Heritage & Culture

Peterborough… is spook central

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Something old, something new, something beastly and something blue... We take a ghostly tour with author of Haunted Peterborough, Stuart Orme

Peterborough’s spookiest spooks

‘It’s an old building, and you get to know its sounds,’ says Stuart Orme. ‘But every once in while when I’m here in the evening on my own I’ll hear someone walking around upstairs. It’s just as if there were a visitor or a colleague up there – and yet I know damn well I’m the only one here…’

When Stuart worked as Events and Programmes Manager for Vivacity Museums, Libraries & Archives (he’s now curator of the Cromwell Museum), one could say ghosts come as part of his job. He was based in Peterborough Museum – renowned as the most haunted building in Peterborough – and ran regular ghost walks and hunts in the Museum and around the city, as well as being author of Haunted Peterborough, a compendium of local ghost sightings and folklore. He is also a thoroughly level-headed sort of chap. A historian by training, he is someone who is naturally sceptical of anything that is not supported by evidence or reliable testimony – and, as far as testimony goes, there is quite a bit, some of it first-hand.

Stuart Orme leading the ever-popular ghost walk. Photo: John Moore

Stuart Orme leading the ever-popular ghost walk. Photo: John Moore

‘As a historian, I’m always interested in how history can be used to verify these stories, or indeed how the stories can be used to verify history. I definitely think there’s something here – I’ve experienced things inside the building which I can’t quite explain.’ The Halloween period sees a host of ghost-related events for the public to enjoy, ranging from Hammer-horror style theatricals to the more traditional ghost walks. One of the more serious – definitely not for the faint-hearted – allows members of the public to become ghost hunters themselves – in the Museum, after dark, on Halloween night.

‘It ran from 11.30pm to about 4am the next morning and starts with a candlelit tour of the Museum, then evolves into a real, live ghost hunt. We don’t set anything up, we just provide the ghost-hunting equipment and talk them through the basics of it, and generally speaking we get something happening to someone during the course of the evening!’

One of the most recent sightings – and easily one of the most startling – was witnessed by Stuart himself

It’s said at least eight different ghosts haunt the building’s many rooms and corridors. Taking a quick tally, we number ten distinct manifestations (see our ghostly top ten over the page for details) – and that’s not even counting the strange, disembodied voices, footsteps and bangs regularly reported. One of the most recent additions – and easily one of the most startling – was witnessed by Stuart himself. It is supposed that Halloween is the Christianised version of the pagan Celtic festival of Samhain, when the veil between this world and the next was at its thinnest, and things could drift through. So to get in the Halloween mood – and perhaps sound a note of warning – we present our own pick of local ghost stories from around the region, starting with Stuart’s own, from a night in the Museum in March 2013…

Something blue: The Lady in the Corridor
‘We were setting up the Belle Epoque exhibition showing original Edwardian costumes,’ says Stuart, ‘and myself and two colleagues were working late one Thursday inside the gallery, getting ready for the opening. One of us was on the other side of the room setting up some… [cont]

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