It’s getting to the spookiest time of year and everyone and their mother is churning out the same ghost stories, told time and time again.
Crumlin Road, home to the famed courthouse and jail, has had more than a tale or two of paranormal activity told about it over the years, thanks in part to the number of tortured souls that have passed through its landmark buildings.
With hangings taking place up until the 1960s in the gaol, a history of bomb attacks and civil disturbances on the road and the traumatic experiences of past courthouse visitors, it’s easy to see why there are so many reported ghostly sightings in the area. With Halloween on the horizon, we decided to take a look back at the history of paranormal activity around the area and the ghosts that are said to live on Crumlin Road…
A history of the paranormal at Crumlin Road Gaol
With an active history spanning 150 years and the building standing proud for 20 more, the old gaol at Crumlin Road has been charged with many reports of unusual occurrences and spooky sightings.
Even when the jail was still open, prisoners and prison officers often reported unexplained happenings, noises and feelings inside the ominous prison. The known hanging of 17 prisoners during their time in the building hasn’t helped the feelings of unease when visitors step inside. Security staff used to refuse to use one of the observation posts in the building because they all believed it was haunted. With an estimated total of 25,000 people imprisoned during its term, there’s no wonder a host of tortured souls might still prowl its corridors.
Today, ghost hunters and prison visitors have reported strange sounds around the building, including slamming doors in empty blocks and cries for help that come from empty cells. There’s also been a number of sightings of ghostly figures. Most famously, a man who walks down ‘C-wing’ and the disappears without a trace.
In the padded ‘B-wing’ cell, visitors have reported being touched or pushed while inside, as well as being overcome with a sense that a dark figure is lurking just out of sight in dark corners. ‘B-Wing’ is also home to a prison guard, long since gone from this world, who walks down the wing completing his daily duties and then vanishes.
Today, the Gaol hosts regular ghost walks and paranormal tours for believers and skeptics alike.
Seeing ghosts at Crumlin Road Courthouse
While the jail across the road from the former courthouse is famed for being one of the most haunted locations in Belfast, the place where many of the gaol’s prisoners were sentenced holds secrets all of its own.
Many of Belfast’s most notorious characters received news of their fate at the Crumlin Road Courthouse and some people have suggested that resentful spirits of times gone by have continued to hold a grudge against the building, vowing to haunt the hallways forevermore.
But it’s the tunnel between the two buildings that inspires the most ghost stories. Connecting the courthouse and the jail (so prisoners could go directly from the dock to the place where they would serve their sentence), the tunnel is currently blocked.
But that doesn’t stop the more transcendent underground visitors from using this walkway. The tunnel is said to be the most haunted place on the road, with regular sightings of a little girl ghost and a prison warden walking down the steps of the courthouse and into the tunnel before disappearing behind the solid steel door that separates the buildings.
Even when the prison was open and operational, prison wardens often reported seeing a grey figure in the tunnel and ghost hunters in recent years reportedly have recordings of a man’s groan, sigh, cough and whistling in the tunnel.
A future free from ghosts…
While the history of Crumlin Road Courthouse is full of dark, mysterious and often tragic stories, the future of the building has started to look altogether more bright.
The courthouse has been the site of some of the most important criminal trials in Northern Ireland’s history: within its walls are over a century of heritage that we can’t let rot away. That’s where Signature Living come in.
We’re hoping to preserve the rich history and important heritage of the building, ghosts and all, when we transform Crumlin Road Courthouse into a luxury hotel.
And the good news is that we are now well on our way. Last month, Signature Living was granted planning permission to transform Crumlin Road Courthouse into a 77 bedroom venue, with a stunning bar and restaurant, a wedding and events space and a luxurious spa. Our plan is to sensitively preserve the building, and its rich stories from the past, while ensuring the stunning building designed by Charles Lanyon is restored for generations in the future.
We can’t wait to reopen the doors of this landmark in Belfast, and complete another amazing restoration project in this beautiful city. For news and information about our progress, make sure you’re following our Facebook Page. You can also check out the Signature Careers site for upcoming job roles and opportunities in Belfast.