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Haunted Houghton-le-Spring

THE HAUNTED HILLSIDE CEMETERY?

The Old Hillside Cemetery in Houghton-le-Spring

YOU DECIDE

ENJOY these recollections on a cold October evening with a slice of warm pumpkin pie and hot cup of cocoa .... and remember, the rustle outside is only the leaves blowing on the autumn wind... Copyright © Books of the North 2002 - 2009.
If you have had a ghostly encounter in the Houghton-le-Spring area, please get in touch.


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I have always been very reluctant to entertain any conversation about the alleged haunting of the old Hillside Cemetery, up by Houghton Cut, on Sunderland Street, for fear of encouraging amateur ghost hunters.

But it was the attraction of ghosts and hauntings which called me back to the site following my many visits there as a toddler with my Granddad George. In the early 1990s, rumours circulated amongst my peers at Houghton Kepier School about the headless horseman who was said to haunt the Old Cem. I now know, of course, that the story is an urban myth – there is no headless horseman, but are there any other ghosts?

Flower the dog ain't afraid of no ghosts, at Houghton Hillside Cemetery

Throughout the years of my involvement in the researching and restoration of the old Hillside Cemetery, I have met dozens of people who have told me about spooky experiences at the burial grounds.

Several residents have told me how they had taken their pet dogs up the cemetery for a walk, only for the dogs to be too afraid to enter. And yet my own dog (and many others) has no such reservations!
Copyright © Books of the North 2002 - 2009.


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I have spent hundreds of hours up at the old cemetery on my own, particularly when documenting the headstones, and I will always insist that the site is the most peaceful place I know.

I can remember on many occasions, typically on a warm, still, sunny afternoon, when my notes and papers would suddenly get scattered by a none-existent wind. This would usually happen when I was documenting the memorial for a child, and I do wonder whether it was the child’s spirit getting up to mischief at my expense!

The snow covered Hillside Cemetery in February 2005

On some occasions I would be deep in the undergrowth taking notes of an eroded inscription, when I would hear a rustling sound nearby, only for a pheasant to suddenly take flight.

Many a time the skin on my head would tighten and my hair would stand on end.
Copyright © Books of the North 2002 - 2009.

I have had, however, some experiences, which are less ambiguous than mysterious winds, apprehensive dogs and spooked game birds.

On the cold, snowy morning of Sunday, 20th February 2005, I raced to the Hillside Cemetery to capture photographs of the snow covered burial grounds. The conditions on Sunderland Street were absolutely treacherous and it was with great difficulty that I was able to get the car close enough to the site entrance – it would appear that the local authority doesn’t grit the roads within the nearby housing estate nor the very steep hill of Sunderland Street.


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The outline of a spirit person at Hillside Cemetery? CLICK FOR LARGER VIEW

Upon entering the cemetery I was shocked to discover that the strong winds of the night before had felled a very large tree, and after having checked that no headstones had been crushed, decided to document the tree fall for my records.

I clicked away with my digital camera, taking in numerous shots of the giant root ball, which had been unearthed.
Copyright © Books of the North 2002 - 2009.

One photograph was blurry so I continued to click away.

I then reviewed my shots on the viewfinder, with the intention of deleting the blurred one, only to discover that the blur had the outline of a human head, shoulders and upper body.

Again the skin on my head tightened and my hair stood on end! To this day I still have the original shot stored on my memory card, to ensure that I cannot be accused of computer trickery – but does the photograph actually show the outline of a spirit person?

Click for a larger view

Click for a larger view
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The spirit's head


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Some spiritualist mediums suggest that we’re more likely to haunt a place of meaning to us, as opposed to our place of burial, but is it too much of a coincidence? Perhaps it was just the flash reflecting off the water vapour from the melting snow?

It should be noted though, that three days after my photograph was taken (and had been shared with friends) that the dead body of a missing man was found in the snow-covered cemetery. He had been reported missing from his home in Penshaw a few days earlier.

Since 2005 many of my Hillside Cemetery photographs have contained orbs, mists and other anomalies and I have included a selection here. These were taken at 3:50pm on January 6th 2006.

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Click for a larger view

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An area of unmarked graves
A moving spirit? Shot 1
A moving spirit? Shot 2

I make no claims as to what they show, and will leave that for you to decide. I do ask that, upon having read this, you do not embark on a ghost hunt at Hillside Cemetery, and continue to respect the solemnity of the grounds, as I am sure that you will, being the good person that you are.

Happy Hallowe’en! Copyright © Books of the North 2009.

 

Article and research by Paul Lanagan, local historian

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Copyright © Books of the North 2002 - 2009.

This page is now out of date. The updated and current version can be seen at:
www.houghtonlespring.org.uk/ghosts


If you have ever had a ghostly encounter or know of any Houghton-le-Spring hauntings, please get in touch.

A northeast paranormal group's website exists showing dozens of investigations at local places. One such place is Hillside Cemetery, which was visited in 2007. Whereas I have no objections to legitimate and serious investigations, this particular website shows a group with a ouija board on a grave at Hillside Cemetery. I find this totally abhorrent and disrespectful and condone such acts.
Anyone serious about exploring the paranormal would not carry out such an act. The aforementioned group's behaviour sadly defames the reputation of other investigative groups.

 

 

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