On Tuesday I had the pleasure of attending a ghost story reading by Paul Finch at Haigh Hall, a historic manor house not far from where I live in Standish. I was accompanied by my wife Jo and her parents. The evening was being run as part of the current Wigan and Leigh Literary Festival. As part of the evening’s reading we were to be given a guided tour of the top floor which is reputedly haunted by not one but several ghosts!
The staff did a great job, with flickering candles all around the place. This is the entrance hall where we waited before we went in for the start of the reading:
The reading by Paul Finch was also excellent. He’d written a story specifically for the evening – and the story was actually based in Haigh Hall and around Wigan!
Paul stopped halfway through his reading to allow us to go on the tour. We then walked through into the main hall to get started – and I wish I’d taken a picture of this first room because it contained the most fantastic staircase which split in two and led around both sides of the room up to the first and then second floors. Looking up, there was a large cupola in the roof:
Our guide told us that a ghostly horse is sometimes seen on the stairs and also in the grounds outside the hall. There is also a lady who was drowned who’s often seen wandering around and they’re constantly having to clean puddles of water from the stairs. This room was fairly well-lit.
We went up the stairs and off into a side hallway with another cupola above it and another set of stairs leading upwards. This room was much darker and I had to crank up the settings on my camera to get anything to show up. This cupola was in a much worse condition than the one above the main hall with a large net underneath it – obviously to catch any bits that fell off! We went up those stairs and through a door into a ramshackle room.
We were now asked to wear hard hats as the rest of the building was in a state of disrepair. These rooms were completely different to the rooms below. They carry out some repairs but they certainly looked as if they hadn’t been touched for a hundred years or more with plaster falling off the walls, parts of the ceiling missing and in a few places there were scaffolding props in place to hold up the ceiling.
It was extremely dark in these rooms with no lighting other than the guide’s torch and a little evening light coming in through the windows. In the pictures the windows look as if it’s the middle of the day, but I actually had my camera cranked up to ISO 1600 and I was typically using 0.25 to 0.5 second exposures to get a picture. It was very hard to avoid any camera shake! A lot of the pictures were blurred and the tiny amount of light coming in through the windows for that length exposure make it look like daylight outside. I generally don’t use the flash because the lighting is just too harsh.
The next pictures show some nice shots of some of the rooms. The last picture shows a school room and this is where it started to get a little bit spooky…
No one else had been in the room (allegedly!) and I hope you can see that in the next picture written in the dust (see below) is the word ‘NO’. There are also tiny little fingers marks in the dust. Those desks are very tiny – I wish I’d placed something in the picture for scale – so whoever (whatever) did this had very small fingers.
More drag marks on the next desk along:
The following room (picture below) was the last and supposed to be the most haunted. A figure of a young girl is often seen crying by the windows – a young teenage girl is said to have committed suicide by throwing herself from this window. In the corner of the room to the right of this picture a young boy is sometimes seen watching the girl.
This is where it started to get spooky. My camera stopped working. It was so dark that I tried to change to a straight flash setting – we couldn’t see anything in the room apart from the windows. But when I tried to take a picture pointing into the corner where the boy is supposed to sit, my camera displayed ‘Error 05’. I’ve since Googled this error message and it’s apparently something to do with the flash being obstructed, which I don’t understand because the flash unit popped up like it always does. I turned my camera off and on again, switched back and forth between different settings. Nothing. Same error message. I thought I’d broken my camera! Everyone was starting to leave by then so I followed them, fiddling with my camera as I went.
I was one of the last couple of people to leave. As I reached the door my camera started working again. I turned around to take a couple of pictures into that corner again with my settings back on manual/ISO 1600 but both pictures came out completely black.
In the corridor outside my camera started working again perfectly fine. It’s been fine since.
I’m not a superstitious person but that did spook me out a bit. I took a few more pictures on the way out:
We then continued with the second half of the reading which had an excellently bloody finale. Then there were drinks afterwards.
I had a glass of red. To steady my nerves!