In the Salutation Inn on Saturday evening, there is no doubting the identity of the three figures by the door. Dressed as from a Victorian murder mystery, Jenny and David, who run the Nottingham Ghost walks, accompany Simon, their star tour guide and story teller, a verbose narrator with a black leather waistcoat and the air of an entertainer.
Every week, at seven, the Nottingham Ghost walk tour gets underway here, in the surrounds of one of the city’s oldest and, I am chillingly informed, most haunted pubs.
It is a testament to both the tour itself and the people who live here that, with such an elusive subject matter, the walk does not attract show-off cynics wishing to heckle. Does it ever happen? “Never” Simon tells me “You get cynical people but no one’s ever going to pay money just to heckle you.”
|Jenny and Simon |
The city is, according to David, absolutely full of ghosts. “We’ve recently had quite a heated battle over which is the most haunted city in England. Derby say, ‘oh it’s us’ and York claim it’s them, London says ‘we must have more ghosts. Nottingham has loads and loads of ghosts. If we did enough research we could find ten times as many as Derby claim to have.” “We could probably open three or four walks in Nottingham.” Simon adds.
There is a reason Nottingham has so many spirits “if you want the technical explanation; ghosts are produced by emotions. If you have very emotive events happening in a place, you get more ghosts. Byron, with his deeply poetic soul has a ghost and you get ghosts over in the churchyard, which is supposedly connected to an old leper colony. Everywhere is as old as anywhere else on the planet but it’s what happened in a place that makes more ghosts.”
|"Ghosts are produced by emotions. If you have very emotive events happening in a place, you get more ghosts..."|
|David, Nottingham Ghost walks|
Nottingham’s most famous ghost is Queen Isabella and also the oldest one they can date (1330) but Roman soldiers from about 2000 years ago seen in the caves beneath the Old Trippe to Jerusalem.
Ghosts at first hand
All this time spent around Nottingham’s most haunted parts has led to some direct experience of its ghostly residents. Jenny, who as a medium psyches out places to find out where is haunted, has had the most first hand encounters.
A couple of weeks ago, she tells me she saw the ghost of a lady of the night. “This must have been her patch because she was wandering around up and down here. She was sad because she’d fallen in love with one of her clients. Another man had got jealous and cut her face with a knife, her beautiful face had been scarred.”
|Outside the Salutation Inn|
People have had sightings on the walks as well (indicating they may not be for the faint hearted) but the team don’t like to let on where this is likely to occur as it may lead to a kind of suggestion effect with people expecting to see ghosts. “We don’t tell people upfront because we like people to be on the look out all round.”
Simon tells me that there is one spirit seen more than any other. “Interestingly it is not one whose story I tell. So it’s not a question of auto-suggestion. Inevitably though it’s that spirit and the stories are always all the same, there’s no coincidences involved.”
The research is very difficult. Jenny and David have painstakingly scoured records in the library and old paper cuttings as well as talking to local people and psyching places out to uncover ghostly pasts. “It’s a lot of hard work especially to craft it into a real story with a beginning, a middle and an end.”
|David and Jenny in the underground caves|
Simon: “We never just make things up and we are always very keen that all historical details are absolutely accurate. Everything comes from at least two independent sources. The most common comment we get is from someone has lived in the city all their life and says ‘I never knew that’”
Jenny and David started the walking tours in 1993. But have been running similar events for longer than that. Jenny used to take people around in a mini bus, “We went all over the place but that became far too expensive.”
|David's skull cane|
Simon met Jenny a long time ago and met David through her. They wanted someone with an interest in story telling who could work with a crowd. As he rounds up his waiting public and takes the 80 strong crowd off to hear the spooky secrets of the locale, Jenny and David tell me how valuable he is to the whole enterprise. “It’s difficult to find people because they need to marshal a crowd and keep their attention for about an hour with no microphone, it’s a unique skill. It’s bringing history to life for people and it’s street theatre, basically it’s here to entertain and give people a good evening out.”
Questions and Answers
How Long have you lived in Nottingham?
Too long, I’m afraid that’s a state secret.
Where do you like to go in the city?
Jenny: “I like to go to the slug and Lettuce, it’s really nice and laid back. The one by the theatre and the one opposite Marks and Spencer”
Can you sum up Nottingham in three words?
Jenny: It feels feminine: Feminine, Good Vibrations
David: Three Worlds is difficult but I would say Historical, Heartland and Home.