The Halloween season is creeping up on us and to get you all into the spirit of things, we thought you’d like to read about some of the weird things that happen inside The Galleries of Justice!
Lauren, our Marketing and Communications Assistant went along to find out what’s been going on:
“So I took a trip up to the historic building of Crime and Punishment to speak with some of the staff and actors about their eerie experiences and what they’ve witnessed themselves!”
Christy Fearn has been working in the Galleries for three years as a Costumed Interpreter and Education Facilitator and she was only too happy to share her stories…
“There’s been lots and lots of spooky experiences here! Both myself and colleagues have had a lot of strange things happen to us. First of all, there have been several sightings of a little boy sitting on the steps in the main entrance in the foyer. I first heard about this from one of the guys that used to work in the café here. He said he’d seen a child sitting on the steps and there were no school parties that day and he couldn’t understand why this small boy was sitting there. He went out into the hall and by the time he’d got to the steps the child had disappeared. The boy was wearing Victorian style clothing, so it could have been a child that was put on trial here, or maybe someone who’d gone along to watch a trial.”
“In the main courtroom, people have heard banging and crashing noises and clicks, bumps you can’t really explain. They’ve also seen a judge sitting in the judges seat and he’s been seen quite a few times. Sometimes it looks like a real person sat there and other times it looks like a mist over the chair. They reckon it’s one of the judges from the Victorian age, when he was here presiding over the trials, and he just doesn’t want to leave because he thinks this is where he belongs.”
“There’s also a spirit of a child that stands near the witness stand on the left hand side of the judge’s chair, as you look at it. This has been seen by a medium called Maria, who leads some of our tours, including one about the spirits of the dungeons, and another around the caves. The child has been seen by quite a few other people as well. They may have been a witness or could even have been convicted.”
“Going down into the gaol, to the part where the character I’m playing today, Warden 1, normally sits, there’s the spirit of a jailer, from the 1800s. He’s a very nasty presence, not very pleasant at all, very oppressive and he doesn’t like women. So if you’re a woman and you’re sat down there, sometimes you’ll feel this weird presence standing behind you! This has happened so many times, to so many of us, that you get quite used to it. I’ll normally stand up and wait for people as I don’t like sitting in the chair! You get that feeling that someone is standing behind you and one girl said she could almost feel him breathing down her neck it was that bad!”
Christy Fearn sat where she has sensed a jailer stood behind her!
“One time, I was opening up one morning and going round the building doing the checks as usual, when I opened the door of the night cell, where the wealthier prisoners would sleep, because back in those days you had to pay for your accommodation, and I went inside and from the corner I heard a ‘sigh’ really really clearly. It sounded like somebody who had woken up and realised they’re still in prison. That was quite scary! Then there’s been a few times where I’ve been standing in the doorway and I’ve got a group of people on the tour and they’re inside the cell and I’m talking to them from the doorway and I felt like somebody had caught up with us and I’ve turned round fully expecting somebody to be there and there was no one. On one occasion I could see, out of the corner of my eye, this really dark shape trying to lean in over my shoulder to get past me into the cell.”
“Something happened to a girl that worked here last year and she left soon after because she was so terrified of it! She was in the night cell and she was doing the tour, it was only her and a couple of visitors, two or three women. She was just talking to them and telling them the history and then all of a sudden this dark figure walked through them! They were sort of standing in a circle and this figure just walked through them out of the cell. The girl ran out in floods of tears. She left not long after that.”
“I’ve had a couple of weird experiences down in the laundry. One time I was in the main bit of the laundry, where people used to do the washing. It was at the very end of the day, in the evening, and I’d just done a ghost tour. There was only me and the manager, Adam, in the building. I’d got a radio on me and I was just closing doors, tidying up, collecting candles and so on. There’s a window in there that faces out onto the stairs inside the building. I glanced up and I saw a dark figure going up the stairs near the night cell. I shouted to Adam because I thought it was him and then thought ‘that’s weird maybe he didn’t hear me?’. So I got my radio and radioed Adam and said ‘are you down near the laundry?’ and he said ‘no I’m in the grand jury room’. And that’s two flights of stairs up from the main entrance. There’s no way he could have got up there that quickly!”
“One day when I came in and was opening up in the morning, I’d gone round the laundry once already but I came back through that way to go back upstairs to wait for the tour, and all of the barrels and basins and things were out in the exercise yard! It’s like somebody had put them all out there.
“Not long after I’d started working here, I heard footsteps behind me, down in the exercise yard. I was facing away from the entrance, looking towards the narrow marsh area, and when I heard footsteps I thought it was Harry, the other guide. I thought he was coming down the stairs to tell me about the next tour group, but when I turned round, there was nobody there, even though the footsteps were really loud.”
Stephen Dennis, one of the Costumed Interpreters, has also had his own strange experience…
“In the exercise yard I saw a figure in black walk across the doorway into the narrow marsh area. I was talking to a group and thought ‘who’s that?’ I went to check afterwards but there was nobody there.”
Christy then went on to continue her stories…
“I was doing a ghost tour one evening, with a group of women who were on a hen night, so they were all quite giggly. They got to the end of the tour and as we were going through what’s called the exit corridor, I was explaining to them about the matron who wonders up and down here and that she’s a very strict and serious sort of person. One of the women shouted ‘ooh matron!’ and then she screamed her head off! Everyone turned round and said ‘Oh my God! What’s wrong? And she said somebody had just tapped her on the shoulder really hard. I said ‘that’s the matron because you were taking the mickey out of her.’
“Another experience has happened ever since I started working here. I was in the civil court, setting up for a mock trial for a school group, and I thought I saw somebody sitting in the seat next to the jury, where the journalists would have sat. I was just picking up some costumes and as I turned round, out the corner of my eye, I could see somebody sitting in that seat, but there was nobody there! That’s happened a few times since then.”
“We get lots of people that take photographs and all kinds of things appear. The other day when I was doing a ghost tour, I was stood in the exit corridor, explaining to the group about the matron, and a few of them were taking pictures. After the tour, a woman said ‘have a look at this picture I’ve just taken’. She showed me a picture of me standing near the gate and all around was mist, as if someone had used a smoke machine. Then she showed me the pictures she’d taken a couple of seconds before and they were completely clear!”
“Another time, I took a group down to the dungeons, and we’d gone into the bit you can’t get into during the day. I’d switched the light off and people were seeing if they could feel spirits touching their hands and things like that. Somebody said they felt someone stroking their cheek! We were talking about people’s experiences down there and then I went to lead the group out, but the door to the dungeon was shut even though I’d wedged it open with a couple of bricks! Fortunately, it wasn’t locked! And, the other day, Emily who works here was locking up late at night, and just as she was closing the door she said she saw a hand come out of the dungeon!”
Daniel Dore, a Costumed Interpreter, has also had a strange experience while working here in the Galleries…
“Whenever I do ghost tours or murder mysteries, the fumigation chamber in the women’s laundry is off its hooks for some reason, literally 3 out of 5 times I go in there. I’ve no idea why, I don’t have the foggiest but it keeps happening!”
Shirley Phillips, a cleaner for the Galleries had some very eerie and creepy tales to tell too…
“The worst one for me was in the criminal court, probably 5 or 6 years ago. I clean on a Monday morning and when I went into the court room, I dropped something on the floor. I bent down to pick it up and felt something go by me and as I looked up I saw a black figure! I’ll never forget it! I ran out of the court in tears – it frightened me to death! I wouldn’t go back in there for a while. I actually felt it go by me, so I know I wasn’t seeing things. I’ve also seen things down in the prison. Once, when I was waiting to collect a group, I just happened to see this brown figure go by me and disappear! I’ve also smelt tobacco as well. I’ve been here 15 years now and when I first started, I felt something tap me on the head down in the pits. Also, when I was cleaning the toilets a few weeks ago, all of a sudden I saw something walk by. And I’ve seen something coming down the grand jury stairs as well!”
I would like to thank all of the lovely staff at the Galleries for sparing a few moments of their time to speak with me and share their spine tingling stories!