Halloween is not for another few weeks, but Bristol is a city with a rich and colourful history – so now that summer is nearly over (sorry, guys!) and the nights are drawing in… Why wait to get your spooky satisfaction ? Here are the 5 most haunted places in Bristol that you can visit – if you dare – and the local legends that made them famous…
Discover the most haunted places to visit in Bristol below
1. The Dower House, Stoke Park
Anyone travelling the M32 in to Bristol will have noticed the The Dower House at Stoke Park, its tall walls and peculiar yellow facade looming over the motorway. Looking a bit like the hotel in The Shining, its unmistakeable presence never fails to evoke a sense of the mysterious – and this unusual residence has perfect Haunted House credentials…
The name is a clue to this strange building’s history, ‘The Dower House’ traditionally means the home of a wealthy widow. Once belonging to the family of the Dukes of Beaufort, there stands an obelisk in monument to one Duke’s 17 year-old daughter, an Elizabeth Somerset who died in 1760 when she fell from her horse in the house’s grounds, breaking her neck.
To this day, many visitors report hearing the sound of hooves approaching when walking in the estate… which might not be too troubling, if it wasn’t for the fact that no horses have been allowed in Stoke Park for many years! Some even claim to have crossed paths with the wandering figure of a ghostly young girl.
If this isn’t spooky enough, throughout the twentieth century, the property was used as a mental hospital. Though the institution closed its doors for good in 1988 and since, the building has been converted into 12 flats.
Who wouldn’t want to live in a house that is both haunted AND right next to a motorway?
2. Odeon Cinema, Union Street
Hauntings and old things often go hand in hand – so next up we have Bristol’s Oldest Unsolved Murder in Bristol’s Oldest Cinema, serving up a healthy dollop of local legacy to round off this list .
Here the local legend goes. During a 1946 screening of Rudyard Kipling’s “The Light That Failed,” five gunshots rang out in Theatre 3 of the Union Street Odeon. But no heads turned, and nobody in the audience was unduly alarmed – the shots were part of the film.
But later, the cinema manager, Robert Parrington-Jackson was found dead, lying on the floor his office, a gunshot wound to the head, and no weapon in sight. The shots in the film had disguised the sound of a real murder! The scene could have looked like a attempted robbery, though nothing had been stolen from the victim, or even touched. The keys to the office safe, into which the cinema manager had recently deposited his life’s savings, were still in his pocket.
Speculations were wild, and police followed leads to a suspected jealous lover, but the case remained cold until nearly 50 years later, when the son of a man known as William ’Billy The Fish’ Fisher, turned up at a Cardiff police station in a state of distress, with a report of his father’s deathbed confession. Billy the Fish, a petty thief from Wales, had admitted to the killing of Robert Parrington Jackson.
But the case remains officially unsolved, and the ghost of Mr Jackson is said to still haunt the cinema, though strangely, allegedly appearing only to women. Maybe there is some truth to the romance-gone-wrong theory?
3. Clifton Suspension Bridge & Leigh Woods
As many know, this famous landmark was designed by one of the Bristol’s best-known historical figures, Isambard Kingdom Brunel. Fewer know, however, that the engineer never lived to see the the completion of this one of his most grand and iconic projects. His distinctive top-hatted figure is said to walk the nearby paths of Leigh Woods, and to stand at a viewpoint over the gorge, as if overseeing the construction of the impressive suspension bridge.
And if this wasn’t enough to make the list- over the years, the bridge has been a city hotspot for suicides.
Sadly, many have chosen to end their lives by jumping from the towering bridge into the shallow river valley that runs through the gorge below. Because of this, there are signs up around the bridge, urging those in distress to call the Samaritans for help before making that irreversible leap.On more than a few occasions, Bristolians travelling across the bridge have reported seeing glimpses of dark silhouettes near that fateful drop, and the ghost of a young man, dressed in modern clothing, has been seen many times hurrying through Leigh Woods, in the direction of the bridge.
4. SS Great Britain, Bristol Docks
Another of Brunel’s projects, this well-known tourist attraction is said to be utterly riddled with ghosts! Perhaps the most popular is Captain John Gray- legend has it that he committed suicide by leaping from his cabin window, and his hobnail boots can sometimes be heard, scraping and banging on the wooden floors as he stomps up and down the deck.
From its grand beginnings, the ship has had a varied history- steering off course not long after its launch in 1843, the boat became stranded and was abandoned by its crew. Due to the massive cost of building and maintaining the spectacular vessel, this maritime misfortune put its owners out of business. It was later recovered and travelled the world, on all kinds of different jobs and journeys, from Britain to New York to the Falkland Islands, and as far as Alaska and Australia, picking up spooky stories along the way…
Now moored for good, at the same Bristol dock where it was first built, the boat receives 150,000 visitors a year, some of whom are lucky enough to meet its ghostly inhabitants. Sightings include a sailor who is rumoured to have fatally fallen from the rigging in the boats working days, and Mrs Cohen, a young bride who died on board the ship just weeks after her wedding. In 2005 a whole group of workers claimed to have seen a mysterious woman walking the Promenade deck just a few days before the ship’s public re-launch.
The presence of these spirits are so strong that TV’s Most Haunted said the ship is one of the ‘top-five’ most haunted places they’ve ever been…
5.The Llandoger Trow, King Street
Source: Bristol Bar Blog
Named after another boat, this 17th century drinking den – which has been called Bristol’s Oldest Pub – boasts no less than 15 ghosts! And if that isn’t impressive, the pub’s pirating past is said to have inspired TWO classic adventure novels, Robert Louis Stevenson’s ‘Treasure Island,’ and Daniel Defoe’s ‘Robinson Crusoe.’ More recently, its supernatural intrigue has brought the old tavern TV fame, when it appeared on SKY Living’s “Most Haunted Live!” back in 2007 – who made the claim that there are actually MORE than 15 ghosts haunting the premises.
Little documentation is available about many of these spectral characters… Though better known is the ghost of Little Pierre, a young boy with an injured leg, who can be heard limping noisily up the stairs to the rooms above the pub.
So famous is the Llandoger Trow for its hauntings that many attempts have been made to catch Pierre in the act, and regular crackpots travel from far and wide with all kinds of monitoring equipment. Surprisingly, some of these attempts have been successful – there supposedly exists video evidence of the sound of the footsteps of poor little Pierre dragging his damaged limb up to the top floor…
(bonus!) Racks Bar & Kitchen, Clifton
After all that excitement, you might like to settle down somewhere that’s sure to be fun and friendly for a good meal or couple of drinks. Our cosy arches at Racks Bar and Kitchen are not known for being haunted by ghosts, but we are known as one of the best sports bars, party venues and restaurants in town – haunted by a crowd of satisfied customers!
Racks is well worth a visit all year round and will offer a warm welcome to any ghost-hunters in need of refreshment. Take advantage of our great special offers every day of the week!