A CHILLING combination of spooky stories, ghostly sightings and hundreds of hours of research has been poured into the creation of the Steel City Ghost Walks - get your FREE audio tour here.
Digital reporter Nik Brear has been taken on a tour of five of the city’s most haunted locations and they are all here, presented by Mr P Dreadful, the man at the centre of the madness...
FULL DETAILS AND LINKS TO DOWN THE GHOST WALK AUDIO TOUR AMND MAP AT THE BOTTOM OF THIS FEATURE.
VIDEO: Press the play button to watch Nik Brear’s special ghost walk report and video chat with Mr P Dreadful.
“WE’RE not alone here.”
The words send a shiver down my cynical spine as Mr P Dreadful fixes me with a solemn stare and nods knowingly.
We’re standing in the middle of Sheffield’s Paradise Square and it’s bustling with workers out enjoying a lunchtime sandwich or a quick cigarette. Instinctively, I know this isn’t what he means.
As I turn uneasy eyes back on Mr P Dreadful, there is no fear in his face. He has seen and heard it all before.
As Sheffield’s resident ‘ghost whisperer,’ he has led thousands around the backstreets and alleyways of the steel city, regaling them with tales of ghosts and murderers.
His company Steel City Ghost Walks - which began as a joke between himself and a lady in the job centre - now averages 15 tours a month, not including the many private tours he is hired to do. At Halloween, business is better than ever.
“Sheffield’s ghosts are no more active on Halloween than any other night, this city is always alive with the dead,” says Dreadful, who claims to have been able to communicate with the dead since he was a child.
Sheffield, he informs me, has a long history of violence, littered with tales of terror, murder, anarchy and revenge. Up until 1922, it was famously the most violent city in the country, which means plenty of material for Mr Dreadful - better known to his friends as 41-year-old Darren Johnson-Smith.
“Everything that I talk about on the tours is verified through meticulous research,” he says.
“It’s good for us to remember the history of where we live - even the parts that make our stomach turn.”
I’ve met with Mr Dreadful on a bright, sunny day to get a flavour of his tours and to hear some of the stories behind this great city of ours. I have a natural curiosity of things that go bump in the night and my meeting with him doesn’t disappoint. As he begins to take me on a mini walkabout, that includes several spots within striking distance of The Star office, I’m relieved we planned our meeting for the middle of the day.
We begin in Paradise Square which Dreadful tells me is one of the most haunted areas in Sheffield. Originally a Georgian market square dating back to 1756, a black lamppost still stands proudly in the middle of it today. At one time, men would bring their wives to the market square on Sunday mornings, Dreadful tells me, tie them to the lamppost by their necks and sell them for whatever they could get.
“This was a regular occurrence and the last lady to be sold there was in 1875,” he explains.
“She was 28, had eight children and was wearing a placard around her neck that read ‘good breeder’.
“She was eventually sold for two necklaces and a pocket watch.”
As he talks, I can’t tear my eyes away from the landmark that I’ve passed by dozens of times before without so much as a glance.
From here we venture down Wheats Lane where Dreadful tells me snippets of ghostly sightings and to Figtree Lane where he shows me a building where anarchist riots broke out in January 1840.
My favourite story is that of The Penny Doctor, a respected and eminent doctor in the 19th century...who butchered people with minor ailments and sold their corpses to medical students. We stand outside the building where he lived on St Peter’s Close and look up at the third floor window to his house of horrors.
Walking the streets like this, getting up close and personal with the city while listening to Dreadful bring its tales to life, is like getting a behind-the-scenes peek into its past.
“People think this is a young city, as we weren’t given our city charter until 1893, but this city has been here since the stone age,” he says.
“There are around 3500 ghosts in this city - that we know of - and is it any wonder? We’ve had two lots of cholera, two bouts of plague, industrial accidents, world wars I and II, murder, rape, the list goes on.”
After seven years of tours, Dreadful admits he now can’t imagine doing anything else.
“This job may have started as a joke, but 30,000 people later, newspapers, magazines, television interest and a book ‘Haunted Sheffield’ - this joke has got legs!” he laughs.
“Nothing surprises me any more, though some things still do scare me...” he admits, without elaborating.
“People have been terrified on the tours, nauseous, we’ve even had fainters, but I don’t create the material, I’m just the messenger,” he shrugs.
“At the end of the day, the history books don’t lie.”
Check out steelcityghosttours.co.uk for more information on their Halloween tour and other regular ghost walks.
VIDEO: Press the play button to watch Nik Brear’s video chat with Mr P Dreadful.
DOWNLOAD OUR FREE SHEFFIELD GHOST WALK AUDIO TOUR AND MAP:
Try out a sample walk of five spooky locations in Sheffield city centre with story-teller Mr P Dreadful sending a shiver down your spine.
Download them all, as individual tracks, listed 01 to 05, put them on your MP3 player, or iPhone, and walk in the footsteps of Sheffield’s spirits and ghouls. Don’t forget to also download and print off the map.
Start with track 01 and, at the end, pause the audio tour, head to the next location on the map, play the track 02, and so on.
Don’t take the trip alone. And children should always be accompanied by an adult. It’s far too scary. Happy ghost hunting...
DOWNLOAD LOCATIONS AS INDIVIDUAL TRACKS - PLUS THE MAP: RIGHT CLICK ON THE LINKS AND “SAVE TARGET AS” TO YOUR COMPUTER.
TRACK 01: Paradise Square: One of most haunted places in Sheffield - by day or night you are never alone. Four pregnant women tied together being dragged to the workhouse and a street magician conning passers-by out of their money await you here - DOWNLOAD SHEFFIELD GHOST WALK TRACK 01 HERE
TRACK 02: Wheat Lane: Typical of the narrow alleyways of Victoria times, you would never have ventured here after dark. Many women were abducted in the alleyway that runs out of Paradise Square - DOWNLOAD SHEFFIELD GHOST WALK TRACK 02 HERE
TRACK 03: St Peter’s Close: This is the home of the notorious Penny Doctor, who who butchered people with minor ailments and sold their corpses to medical students. Listen to this story of you dare - DOWNLOAD SHEFFIELD GHOST WALK TRACK 03 HERE
TRACK 04: Figtree Lane: One of the oldest streets in the city, anarchists clashed with soldiers in a bloody battle inside what is now the Victoria Chambers building, back January 1840. Spirits haunt the site to tell the tale - DOWNLOAD SHEFFIELD GHOST WALK TRACK 04 HERE
TRACK 05: York Street: The home to many ghosts, most infamously Wilfred Goldstein - a gossiping Jewish tailor who worked in what is now the photographic studio, opposite The Star building. He loved his job so much that he died Monday and was ‘back at work’ on the Wednesday. Don’t be surprised if you feel a ghostly tape measure on your back - DOWNLOAD SHEFFIELD GHOST WALK TRACK 05 HERE
GHOST MAP: Here’s our Sheffield ghost walk audio tour map, which will help you find each location. Remember to pause each track, at the end of eacvh location, then make your way to the next haunted site before continuing with the walk - DOWNLOAD SHEFFIELD GHOST WALK MAP HERE