Water has long been associated with paranormal
activity and ghost stories, and it's no surprise that many of Britain's most haunted places are located on or near rivers and waterways. The strong connection between paranormal activity and water can be traced back to ancient times when water was considered a powerful symbol of the afterlife and a gateway to the other world.
One of the reasons for this connection may be the fact that water is a natural conductor of energy, making it easier for spirits to manifest themselves. Another explanation is that water is often associated with strong emotions such as fear and grief, which can create a powerful energy that can attract spirits.
Across the UK, there are many rivers and waterways that are said to be haunted by ghosts and other supernatural beings. Some of the most well-known examples include the Shropshire Union Canal, which has several haunting stories associated with it. Other haunted waterways include the River Severn, which is said to be haunted by a phantom barge, and Regents Canal in London, which is said to be haunted by the ghost of a famous actress.
10. Dudley Canal Tunnels
Dating back to 1071, the ruins of the castle sit on a limestone hill locate at one end of Dudley Town centre. The hill the castle is situated on was extensively quarried during the Industrial Revolution, resulting in a labyrinth of mines and canals running beneath the castle, that brought many deaths and injuries to quarrymen. Accessing the underground canal by boat, Yvette Fielding conduct a solo vigil of the canal in the first ever 'Most Haunted Live', which the castle hosted back in October 2002.
9. River Tees, Barnard Castle
There is an old story about the ghost of Lady Ann Day, who lived in the castle at Barnard Castle in the 16th century. Some say that she was murdered and thrown into a river, others claim that she fell off the tower while running from soldiers who stormed the castle. There's also claims that she threw herself off the tower when her lover was beheaded. No matter how this conflicted story started, all versions end with her body falling into the River Tees below. Ever since, her ghost has been seen repeating her fall from the towers of the castle. The apparition is often seen at night, and she is sometimes described as wearing a red cloak.
8. River Taff, Cardiff
The River Taff, a 42-mile-long river that winds through the heart of Wales, is said to be haunted by a tragic ghostly figure. On the bank of the river, not far from the cathedral where the river feeds Llandaff weir, witnesses have reported seeing the apparition of a young woman who appears to be in great distress.
According to legend, the woman is a grieving mother who lost her son to the river. She is said to be consumed by overwhelming grief and despair, and her spectral form is often seen roaming the river's banks, seemingly searching for her child's body.
7. The River Adur, Shoreham-By-Sea
The River Adur West Sussex, provided a significant source of income for the fishing town of in Shoreham-by-Sea. In 1893 a storm destroyed one local fisherman's boat, ruining his livelihood and bringing hard times for his family. The remains of the wreck can still be seen, and it is said that the desperate cries of the fisherman and his family can be heard late at night echoing across the water. Some have even reported seeing the apparition of the family around the wreck as they eternally mourn its loss.
6. Grand Union Canal, Northamptonshire
The Blisworth Tunnel, stretching 3km along the Northamptonshire leg of the Grand Union Canal near Northampton and Towcester, has a tragic history. During its construction, two workers lost their lives, one suffocating while the other drowned in the canal. To this day, witnesses have reported hearing the sounds of coughing and the loud splash of someone hitting the water, believed to be the spirits of the deceased workers. In fact, one witness claimed to have seen the lights of these long-dead construction workers in the tunnel on the bicentenary of its opening, and again about a year later, adding to the eerie atmosphere surrounding this stretch of the canal.
5. Regents Canal, London
The legendary actress from the 18th century, Sarah Siddons, is said to haunt a spot on the banks of Regents Canal in London, which passed just north of central London connected the east and west of the city. In life, Sarah was known for her dramatic performances on the stage. When she passed away, she was laid to rest not far from the St. Mary on Paddington Green Church, a beautiful old building with a fascinating history of its own. There have been many reports of Sarah's ghost haunting the riverside nearby. You might catch a glimpse of her, wearing a blue dress and hat, standing eerily still like a mannequin.
4. River Severn, Ironbridge
One of the most macabre legends associated with Britain's haunted waterways is the story of the phantom barge that has been spotted along the stretch of the River Severn that flows through Ironbridge Gorge. According to reports, the phantom barge is a large, open-topped vessel that is often seen drifting silently down the river, with a tall figure at its helm. The figure is said to be dressed in old-fashioned clothes or a dark cloak, and has an ominous and foreboding presence. As the barge gets close, witnesses have caught sight of its grim and horrifying cargo that the barge carries - rows of lifeless corpses, piled high. However, as soon as the corpses are noticed, the barge vanishes from view, leaving behind a trail of fear and confusion in its wake.
3. The River Thames, London
In the heart of London, on the stretch of the River Thames just east of Westminster Bridge and Big Ben, there have been sightings of a ghost ship crewed by three men. The eerie vessel is most often spotted on misty days, making it difficult to make out the features of the ghostly crew's faces. It is seen sailing towards Westminster Bridge, but never reappears on the other side. The phantom ship has been sighted as recently as 2014, when a lifeboat crew was called out on a foggy Tuesday after receiving reports of a ghost ship drifting along the river.
But the haunting of Westminster Bridge does not end there. On New Year's Eve, party-goers have reported seeing a shady figure jump from the bridge into the water below. Many believe this to be the ghost of Jack the Ripper. The infamous London serial killer, who was never caught, is said to have jumped from the bridge and taken his own life in 1888.
Further east, the Greenwich Foot Tunnel connects Greenwich and the Isle of Dogs. It is one of the oldest tunnels under the River Thames, an eerie, 370 metre long pedestrian tunnel. It was opened in 1902 to allow workers from north of the river to easily get to London's docklands without having to catch a ferry. Many have reported a feeling of unease in the dank subterranean walkway, others say they've felt they've been followed through the tunnel, but a rare few have reported seeing the ghost of a couple walking along the tunnel, the figures promptly vanish into thin air as they are passed by.
2. Shropshire Union Canal
There are several haunting stories associated with the Shropshire Union Canal. At Chester's old Northgate, a Roman centurion is said to guard the entrance to the city. Betton Cutting, near Market Drayton, is known for a shrieking spectre that has been seen and heard. The most well-known phantom is a black, shaggy-coated being that appears at double arched Bridge 39. It is believed to be the ghost of a boatman who drowned there in the 19th century.
In 1879, a labourer had a terrifying encounter with the creature. He was returning from a late-night journey when the creature leapt onto his horse's back. The man tried to push it off with his whip, but it passed right through the creature. The horse galloped off with the creature clinging to its back. The man found his whip where he had dropped it and was so frightened that he took to his bed for several days.
Another ghost seen along the canal is an American pilot who crashed his plane during WWII. A helpful resident ghost is also reported to reside at Tyrley middle lock. It is said that the ghost will push the lock gates shut behind boats that pass through the lock at night.
1. The River Avon
The River Avon, located in the heart of Stratford, is known for its numerous ghost stories. One of the most haunting tales is that of Olive Bennet, whose last steps were said to be along the river's banks before she was found strangled and drowned in the riverbed. Her body was weighted down with a stolen gravestone from the nearby church. Her killer was never caught, and the area around the river is said to be a hotspot for paranormal activity, with sightings of ghosts both on the water and along the towpath.
As the River Avon flows further along towards Coventry, there are reports of strange mist and unexplained lights at Ryton Bridge. Legend has it that these eerie occurrences are the work of the ghost of Thomas Wildey, who was hanged for the murder of a mother and daughter. His body was then displayed in a gibbet near the bridge, where it hung and slowly decayed for many years. Locals believe that his tormented spirit still haunts the area, manifesting in the form of the mysterious mist and lights.