Six of the Best: Leeds hauntings

City Varieties Theatre in Leeds.
City Varieties Theatre in Leeds.

As we enter the Hallowe’en weekend, we dare to delve into the darker side of Leeds, with a cowled glance at half a dozen hauntings in Leeds.

With thanks to Kenneth Goor, author of Haunted Leeds

Leeds Grand Theatre.

Leeds Grand Theatre.


It’s the oldest working music hall in the country, so why shouldn’t it have a ghost (or two)?

In fact, it dates back to 1762 but was rebuilt in 1865. There have been reports down the years of all sorts of strange sightings at the City Varieties, not least a caped intruder, who was seen moving along one of the balconies by a light technician and then again a few days later by someone else.

There have also been reports of the sound of a piano playing late into the night and also of a woman clad in red patrolling the theatre during some performances.

The Dark Arches.

The Dark Arches.


What is it with ghosts and theatres? It’s almost as though they like being dramatic.

Leeds Grand Theatre might not be the oldest such establishment in Leeds but it has more than its fair share of ghostly goings on. There have been reports of apparitions seen all over the building, from the ‘lady in the loos’, as recounted by Elsie Cromwell way back in 1921 - she almost fainted with the ghost walked straight through a wall. In 2004, several workers reported feeling a hand pushing on their backs, only to discover when they turned around, there was no-one there.


Birstall's Oakwell Hall.

Birstall's Oakwell Hall.

The former coaching inn, which stands next to the Corn Exchange, is now Caravanserai, a successful street food restaurant specialising in Middle Eastern cuisine but back in the days when press gangs roamed the back streets of cities like Leeds, it was a popular place to pick up new recruits. One tale has it that two such gullible types went to bed down in the building’s hayloft but died of suffocation after burrowing down too far. For years, two skulls adorned the outside of the building. Some say they used to hear them scratching at the floor when it was a pub.


One tall tale tells of a little lost orphan boy who, running barefoot from one of his master’s scaldings, found himself in the maze of tunnels and corridors beneath the Dark Arches. He became so lost he could not find the way out and some say his ghost is still trying to. Some who have ventured into the maze of passages beneath Leeds Railway Station have reported hearing the pitter patter of tiny feet and the soft whimperings of a frightened boy, while others have reported seeing a figure staring forlornly at them, its head peeping from around a corner.


The old prison cells beneath Leeds Town Hall.

The old prison cells beneath Leeds Town Hall.

Yes, Yvette Fielding and her Most Haunted team have been to ‘investigate’ ghostly goings on at this 15th century manor house, which has also served as the backdrop in a number of period TV productions.

Needless to say, they uncovered various signs from the ethereal plane, not least of which included a ouija board conversation with former resident WilliaM Batt, who died in a duel in 1684.

Over and above that, many people have claimed to have seen the visage of a woman in white staring eerily out from the hall’s upper windows.


The story of Charles Peace is a sad one. A former joiner, he turned to petty crime after he was injured and unable to continue in his profession. After being sent to prison, he came out a hardened criminal and continued to law break, at one point shooting the husband of a woman he had once known, killing him stone dead.

He was imprisoned in Leeds Town Hall for a period before being taken to Armley Gaol, where he was hanged by William Marwood, inventor of the ‘long drop’ method. It’s said his ghost still haunts Leeds Town Hall’s Victorian police cells.

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