Over a century ago, a house next to the White Lion Inn became known locally as ‘the Ghost House’. Night after night the house was full of flashes of light, strange noises and many times stones were thrown. It all began when Mrs Winstanley, the resident there, was about to cook a meal for her family of seven children. She was having trouble with the fire, whose flames were a rainbow of colours, and she blamed the children, thinking they must have put paraffin or something of the like on the fire. Much as they pleaded their innocence, she chased them out of the house.
That night, two of the boys went to bed as usual and were repeatedly disturbed by the curtains, which were hung on a simple bamboo rod, falling onto their bed as they tried to sleep. Then knocks were heard in the room, a brick fell from the fireplace and lights flashed in the room although the house had no power source beyond candle and lamplight.
This performance became a regular occurrence, so that local people would gather outside, from where they could hear heavy stones being thrown and, of course, the mysterious lights. Eventually the children were so frightened that they refused to sleep there.
The story was widely reported in newspaper across the country, including the Derby Daily Telegraph on Tuesday 16th August, 1904. The headline read; ‘The Lancashire Ghost. A Whole Village For Audience.’
‘The mysterious visitant that is working such strange manifestations in the haunted house at Upholland, near Wigan, has now the whole of the inhabitants of the village for audience every night. People are coming from far and near to witness the eerie performance. The “haunted” chamber, a correspondent writes, presents a weird appearance after the unseen agency has manifested itself so actively for many nights. Once in the room visitors look round upon the havoc that the alleged “ghost” has played. Some of them evidently come to laugh, but they return without having indulged the risible faculty. The scene is sufficient to freeze the laughter on the lips. For all remains mystery.
‘Whether this mystery will be solved or not remains to be seen. It may turn out, course, that these manifestations are the pranks of man alive, and are much further removed from the dead than the house is from churchyard. This remains to be seen. Perhaps the “ghost” may yet be found in the flesh and be subjected to all the deserving pains and penalties. Perhaps, too, the “ghost” may refuse to materialise. It must be admitted that the people most concerned have done all they can, so far, to solve the mystery. A watch has been nightly set, and a hricksetter has been called in. He has pulled down the walls in several places from whence the sounds seemed to emanate, but nothing has come to light that will explain the strange case. The mystery as yet remains unsolved. People are coming in nightfall from distant villages to spectators of the ” ghostly” manifestations.’
There is no note of how this episode ended, but it may be guessed that as soon as the children were removed, the phenomena abated. However, such understanding of poltergeists was far from common in the days of this haunting. At one point it was suggested that the cause may have been one George Lyon, a notorious highwayman, who is buried in the graveyard opposite the house.
The house no longer exists, as it was demolished in 1927, but taking the building apart at that time showed it to be very ancient, with its roof being constructed of whole tree-branches laced together.
(Copyright Melanie Warren 2013 and Derby Daily Telegraph 1904)