Last week, I told tales of magic, mystery and mayhem that unleashed my poor attempts to solve some riddles!
A collection of urban legends, known locally as the 7 Alleys, was brought to life in a ‘secret’ performance as part of our City of Culture events (You can read about it here).
But where did these tales originate? And what other spooky tales and folklore delights are associated with my home town? Time to walk back down the Alleys…if you dare!
The ‘7 Alleys’ in question was actually a single track that had seven right-angled turns in it. Running behind a cemetery and past an old sanatorium, the site has now been built on and is mainly occupied by Hull Prison.
A rife breeding ground for tales to make the hairs on even the toughest teenagers stand on end, generations of kids were dared to run the gauntlet of spooks or warned to stay away if they wanted to live.
So who, or what, was responsible for all this fear?
An Abundance of White Ladies
It could be argued that ‘White Ladies’ are top of all ghostly sighting menus, appearing (no pun intended) in folklore accounts across the globe.
As for Hull, the ladies in question tell a tragic tale of lost motherhood. Commonly thought to be a servant girl, she is said to have thrown herself from the railway bridge after her child was either murdered or kidnapped by its wealthy landowner father. The lost soul now searches eternity for her child and scares unsuspecting passers-by.
One location of her apparition is under a bridge within the 7 Alleys but another, worryingly, is under a railway bridge around the corner from my childhood home where I used to play! I can safely say I’ve never bumped into her but should I feel inclined to, I can chant a rhyme that is supposed to entice her out.
Bubble Gum Boy
One of the 7 Alley exits takes you to a cemetery and past the grave of young Alfie Middleton. The original headstone contained a statue of a small boy with glass eyes – that would allegedly follow you around the graveyard…
Again, a rhyme fuelled the rumour that the poor child had choked on chewing gum and served as a warning from parents to not use the ‘dirty’ sweet.
Sadly, the real Alfie died from meningitis in 1933 and family members to this day still lay flowers at his resting place.
Story has it that a rope swing attached to a tree near the old sanatorium would move back and forth by an unseen hand (sshh… of course wind was not the culprit). Eyewitnesses say that not only would the rope move of its own volition but when using the swing, they would be pushed from the seat or forced to pull their hands from the handles by an invisible entity.
Could it be the ghost of a farm worker, disgraced by his master and compelled to take his own life? Or perhaps a former patient of the sanatorium who just wants to play?
In the 1980s, some schoolboys dared their friends to enter 7 Alleys and run the length until they reached the exit by the drains. Soon after accepting the challenge, screams were heard and they emerged, changed forever from the experience.
Their friends could do nothing to get them to talk of what happened and it wasn’t until some years later that one of the group overcame his fear to talk of coming face-to-face with The Black Souls – figures covered in ash and reportedly the ghost of those killed in WW2 bombing raids (we suffered heavily in Hull) and now buried in the nearby cemetery.
It isn’t only the 7 Alleys that provide ghostly snippets of folklore to grace our city. Here are some more known tales:
A former inmate of the Citadel, which once stood where our aquarium, The Deep, is now, Harry Oglesby escaped, running up the banks of the River Hull, only to suffer serious neck wounds and die. Largely factual, the location of his death was actually a little further away but it still served as a gruesome warning to kids to stay away from the river or meet his grisly ghost!
Annison’s Funeral parlour:
Once housing stables for the horses that pulled coffin carriages, it is also reportedly the last place that Mary Jane Langley was seen alive before her murder (which remains unsolved) in 1891. Now a pharmacy, staff are apparently terrified to go to the top floor alone and many paranormal investigators (including my mum!) have spent the night here trying to unravel the mysteries of the ‘other side’.
39 De Grey Street:
Reportedly the most haunted house in the city, this dwelling is the site of much poltergeist activity, from thrown objects to knives balancing on their tips. However, despite stories to say it was the former location of murders and suicides, no factual evidence has been found to support it. Nevertheless, numerous witnesses still continue to have unexplained experiences within its walls.
And finally, I couldn’t end without mentioning my former high school, Malet Lambert.
A story claims that a small girl fell from the roof and her ghost can be seen in the bell tower. Despite no evidence to corroborate this, I can say that the school is spooky and walking around the grounds often made me a little jumpy. Especially the time I heard screeching coming from an out building when I was leaving late after class.
Dismissing it at first as the peacocks in the park opposite, it soon became apparent it was a trapped human. Turns out it was the American exchange teacher that was locked in an outbuilding and shouting help in a very ‘Penelope Pittstop’ way. At least I left a hero with extra house points that day!
What local folklore tales and urban legends are rife where you live? I’d love to hear in the comments!
IMAGE CREDITS: Mine plus via Hull Daily Mail, malet-stories.co.uk, keywordsearch.com and Pinterest.