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Preparing for a paranormal investigation with a quick guide to Preston’s ghosts

Posted on - 29th October, 2019 - 7:00pm | Author - | Posted in - History, People, Preston History
The old post office
The old Post Office, haunted by people who died of old age while queuing for a TV licence

It seems that like me, many Prestononians love a good horror film, a paranormal investigation on TV or a walk around a spooky old building.

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It’s fun when it’s just a story, or about a place far away from us. But what if the investigation is in one of our own homes? And what if one Sunday afternoon, after inventing a new type of fondue consisting of half a watermelon chopped into pieces and dipped in rhubarb gin, a Preston woman decides that it would be a great idea to have one in hers?

Last week Preston’s very own paranormal investigator Steve Parkinson set up his gadgets in my house to see if there is anything creepier than me loitering around inside. We were joined by two budding young ghost hunters and also my Chihuahua Archie and my mother Yvonne, who as it turns out is a massive chicken. 

Did Yvonne summon something awful and then try to blame it on the dog? Is my house a supernatural not-spot or is it crawling with all sorts of horrors? Have we made a big drama out of a couple of specks of dust in front of a camera and a crisp packet un-scrunching ten minutes after we’ve asked a question? You’ll have to check in on Blog Preston this Halloween, Thursday 31 October, to find out.

Read more: Halloween events in Preston

In the meantime, I intend to whet your appetite for the awful and the appalling with a quick guide to the Bannister Doll and other ghosts of Preston…

If you’re a Prestonian, you probably know that you live in an old city steeped in history. Over the centuries the former market town has seen Roman roads, Jacobite battles, a plague, shameful connections to the slave trade, a leper hospital and Britain’s first ever branch of KFC.

Samlesbury Hall has a number of ghost stories attached to it
The story goes that a young Catholic priest was murdered by Protestant soldiers at Samlesbury Hall

It’s unsurprising then, that many ghost stories have sprung up around these and other nefarious events in Preston. In fact, best-selling author A.J.Hartley has written two spine-chilling books set in our spooky city starring one of our better-known ghosts, the notorious Bannister Doll.

In true Preston tradition the legend of the Bannister Doll varies wildly depending on who’s telling the story and how much alcohol they’ve had. The first version I heard was about a young girl whose widowed mother owned a mansion called Bannister Hall. The mother met and married an evil man who practised black magic, but she died soon after, leaving her daughter to the mercy of her evil stepfather who could bear neither sight nor sound of the child.

Unfortunately for him, PlayStations had yet to be invented so she just kept hanging around downstairs and touching his stuff. Finally left with no other choice, he carved a demonic yet environmentally friendly doll, responsibly upcycled from the wood of an old gallows. 

He presented it to the delighted girl, who put it on her dressing table when she went to sleep that night. When she awoke the next morning it was in the bed next to her. Instead of setting fire to it like a normal person, the following night the little girl thought it would be a better idea to tuck the doll in the bed beside her. The next morning to nobody’s surprise except her own the little girl was found dead with tiny handprint bruises around her neck.

The second version is similar but instead of being carved from a gallows, the Bannister Doll for some reason was made from a cursed orange on a pipe cleaner body, Blue Peter style. Having long ago despatched the young girl it now spends its nights scampering around Walton-le-Dale, scratching at people’s doors with it’s tiny wire fingernails and utterly failing to notice any cat-flaps. 

An artist's impression of the Bannister Doll
An artist’s impression of the Bannister Doll

The third version is the saddest, but most believable. A Preston girl who was as beautiful as a porcelain doll found herself in a delicate situation. When she told her father he flew into a rage and beat her until she died on the corner of Ladywell Street near the university. She is believed to haunt the area, full of murderous rage and looking for men to kill in revenge for her unfortunate end. 

Other haunted spots are the disused Miley Tunnel, said to be home to the Grey Lady, and Samlesbury Hall where a young Catholic priest was murdered by Protestant soldiers. Additionally, almost every Prestonian knows someone who has experienced ghostly goings on during a visit to Chingle Hall. Now a private residence, it was once open to hundreds of visitors hoping to catch sight of one of its emotionally exhausted spectres.

Read more: Preston InstaMeet goes down the Miley Tunnel

The Miley Tunnel Pic: David Wright-Kahn
The Miley Tunnel, home to the Grey Lady and a bunch of haunted Morrison’s shopping trolleys Pic: David Wright-Kahn

In the cemetery of St Anne’s Church in Woodplumpton can be found the grave of an alleged witch named Meg Shelton. Legend says that the Fylde Hag is buried face downwards with a boulder placed on top of her grave as she had a tendency to claw her way out at night and bug people.

Do you know any other ghostly tales from Preston’s past? If so, share them in the comments. And don’t forget to check back for the results of Karen’s paranormal investigation on Thursday!

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