of Art in 1878 and a public library and museum was built in 1879. Electric lights were switched on in 1894 and railway engines workshops employed much of the population. Derby would be awarded city status by Queen Elizabeth II on June 7, 1977. It was one of the few towns that still did not have city status up until then even though it had a cathedral. Today, Derby is a city full of historical buildings and also apparently full of ghosts.

Most of the paranormal activity in the city occurs in buildings situated alongside the old A6. There are reputedly ley lines here and some claim it is the psychic energy of these lines that draws spirits. Richard Felix is a leading paranormal researcher in the area and he thinks there is another reason why there are so many hauntings here. He said, "So many things have happened, so many people have passed though, so much energy has been expelled here… We have the last hanging, drawing and quartering in England and the only Peer to be hanged for murder." A woman named Jenny Richards owns a terrace house on the outer edge of Derby. She is certain that she and her son share a home with the ghost of an old man. She has been touched by him and her son has seen him. There are several private homes that are haunted, but some of the most haunted places in Derby are its pubs. Pubs have always been plentiful and popular in the town. It is said that in 1588 there was one Ale House to every forty people and by 1688 one ale house to every thirty people. By 1633, Derby had an estimated population of 85,574 and around 541 pubs.

The Fat Cat

The Fat Cat Pub used to be called Tonic. It is spread over two floors and stands over what is believed to be a former stable. The haunting connected to this pub is on the outside where a few witnesses claim to have heard the sounds of horses and actually seen the apparition of a man trying to catch a horse. A ghostly horse and carriage has been seen making its way past on Friar Gate.

Seymours Bar

Seymours Bar is known for being a small cozy place with an indie music jukebox. There is a large outdoor drinking area adjacent to St. Werbergs churchyard. And that may just be the problem for this little bar because it reportedly is haunted. Employees claim that the spirit of a friendly elderly woman dressed in grey haunts this pub. The smell of lavender accompanies her presence. There are reports of mild poltergeist behaviour that involve the disappearance of small items, that generally show up again a few days later.

The Silk Mill Ale & Cider House

The Silk Mill Ale & Cider House was built in 1928 to replace an older pub that had the same name. It looks similar to the Olde Dolphin Pub with a Tudor style. The Silk Mill name was inspired by a nearby iconic Industrial Revolution mill where silk was first spun on John Lombe's factory system in 1722. That Silk Mill is said to be haunted by a young boy worker who was kicked down the stairs for not working hard enough. This Silk Mill pub features three areas: a central bar, a dining area at the rear and the Offilers' Lounge through an arched opening to the right of the bar. The pub is said to be haunted by the ghost of a Jacobite who was billeted there in the 18th century.

Seven Stars Pub

The Seven Stars Pub is very old and is known to locals as “Seven Seats.” The resident ghost here is known as George. He used to manifest as a shadow figure in the attic, but now is heard as a whispered cacophony of disembodied voices and he manifests with poltergeist activity . He switches off the lights and beer taps. There was a mysterious well found under the pub in the 1960s and some wonder if this is where George's spirit has come from. Did he perhaps fall into this well?

Falstaff Public House

The Falstaff Public House is a smaller and quieter bar tucked back off Silverhill Road. It was formerly the Falstaff Hotel and looks like a hotel still being that it is two story and rather big for a pub. It is built from red brick and has several fireplaces. There are three separate rooms: a cozy snug, a small yard with an impressive modern sculpture and the main bar. The pub is full of Offilers' Brewery memorabilia and other artifacts.This pub claims to be haunted by four separate ghosts; a young boy, an ex-landlord, an Irish prize-winning bare knuckle fighter and a sergeant-major. These apparitions are seen full-bodied, but there are other paranormal occurrences that entail lights turning off and on by themselves and objects moving about the bar unassisted. 


Jorrock's, the former Lafferty's Pub, was featured on the UK series Most Haunted during the second season. The pub had previously been the George Inn. The George Inn was one of the most famous coaching inns in Derby and was built in 1693. During the 1745 uprising, the inn housed the Duke of Devonshire's headquarters. A skull dating back to 917 was found on the property. A poltergiest plays havoc here with drinks, moving them around and dumping them out on the floor.

Ye Olde Dolphin Pub

The Ye Olde Dolphin stands at the junction of Queens and Full Streets. The Tudor style building was erected in 1530 and that makes this Derby's oldest public house. The Dolphin brewed its own ale early on, but no longer does that today. There are four separate rooms that make up the pub including the Main Bar, the Offilers Bar or Offilers Brewery, the Lounge bar that is covered in oak and has an open hearth and the "Snug," which is described as a room that "has a warmth and character of its own, many conversations and debates have been had in this quirky little gem of a room and in winter there is no better place when the coal fire is at full blaze." Years ago the cellar of the Dolphin was used as a mortuary to keep the bodies of those executed by hanging in the market place. Another legend claims that stolen bodies were kept here by a physician, so he could practice dissection. For this reason, it is said that the cellar is haunted by the spirits of some of these people. The resident ghost here is known as the Grey Lady or the Blue Lady and the current landlord, Jim Harris, has seen her himself. It is thought that she was the mistress of Dick Turpin. The Flying Scotsman is suppose to be one of the ghosts here and there is a small girl spirit that sits on the stairs leading up to the restaurant.

Another legend connected to the cellar has led to it being called "The Vault of Terror." A young doctor wanted to practice his dissection skills in the 18th century and the cellar was the perfect place. He secretly had the body of a dead girl delivered in the dead of night. There was just one problem. The young woman was not dead. He had begun to cut open her abdomen to remove her entrails when her eyes snapped open  and she leapt up from the table screaming. She tried to return her intestines to the inside of her body, but she soon lost consciousness and died from loss of blood. It is said that this drove the doctor mad and his hair turned white. He was locked up in an asylum for the rest of his days. They say the agonized, horrified screams of the girl can still be heard in the dead of night just below the lounge. The pub features Medium Nights on occasion for those wishing to talk with the spirits here.

The Friary

The Friary Pub opened in 1996 and is located near Friargate and also houses a late night music venue named Scream. The building was originally the Friary Hotel that had been opened by the Whittaker family in 1922 and features a grand pillared entrance. Before the hotel, this was the residence of Samuel Crompton and was built in 1730 using many of the bricks of the building that was here before that, a Dominican friary. That friary had been founded in the 13th century. It was called the Black Friary because the monks there wore black robes. The monks here did not believe in seclusion and actually went out to the people to preach. Legend claims that a black-robed friar haunts the pub’s basement. One of the monks died from a serious illness in 1257 and the circumstances of his passing were odd. His name was Frate Ruffolo and while he was given last rites and the holy sacraments, he cloased his eyes and smiled and exclaimed, "The glorious King St. Edmund has entered his cell and the whole chamber is filled with angelic spirits...the Virgin Mary, our great and blessed Lady, has come." Apparently he saw Jesus Christ who had come to judge him and Frate Ruffolo screamed in mortal agony, while breaking out in a powerful sweat and shaking from head to foot. He then said,"It is true, O my Jesus, pardon that offense, for it was slight." and then he finally died after exclaiming, "Assuredly, He (Jesus) is merciful, and I have tasted of His mercy." Could this be the monk roaming the rooms here? Another headless monk has been seen as an apparition as well. The former friary burial ground was on this property at one time and bones were recovered during rebuilds. Henry Mosley owned the hotel in the nineteenth century and he committed suicide by shooting himself. His unhappy spirit has apparently been spotted in the bedrooms upstairs.

Derby's Guildhall and Tiger Bar

The entrance to the Tiger Bar is very simple. The name Tiger Bar on a green background with the words, "Good food served daily." It's a standard old coaching inn, but the location is unique. The pub is situated in Lock-Up Yard and if one walks through to a back room of the bar, they can access a network of tunnels that run beneath Derby’s Guildhall that were once used to transport prisoners between the police station and the courts. Only part of the tunnels can be accessed today, but apparently they snake out beneath large portions of the city. One of the ghosts that apparently haunts the tunnels belongs to a twelve-year-old boy who is seen wearing rags for clothes. Workmen first spotted him in the 1970s and when they asked what he was doing down there he answered, "I live here." No one knows for sure what the story is behind this apparition. Another spirit belongs to a condemned prisoner named Richard Thorley. He was sentenced to die after slitting his girlfriend's throat in a rage. He was the last public execution in Derby and that took place in 1862. He is not only seen in the tunnels, but on Asgard Street as a chained man and his victim is sometimes seen with him, wearing a blue dress. Alice Wheeldon was an anti-war campaigner and she was convicted of trying to kill Prime Minster David Lloyd George in 1917. Some say she was unjustly convicted, so perhaps that is why she haunts these tunnels as well. One of the guides that takes people into the tunnels is paranormal investigator Richard Felix, whom some of you may know from the UK's Most Haunted television program. He runs the ghost walks in town and also owns the Derby Gaol Museum.

Derby Gaol

The first order to build a gaol in Derby came in 1166, but it was not followed through with because it was deemed unnecessary since most prisoners were taken to Nottingham Castle and judged there. When Henry VIII cam to power, he put out another order for a Gaol and so one was erected across the width of the Cornmarket. It was not a great location as the prisoner cells were built level with Markeaton Brook, which ran alongside the Gaol and served as Derby's sewer. The foul smell and deaths due to disease forced officials to move the Gaol to a new location. They chose Nun's Green outside of town to the west. It seemed perfect since this was the execution grounds. Architect William Hirons designed the structure and much of the stone from the original gaol was used to build the new one. Derby Gaol opened in 1756 with room for 29 prisoners. As you can already guess, this would not be nearly enough room.

The law of Derby was called the Bloody Code and included everything from murder and treason to stealing to being seen on the street with a sooty face. Executions were carried out at the gaol. Jeremiah Brandreth, Isaac Ludlam and William Turner were some of the first to be executed for High Treason. Their sentence was to be Hanged, Drawn and Quartered. This was the last time an axe was used to behead in Derby. The next group of men accused of High Treason were the Cato Street Men - Arthur Thistlewood, John Thomas Brunt, Richard Tidd, James Ings and William Davidson - and their sentence was to commuted hanging and beheading only and this was done by knife by a surgeon. We all know that in our past human history of public executions, such events became a family affair for entertainment. Pack a picnic and watch an execution. It was the same in Derby, only things got far more gruesome and morbid. The law declared that after hanging “the body shall be given over to the surgeons for dissection and a body shall not be suffered to be buried until it has been dissected or anatomised.” So basically, mom, dad and the kids would watch the hanging and then follow the criminals body that was being carried in a cart to Shire Hall in St. Mary’s Gate, where they then could watch the dissection. The mutilated body would then be put on public display for a couple of days in hopes that it would prevent further crime.

Prison cells were never cleaned out at the Gaol and became quite rank. Any prisoners not sentenced to die were allowed to roam the corridors and most did to avoid their noxious cells. John Howard instituted prion reform in 1787 and the Gaol was cleaned up. There were many attempts for escape, but few were successful and the punishment if you were caught was harsh. You would be sentenced to be hanged. Because of the horrid conditions and the amount of death that the Derby Gaol housed, it now seems to be haunted and many say that it is the most haunted location in Derby.

Richard Felix himself has had numerous experiences since he bought the gaol. He witnessed a human-like grey misty form walk down a corridor past him and then it disappeared at the end of the hall. During renovations, a construction worker claimed that a cell door closed by itself while he was working in the cell and while he worked in the cell, he was overcome by nauseous several times. This same cell has made numerous investigators and visitors sick. Another visitor saw the horrific vision of two men hanging from a fixed beam inside of a cell. The Derby Gaol website reports an experience two women had, "Two ladies on one occasion, left the Gaol in tears clutching their throats and feeling unable to breathe. The had felt that 'something' was around their neck. On the way out of the Gaol, they passed a figure standing by the door, whom they incorrectly assumed was an actor. He was bald and was wearing a sleeveless leather outfit which the ladies described as looking like a bodywarmer type garment. This same figure has also been seen in the dayroom, quite disturbing one of the female eyewitnesses who described it as 'evil' and 'a murderer'."

A female ghost was seen in the Gaol when it served as a pub called "The Secret Place." Three men saw her apparition walk down a corridor and up some stairs and when they followed her, they found that she had disappeared. They opened the door that they thought she had gone out and a fresh blanket of snow revealed no footprints. Another visitor saw the body of someone hanging in a doorway and he figured it was a fake scare that had been installed. When he mentioned it to the people around him, they gave him a strange look because none of them saw a body hanging anywhere. Poltergiest activity is prevalent with articles flying through the air or moving and artifacts from the museum go missing, only to return a couple months later. Cell doors are heard opening and closing on their own all the time. Other specters that have been seen are two children, a young blonde woman lying on a bed in one of the cells, a man in a scarlet coat and shadow figures.

Pickford House Museum

Joseph Pickford was an architect who built his home in Derby in 1770. Today it is run by the Derby Museums Trust as the Pickford's House Museum. It is a Georgian styled house built from red brick. Most homes that Pickford designed were in the Palladian style and many of his clients belonged to the Lunar Society, which was a group of prominent and intellectual men who met each month on the night of the full moon. Pickford left the home to Reverend Joseph Pickford and he extended and divided it into two properties. The house went through a series of owners until the Derby City Council bought it in 1982. The museum is decorated as it might have appeared in the early 1800s. *Fun Fact: It houses a collection of toy theaters.* There are three ghosts reputedly here. One is believed to belong to one of the Pickford children who is seen dancing in the house. The other two are servants, a woman who is seen in the kitchen and a gardener who is seen walking along the lawns he once worked so hard on.

Derby Cathedral

As we mentioned, a city was not considered a city without a cathedral. During the late 19th and early 20th century, England began transforming churches into cathedrals. The All Saints Church in Derby became Derby Cathedral in 1927. The church was originally founded in 943 AD by King Edmund. Throughout the years it was rebuilt and added to with King Henry VIII adding the 212 foot tower during his reign. The church was demolished in 1723, leaving only the tower and then rebuilt under the design of James Gibbs. The new church featured memorial carvings and ornate wrought iron screens. Something else seems to have been added to the cathedral and that is hauntings. Many spirits have been seen in the vicinity of Derby Cathedral. One spectre belongs to Charles Edward Stuart. He has been seen wearing Jacobite clothing and entering the cathedral. Bonnie Prince Charlie reputedly haunts the premises. We have our infamous "Lady in White" here and she appears to be crying and walks the stairs at the back of the building.

The Old Bell Hotel

The Old Bell Hotel was originally a coaching inn built around 1650 making this Derby's oldest hotel, bar and restaurant. It was the main stop over for people traveling by coach through the country. At the time, there were 50 guest rooms. The Old Bell Hotel is believed to be haunted by several ghosts. One of the most famous spirits belongs to a former linen maid named Mabel. Linen maids stripped beds, washed the sheets and then remade the beds. She had taken up with a young man in town and became pregnant. He was taken off to fight in a war and was killed. She was so distraught upon hearing of his death that she hanged herself in Room 6. Her ghost has been witnessed in the bar area and in Room 6. Guests have come back to their room to find their clothes neatly folded at the bottom of their beds and when they inquire if a member of the staff has done this, no one claims to have done it and the management is said to tell guests that the staff are lazy and would never do such a thing. A staff member claims to have caught Mabel's apparition in a photo.

People are not sure if Mabel is the poltergeist that is experienced in the dining room or if someone else is haunting the restaurant. One waitress claimed that after she set the tables in the restaurant, something moved the silverware into a different order. A barmaid was once hit on the back of her head by a wooden coat hanger when no one else was anywhere near her. Another upstairs room is haunted by a servant girl who appears when children are present. It is thought she was murdered by the Jacobites in 1745. She is seen dressed in 18th century clothing with a white cap. Another sighting of this woman was in the 1930s by a landlord whose son was suffering an asthma attack and was choking. He ran into the boys room and discovered a lady dressed in an 18th century costume bending his son over and patting him on the back. As the boy's father took over, the mysterious figure simply vanished before his eyes. And again in the 1950s, this same woman was seen standing over a baby in this same room that was being used as a nursery. The mother thought she was going to pick up the baby and she rushed over only to watch the spirit fade away.

There are so many places in Derby that are said to be haunted. Is there really a division of Roman troops still marching along Chester Green? Does PC Joseph Moss, the first police officer killed in Derby, haunt the Fish Market that stands over the former police station where he served? Does a ghost sporting a long black overcoat walk between the walls of a McDonald's and Foot Locker on St. Peter's Street? Are any of the previous locations we covered in this episode haunted? Is Derby really one of the most haunted city's in Britain? That is for you to decide!


  1. Most hotels will let you book 1 year in advance. Depending on the hotel's internet site's reservation calendar, you may need to call them on the phone instead of booking online.

    Guest house Coventry

  2. Great tips, many thanks for sharing. I have printed and will stick on the wall! I like this blog.

    OMG Travel