Though I am loathed to admit it, my knowledge of the history of Stoke on Trent has always been severely lacking. Being born and bred in the Staffordshire Moorlands is of little excuse, but I am happy to report that I learnt much of Hanley’s haunted heritage with the help of Helen Lawson’s Audio Ghost Walk.
Fitting that it was a clear, moonlit Halloween night that a group of twenty congregated outside the entrance to Hanley Museum, the first location to be visited on the tour. Helen, our audio guide appeared in person this night, with lantern in hand and dressed in a beautifully gothic, black dress (complete with hat and veil.) Before commencing, she gathered us together and proceeded to carry out a blessing. With our eyes closed, she called upon the protection of our ancestors, as they would be required to aid us on the path ahead. Upon opening our eyes and turning around, we discovered that our blessing had indeed conjured the spirits of our ancestors. Attired in black, this procession of the damned was to be our entourage. (As a lover of the theatrical, this was an especially nice touch!)
Our route took us from the museum (where we heard about the spirit of the Spitfire Pilot, who is so often seen climbing into the cockpit of his fighter,) to the Police Station (where even the hardiest Police Officers fear to tread in the old cell block,) and beyond. My favourite location was the INTU Potteries shopping centre, which having been erected on the site of an old graveyard, held countless reports of paranormal activity.
The group attracted much attention from the Halloween revellers who littered the street, but our ancestors kept all who were under the influence of those other spirits at bay so that the group were free to enjoy the tour untroubled.
The walk is a circular route and takes up to an hour to complete. Helen endeavours to bring to life the history of Hanley with an array of well-researched facts and unusual sounds, which breath atmosphere into an already engaging tour. I thoroughly enjoyed my Halloween Jaunt through the city, and I urge anyone with an interest in Stoke on Trent’s past to try the walk for themselves.
Dan Weatherer. November 1st, 2015