A couple of summers ago my family and I went on The Peterborough Ghost walk led by Stuart Orme. It was a scorching hot evening but the stories we heard were enough to send shivers down my spine. The tour started outside Peterborough Museum with some interesting accounts of numerous spooky sightings.
When you hear the word ‘museum’ what springs to mind? For most people they just think of the old historical artefacts and unless you like history then there is nothing for you there. That’s true to a point – but history is important by the way it shapes our future. We all know this, so why then have I enticed you to this page? Well, some of you may know about the ghosts of Peterborough Museum and some of you might not. How many of you know for example that there have been at least 8 reports of different ghosts there?
The most well-known ghost is that of the soldier Sergeant Thomas Hunter otherwise known as ‘the lonely ANZAC’. He was a First World War soldier that didn’t make it home. During the Battle of the Somme in 1916 he was injured. He was then taken to Portsmouth then transferred to a hospital in Yorkshire. However, on the journey his condition severely deteriorated and they made an emergency stop at Peterborough station. He was taken to the infirmary (now the museum) but all efforts to save him were in vain. He died July 31st 1916. There have been several sightings of a grey figured in an army suit appearing to climb the stairs then disappear. This is thought to be the ghost of the lonely ANZAC soldier who never made it back to his home in Australia.
The ghost of a little girl who is heard but not seen is said to haunt the Gallery on the first floor and only rarely has anyone caught a glimpse of her – enough to know she’s a little girl. Her face appeared in a window and she was seen behind a closed glass door where upon investigation there was no one there. What happened to her no one knows, but she is always heard giggling so she must be quite happy to roam the museum.
The late 1940s brought a visit to the caretaker’s daughter who was ill with chicken pox. The family lived in the first floor flat. She claimed she was visited first by a Doctor, only to be visited again by the Doctor who really called sometime later! Months afterwards when they were sorting through old photographs she came across the ‘Doctor’ who visited her. He was identified as Alfred Caleb Taylor, a former Doctor, who had died twenty years earlier from radiation poisoning. (Little was known about the effects of radiation from x-rays back then.)
These are just a few accounts of the supposed ghostly inhabitants that reside inside the museum, but even the car park behind it is said to have a spirit lurking around occasionally. From what is known about the history, the museum car park is it where the hospital use to put the dead. Accounts have come through of people complaining of being touched by an invisible cold hand. When the scouts use to use the building they claimed to often feel a cold presence and never like sleeping overnight there as they were sure to have a restless night. Going back to the car park later that evening with my family I remember that we were all looking over our shoulders . . .
Along the walk we learned that Peterborough is a city home to various Roman ghosts that like to continue their legion march. People have reported seeing ghostly Roman soldiers at night on the surviving earthwork of Car Dyke that runs roughly through the city from north east to south west. The Bauer business park at Lynch wood is also said by its workers to be haunted as the lights have a mind of their own, and two shadowy figures on horseback have been seen. These are thought to be Romans as archaeologist had to clear Roman burials before the building work could commence..
Even the more modern building of Queensgate shopping centre is haunted. After dark when the lights are out, a few little children still continue to play as their laughter has been heard by security guards at night, also noises of footsteps have been heard.
There is a legend rather than a ghost that we are told influenced the famous writer, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s Hound of the Baskervilles. It is the legend of Black Shuck. The Shuck was said to roam the coastline of East Anglia and around and into the Fenlands. The last report was in the early 1100s and it was recorded in the Peterborough Chronicle that the Shuck had been seen in the ‘dark part of town and the woods that stretch from that same town to Stamford’. This was witnessed by the Monks of the time and it is said that the Shuck appeared there and roamed the woods throughout Lent until Easter. It was thought that seeing the Black Shuck brought death or illness to those who witnessed it. Doyle visited Peterborough before he wrote Hound of the Baskervilles and the legend of Black Shuck was something he was fascinated by and likely influenced his writing.
I love modern day parallels, and when I read about this legend it reminded me of a summer about seven or eight years ago when we suddenly once again heard reports in this area of a large black wild animal roaming nearby woodlands . . . this time it was supposed to have been a big wild cat!
I found the ghost walks and the stories that were told quite inspirational and when I write I am fascinated by these things from the past.
What about you? Have you ever written or told a story based on legend, history, or something that really happened? Have you ever been inspired by anything from the past to do something new, or to at least include it in your life in some way? After all, the past can help shape who we really are whether you’ve cared to notice it or not!