The Ghost Of An Unsolved Murder

Bashall Eaves March 1934.

Five miles north-west of Clitheroe stands the village of Bashall Eaves, traditionally associated with King Arthur, who is said to have fought a battle here. Beyond the village lies the ancient Forest of Bowland and the Bowland Fells, separating Lancashire from Yorkshire.

Edisford Bridge over the River Ribble.

Jim Dawson.

Jim Dawson lived at Bashall Hall Farm with his sister, Polly Pickles. The farmhouse was a short walk from The Edisford Bridge pub.

On a rain sodden Sunday evening on 18th March 1934, Jim Dawson, a 46 year old farmer and bachelor was walking home, along Back Lane after visiting his local, The Edisford Bridge. Back Lane was then and is still a narrow country lane with no street lighting.

At around 9pm, with his head down against the wind and rain he walked along the secluded lane towards the farmhouse, when headlights of two approaching cars briefly illuminated a man standing nearby. Jim Dawson had never seen this man before.

As both vehicles passed, Jim noticed his farmhand, Tommy Kenyon sat in the backseat of the first car with four friends. He did not recognise the occupants of the second vehicle. He then looked for the stranger he had seen lurking nearby, but he had disappeared.

Jim continued along the near pitch-black Back Lane when he heard a strange ‘click’ noise immediately followed by a sharp stinging pain to his right shoulder. He thought someone had thrown a stone at him, had another look around before he carried on his way, arriving home at 9.20pm. He had supper with his sister and went to bed a short time later.

During the night Jim’s shoulder became extremely painful and the bedsheets saturated with blood. The following morning he asked his sister to have a look at his injury. She was horrified at the wound and suspecting her brother had been shot, called for the local G.P. Doctor Cooper and the police to attend. Jim was taken to hospital by ambulance.

An x-ray revealed some kind of bullet, the size of a small birds egg had entered his back below his shoulder, lodging in muscle near his liver.  Fearful of surgery, Jim Dawson refused to have the object removed and his condition quickly worsened with blood poisoning. He gave a detailed statement of the incident, but was unable to explain his injury, though he was able to show the police where the attack took place. He eventually agreed to an operation and a homemade steel bullet, tapered at both ends and seemingly cut from a steel rod, was removed from his back.

On 22nd March, four days after being shot,  Jim died from septicaemia.

It was now a murder enquiry.

Murder Investigation.

Bashall Eaves was historically within the county boundary of the West Riding of Yorkshire (becoming part of Lancashire in 1974) and their senior detective Chief Superintendent Wilf Blacker led the investigation,  immediately meeting a wall of silence from local residents. He was certain someone in the village knew the identity of the murderer. All firearms in the area were seized for examination, workshops, garages and sheds searched for metal cutting equipment and the original steel rod. An extensive search of the scene and surrounding country side was made, but nothing was found.

An ominous twist to this tragedy was that a few days before the fatal shooting, Jim Dawson’s much loved dog, Shep was also shot and killed by person/persons unknown. It is not on public record what type of firearm was used to kill the dog.

Forensic Expert.

Robert Churchill, the country’s leading forensic ballistic expert was called to assist the murder investigation. He concluded the murder weapon was an airgun, such as a ‘Poacher’s Arm’ air cane, which is a single shot pneumatic gun that can fire many times on one charge of air.

Biography of Robert Churchill.

The Weapon.

The air cane  was a walking stick/cane with a firearm built into it and was common amongst wealthy Victorian gentlemen and ironically the criminal underworld.

The weapon consisted of two sections which came apart allowing air to be pumped and pressurised in the top half, where the trigger was situated and the shot/ammunition  was loaded into the barrel section. They are virtually silent apart from the click of the trigger and deadly at close range and accurate up to 100 feet.

Examples of air cane guns.

Means, Motive and Opportunity.

Means, motive and opportunity are the three key elements to every crime. Detective Chief Superintendent Blacker had the means: the firearm, the opportunity: the deserted lane at night time, but could not get the evidence to arrest a suspect for the motive.

The Suspects.

The police enquiry revealed that Jim Dawson had relationships with numerous local women including his neighbour, seventeen year old Nancy Simpson, who was more than half his age and lived with her parents. Tommy Kenyon, who also had feelings for young Nancy, resented Jim being passionately involved with her.

But Tommy Kenyon was convinced Jim Dawson had been murdered in a case of mistaken identity, believing the bullet was meant for him.
Nancy was pregnant and her father, Tommy Simpson was convinced Kenyon was the father and as a result, a few days before the shooting, the two men had grappled and exchanged punches. Bad feelings continued between the two men.

Ten days after Jim Dawson died, Tommy Simpson hanged himself in his barn.
His family stated he was suffering from depression due to financial worries.

The murder investigation looked at the women Jim Dawson was seeing, but was unable to prove any connection with a jealous husband or boyfriend.

The Inquest.

In June 1934 the coroners court jury came to ‘an open verdict’ on Jim Dawson’s death, not satisfied he had been shot by a firearm.

Wall of Silence:  The Peculiar Murder of Jim Dawson At Bashall Eaves.

This is the title of a book written by Jim Dawson’s great niece, Jennifer Lee Cobban published by Demdike Press in 2005 and available on Amazon.

In the Evening Telegraph on 21st October 2004, Jennifer Lee Cobban is quoted saying: “I do believe that some villagers knew who the murderer was and there are rumours of a deathbed confession by the killer. There are possibly some residents who today know who was responsible and some say Jim knew who had done it”.

To this day, over eighty-four years later, the murder of Jim Dawson remains unsolved.

The Ghost of Jim Dawson.

It is said Back Lane is still avoided at night, as many people have claimed to have seen the ghostly apparition of a figure, with a gaping wound to the back passing through a gate into the farmyard of Bashall Hall Farm.
Back Lane, as a haunted site is included in the itinerary of local and national ghost tours and referenced in many books relating to ghosts and hauntings in Lancashire.

Any ghost sighting has been dismissed by Jennifer Lee Cobban, but she has been quoted as saying, “… the ghost story has without doubt, helped to maintain this puzzling murder mystery”.

Reference Sources: Lancashire Magic & Mystery by Kenneth Fields; WolfieWiseGuy blog;;  Lancashire’s Ghosts & Legends by Terence Whitaker & The Evening Telegraph.

All photos courtesy of Google Images,

The Ghosts of The Jigsaw Murders

Buck Ruxton.

Buck Ruxton was born Bukhtyar Rustomji Hakim in Bombay, India on the 21st March 1899. He qualified as a doctor before emigrating to Edinburgh in 1927, where he took a post graduate course in medicine and while in Edinburgh met Isabella Kerr. They moved in together and went on to have three children.

 Number 2, Dalton Square.

In 1930 he set up practice as a GP at 2, Dalton Square, Lancaster and changed his name by deed poll to Buck Ruxton. The couple employed a live in maid, 20 year old Mary Jane Rogerson.
Even though he was a popular local doctor he had a dark temper, was insanely jealous and his relationship with Isabella was prone to violence.
She had already made a complaint of assault to Lancaster police against her common-law-husband and had attempted suicide due to Ruxton’s paranoia.
Though the couple never married, Isabella adopted the surname of Ruxton.

No. 2, Dalton Square, Lancaster.

The Affair Accusation.

On Saturday 14th September 1935, Isabella, who was gregarious and fun-loving, arranged to meet her sisters at Blackpool and visit the illuminations. She did not return home until 11.30pm and the jealous Ruxton was waiting for her, accusing his common-law-wife of having an affair, which led to a violent argument, overheard by Mary Jane.

The Murders.

Ruxton stabbed and strangled Isabella in a fit of jealous rage, and to prevent Mary Jane Rogerson from talking he attacked her, strangling her to death.
With his medical knowledge and expertise, he used a scalpel and a surgical saw to skilfully dismember both bodies in the bathtub, and wrapping the many severed body parts in newspapers.

Isabella Kerr.

Mary Jane Rogerson.

The Journey To Scotland.

The doctor was familiar with the Scottish Borders, an area sparsely populated and that night he loaded his car with packages of the women’s severed corpses and drove to Gardenholme Linn, near Moffat. He knew of a remote ravine in the area, dropping down to a river and in driving wind and rain threw the parcels of his dismembered partner and maid into the gorge, then drove back to Lancaster.

The Journey Back to Lancaster.

As Ruxton was returning home through Kendal he collided with a cyclist, knocking him off his bike and failed to stop. The cyclist made a note of the registration number and reported the accident to the police. Later that night Ruxton was stopped by police in Milnthorpe. He was questioned about the accident, which he denied and told to produce his driving documents at Lancaster Police Station and allowed to continue his journey.

A Grim Discovery.

On the 29th September, fifteen days after Ruxton’s trip to Scotland, a hill walker found a package containing a decomposed human arm on the slopes of the gorge at Gardenholm and contacted the police. All together the police recovered 30 newspaper bundles containing seventy body parts, including two human heads, a torso, legs and internal organs. One of the newspapers Ruxton had used was a special edition of the Sunday Graphic and only sold in Lancaster/Morecambe.

It was the lead the Dumfriesshire Constabulary needed in their investigation.

Police search the crime scene.


The remains where taken to the University of Edinburgh and the bodies pieced together in an effort to reconstruct them. They had been mutilated to prevent identification. Fingertips had been cut off and teeth, eyes, ears, skin, lips had been surgically removed.

A senior police officer carrying one of the bundles of body parts.

Professor John Glaister, using pioneering anthropological methods and forensic entomology in studying the stages of growth of maggots found in the remains, established a time and date of death for both victims.

Ruxton is Questioned.

Mary Rogerson’s family reported her missing and Isabella’s sister’s, concerned with her disappearance, also reported Isabella missing to the police. Ruxton claimed his wife had left him for another man and Mary Jane, who he said was pregnant and had stolen £30 from his safe, had eloped with a local youth to have an abortion.
Abortions were illegal in England at the time.
Scotland Yard detectives where brought into assist the investigation.
Number 2, Dalton Square, Lancaster was searched and enormous traces of blood discovered throughout the house, especially the bathroom. Also the parents of Mary Jane had been asked to identify certain items of clothing found with the human remains and confirmed a blood stained blouse was their daughters.

Ruxton also denied taking a recent trip to Scotland and could not explain why his car registration number had been reported by the cyclist in Kendal or why someone driving his car would provide his own personal details to the police.

The Arrest, Trial.

On the 12th October Ruxton was arrested and charged with the murder of Mary Jane and on 5th November was also charged with the murder of Isabella. He denied both charges.

The trial opened on the 2nd March 1936 at Manchester High Court of Justice.

The trial lasted eleven days and Ruxton was the only witness for his defence. The jury retired and within an hour returned a verdict of ‘Guilty’.


On the 12th May 1936, Ruxton was hanged at HM Prison Manchester by Albert Pierrepoint.

Police Hold Back a Crowd Outside Strangeway’s Prison on Day of Execution.


The day after Ruxton’s execution, a Sunday newspaper published a handwritten confession by Ruxton, written the day after his arrest and only to be opened in the event of his execution.

The torso of Mary Jane was never found, despite an intensive police search.

The Hauntings.

Number 2, Dalton Square remained empty and dilapidated for nearly fifty years, with rumours of it being haunted and its tragic history keeping locals and potential buyers away.  As it was a 200 year old listed building, demolition was not an option and eventually Lancaster City Council purchased the property and after extensive renovations became their main planning office.

Present Day No. 2, Dalton Square(centre building).

The building has been a subject of various reports of supernatural phenomena while standing empty, including passersby hearing the screams of women coming from within the building. Many, including paranormal investigators believe the building is still haunted by the ghosts of Isabella Kerr and Mary Jane Rogerson.

The bath used by Ruxton to dismember his two victims was removed and produced as evidence at the trial. It is now used a horse trough by the mounted police at Lancashire Police Head Quarters, Hutton, Preston.

Television Drama.

This infamous double murder case which became known as ‘The Jigsaw Murders’, is to be turned into a television drama. The TV series will be based on author Jeremy Craddock’s book, The Jigsaw Murders: The True Story of the Ruxton Killings and the Birth of Modern Forensics, which is due to be published next year (2021).
It will be made by Tod Productions and STV Productions.

The bathtub at Lancshire Police Headquarters.

Elaine Collins, managing-director of Tod Productions, said: “Jeremy Craddock is a hugely talented writer, who is not only determined to excavate this brutal story and the consequent scientific breakthroughs that still influence today’s forensics, but to give an unprecedented voice to Buxton’s female victims.  I’m excited to develop this complex and multi-layered crime story for television, to give presence to the victims, and to dramatise the characteristically brilliant scientists at work in 1930s Scotland.”

Reference sources: wikipedia; article by Simon Entwistle for bbc lancashire history, murderpedia, LancsLive and the Daily Record (

All photos courtesy of Google Images.

The Last of the Lancashire Witches


‘There are only two ways to kill a witch: decapitation or incineration’.

There has been volumes written about The Lancashire Witches, and their legacy and folklore is still evident today, not just in the Pendle area.

Detective Inspector Meadowbank and Sergeant Huggins follow on from their success in tracking down Jack the Ripper in Priest Town. They now face a far deadlier threat than the Whitechapel Murderer in The Last of the Lancashire Witches.

In 1612, nine witches from the Forest of Pendle
were hung
at Gallows Hill near Lancaster Castle.
The location of the nine unmarked graves remained a secret
and there the witches lay for century after century,
like dormant seeds waiting to flourish.
A child of one of these sorceresses survived the witch hunt,
and now the time is right for revenge, to put things right.

The Last of the Lancashire Witches, the latest novel from Preston author Steve Woods and published under the Horror Bound Books banner, is available as a paperback edition or ebook direct from Amazon or through the link at top of this page.

Haunting of Heskin Hall

Heskin Hall, a Tudor manor house, built in 1545  near to the village of Eccleston in the borough of Chorley in Lancashire, is a Grade 1 listed building of exceptional historic interest.

The Ghosts.

There are numerous reported hauntings throughout the house, but two apparitions in particular wander the three floors of the hall, their presence dating back nearly four hundred years to the English Civil War.

Heskin Hall was a Royalist and Catholic stronghold during the war, where Holy Mass was held in secret and priests given sanctuary.  One fateful day Cromwell’s forces arrived at the hall and conducted a random search, eventually discovering the family priest secreted in one of the many hides.  He begged for his life, renouncing his faith and swearing new found devotion to the Church of England.

The troop commander, Colonel Rigby, ordered the priest prove his allegiance by hanging the youngest daughter of John Molyneux, the owner of the hall.

A rope was thrown over a beam and the priest put the noose over the  girls head, her hands and feet already bound, he then heaved on the rope, lifting the girl’s feet off the floor.  Once satisfied she was dead, the priest lowered the girls body to the floorboards, then looked to Colonel Rigby.
As the roundheads mission was the persecution of royalists, priests and their sympathisers, it was no surprise that the colonel ordered that the priest be lynched as well.  He was left hanging over the body of John Molyneux’s daughter.

Since these murders at the top floor of the house, there have been numerous sightings of a ghostly priest and young girl wandering the rooms, and when the house is silent, the eerie sound of the wooden beam creaking, as if under strain, has been heard.

The last owners to live at the hall were Lord and Lady Lilford, who resided there until 1969.  Lady Lilford has gone on record to describe the paranormal activity she, her husband and guests have experienced and witnessed.  On one occasion her guests fled the house terrified.

The ancient beam is still in place and bizarrely, it became customary for visitors to reach up and touch it for good luck.

The hall and grounds (eight acres) are open to the public all year round with a licensed cafe and garden terrace accompanying the antique and fine art shopping venue.

Popular ghost tours and overnight paranormal events are held throughout the year.

There is a collection of vintage dolls and a malevolent looking clown marionette in one of the rooms, and it is recommended that anyone suffering from ‘pediophobia’ (fear of dolls) or ‘coulrophobia’ (fear of clowns)  avoid this exhibition.

(The above are not representative of the collection).

Since Lord and Lady Lilford left Heskin Hall, the building has been used as commercial and local council offices.

Heskin Hall is now a premier wedding venue and has recently been named as one of Lancashire’s Best and Most Romantic Wedding Venues by LancsLive.

Horrorboundbooks has no affiliation with Heskin Hall Wedding Venue or Haunted Happening Ghost Tours.

Reference sources: North Country Ghosts & Legends by Terence W.  Whitaker published by Grafton Books;  HH Spooky Nights Ltd and Wikipedia.

All photographs courtesy of Bing Images.

Tragedy on A59

Tony Wiseman and Kenneth Dwyer, both firefighters in the North Yorkshire town of Skipton, were lifelong friends. They went to the same primary and secondary schools, grew up together, played football together and eventually they both joined North Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Service.

They were ‘best man’ at one another’s wedding and went on to holiday together with their wives and families.

These two best friends had made a promise to each other that in the event of either of them losing their life, during the course of their duty, the other would make sure that their children were looked after.

Skipton High Street

On a sunny Sunday morning in 2009, Ken decided to take his Kawasaki motor bike for a spin, kissed his wife Jenny, telling her he will be back by lunchtime.

He travelled along the A59 (a major trunk road across the Pennines) towards Harrogate, passing the ancient village of Blubberhouses. Further along the road, a lorry carrying scaffolding poles had shed four of the long metal poles, unknown to the driver, and they lay stretched across the carriageway. Ken came round the preceding corner, hit the scaffolding poles and was thrown off his bike, fatally breaking his neck.

A Stretch of the A59 near Blubberhouses.

A few hours later, Jenny rang Tony and told him Ken had died. He immediately rushed to their house. There was a police car outside and a WPC was comforting Jenny and her daughter. Tony asked where Robert was, Ken and Jenny’s six year old son. She said he was in his bedroom and did not know his father had been killed.
Jenny, sobbing said, “Could you tell him please Tony?”

He made his way upstairs and found Robert happily sat on his bed with his Play Station, humming to himself. Tony sat next to him, “Robert, I am so sorry, I have some very sad news to tell you”.  He put his arm around Robert and took a deep breath. “Robert, your daddy has been involved in a terrible accident, I am so sorry, he has passed away”.

To Tony’s surprise, little Robert turned round and looked straight at him, smiling.
“It’s okay Uncle Tony, my dad has just been here a few minutes ago and told me all about it. He says I have to be brave and look after mum’.


This story, originally titled Ghostly Tales from the Road, is taken from Ghostly Tales of the Unexpected by Simon Entwistle. Published 2014 and available on Amazon.

All photographs courtesy of Bing images.

A Christmas Ghost Story

How It Began.

In September 1939 the Clitheroe Territorials had received orders to join their battalion, the East Lancashire Regiment in northern France.  Nineteen year old Lance Corporal Billy Lakin and his mates were excited to be leaving their jobs in the cotton mills to reinforce the Maginot Line.

In May the following year, Germany invaded France, forcing the allied positions to retreat to the Dunkirk beaches for evacuation.  Lance Corporal Billy Lakin and his regiment,  walked across France  pursued by the Nazi advance, only to find themselves trapped on the beaches of Dunkirk. Eventually,  Billy and the survivors of the East Lancashire Regiment were evacuated to England. 

Map Showing the Allies Defensive Maginot Line, Named After French Minister of War, Andre Maginot.

On returning to Clitheroe, Billy, at the age of nineteen, was promoted to full corporal at the same time his good mate, John Grimes, seventeen years old, joined the regiment.
Billy promised John’s parents that he would look after their son and in 1941 the East Lancashire Regiment was posted to Crete.

 German Paratroopers Landing on Crete.

On the 20th May 1941 the German invasion of Crete began.

Corporal Lakin and Private Grimes were manning a Bren gun position when advancing German troops approached the allied defences.

British Soldiers In a Defensive Position With a Bren Machine Gun WW11.

The unit,  dug in shallow trenches came under mortar fire, and then heard a sound every soldier feared, the ‘whoosh’ of a flame flower. Billy told John to take cover behind a truck and as he dashed across open ground, John was hit by sniper fire. His mate rushed to his aide and saw he had been shot in the forehead.
John was dead.

The rest of the unit were captured and transported to Poland as prisoners of war.  Billy, wracked with guilt, blamed himself for John’s death.

In 1945 Billy finally returned to Clitheroe, having survived six years of unimaginable horror, four years of them in a P.O.W. camp.  While a prisoner and through the Red Cross, he had sent a number of letters to John’s parents, asking for their forgiveness.
He met John’s parents to tell them how their son had died, but could not look Mr. and Mrs. Grimes in the face. They bore no malice whatsoever towards Billy.

Christmas Eve 1968.

Every day since 1941, he had thought of his mates death, still blaming himself, unable to shake off the guilt he had carried for over twenty seven years.

On Christmas Eve in 1968, Billy made his way to his old T. A. hall to watch the Clitheroe amateur operatic societies festive play.

Clitheroe Town and Castle.

He was the last to leave, lingering, smoking a cigarette, looking at the front of the building and thinking of those happy days in the Clitheroe Territorials so long ago.  As he turned to walk down ‘Paradise Lane’, an alleyway leading to York Road, he heard a whisper, “Billy, Billy”.

He turned and standing a few feet behind him was a young man in a British Army uniform. It was John Grimes.
John was smiling and said,  “Billy, don’t worry about me mate. I am fine. Don’t worry”
Billy froze as he realised he was looking at the ghost of John Grimes. His legs buckled, and dropping to his knees on the damp cobblestones, he sobbed uncontrollably, releasing decades of remorse.
The apparition raised an arm and repeated,  ” Billy, I am fine. Please don’t worry about me”.
The ghost of John Grimes gave another smile at his old mate, waved a final goodbye and blended into the night.

Billy slowly got to his feet, tears streaming down his face. Too traumatised by what he had just experienced, he ignored the happy revellers wishing him a Merry Christmas. On arriving at home, he went straight to bed and fell into a deep sleep, the sort of sleep he had not had for years.

Christmas Morning.

Early Christmas Day morning, Billy was awoken by the bells of Saint James’, Saint Mary’s and Saint Peter’s churches, joyously announcing that the special day of the year had arrived.  He got out of bed and strangely felt at peace. He looked at his reflection in the bathroom mirror and for the first time since 1941, smiled at himself.
A great weight had been lifted from him.
Billy could start to love life once again.

“Thank you John, and happy Christmas, wherever you are”.

This story, originally titled ‘Ghost Soldier’ was taken from ‘Ghostly Tales of the Unexpected’ by Simon Entwistle 2014 and is available on Amazon.

Merry Christmas, and hoping Santa brings everything you wished for!

Thanks for looking at Horrorboundbooks and see you in 2020!
For additional Lancashire stories of mystery and the supernatural, there are many more on this blog.

Photographs courtesy of Google Images.








Murder of James Fell


The Murder of James Fell.

On a May morning in 1906, the body of eccentric miser, James Fell, 61 years, was found on the floor of his dry-salter’s warehouse in St. John’s Place, behind the Preston Parish Church.

Contemporary Map of Preston City Centre identifying  St. John’s Pace.

The Attack.

James Fell had been attacked while he slept on the floor,  and still covered with a blanket he was bludgeoned to death with a spanner.

Preston 1909 With St. John’s Place Highlighted.

The Police Investigation.

A safe in the warehouse was found open and it was established that £5.00 was missing along with the victim’s silver pocket watch. The point of entry into the building was identified via a cellar window, allowing the intruder(s) to sneak upstairs and carry out the attack.

The Warehouse and Scene of the Murder With Two Detectives On the Left.

The Suspects.

Five months later, with no progress made with the investigation, a Martha Whiteside gave police information, leading to the arrests of Paddy Callaghan and Tommy “Buck” Beardsworth. She alleged that on the night of the murder, Callaghan had come to her home, admitting he and Beardsworth had murdered James Fell and she had helped burn his bloodstained cap and agreed to provide a false alibi for him if needed.

Both men denied the allegations, Callaghan insisting he spent the night in question with Martha, but had since separated and this was her way of getting her own back.

The Trial.

It came out during the trail at Liverpool Assizes that Martha Whiteside suffered from alcoholic delusions and that Beardsworth prior to his arrest had hurriedly married his long standing common law wife to prevent her giving evidence against him at the trail (a wife could not give evidence against her husband).

Callaghan was found “Guilty’ and a re-trail ordered for Beardsworth as the jury could not reach a verdict.

Liverpool Assizes.

At the re-trail Beardsworth was found “Not Guilty’,  despite evidence from another prison inmate claiming Beardsworth admitted being responsible for the murder.

Inside the Court of Liverpool Assizes.

On his release Beardsworth was chased by a furious mob waiting for him at Preston train station and he was forced to leave his home and seek police protection. His tripe shop on Stoneygate was extensively vandalised and eventually the police were able to smuggle him, his wife and his sister out of town.

Callaghan, waiting in his condemned cell and hours before he was due to hang, had his death sentence commuted by the Home Secretary to life imprisonment with hard labour.  After 20 years at Dartmoor Prison he was released and returned to Preston.
In 1938 Callaghan died in Sharoe Green Hospital, aged 68 years and buried in a paupers grave in Preston Cemetery.

Beardsworth was never seen in Preston again.  A soldier from the town came across him fighting in Europe during the First World War. He was wearing the uniform of an American Army corporal.

Present Day St. John’s Place. 

The Converted Warehouse Where James Fell Was Murdered.

St. John’s Place is a short narrow lane, still laid with cobblestones. It is overlooked by the grounds and former cemetery of the Preston Minster, formerly known as  the Parish Church of Saint John the Evangelist.

St. John’s Place Looking from Rose Street towards Church Street.

It is not surprising that a lingering visit to Saint John’s Place is included in the itinerary of many of Preston’s supernatural events/tours and ghost walks. Being overlooked by a Victorian graveyard, a brooding gothic church and old warehouses even today invokes  a sense of restive days gone by.

What would be surprising is that the ancient thoroughfare of  Saint John’s Place or the adjoining buildings are not haunted by the tragic spirit of James Fell or the many departed souls watching with interest from their final resting place.

Preston Minster from Church Street With St. John’s Place on immediate Left.

Reference sources: Chilling  True Tales of Old Preston by Keith Johnson, published by Owl Books; wikipedia &

All photos courtesy of Google Images.



‘Notoriously Haunted’

Fulwood Barracks.

Fulwood Barracks on Watling Street Road, Preston is recognised as the most haunted military site in Britain and described as ‘notoriously haunted’ on The Duke of Lancaster’s Regimental Museum  website.

Entrance to Fulwood Barracks.

The Murder of Bombadier Short.

In the early hours  of the 16th February 1903, after a drinking session in the barracks, Gunner William George Hudson of the Royal Field Artillery visited the block of buildings where Bombardier Harry Short was sleeping, crept into his room in stocking feet, knelt down and shot him in the head, killing him instantly.

There had been bad feelings between the two soldiers for several weeks.  Bombadier Short had previously made a charge against Gunner Hudson of striking him and disobeying orders. He was acquitted of both charges but harboured seething anger against his senior officer.

Royal Field Artillery in action during the Boer War  1899 – 1902.

On the 12th May 1903, Gunner Hudson 26 years of age, dressed in civilian clothing, was hanged at Strangeways Prison, Manchester by public executioner William Billington.

The ghost of Bombardier Harry Short is reported to haunt the old sleeping quarters, now used as offices.

The Old Sleeping Quarters.

Hauntings in the Chapel.

Modern Entrance to the Barracks with the Garrison Chapel of St. Alban Above the Arch.

The chapel is the second oldest military chapel still in use by the British Army today.
There are many reports of supernatural phenomena and poltergeist activity occurring in the chapel and witnessed by staff, visitors, curators and investigated by a psychic medium. A TV crew, there to investigate the hauntings in the chapel experienced inexplicable electronic interference, failure and movement of equipment.

Inside the Chapel.

The Legend of Private McCaffery.

On Friday 13th September 1861, Private Patrick McCaffery while stationed at Fulwood Barracks, attached to the 32nd Regiment, had a disagreement with the Adjutant, Captain John Hanham. As a result he was charged with disobeying orders and sentenced by the camp commanding officer, Colonel Crofton to 14 days confined to camp.

Later that day McCaffery spotted the two officers walking across the parade square. He loaded his rifle, took aim and fired at them from 65 yards way. The bullet pased straight through Colonel Crofton’s chest and into Captain Hanham’s chest, lodging in his spine. Over that weekend both officers died of their injuries.

The Old Officers Mess,  Block 57.

On Saturday 11th January 1862, Private McCaffery was publicly hanged outside Kirkdale Gaol, Liverpool in front of 40,000 spectators.

Private McCaffery’s ghost still haunts the old officers mess, with many reports from serving personnel of his spectre being seen in what was Block 57.

Aeriel View of Fulwood Barracks.

The barracks was built between 1842 – 1848.

In November 2016 the Ministry of Defence announced that Fulwood Barracks would close in 2022, leaving just the ghosts to occupy the site.

Reference sources: Chilling True Tales of Preston by Keith Johnson; Wikipedia; Lancashire Evening Post website and lancashireinfantrymusuem. website.

All photos courtesy of Google Images.








The Wellington Inn Ghost

New Years Day.

It was the year 1839 and a group of work colleagues where having a drink in The Wellington ale-house on Glovers Court, Preston, celebrating New Year’s Day.

Two of them, William Bell and John Alderson, both joiners by trade, began arguing, Bell accusing Alderson of owing him a penny. Suddenly William Bell punched John Alderson hard to the head, knocking him off his chair. The landlord immediately ordered Bell off the premises.
Both men lived opposite each other on Pleasant Street and later that day, John Alderson left his house and began banging on the front door of his attackers house shouting for him to come out.

Pleasant Street, circa 1958, but would have changed little since the early Victorian days of 1839.

William Bell opened the door and an argument took place.  Bell was armed with a knife and stabbed Alderson in the heart, killing him instantly. His wife was present and witnessed her husbands death.

Bell was arrested and at Lancaster Assizes was found guilty of aggravated manslaughter and sentenced to transportation for life.

Penal Transportation.

Transported prisoners in New South Wales.

After 1776 all criminal transportation was to Australia, where the convicts would create colonies, build accommodation and work the land.

Conditions aboard the transportation ships.

The voyage took eight months to reach Australia and many prisoners died on the way.
It is not known what happened to William Bell, but he never returned to Great Britain.

The Ghost of John Alderson.

Since the tragic death of John Alderson one hundred and eighty years ago, there have been many reports of supernatural phenomena in The Wellington Inn attributed to the haunting by John Alderson, returning to his favourite ale-house.

Over the years, landlords, landladies, bar-staff, visiting trades-men and customers have witnessed/heard supernatural activity and poltergeist incidents have been captured on CCTV.

Unexplained noises, glasses smashing, apparitions appearing, dogs barking and growling at a presence invisible to the human eye, dogs refusing to enter bedrooms or the cellar have been experienced throughout the pub. The Lancashire Evening Post and the Paranormal Research Team of Lancashire have conducted investigations, along with a psychic medium concluding there is no logical explanation for what has and is continuing to occur in The Wellington.

These incidents have been subject of a tutorial module called The Psychology of the Paranormal at the University of Central Lancashire.

The Wellington.

The Wellington underwent a recent major refurbishment and is a popular city centre pub offering live music, home cooked food and of course a good ale selection.

The pub is regarded as one of the most haunted hostelries in Lancashire.

Reference sources: Preston’s Haunted Heritage by Jason Karl & Adele Yeomans; Chilling True Tales of Old Preston by Keith Johnson and Wikipedia.

All photographs courtesy of Google Images.

The Murder and Haunting of Emily Holland.

Emily’s Disappearance.

On the 28th March 1876, Emily Holland, a seven year old girl attending  St. Alban’s School in Blackburn, set off for home when the school finished at 4.30pm. She lived with her parents at 110 Moss Street, approximately 400 yards from the school.

She did not return home and was never seen alive again. Her parents reported her missing to the police that day.

Example of The Preston Herald

Gruesome Discovery.

A week later, a dismembered body was found wrapped in copies of The Preston Herald newspaper on waste land off Whalley Road in the town.  It was a child’s torso, minus the head, arms and legs. The body was identified as Emily by a birthmark on her back.
The next day her legs where found in Lower Cunliffe, and these were also wrapped in copies of The Preston Herald.

It was established Emily had been raped and her throat cut prior to dismemberment.

A huge manhunt followed to find the murderer and two rewards were offered, one for £100 and £200.

Investigation Breakthrough.

One of the police surgeons examining Emily’s body, Dr. Martland, discovered hairs of different lengths and colours, including men’s whiskers sticking to the body. He informed the police that Emily’s body must have been dismembered on the floor of a barbers shop.

The Net Closes.

Every barber’s shop in Blackburn was searched extensively by the police and suspicion fell on William Fish, who had a barber’s shop at number 4 Moss Street, near to where Emily lived. He kept a pile of The Preston Herald newspapers in date order in his shop, and when checked by the police, four issues, corresponding to those used to wrap the torso and legs were missing. Fish explained he had used them to light a fire.
He was arrested, but there was insufficient evidence to charge him.

A Dog Called ‘Morgan’.

Peter Taylor, from Nelson Street, Preston, saw the reward posters and offered Chief Constable Joseph Potts the use of his two dogs to track down the killer. He had a springer spaniel and a mongrel bloodhound.

It was April 16th,  Easter Sunday when the police chief, with several officers accompanied Taylor and his dogs to where the body parts had been dumped, but no scent was found by the two dogs. They then went to Fish’s barber shop, officers taking Fish and his wife with them. The part bloodhound called ‘Morgan’ soon picked up a scent on entering the shop and rushed upstairs, barking at the chimney in the front bedroom. Taylor reached up inside and from a recess pulled out the skull and other parts of Emily’s body, wrapped in more newspapers.
The skull was charred and had obviously been recently burnt.

Fish was immediately arrested for the murder of Emily Holland, and a few days later made a full written confession to the chief constable.

Mr. Chief-Constable Potts then read to the court the following confession made by the prisoner Fish:-
Police Office, Town Hall, Blackburn,
17th April, 1876, 4.40p.m.

Statement made by William Fish, who has been this day brought before the magistrates on the charge of the wilful murder of Emily Holland, on the 28th March, 1876.

I told Constable William Parkinson that I had burnt part of the clothes, and put the other part under the coals in my shed; and I now wish to say that I am guilty of the murder. I further wish to say that I do not want the innocent to suffer.  At a few minutes after five o’clock in the evening, I was standing at my shop door in Moss-street, when the deceased child came past.  She was going up Moss-street.  I asked her to bring me one half-ounce of tobacco from Cox’s shop.  She went and brought it to me.  I asked her to go upstairs and she did.  I went up with her.  I tried to abuse her, and she was nearly dead.  I then cut her throat with a razor.  This was in the front room near the fire.  I  then carried the body downstairs into the shop; cut off her head, arms and legs; wrapped up the body in newspapers on the floor; wrapped up the legs also in newspapers, and put those parcels into a box in the back kitchen.  The arms and head I put in the fire.  On the Wednesday afternoon, I took the parcel containing the legs to lower Cunliffe; and at nine o’clock that night, I took the parcel containing the body to a field at Bastwell, and threw it over the wall.  On Friday afternoon, I burnt part of the clothing. 
On the Wednesday morning, I took a part of the head which was unburnt, and put it up the chimney in the front bedroom.
I further wish to say that I did all myself, no other person had anything to do with it.
The foregoing statement has been read over to me, and is correct.  It is my voluntary statement, and before I made it, I was told that it would be taken down in writing, and given in evidence against me,

(Witnesses) ROBERT EASTWOOD, Superintendent.
                         JOSEPH POTTS, Chief Constable.


Trial and Execution.

Fish was unanimously found guilty of Emily’s murder at Liverpool Assizes, the jury coming to their decision in less than a minute. On 14th August 1876 Fish was hanged at Kirkdale Gaol, Liverpool.

It was one of the most infamous crimes of the 19th century.

William Fish became the first Lancastrian to be featured in Madame Tussaud’s Waxworks, London, displayed as the ‘Blackburn Butcher’ and situated in the Hall of Horrors.

This was the first recorded case of a tracker dog being used in a murder investigation. Due to the dogs success, bloodhounds were next used during the Jack the Ripper hunt.

The dog owner received £200 reward.

Moss Street.

The terraced houses and William Fish’s barber’s shop on Moss Street were demolished in the 1960’s. Even though Moss Street still exists, there has been a complete redevelopment of the area.

The Hauntings.

Local’s have recounted stories of a child sobbing, coming from within the barber’s shop before it was demolished and the many sightings of a spectral young girl moving along Moss Street and entering Emily’s house. There is a report of police attending the barber’s shop in the 1950’s to investigate the sound of a female screaming in the empty premises.

There seems to have been paranormal activity on Moss Street after the tragic death of Emily for decades to follow, but once the Victorian housing and murder scene were demolished, the hauntings stopped and maybe Emily found peace at last.

Emily’s grave survives to this day and can be found in Blackburn Cemetery.

Reference sources: Chilling True Tales of Old Preston by Keith Johnson; Ghostly Tales of the Unexpected by Simon Entwistle:;;

All photographs courtesy of Google Images.