With regular ghost sightings, bats and frogs aplenty, creepy tunnels, spooky locks and misty towpaths, Britain’s 200-year old canal network provides the perfect backdrop for a haunting Halloween.
From shaggy coated beings to shrieking boggarts, we’ve put together a guide to the spookiest spots:
1. Towpath terrors in West London…between 6pm and 8pm on 31 October, expect to get properly spooked on a free ghost walk along the canal near Paddington. Ducking cobwebs and bats, you’ll creep along the towpaths of Little Venice listening to history and hearsay about local navvies, murders and hauntings. Come dressed appropriately!
2. Experience the chilling history of Standedge Tunnel…from 26 to 31 October, Halloween Week at Standedge Tunnel & Visitor Centre on the Huddersfield Narrow Canal at Marsden is offering a series of special events, including spooky boat trips into the dark and gloomy tunnel. At 3.25 miles long, Standedge is the longest on the canal network, and over its 200-year history it has witnessed some gruesome events. As well as tales of leggers who were crushed between boats and navvies dying in explosions, the story of the restless ghost of the poor 15-year old Matilda Crowther, murdered there in 1935, offers visitors a particularly chilling watery tale.
3. Get the chills in Chester…visit the City’s old Northgate where the canal was dug into part of the town’s moat and a Roman centurion can sometimes be seen guarding the entrance to the City. What’s more, the King’s Inn, an old coaching house, is believed to be haunted by three separate spirits. Hire a boat from Drifters’ base at Bunbury on the Shropshire Union Canal in Cheshire, reaching Chester in seven hours, passing through nine locks.
4. Look out for the Monkey Man on the Shroppie…the Shropshire Union Canal is said to be Britain’s most haunted canal with five ghosts along its length, including ‘The Monkey Man’ at Bridge 39 near Norbury. This hideous black, shaggy coated being is believed to be the ghost of a boatman drowned there in the 19th century. Head north from our base at Brewood on the Shropshire Union Canal in Staffordshire near Stafford.
5. Prepare to be spooked at Blisworth Tunnel…on the Grand Union Canal at Stoke Bruerne in Northamptonshire, the Blisworth Tunnel has spooked a number of boaters over the years. At 3,076 yards (2.81km) it’s one of the longest on the canal system. When construction began in 1793, the tunnel was a major feat of engineering. Teams of navvies worked with picks and shovels for three years until they hit quicksand and the tunnel collapsed, killing 14 men. A new route for the tunnel was found and it finally opened on 25 March 1805. Over the years, a number of boaters travelling through the tunnel have reported seeing lights and a second route emerging. But the tunnel runs straight through the hill so people have must seen the flicker of candlelight at the spot where the first tunnel would have intersected with the main canal tunnel. Perhaps the ghostly navvies are still working there…? Our nearest base is at Gayton Martina, less than a mile from Blisworth Tunnel’s north portal.
6. A Killing at Kidsgrove…the Trent & Mersey Canal’s Harecastle Tunnel at Kidsgrove is said to be home to a shrieking boggart – the ghost of Kit Crewbucket who was murdered and his headless corpse was dumped in the canal. Our nearest bases are at Stoke on Trent and Great Haywood.
7. An Aqueduct Apparition…the Llangollen Canal in Wrexham is haunted by an eerie figure that can sometimes be seen on moonlit nights gliding along the towpath by the World Heritage Pontcysyllte Aqueduct. Our nearest bases are at Trevor and Chirk.