Blackpool's Juliette Gregson investigates a cabby's scary experience at Carleton Crematorium in 1936...
On the 18th July 1936 Carleton Crematorium was officially opened. Famous people buried there include Violet Carson of Coronation street, Reginald Dixon band player, Stanley Mortenson football player and Jimmy Clitheroe comedian.
In 1936 my local paper ran a very interesting ghost story about Carleton Crematorium. A Layton taxi driver claimed he had seen the face and body of a green ghost at the gates. In the actual article it is pointed out that five years previously in 1931 a lonely widow had been battered to death in nearby Robins Lane - perhaps the green face had been this poor woman’s ghost.
Looking into the history of the area I was quite surprised to find how much land the crematorium actually covered and delighted to find the following information, In 1087, the local villages Bispham, Layton, Marton, Carleton and Staining were mentioned in the Doomsday Book, along with Rossall, Thornton, Poulton and Lytham.
On 18th July 1936, Carleton Crematorium was officially opened. This leads me to believe that the alleged sighting happened in the autumn or winter months. Now in Carleton the lane is lined with houses; Robins Lane is no more than a path winding through the Fylde countryside. Along the miles of 'lane' are several old farms - clearly the lane was an ancient track linking all the local farms with the agricultural market which used to be held at Carleton in the early seventeenth century.
When I have spoken to my friends and fellow historians I was amazed about the information I received back about the area. There are many hidden ponds around the area, and winding paths, myths and stories. One of these is that many farms had a 'hand' insignia over their doorways, carved in red stone. This dated back to serious fears of foot and mouth disease in the late eighteen hundreds, when superstition still reigned high in rural areas. The Red Hand was both a warning and a guard against transfer of animals, and stopped movements between farms. Quite possibly one of these artefacts had found its way into a local pond - and had found its way into legend when it was discovered by a child explorer. My father even to this day refuses to drive past in the car, due to the stories he has read!
I also discovered that Blackpool's UFO research group had staged several 'watches' along Robins Lane in search of similar strange lights and ghostly apparitions. When I also tried to recreate a watch with my partner Gary we both took photographs which produced various anomalies. Had we got a picture of the ghosts? Unfortunately we decided that the strange glows that we had captured were marsh mist which had been reflected by the camera flash.
However, none of this explains what happened to the poor taxi-driver, back in 1936. And despite the newspaper's tendency to turn his experience into a rattling good story, there is no reason to doubt that he did have a very frightening experience. It was nearly eleven o'clock on a cold December night when a lady outside North Shore Station hailed Harry Hodges' cab and asked him to take her to Robin's Lane in Carleton. Harry set off to take the best route; over Carleton railway crossing and along the Carleton road. He turned into Stocks Lane and was about to turn right into Robins Lane when his passenger interrupted, asking him to turn left instead. Harry was puzzled - the road on the left led only to the Crematorium gates - but the woman insisted, so he did as she asked.
He pulled up just in front of the gates and waited whilst the woman found her purse to pay him... and as he turned to take the money from her, he looked out of the car's side window and found himself staring into the face of an old man, 'with sunken eyes, long dark hair, a Punch-like nose and prominent chin'. Harry almost jumped out of his skin as an ear-splitting scream came from behind him - his passenger had obviously seen the face too. The next moment, the woman was clambering out of the cab and running off, disappearing down a path to the left of the Crematorium gates. Stunned, Harry continued to watch in grim fascination as the phantom face moved around to the front of his cab, and then... it wasn't there any more. It had simply disappeared.
Harry's next thought was one of concern for his terrified passenger, who had obviously seen the face too. Quickly, he put his cab into gear and manoeuvred so that the headlights illuminated the path the woman had taken, but there was no sign of her - and we can forgive him if he didn't actually get out of his car to make a more thorough search!
The next day, Harry was still trying to make sense of his experience, and not knowing who else to call, he called the local newspaper. His hope was that other people might come forward and give him a logical explanation for what he had seen, or failing that, help him track down the woman who had been in the cab, and who he was sure had also seen the 'face'. Only she could corroborate his story, and convince everyone - and Harry himself - that he hadn't imagined the whole affair. The reporter who covered the story asked around in the area of Robins Lane, in the hope that someone might recognise the woman's description, but he had no luck. It was as if the woman had just disappeared into thin air.
The question arises; why did the woman run off beyond the Crematorium, where there are only fields? Probably because she lived at a local farm and this was the quickest way home. The reporter enquired only at the houses on the small part of Robins Lane which is built up - and which is some distance from the fields beyond the Crematorium - so it's no surprise that he could not find her. The second question; why was the mysterious face green? Probably because whatever-it-was was glowing in the reflection of Harry's car headlights. But explaining the 'face'; what it was, why it was there, and where did it disappear to? That's a little more difficult. Perhaps it would be surprising if a lane which has been used for hundreds of years, as Robins Lane undoubtedly has, were not haunted. It must surely have seen its share of accidents and tragedies, and after all, life would be very boring without a little mystery here and there!
Article sent in by website user Juliette Gregson
The views expressed on this page are those of the contributor and the opinions expressed are not necessarily those of the BBC.
last updated: 30/04/2008 at 10:50
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