Thursday, 24th April 2014

Things that go bump in the night

Shrewsbury has a reputation as one of the most haunted towns in the country, so a team of investigators looking into ghostly incidents paid a visit to Shrewsbury Library for a night-time vigil at the weekend. PAM GRIFFIN and PETER KITCHEN spoke to John Conway of West Midlands Ghost Club to see what they found.

An old gentleman gets up from his chair and makes his way to the window of Shrewsbury Library where he looks out at the people below. Shaking his head in disgust at what he sees, he turns away from the window and retires back to his chair.

The old gentleman – who is reportedly the spirit of one of Charles Darwin’s teachers – is one of a number of figures ‘seen’ at the historic old venue.

And while no official ‘sightings’ were made when members of  West Midlands Ghost Club and librarians spent around five hours observing the building in the dark, there certainly were a few things that went bump – or twang – in the night.

“We were in the top classroom above the library when a few of our members heard a twang,” said John Conway of the West Midlands Ghost Club. “Nobody was by anything that could have made the noise. 

“It sounded like a swing door and it was only when someone said it was like a noise he used to make at school by twanging his ruler on the edge of the desk when we realised we were in a former school classroom ourselves.” The group was also in the town before Christmas to observe the Prince Rupert Hotel on Butcher Row. But any comparisons between the group and popular TV shows such as Most Haunted are quickly dismissed by John. 

“We certainly aren’t a ‘most haunted’ group and and we don’t believe in psychic powers or talking to the dead,” he said. “We’re an objective research group and we observe the building itself and it’s atmosphere to see if we can pick up anything other people have experienced.

“On Friday we were set up by 9pm and stayed around till around 2am. We heard a few different parts of the building during the night and it was definitely a worthwhile exercise.” Shrewsbury town crier and local historian Martin Wood is an expert in the ghosts of the town, but said few spooky stories have as much of a mystery about them as the ones at the library.

Among the reports he had from the building was one of several ‘funny going-ons’ on the top floor of the library. 

He said: “An archeological friend of mine, Nigel, was working there late one night when they were excavating Riggs Hall and as he was looking down a hole he kept hearing someone ‘psst’-ing in his ear a few times.

“He had to sleep there for a few nights and one evening he heard someone trying to open the padlock that locked his door and when he climbed out of the window to catch the ‘burglar’ he found the outer doors still locked and bolted, but the padlock had been opened.

“In his own words, he had ‘had enough’ and shot off back to Birmingham and had the best night’s sleep in ages.”

And other parts of the building, which was the home of Shrewsbury School from 1552 to 1882, have been reported to house ghosts as well.

Mr Wood said: “As you stand in front of the building the office on the left was the headmaster’s house and the ghost of a man has been seen sitting in a chair – could it be Darwin’s headmaster bemoaning the fact that Darwin thought we were related to apes?”

Mr Conway said: “We would love to come back to Shrewsbury again. We have been coming here over the past 20 years, it’s a lovely place with a wonderful ghostlore.”

The West Midlands Ghost Club is always interested to hear ghost related stories from across Shropshire. Contact wmghostclub@yahoo.co.uk or through their website at www.westmidlandsghostclub.com