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11 August, 2008

The Ghosts of Shrewsbury

Around about this time last year, I had the pleasure of visiting Shrewsbury, a historic town in the county of Shropshire, in the West Midlands area of England. Close to the Welsh border, Shrewsbury contains many fine old buildings, and Shropshire itself is said to be the most haunted county in the UK.

My journey was delayed on the way to Shrewsbury, as my train broke down at a station in mid-Wales. After transferring to another train, I arrived at my destination some 45 minutes late. After four and a half hours on the train, I should have been feeling relieved. Oddly, I felt quite spooked when I disembarked at Shrewsbury station. Despite it being a scorching summer's day, the platform felt chilly and dank. I had the distinct sensation of weight pressing down on me from above, and couldn't get out of there fast enough. The chill lasted all the way through the station. It only began to lift after I had cleared the station and its exterior concourse, and made my way on to Castle Street. I later discovered that Shrewsbury station is believed to be haunted.

In 1887, a local coal merchant and town councillor, Mr. William Heath, was killed at the station, when a roof laden with snow collapsed on to him. Locals believe he can still be seen making his way to platform 3, as he did on that fateful day in 1887. Incidentally, because it was late, my train halted at platform 3, rather than its usual stop at platform 4, because the latter was occupied by another train. Could it have been Mr. Heath's spirit that spooked me? Many witnesses have seen a shadowy figure, believed to be him, sitting or standing close to the Castle Street entrance.

Shrewsbury railway station

As I headed along Castle Street, I came across Shrewsbury Castle itself. The present day castle is not the original, twelfth century construction, but occupies the same site. Part of the original castle remains on the site, as does part of the original castle wall, which encircled the old town. It seems that the castle also has a ghost, a bloodthirsty character named Bloudie Jack.

Shrewsbury Castle

Shrewsbury Castle and town wall

Bloudie Jack was said to be the castle's keeper during the twelfth century. Sounding like a cross between Bluebeard and Ted Bundy, Jack, it seems, murdered several young women, and stored their corpses at the castle. According to legend, a young maiden named Mary-Anne, saw Jack dragging her own sister's bloodied corpse across the drawbridge, through the courtyard, and into the castle. The girl fled, and informed the local authorities, who arrested Jack. The villain, believed to have murdered at least eight other women, finally met his comeuppance. He was sentenced to death. Hanged, drawn and quartered, his head was displayed upon a pole, for all to see, in an area of Shrewsbury known as Wyle Cop.

Wyle Cop

Many witnesses claim to have seen his ghost in the castle grounds over the years. It is believed that there is a great deal of substance to the Bloudie Jack legend. A much embellished version of the legend can be found in the Rev. Richard H. Barham's Ingoldsby Legends.

Shrewsbury has a strong medieval look and feel to it. This atmosphere is enhanced by the many narrow, medieval passages - or shuts - connecting various parts of the town. As I walked up this one, called Grope Lane, I once again sensed an eerie atmosphere. I initially thought I was just a little bit spooked at finding myself alone in such a dark, narrow, olde worlde atmosphere. But as I hastened up the lane, towards the light, the ominous feeling got worse, not better.

I emerged from the claustrophobic Grope Lane into Fish Street, which also seemed to be a medieval shut. As I looked to my right, I spotted St. Alkmund's church, at the end opposite end of Fish Street. Normally attracted to old churches, this one gave me the creeps.

Fish Street and St. Alkmund's Church

As I glanced at the church steeple, I felt dizzy and nauseous. I often feel this way at haunted locations, and got away from there as quickly as I could. What I didn't know at the time, is that St. Alkmund's is said to be haunted by a steeplejack who helped construct the church spire, back in the fifteenth century. It is believed that the man accepted a bet to climb the church tower, and fell to his death as a result. Numerous witnesses claim to have seen his ghostly form climbing the spire at night.

Shrewsbury also boasts a number of haunted hotels. The Prince Rupert Hotel is believed to house a number of ghostly guests. Room 6 is said to be haunted by the spirit of a jilted bride, who hanged herself there. Room 7 is apparently occupied by the ghost of a jilted groom, who also killed himself. Although I walked right past the hotel, I sensed nothing unusual at the location. I might have a different story to tell had I stepped inside.

Prince Rupert Hotel (far right)

Later in the day, I was really looking forward to visiting Shrewsbury Abbey, made famous by the Brother Cadfael novels, by Ellis Peters. However, when I got to the Abbey, I realised there was no time to go inside, thanks to the earlier train delay. Again, I had that uncomfortable feeling I often get at haunted locations. Believing the Abbey to be the source of my unease, I didn't feel too disappointed at not having the time to step inside.

Shrewsbury Abbey

Although I can't say for certain, I now suspect the source of my creeped-out feeling to be the Dun Cow, an eleventh century inn located just opposite Shrewsbury Abbey. Numerous ghosts have been reported at the inn. They include a murderous cavalier, believed to have been executed at the inn's stables. The cellar is reputedly haunted by the spirit of a monk, who has also been elsewhere in the building.

In 1980, the inn's landlady at the time, Mrs. Hayes, woke in the middle of the night, and saw a hooded figure in her room. The figure wore a monk's habit, which was curiously decorated with patches of bright colours. To Mrs. Hayes' horror, the phantom monk was leaning over her daughter's cot, apparently studying the sleeping baby. The phantom seemed to realize he was being observed, and disappeared. However, he paid the little girl a later visit, when she was two. The screaming child related how she had woken up to find a strange man in her room. The landlord, Mr Hayes, also witnessed the ghost, and numerous guests have reported seeing shadowy figures lurking at night, often walking straight through walls.

I hope to return to Shrewsbury soon, specifically to visit its many haunted locations. I may even book a room at a haunted hotel. I'll be sure to let you know if I encounter any mysterious monks or killer cavaliers.


Unknown 11 April 2010 at 22:21  

I don't know if this will ever be read by anyone or if it will float around the internet ether until it's erased or dies a natural death. But anyway interesting observations and reactions to our town Siani, you obviously have psychic inclinations. The reason I stumbled onto this site was because I was looking for a book published in 1988 called 'Some Ghostly Tales Of Shropshire' by Christine McCarthy. It includes my story {absolutely true} about the phantom motor bike crash that I heard on Ellesmere Road {just out of town} in 1982. Anyway when/if back in Shrewsbury I suggest you get yourself down to the Nags Head pub on Wyle Cop. It has a painting upstairs on the back of a door supposedly of the devil done by a prisoner of war {WW2}. Russell Preece the landlord took a few of us up there one day to see it, very very odd atmosphere up there. Temperatures that can plummet in seconds. Not only that it's the 'in' pub in town, full of cool people of all ages, mainly out in the garden. From what I've read you'll connect with the vibe I guarantee especially on a Friday or Saturday night. And then Sunday lunchtime, if it's quiet, perhaps Russ would show you around upstairs if you asked him nicely, tell him your a psychic investigator, he's a good guy. Oh! And parts of the building in the garden date back to the 15th century and amazing exposed woodwork it is too, the tales those beams could tell! Hope I've been interesting Siani because Shrewsbury certainly is.

Steve Merchant

Anonymous,  10 November 2011 at 17:58  

Woohoo!! go Shrewsbury!! thanks it was interesting as well and i didn't know the bit about the train station. :) lived just outside Shrewsbury nearly all my life.. love it! x Also the thing about the tower someone tried to zip wire across the Severn from on the tower... but the rope was to tight and snapped! don't know if his ghost is anywhere still..? !

Anonymous,  16 December 2011 at 16:37  

The church you have labelled St. Alkmunds Church is not St Alkmunds. It is in fact the Shrewsbury Evangelical Church.


Anonymous,  3 February 2012 at 12:14  

very interesting as i am visiting shrewsbury for the first time soon ...thanks

Anonymous,  31 July 2012 at 19:11  

The train station is always dank and gloomy. For a while it had awful damp opposite platforms 3-4. Sorted it about a year ago. Plus grope lane has no light, so sure its going to be colder than the other streets. I hear that negs heads paining is a suicide painting. Legend has it anyone who sees the painting, commits suicide. The arts and his wife both commited suicide. Then a group of men stole the painting and blindfolded put the painting in a vault (or something like that) under one of the pubs, locked it away and its never been seen again. Not sure if it is the nags head pub, but its most likely that one.

Anonymous,  3 January 2013 at 14:55  

Yes the nags head is the pub. but its not locked in a vault. its locked in a cupboard above the pub. it doesnt jut cause suicide. alotof people have gone insane just by looking at it. saying the person in the painting is making them.

Anonymous,  9 October 2013 at 22:21  

I was at the Prince Rupert Hotel Shrewsbury last night in readiness for a company conference today at the hotel. I had not read anything about the hotel prior to my arrival as I have never been to Shrewsbury before and I experienced several Spiritual things within th hotels corridors as well as in the Prince Phillip Suite which I was not aware was themost haunted place in the hotel.
This nornally doesn,t bother me as I am a Clairvoyant medium for the past 10 years doing several Psychic Investigations and gathering Spiritual info.
I picked up on a small girl with long curly blonde hair about 7 years of age and a small scottie dog in the corridor below the stairs upto the floor she was wearing very old clothes which may have been hand stitched like a servants work.
After this i weent to my room and sensed a few spiritual things within the room. After showering and getting into bed I became feeling dizzy and nauseous and my heart beating erratically and fast my breathing felt restrited. I sensed a feeling of a person being hanged and seen what looked like a gallows. I picked up several names and issues before leaving the room as the Spiritual feelings were too much for me at this time.
I moved to another room which was not active with spirit although my mind was now racing because of my previous spiritual events. I lost a lot of sleep hroughout the night.
I was informed in the morning by staff whilst having breakfast that up until the hotel changed hands about several years ago an old original Oil painting of a little girl with a Scottie Dog hung in the present breakfast area. But it was believed to have been removed and sold on around the take over.
I was very suprised to have had the info confirmed especially looking on some of the haunted sites which gives a little about the Prince Rupert Hotel and happy that spirit did their best to come through to me although it was a little to strong at the time.
South Wales

Unknown 2 February 2017 at 15:13  

My old housemate used to work at the Nags head and I got to see the picture on two occasions. It sure looked creepy and was a kinda oil painting in a little cupboared of Posiden he had real black eyes! Though I never went crazy the two phones I took pictures of it on both came to premature watery ends(one fell in the sea one fell in the loo!)

Eleanor,  21 May 2018 at 16:38  

Hi mate,
As a student at Shrewsbury Sixth Form College, the Wakeman/English Bridge campus is said to be ridden with ghastly folk as it was a hospital back in the day, with the morgue as the basement (where we do our exams, spooky am I right??). Anyways, was wondering if you were ever going back to Shrews and if you would have a cheeky gander at our college as we think it would be really cool if you could give us an idea of how crawling it is with the spooky dookies.

Big fan of your work, keep going mate.
-A proud Salopian

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