We delve into this fair city’s macabre history to discover a rich past teeming with scandal and sticky demises.
Of course, all cities have their dark secrets, but unassuming Bristol reveals a grubby past darker than most. From murders in the Odeon, to haunted hotel rooms, we take a look at some of Bristol’s most morbid tales and haunted spots that you can visit. Go on, I dare you.
Have you ever watched a film in cinema three? Did you notice how cold it is in there? It might just have been a heating malfunction or, as they say in the business, a ‘cold spot’ – the presence of something supernatural. Here’s the story: at 6.25pm on May 29, 1946, the Odeon was screening a Hollywood adaptation of Rudyard Kipling’s The Light That Failed to an audience of around 2,000 people (the cinema was a lot bigger back then).
During the film, five shots were fired on-screen, followed by a sixth heard in the Odeon manager’s office. The case was never officially closed, but the manager’s killer was believed to be a man named Billy 'The Fish' Fisher, who confessed the killing on his deathbed. Cinema three is now said to be haunted by the ghost of the murdered manager.
Pembroke Road, Clifton
Otherwise known as Gallow’s Acre Lane, this street has a rather gruesome past belied by its pleasant facade. In the 1870s, the Downs was a no-man’s land – pitch black at night and frequented by highwaymen, the most notorious of which was a Welshman named Jenkins Protheroe. Famed for being a horrifically ugly dwarf with long arms, Protheroe used to feign injury, then rob, and sometimes murder, those who stopped to help.
He was finally caught and hanged for his crimes in 1873. His body was hung up in chains, covered in tar and left out to rot as a warning to others. Apparently, his ghost would climb down from the gallows and haunt the area until his body was finally buried. This tale may be difficult to swallow when visiting the area on a gloriously sunny day, but rather easier to believe in the dead of night.
Room 160 at the Arnos Manor Hotel
If your sweetie gets their kicks out of things that go bump in the night, then this is the place to book for your next weekend away. This old hotel is already nestled next to the Arnos Vale Cemetery, but its resident ghost has a story far grizzlier than your standard graveyard phantom.
The Arnos Manor used to have its own chapel, used by nuns. One of them found out she was pregnant and took her own life. As if this wasn’t macabre enough, her sisters were then compelled to brick her corpse up in an alcove to conceal the scandal. She remained hidden there until WWII when part of the building was damaged by a bomb and builders unearthed her bones, which they then re-hid to save time and questions.
Her ghost is said to haunt the hotel, climbing stairs that don’t exist, softly calling out names, and pressing down on guests' chests as they sleep. Brrr.
Flickr: Paul Townsend
SS Great Britain
Brunel’s iconic ship has a ripe old history that unsurprisingly yields more than a few ghost stories. The most famous of these is the tale of Captain John Grey, who disappeared one night after falling ill, never to be seen again. Some say it was suicide, while others claim he was murdered for all the gold stowed away in his cabin. Now, you can reportedly hear the heavy step of his hobnail boots as he walks across the deck, accompanied by sights and sounds of doors opening and closing, and self-playing pianos.
Other nautical ghouls aboard the ship include a young sailor who reportedly fell from the rigging, and the spectre of Mrs Cohen, who tragically and mysteriously died aboard the ship a few short weeks after her wedding. TV’s Most Haunted claim that this is one of the 'top-five’ most haunted places they've ever visited.
Llandoger Trow, King Street
This old watering hole reportedly plays host to 15 ghosts, and is as famed for its supernatural inhabitants as it is its rich literary and nautical history. The most famous of its spectres is said to be a man with a limp, distinguishable by the step-drag-stepping sound he makes as he walks around the old pub.
Other ghostly figures have been caught by staff on CCTV. Late one night, two figures were spotted in the pub – one by the bar and one in the Jacobean room. Staff went to ask them to move on, only to find that the figures had vanished.
Fancy a creepy pub crawl? Why not combine a trip to the Llandoger Trow with a trip to the Hatchet. Don’t forget to take a good look at the door as you walk in – it’s reportedly layered with human skin beneath the paint.
Flickr: Michiel Jelijs
Too scary for you? Enjoy summer in Bristol.