Halloween is approaching but it’s not all sweets and pumpkins. Originating from the Pagan celebration Samhain, Halloween is the night when the veil is thinnest between the worlds. The promise of ghosts this time of year brings plenty of tourists to Brighton.
Attractions such as the Ghost Walks in the lanes (you’ve probably seen them on a night out) and Preston Manor bring tourists and paranormal investigators alike. Brighton has at least 140 haunted locations, according to the Paranormal Database. Reports range from poltergeists to classic apparitions such as women in white. Despite the cliches, these local legends are tied to the history of Brighton and reveal the darkness of the town’s past.
The Hangman of Hangleton
As you can guess from its name, Hangleton was once the site of the city’s gallows. To this day, a ghost known as ‘The Hangman’ is said to roam the stretch between Hangleton Way and the Old Shoreham Road. Thought to be the ghost of a man from the 17th century named Thomas Kypper, his crime was prolonging the suffering of those he hanged. He was later convicted of murder, and was hanged there himself. Multiple accounts describe him as tall and wearing dirty clothes with a hood over his head. Witnesses report hearing a loud thud, followed by a tapping noise from outside their car. When spotted, The Hangman stares at the witness before disappearing suddenly.
One of the creepier entries on this list is the apparition known as ‘Black Belly’, said to haunt the area around Churchill Square. To date, there have been no reports of haunting inside the shopping centre. He has been appearing outside in the square since the 1960s, thought to be a ghost from the Georgian Houses that used to be on the site.
Black Belly is said to appear in the side vision of witnesses, appearing so real that they think he is a living person. He looks like a large, bald man in his late 50s, wearing a shirt that exposes his bruised stomach. However, when they fully look at him they see that he is floating several inches above the floor. The ghost begins to scream and charges at the witness, before disappearing when he is only feet away. Most recently, a local telecom engineer reported an encounter with the ghost to the police. Surveillance showed the man terrified and fleeing the scene, but no one else appeared on the film.
The Lord Nelson Pub Hauntings
In 2015, the Argus reported that Chris Payne was drinking with his friends in the Lord Nelson. They hadn’t drank much, only two beers with a meal. Suddenly, he noticed that stinging red scratches had appeared on his arms. He hadn’t moved from where he was sitting, and his own nails were too short to have been able to do it. When he showed his arm to the bar staff, they were not that surprised because there had been other similar reports.
The Argus reported that the landlord Julian Franklin added: “I’ve heard various stories about the ghost of the Nelly. The landlord before me actually had it exorcised but when I asked him, he wouldn’t really talk about it. I’ve seen it where shot glasses have flown off the top shelf during the middle of an evening. I live above the pub and when I’m alone at night I do hear odd things.”
The Old Steine
One of the ghosts said to haunt the Old Steine is that of John Robinson. He was born in Brighton in the 18th century, but later became a mercenary. He lost his eyes fighting in the Persian Civil War. Later, a merchant helped him return to Brighton, only for him to die on the Old Steine not long after. His ghost has been seen multiple times, most credibly by a police officer who reported the encounter.
The Marlborough Pub & Theatre dates back to the late 18th century, so it’s no wonder that it has some darkness in its past. In 1900, Lucy Packham was murdered by her husband who pushed her down a flight of stairs. He only did four years in prison. Over the years, bar staff at the Marlborough have described poltergeist activity in the pub.
In 2000, manager Sue Kerslake said in The Argus that she had often witnessed such activity and said: “She [Lucy] was beaten to death by her husband, so she probably didn’t like men too much. I feel she is able to show herself a lot more now because she is more comfortable with female company. It’s not scary because she isn’t nasty, and she’s been here a lot longer than me anyway.” Bar manager Tarik Elmoutawakil said: “The Marlborough is all about not making judgement and I feel like that extends to spirits. I think we’re a very ghost friendly pub.”