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Hauntings at a traitor's castle

Raby Castle was built in 1360 or thereabouts by John, 3rd Baron Neville.

However, it is known that the legendary King Canute owned the estate before that, and may even have built a castle of sorts there himself.

Stare up at the towering walls of Raby Castle and the history of the ages simply engulfs you. And, of course, like all good castles, it has a ghost or two.

One of the most intriguing parts of the castle is known as Clifford's Tower.

Here, a terrifying apparition known as Old Hell Cat is said to reside.

One could be forgiven for thinking Old Hell Cat was some sort of demonic entity, but no; Old Hell Cat was actually the nickname of the first Lady Barnard, which tells us something about the way her subjects and servants thought of her – not to mention her own family.

What caused Lady Barnard to be thought of so badly? Well, she and her husband were of the "old school" mentality.

They had two sons who – at least from their perspective – brought them nothing but grief.

Lord Barnard and his wife wanted their sons to marry "nice girls of breeding", but one of them at least – Gilbert – ended up having a fling with a commoner called Mary Randyll and his mother hit the roof.

There wasn't a cat in hell's chance – if you'll excuse the pun – that the Lord and Lady would allow their sons to bring lowly commoners into the castle as their wives.

Hence, in a fit of absolute madness, they emptied the castle of every stick of furniture and burnt all the records.

If Gilbert or Christopher were to inherit the castle, then that would be all they'd inherit. They'd get the building, but there would be absolutely nothing in it.

The lads were miffed of course, and managed to get a court order forcing their parents to restore the castle exactly as it had been before all the trouble had started.

Their efforts weren't perfect, but they grudgingly did their best.

Lady Barnard may have followed the court order, but she didn't mellow in her feelings. She still despised commoners, and brooded over the matter for the rest of her days.

She took to knitting in Clifford's Tower, aggressively clacking away at two plain and one pearl, no doubt muttering under her breath about kids these days.

According to legend, her knitting needles get red hot, and the unwary visitor can, after dark, see them bobbing around like fireflies.

A far nicer ghost is that of Charles Neville, 6th Earl of Westmorland.

In 1569, he organised an uprising against the Queen but, although he wasn't really a bad lad, he was a bit of a plonker when it come to rebellions.

The whole thing came to nought, and his ghost is said to walk the floors of the Great Hall at Raby Castle to this day.

Still, at least he doesn't terrify visitors with red-hot knitting needles like the Old Hell Cat.

Other apparitions are said to haunt Raby too, such as the headless ghost of Henry Vane.

He had his knapper lopped off for some misdemeanour or other, and his body – sans head – can still be seen in the library.

Mind you, it can't be much fun floating around a library if you haven't got a head. I mean, how would you read the books?

Mind you, it can’t be much fun floating around a library if you haven’t got a head. I mean, how would you read the books?

Many years ago, on the corner of Musgrave Street and Whitby Street, Hartlepool, there was a school.

From the late 1920s onwards, it provided a sound education for hundreds of Hartlepudlians.

It was a distinctive building, containing two imposing arched-windows which stared down at the street below, and a bell tower of sorts.

At both the rear and side of the school was a large playground, surrounded by a wall capped with stout iron railings.

Musgrave Street itself has long gone to that architectural graveyard in the sky, although part of it still remains and has been renamed Burbank Street.

The old school is still there today, although it is no longer an educational establishment.

Somehow, not long after the school was built, it gained a reputation for being haunted.

There are a number of stories floating around regarding just how this reputation developed, but of one fact there is no dispute; the apparition which allegedly haunted the school was curiously known as Sandshoe Sam.

Sam was a man – or, according to some, a young boy. Some say he died on the premises, some say he lived in a house on the site before the school was built.

When researching old ghost tales this is unfortunately the way of things; each story has umpteen variations on the theme.

Whoever Sandshoe Sam was – if indeed he ever existed – he may have been indirectly responsible for a tragic accident which occurred in the area many years ago.

Whether the tale is true or not I cannot say, but it has a ring of authenticity about it.

One Saturday morning in March 1942, a young lad who lived in nearby Freville Street decided to visit a cinema where a matinee was being shown.

He was eagerly looking forward to this treat, but one thing marred his enjoyment.

To get to the cinema he had to turn out of Freville Street on to Musgrave Street and pass the school.

No one would be there as it was a weekend – no one except for the dreaded Sandshoe Sam, of course.

This bothered the young lad, and so he decided to cross the road and give the haunted building a wide berth.

His desire to avoid Sandshoe Sam, however, was to have tragic consequences.

Totally focused on his desire to avoid the apparition in the old school, his attention was diverted from oncoming traffic.

Aged just nine, he stepped off the kerb and was, according to legend, killed when he walked into the side of a passing trolley bus.

A sad tale, but not one without parallels of sorts.

In 1999 I asked Bizarre readers if they could help solve a mystery about a ghost which was supposed to have haunted the old Barnes Road Infant School in South Shields, now demolished.

The story goes that, one day during the 1920s, a young boy attending Barnes Road Infant School in South Shields had a tragic accident.

The bell had sounded signalling the lunch break, and, eager to fill their stomachs, a horde of excited youngsters charged screaming and laughing through the corridors.

In the melee it appears one young man tripped, or was knocked over, and hurtled down a stairwell. He apparently suffered serious head injuries and died soon thereafter.

Not long after his tragic death, so the story goes, the little chappie began to appear to the teachers and pupils.

Usually the ghost would be seen standing at the top of the stairwell looking sad and frightened.

If Bizarre readers know of any other school-related hauntings, I’d love to hear of them.

 
 
 

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