As a human settlement approaching 2,000 years of age, perhaps it’s not too unusual to expect a variety of ghostly phenomena throughout the city of Gloucester. Luckily, for any students of paranormal tales, when it comes to ghosts the city definitely does not disappoint.
One of the most prominent types of ghostly tales attached to Gloucester involve members of the church, especially when it comes to phantom monks.
This is particularly true at the 13th century site of Blackfriars Priory where, in 1870, a lady named Alice Godfrey witnessed the image of a disfigured monk praying at the site of the high altar; observing him well enough to notice his ‘fixed, staring eyes and lined face’. In 1969, the ghost made it into the local ‘Gloucestershire Citizen’ when several workmen saw a monk appear in front of their eyes. One witness also reported seeing a spectral friar with a head wound and blood pouring from his skull. Interestingly, around the same time, a male skull was unearthed at Blackfriars, with a gaping hole in it. More recently, staff at the Priory have claimed to see a figure, clad in a black habit and walking around the site and in the dungeon. Meanwhile, at the splendid Cathedral in the centre of the city – a popular television and film location - another monk has been spotted walking through a locked doorway, apparently even being mistaken for a tour guide in the 1990’s before he disappeared into thin air.
During the 1960’s, at a vicarage on the edge of the city, a vicar witnessed the ghost of a mournful monk within the old kitchen. When the kind (and brave) vicar asked the apparition if he could be of help, the monk stared sadly at him, walked to a wall and vanished. Seen on several occasions in the same place, it was only when the old kitchen floor was found to be dangerous and subsequently replaced that the monk ceased his appearances.
Not to be outdone, at Tewkesbury Road within a former hospital run by nuns, Gambier Parry Lodge, a sad, spectral nun has been witnessed, usually holding a small child in her arms. The nun is thought to have committed suicide after the death of a child under her supervision. Meanwhile, at St Mary de Lode Church in Archdeacon Street, the figure of a phantom priest – thought to date from then 14th century - has been seen on several occasions over the years. On Southgate Street, ‘Café Rene’ holds several paranormal claims, including spectral chanting – thought to originate from disembodied monks – alongside the vision of shadowy figures within the building.
Away from religious apparitions, there is much interest for the keen paranormal investigator within Gloucester’s many pubs. A bar at the ‘Dick Whittington Inn’ on busy Westgate Street is reportedly host to a male apparition wearing a flat cap, while its cellar has visits from a ghostly maid dating back to the 17th century. On the same street at the now-closed, 500 year old ‘Fleece Hotel’, a ‘woman in blue’ was seen often during the 1960’s and 70’s, while a short distance away in Northgate Street, the ‘New Inn’ lays claim to a ‘woman in white’. Recent film footage at this medieval pub also appeared to show poltergeist activity, with the released footage of a pint glass flying off a table by itself. Another noisy ghost making it into the ‘Gloucester Citizen’ in 1988 dwells within the ‘Greyfriars Inn’; a former priory. Over at the ‘King’s Head’ on Gloucester Road, three individual apparitions have been reported, namely a porter, another monk and a Cavalier from the Civil War. Back on Westgate Street, the Civil War theme is continued at the ‘Old Crown Inn’, where several Roundheads were murdered and continue to make their presences known.
When Gloucester was besieged by Royalist forces during the late summer of 1643, the Roundheads decided to set fire to some buildings close to the city walls, to hinder the attacking Cavaliers. Sadly, a mother and young son were caught in the fire and their ghosts have been spotted over the centuries at the site of their doomed dwelling. Unfortunately this is not the only child ghost seen or heard in Gloucester. Last year I was fortunate enough to take part in a paranormal investigation at the timbered Folk Museum, dating back to Tudor times. While beautiful to visit and akin to walking back in time, the building is known for its spectral children – perhaps dating back to the period when it was a Victorian factory. Another child ghost dating from Victorian times can be found on Westgate Street at the site of a former workhouse, while the apparition of a boy is alleged to wander Church House, in Cathedral Close.
Other unworldly glimpses from Gloucester’s long history can be found at the docks, where an entire Spanish ship is alleged to appear intermittently, while in Denmark Road surely the oldest sightings must be the Roman soldiers that have been occasionally witnessed, still marching in tight formation.