Bristol is a city steeped in history, some of it grisly, from the slave trade to smugglers, pirates and brutal murders. Around every corner in the city there’s a story to be told and with so much history it’s not surprising that Bristol has so many ghost stories.
When the SS Great Britain first set sail in 1845, she was the most most advanced and longest steamship in the world, a testament to Bristol's naval engineering past. The grand passenger ship was designed by Isambard Kingdom Brunel and was operated by the Great Western Steamship Company.
Today the ship is a museum and one of the city's most popular tourist attractions, but during its 41 years of service it spent its time shipping passengers between Bristol and New York. The crossing of the Atlantic usually took around 14 days, so with all this time at sea, it’s no surprise that the iconic ship has plenty of paranormal stories to tell.
The Great Britain's most re-told haunting is that of Captain John Grey, who vanished one night after falling ill during a voyage. He was never to be seen again, some say it was suicide, while others claim he was murdered for all the gold stowed away in his cabin.
Since then passengers have reportedly hear the heavy foot step of his hobnail boots as he walks across the deck, accompanied by sights and sounds of doors opening and closing and even a self-playing piano.
Captain Grey isn't the only ghost to tread the planks on this famous ship, others include that of Mrs Cohen, who tragically and mysteriously died aboard the ship a few short weeks after her wedding and the ghost of a young sailor who reportedly fell from the rigging.
Yvette Fielding and the Most Haunted team described the SS Great Britain as one of the top five most haunted places they've ever visited.
Ghostly hitchhikers have been well documented over the years and Bristol too has its own spooky roadside ghost. The woman in white haunts a stretch of the A38 south-west of Bristol near the reservoir at Barrow Gurney.
Many drivers have reported having to slam on their brakes or swerve to avoid the figure who suddenly appears in the middle of the road in front of them before vanishing again.
The road in this area is now scared with many skid marks which show where other drivers have also stopped suddenly braked to avoid hitting a phantom woman dressed in a white coat.
The library stands in College Green next to Bristol Cathedral, one of England's most famous medieval churches that dates back to 1140 when it was founded as an Augustinian abbey. The whole of College Green, including the cathedral and the library is said to be haunted by the ghost of a monk who is often seen walking wearing a grey habit.
Most stories from witnesses tell of the monk wandering out of the cathedral's main door on to College Green, before disappearing in to the library. The library stands on the site of the old Augustinian priory and while the Augustinians wore black habits, some believe this grey monk may have been visiting the priory in life. He’s also spotted in the library itself going through theological documents. The monk entered the library through a bricked up door way which is one of the original entrances to the priory.
Stood overlooking Stoke Park is Dower House, one of Bristol's more prominent landmarks, set on a hill above the M32, one of the main approaches into the city. Within Stoke Park there are two small lakes, the largest of which is Duchess Pond.
The bright yellow house was built in 1553 and was once part of Stoke Park Hospital until 1985, it’s since been converted into residential dwellings.
The house and the rest of the Stoke Park estate is believed to be haunted by one its former residents, a 17-year-old by the name of Elizabeth Somerset who fell from her horse in 1760 and broke her neck.
Walkers in the grounds of the house often report hearing the sound of horse's hooves in the house’s grounds and surrounding woodland, even though no horses have been allowed on to the land for decades.
On the south-west side of the Avon Gorge, overlooking the Clifton Suspension Bridge, one of Bristol’s most iconic landmarks, is Leigh Woods. It is said to be the most haunted part of the city. In fact the nature reserve is home to one of the most famous people to be connected to Bristol throughout history, Isambard Kingdom Brunel.
Along with the legendary SS Great Britain, Brunel designed the suspension bridge, but sadly he never got to see the finished bridge as he died of a stroke during construction at the age of 53.
Walkers in the woods have reported seeing the ghost of Brunel wearing his famous tall hat and cloak at a vantage point in the woods, which overlooks the bridge. It's believed Brunel would have come here to oversee the work of his beloved bridge and after his death he returned here to see it finished.
Despite its architectural beauty, Clifton Suspension Bridge has a dark side. The bridge has always been and still is to this day a hotspot for suicides, a fact that the Samaritans signs plastered over the bridge alludes to.
As a result of these tragic deaths, there have been many sites of those who ended their lives by jumping from the bridge in to the gorge below. The most notable is the ghost of a young man, a modern looking man who in often seen wandering through the woods, always heading to the end of the suspension bridge.
The first burial took place at Arnos Vale Cemetery in 1839, it's a Grade II listed site of special historic interest.
The cemetery is haunted by two female ghosts and many people who visit the grounds have reported feeling an overwhelming sense of sadness.
One of the women is reported to be a black female figure who is often spotted crying over the death of her husband who was killed in the First World War.
The other apparition seen at the cemetery, is seen crying and panicked after she was supposedly buried alive there.
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The Odeon cinema on Union Street is one of the cities oldest cinemas but for the last 70 years screen three has been haunted by a former manager of the cinema. One Wednesday night in 1946, Rudyard Kipling’s 'The Light That Failed’ played to a full house of 2,000 cinema-goers. At one point in the movie five gun shots were fired on screen, but unbeknown to the cinema audience, a sixth but very real shot was fired in the manager's office and drowned out by the movie.
The manager was killed and the killer was never found, but it’s believed to be a man named Billy "The Fish" Fisher, who confessed the killing on his deathbed.
Screen three is now one of the most haunted rooms in Bristol and many staff have reported seeing the ghost of the murdered manager. Most frequently they’ve seen people walking around the auditorium who disappear if approached. A seat in the third row of screen three is said to be home to a shadowy apparition, he often remains seated after the movie ends and when staff approach him he vanishes.
Bristol Cathedral is one of England's most famous medieval churches, it dates back to 1140 when it was founded as an Augustinian abbey and as you’d expect of a building which has seen so much, it has a ghost. The ghost of a monk is often seen walking in and around the cathedral, he’s always seen wearing a grey habit. Most stories from witnesses tell of the monk wandering out of the church's main door on to College Green, before disappearing in to the library next door. The library stands on the site of an old Augustinian priory and while the Augustinians wore black habits, some believe this grey monk may have been visiting the priory in life. He's also spotted in the library itself going through theological documents. The monk entered the library through a bricked up door way which is one of the original entrances to the priory.
The Theatre Royal, home of the Bristol Old Vic since 1946, is one the oldest continually-operating theatres in the world.
The theatre on King Street was built between 1764–66, it’s now a Grade I listed building and Daniel Day-Lewis called it "the most beautiful theatre in England."
The theatre is said to be haunted by a young actress called Sarah Siddon’s. Sarah's boyfriend hanged himself at this theatre, and her ghost is thought to continue to mourn the loss.
When the Old Vic was redeveloped in 2010, the architect Andrzej Blonski reported seeing Sarah's ghost, wearing a long, white crinoline dress. Staff working at the theatre have reported hearing a female voice telling them to "get out."
But Sarah isn't alone, the ghost of a scenic painter named Richard who died in an accident while working is said to still haunt the building and if often blamed for continually moving props around.
The Llandoger Trow is without a doubt the most haunted location in Bristol, boasting 15 ghosts, most famously the ghost of a young boy. The historic pub is located on King Street near the old city centre docks and was named by a sailor who owned the pub. Llandoger is a village in Wales which built a type of flat bottom boat known as a trow.
The pub was legendary in its heyday and is the place where Daniel Defoe was inspired to write Robinson Crusoe and the pub which Robert Louis Stevenson based the the inn on in Treasure Island.
Many staff and guests to the pub have reported seeing the ghost of a young boy, even more have heard his footsteps. Some say he was murdered in the inn and has been heard wandering around the building ever since. They hear his footsteps going along the landing and up and down an all staircase in the heart of the old building. The boy was said to be disabled which made the sound of his feet clomping on the wooden floor boards even more apparent.
On certain occasions the little boy has been seen coming down the staircase carrying a white enamel pale in his hands.
From paranormal manifestations at the Bristol Old Vic to the ghostly activity of a grey monk who is said to haunt Bristol's twelfth-century cathedral, this spine-tingling collection of supernatural tales is sure to appeal to anyone interested in Bristol's haunted heritage. This enthralling selection of newspaper reports and first-hand accounts recalls strange and spooky happenings in the city's ancient streets, churches, theatres and public houses, including The Rummer pub and The White Hart, which have seen plenty of poltergeist activity! Here's a unique glimpse into the ghostly legacy of Bristol's past that is sure to appeal to anyone interested in a spot of ghost-hunting.
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