Durham has its share of ghostly happenings and legendary shenanigans. In common with many other ancient Cities Durham has its share of spooks and presences that turn up from time to time, without waiting for Halloween.
Did you know that the Ghost of Jimmy Piper, it is said, can still be heard playing his Northumbrian pipes in his Prison Cell beneath Elvet Bridge? Jimmy was a local character who became part of the Faas gipsy family. Jimmy was a prodigious talent, his playing skills having been passed from father to son, who eventually was recruited by The Duchess of Northumberland for whom he played for two years.
Jimmy was a bad lad who would turn his hand to crime as soon as play for his supper, it is alleged that he was a cattle rustler, and a gambler. His non-musical activities led him into imprisonment on several occasions. In 1803 his criminal activities caught up with him and he was sentenced to death for horse stealing. His sentence was commuted to life imprisonment and he died in his cell beneath Elvet Bridge seven years later. He never knew that he had been pardoned shortly before his demise. It is said that one can still hear him playing a lament on a dark and quiet night.
The Pickled Parson of Ceddesfeld Hall, Sedgefield. The Reverend Garnage died before the tithe – his income was due to be paid. His lady wife being a doughty soul pickled his remains in a vat of brandy. The ruse worked well and no one suspected that he was an Ex Reverend and the tithes were paid saving said Lady from penury.
Once the tithes were safely gathered in the Doctor was called to pronounce the Reverend dead. The departed Reverend was piqued at the deception and it is said that he haunted the Parsonage and the locality every evening for more than 50 years when after a devastating fire his ghost was able to move on. One rather likes the notion of a Pickled Parson becoming a holy wraith.
The Ghosts of the fighters of the Battle of Neville’s Cross are well renowned. The Monument that stands as a reminder and memorial of the Battle of Neville’s Cross is a pillar of stone that was erected by Sir Ralph Neville following the battle against marauding Scots in 1346. It is said that if one walks around the monument three times then places one’s ear to the ground the sounds of battle can be heard.
Whether one believes in such things is open for debate, it is true that many folks have experienced ‘odd’ happenings that cannot be satisfactorily rationalised. However, having experienced at least on Pickled Parson, and heard ghostly music seeming to come from ‘out there’ one just wonders if something unworldly is going on?
To steal a line from William Shakespeare’s Hamlet, “There are more things in heaven and earth, Hamlet, than are dreamt of in your philosophy.”
One never knows.