Published On: Sun, Sep 17th, 2023
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Inside UK’s most haunted city where ‘you can still hear screams and toddlers playing’ | UK | News

Chester’s official tourism site describes its beauty as “bewitching” – an early clue to its reputation as being one of the most haunted places in Britain.

The cathedral city straddling the River Dee and the Welsh border is a must-stop for visitors venturing to Liverpool, welcoming some 14 million tourists each year.

Many of these curious travellers are drawn to Chester’s historical marvels – from the longest and best-preserved fortified walls in the country to its largest Roman Amphitheatre.

Stroll among the maze of alleyways emblematic of the Victorian bland-and-white revival movement, however, and you may just feel a chill down your spine.

After dark, local legend suggests you are unlikely to be alone, even on an empty street. Many of Chester’s shops, alehouses and cafes were the scene of horrifying happenings, the victims of which have remained in ghoulish form.

It all happens in The Rows – the half-timbered buildings dating back to the 13th century that line the city centre. With dwellings above, the ground-floor shops require stepping down from street level, often leading to a crypt-like vault.

Watergate Street is a prime example of this prime real estate for ghosts. What is today a Sofa Workshop there was back in the 18th century, a public house called The Hand and Snake.

It is said that young local boys used to wash the wigs of the dandyish aristocrats who would frequent the club in the basement. The mundane task was made lethal by the fact that they used arsenic.

In recent years, there have been numerous reports of apparitions, screams, sobbing, and the sounds of a toddler playing with a toy car.

Back in 2008, just in time for Halloween, David Brandon published “Haunted Chester” – a “creepy collection of true-life tales” from around the city. The contents of its 96 pages are deeply unsettling.

A short ramble up Watergate Street and you are faced with Eastgate Clock – said to be the most photographed clock face in England after those atop Big Ben in London. Don’t spend too long framing your shot, however, because a notorious poltergeist lives just next door. 

The Thornton’s chocolate shop has now closed down, but a scorned bride named Sarah has been haunting the building for over 200 years and is unlikely to be leaving anytime soon. 

As the story goes she was jilted at the altar by her fiance. While some empathise with her plight and say she invisibly moves objects around as a way to reach out for help in finding him, others claim she is more inclined to throw those who mock her down the stairs. 

Pondering these eerie tales as you stroll the streets certainly isn’t the only thing the city has to offer. The 1,000-year-old cathedral is an architectural and spiritual delight, complete with, so the visitor guidebook says, “Europe’s finest example of medieval carvings”.

Chester Racecourse is the oldest of its kind still in operation in the world, and Chester Zoo is the most-visited wildlife attraction in Britain – the records just don’t stop.

But neither – fortunately or unfortunately depending on how easily spooked you are – do the grisly rumours.

At the Pied Bull restaurant on Northgate Street, a man named John Davies fell down the cellar stairs in 1609 and accidentally stabbed himself. Staff remain skittish about going down there alone to this day.

And then there’s Ye Olde Kings Head, the Tudor-style pub that has featured in countless paranormal investigation TV shows.

An 18th century sword was found under the floorboards, supposedly to ward off evil spirits. It may well be keeping them at bay, but after last orders every night the few remaining punters often report hearing the knocks and female whispers.

Some say it is the chattering of sex workers who once plied their trade in the establishment.

“Haunted Chester” remains available to order on Otherwise, take a chance and visit for yourself.

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