SECRET TUNNELS ... at the Britannia Inn at Cleadon. The Black Bull at East Boldon and Grey Horse in Whitburn, insets below, have also reported ghostly happenings.
SPIRITS of a ghostly kind – rather than alcoholic ones – are on tap at some South Tyneside pubs.
Indeed, according to new book Ghost Taverns of the North East, co-written by the Gazette’s expert on the supernatural Mike Hallowell, some watering holes in the borough are home to at least one supernatural resident.
The Black Horse at West Boldon, has a “Sad Cavalier” which has been spotted by staff at the former coaching inn.
Described as wearing the tall boots, leggings and wide-brimmed hat typical of the 17th century, the “swarthy” man simply vanishes into thin air when asked if he needs any help.
“The landlord admitted the hairs on the back of his neck stood up when he saw him,” according to Ghostly Taverns authors Darren Ritson and Michael Hallowell.
“Not wanting to alarm his staff, he kept his strange experience to himself. It is at this point the story begins to take on a distinctly credible air.”
Within weeks of the first sighting, two other staff members also reported spotting the Cavalier sitting on a stool at the bar. Again, he disappeared in a matter of seconds.
“As you can imagine, the two women in question were somewhat relieved to find out they were not the only ones to have clapped eyes upon this spectral visitor,” record the authors.
The sound of a ghostly child has also been heard in a bedroom above the pub, while the spirit of a Victorian girl aged about nine has been seen in the gent’s toilet.
“Unlike some spectres, her identity may not be so difficult to establish,” said Darren and Michael, who are paranormal investigators.
“In the 19th century, a school stood adjacent to The Black Horse.
“The young girl in question allegedly toppled over the playground wall in a freak accident and died instantly.”
Several other pubs around the Boldons are also said to be haunted, including the Black Bull, at East Boldon, where numerous peculiar incidents have been reported.
Gaming machine alarms have gone off late at night, gas taps attached to beer pumps turn themselves on and off and bottles behind the bar “rattle violently” on occasion.
The ghostly figure of a toddler has also been seen sitting at the bottom of the cellar steps, while several landlords have reported sightings of “fleeting whisps” floating around them.
Of course, South Shields’s Marsden Grotto is believed by some to be the most haunted pub in Britain.
Among the ghosts said to make their home in the old tavern include the original owner, Blaster Jack, two smugglers, a black-and-white cat, the daughter of another owner and a poltergeist who haunts the toilets.
In Whitburn, local legend has it that the ghost of a former pub cleaning lady may haunt the Grey Horse.
Occasional creaking and knocking noises have been credited to “Mrs T doing her cleaning rounds”.
Secret tunnels, rather than staircases, can still be found at a former coaching inn at Cleadon – where a new pub was built on the site of a much older tavern during Victorian times.
At least one tunnel runs beneath The Britannia – now known as The Toby Carvery – believed to have been built as an escape route for Catholics during the time of Oliver Cromwell.
“The tunnel leads from the inn to an extremely old house across the road,” states the book.
Other tunnels are said to stretch as far as West Boldon, Hylton Castle and Marsden Bay.”
One of the ghosts thought to haunt the pub is a Catholic soldier, injured while fighting for the Royalists.
The spirit of a Cavalier has also been spotted, enjoying a drink at the bar.
Other tales include a phantom coach and horses, as well as a yarn involving a one-legged sailor who supposedly died on the premises in the 1800s.
“The source of this sailor tale is a bit unreliable, but there is no doubt that one or two real ghosts do indeed walk the floors of this old inn,” said Darren and Michael.
The Jolly Sailor in Whitburn’s East Street has been welcoming drinkers since the 18th century – as well as a handful of ghosts.
“There are cracking yarns attached to this former coaching inn which would do justice to any book of ghost stories,” said Darren and Michael.
One tale involves a landlady in the 1990s who, after running out of Southern Comfort, volunteered to fetch another bottle from the upstairs bar for a customer.
She whispered ‘Southern Comfort, Southern Comfort’ as she walked. Suddenly, without warning, a bottle of Southern Comfort leaped from the shelf into her arms,” states the book.
In the 1980s, a ghost was blamed for jinxing the then-landlords – bringing a run of bad luck which included accidents, injuries and a devastating fire.
A cleaner employed in 1998 claimed a batch of glasses she had just cleaned were stowed away neatly behind the bar when she nipped to the toilet – despite no one else being there.
Just a few years ago, a team of painters and decorators reported a door clashing loudly in the breeze as they were working at the pub. When checked, the door was locked shut.
Other peculiar tales include rumours of a tunnel from the pub to the Marsden Grotto, as well as a resident ghost known as the Green Lady.
“If the Green Lady is responsible for paranormal activity at the Jolly Sailor, then she is doing it as anonymously as possible,” states the book. “Ghosts can be shy, too, one supposes.”
* Ghost Taverns of the North East, by Darren W Ritson and Michael J Hallowell, is published by Amberley Publishing at £12.99.
* Is your pub haunted? Ring newsdesk on 427 4858 or e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org