Saturday, 6 November 2010

Spooky goings on at the Old Black Lion

Barry Van-Asten


The Old Black Lion
Black Lion Hill, Northampton.

On arriving in Northampton and leaving the train station, visitors may be forgiven in passing the Old Black Lion Public House without so much as a second glance, turning their heads to the more attractive St Peter's Church next door. But this 17th Century stone-built, two storey, Welsh slated grade II listed Inn hides a few sinister secrets!
Situated next to St Peter's Church and opposite the remains of Northampton's Castle 'Postern Gate', this haunted location has had many paranormal disturbances over the years, from lights switching on and off, banging doors, voices and footsteps and beer barrels moving mysteriously to strange shadowy figures appearing upstairs and in the bar. This is just some of the phenomena reported at the Old Black Lion.
The Pub was once known as 'The Plasterers' Arms' until it burnt down in 1675; after it was rebuilt it was re-named The Black Lion in 1720. The Pub also housed workers building the nearby railway station. The Black Lion became 'The Railway Tavern' but soon reverted to The Black Lion. There is also talk about tunnels beneath the Pub, leading from the cellar to St Peter's Church and to the Castle opposite. There is certainly a strange and malevolent atmosphere in the vaulted stone cellar and indications of a blocked passageway.
In 1892, a former owner of the Black Lion named Andrew George McRae, born in 1855, was sentenced to death at the Sessions House for murdering his mistress Anne Pritchard and their young child. McRae was the last murderer to be hanged at Northampton on 10th January 1893, at the age of thirty-six. He cut her body into pieces and the torso was found in a bag with the name of his brother's firm on it and it wasn't long before he was arrested for the crime.
Knowing a little of its history and having a strange unknown fascination for the place every time I passed from the station, I took part in a 'Ghost Hunt' with a fellow investigator on Saturday 30th October [Halloween] at 8 PM. The event proved popular and was hosted by the Milton Keynes Ghost Busters.
An infra-red camera was set up in the cellar and viewed from the bar area upstairs. The profusion of orbs on the screen signalled a spectacular night ahead! Meeting in the function room upstairs as the lights flickered, we were split into two groups and our group with the MKGB's medium Hayley went to investigate the cellar. On entering a door behind the bar and down a flight of stairs into a room where the barrels were situated, we went through another door and down the stairs into the dark vaulted stone cellar. The atmosphere seemed very oppressive and the group sat in the centre with the medium conversing with the spirit through the use of an EMF (electro-magnetic field) meter and then the ouija board. The EMF meter was used to indicate the presence of a spirit and also as a simple 'yes' and 'no' answering device where the green light would rise through orange and to red.
I sat in a corner by the supposed tunnel entrance, now blocked and almost immediately felt a strange sensation in my feet and legs. It seemed to rise upwards through my feet like an electric current until it felt as if my feet had melted into the floor below, and my legs disappeared. This increased in intensity and as the others were busy angering and provoking some French entity into manifesting, I heard a deep and long sigh next to my left ear, but of course there was nobody there! The area around the entrance to the cellar was also very active and lots of bangs seemed to emanate from the doorway. During all this time I heard things fall all around, especially in the corners of the cellar and at one time something fell on my left shoulder. My fellow investigator who has mediumistic abilities said that the French spirit was bored and not interested in 'playing the game tonight'.
I stood at the centre of the back wall and put my hand into the little hole in the stone of the blocked passageway and stood there for a time. I sensed a great rushing towards me from the passage as if to push me away, but that was all I sensed. From the pictures I saw after the event the room was filled by orbs and I recall seeing something white fall from the cellar roof in front of my eyes which I cannot explain. We next tried our hands at the ouija board with little success, the spirit was well and truly tired of being pestered and could only muster the odd chain of knocks on demand. Yet we were told following the sitting that a member of the MKGB Team was scratched on the arm and I did see the scratch (he did go out of his way to antagonise the French spirit though).
After a short break investigations resumed outside, in the outbuildings attached to the site. These buildings still held the negative energy from the terrble events that happened there in the past and although no definite phenomena, except taps on demand, the feelings within those buildings were certainly dark and oppressive.
The investigations then moved inside, to the area situated at the right of the bar which in the past served as the butchers' shop. Almost immediately the door to the street outside gave a great rattle as if 'something' wanted to get out, or come in! Strange sounds continued and the EMF meter shot into the red on demand. Investigations terminated upstairs where it began, in the function room with a short ouija board session which again produced no results. The night ended around 1.30 AM and the streets were filled with Halloween monsters, vampires and ghosts, but my fellow investigator and I had our own Halloween encounter to remember at The Old Black Lion and I would conclude that there is a strange 'otherworldly' atmosphere there, particulary in the cellar and the outbuildings and something wicked this way definitely comes!

See also the Milton Keynes Ghost Busters for further details of investigations:


  1. I would love to go ghost hunting. I want to buy a K2 field meter so me and my friends can go out. It sounds like so much fun. Thanks for the great story.

  2. I used to be the landlord there 32 years ago I saw and heard a large amount of strange goings on Especially the noise of a hurricane or even a jet engine going down the upstairs corridor I would say the most haunted place I have ever come across

  3. my email is

  4. I just visited today with uni, we were doing a noir short about the history of Northampton. It wasn't creepy at all. Although I wouldn't sleep in the cellar for sure