Victorian waterways are filled with tales of terrible ghouls and ghosts
For a Halloween holiday with an authentic eerie atmosphere try a canal-boat break on the UK’s waterways, many of which were constructed during the Victorian era and echo with stories – some based in truth, some fanciful – of gruesome ghosts and ghouls.
Narrowboat specialist Black Prince Holidays has selected nine canal routes that will chill boaters to the bone. Those brave enough to book can find a terrifying Halloween trip can currently save 15% at blackprince.wpengine.com.
Spring Heeled Jack, Grand Union Canal, London
‘Spring Heeled Jack’ was a terrifying figure who Victorians thought had a devilish appearance and moved around by making extraordinary leaps. Boaters believe he lurks in the arches of bridges over the Grand Union Canal, ready to jump across the waters and attack unsuspecting narrow boats crews.
Blisworth Tunnel, Grand Union Canal, Northamptonshire
The construction of Blisworth Tunnel in 1805 claimed 50 lives, with 14 workers killed in just one incident when the first tunnel they were digging out collapsed. Around 200 years later boaters travelling through the passageway claimed to see a candle-lit fork in the route at the precise position of the tragedy; the turning does not exist and this was seen as a ghostly reminder of the dead workforce.
Chester Walls, Shropshire Union Canal, Cheshire
The city walls of Chester are guarded by the ghost of a Roman Centurion who was cut down by Celtic invaders when they learned of his night time meetings with a local lover and ambushed him so they could gain access to the city through the exit he used. The ghost paces endlessly between the Northgate and amphitheatre ruins, following the route he took to try and sound the alarm following the attack.
Bridge 39, Shropshire Union Canal, Staffordshire
The unassuming Bridge 39 on the Shroppie is haunted by the ghost of a drowned boatman who appears as a shaggy black-haired creature with huge eyes, known to locals and boaters at ‘The Monkey Man’.
Betton Cutting, Shropshire Union Canal, Shropshire
The canal system around Market Drayton is home to two ghoulish residents, a shrieking spectre that causes boatmen to rush through Betton Cutting, and a friendly ghost at Tyrley middle lock who closes the lock gates behind night-time boaters.
Burgedin Lock-Keeper’s Cottage, Montgomery Canal, Montgomeryshire
Don’t spend too long navigating the locks at Burgedin on the Montgomery Canal, the Lock-Keeper’s Cottage is haunted by the angry ghost of a young lover who was imprisoned alive behind a brick wall where she faced a slow death – her ghost sill roams the basement.
Church Eaton, Shropshire Union Canal, Staffordshire
A vanished American pilot who was downed during the Second World War haunts the Shropshire Union Canal at the scene of his crash near to the hamlet of Little Onn, which was home to an RAF airbase during the forties.