Wirral's Haunted Railways
by Tom Slemen

Green Lane railway station in Birkenhead was opened in 1886, and I have many reports of a sinister entity which occasionally haunts this station. Today, Merseyrail’s Green Lane station has closed-circuit television cameras, a public telephone, modern plate-glass waiting shelters, help points, and it’s more than adequately illuminated at night, but one foggy evening in the early1960s, the station was the scene of a terrifying manifestation. Upon a cold December night in 1962, the station was deserted, except for the presence of one person, who was waiting rather impatiently for her train. The time was almost ten o’clock, and a 24-year-old woman named May Winters, from Higher Tranmere, kicked her heels on the platform as she gazed into the fog, looking for the train to taker her home to Spital. She could barely see the railway arch through the swirling nebula that encompassed everything in its vapours. Suddenly, a black pall of smoke which contrasted sharply against the lighter mist, drifted from the mouth of the railway tunnel and headed towards May, ever so slowly. The small dark cloud was about 3 or 4 feet in diameter, and it did not disperse as it veered onto the platform. When this gaseous anomaly came within eight feet or so, May saw a pair of wide-open eyes with midnight black irises glaring at her in the centre of the ball of smoke. The young lady turned on her heels and ran from the station in a state of terror. She returned to her married sister’s house and told her what she had seen, but, although her sister Lizzie believed May had imagined the weird apparition, her husband Lenny didn’t, for he admitted that he and two other people had seen the ghostly eyes in the cloud at Green Lane station weeks before. May refused to return to Green Lane railway station, even though Lizzie and Lenny offered to escort her to the platform, and in the end, May was picked up by her father in the van he used for his removals business.
In 1973, the menacing eyes in the dark cloud were seen again by a Mrs Thorogood, who wrote to me at Radio Merseyside in 1999. Mrs Thorogood recalls that on this occasion, there was no fog, but, as on the previous occasion, the smoky entity came from the arched tunnel and drifted along the platform, halting about twelve feet away. On this occasion, Mrs Thorogood heard a faint hissing sound, rather like the hiss of a hostile cat. The insubstantial being then returned to the tunnel and vanished, and Mrs Thorogood was exceedingly relieved to see the lights of her train coming down the track. A few years ago, a man who worked at Green Lane station told me that he had seen the cloudy form change into a vague human shape on the platform in the 1980s, and an older man who worked near the station at that time told him that the entity was the ghost of a platelayer who had died after being hit by a train in the 1920s.
On three consecutive mornings in October 1926, a radiant boy in white clothes was seen by the drivers of several trains in the railway tunnel between Birkenhead station and Woodside station. Such luminous spectres have a long reputation in Occult lore as being harbingers of death, and one driver of a train was mindful of this, so he took extra care for the next week on that stretch of track. On 13 October, there was a train crash at the exact spot where the glowing child had been putting in an appearance for 3 days. One of the wheels of a train engine broke, and many of the 500 passengers panicked as the carriages were jolted about. The train came to a halt in the pitch black tunnel and some passengers burst out of the broken-down train and ran to the end of the tunnel. Luckily, no one died, but there were injuries, and many were later treated for shock.
What sounds like a steam train has also been heard on the tracks between Green Lane and Bebington stations, but this locomotive is rarely seen. It was last heard thundering along the tracks with a distinctive rhythmic sound by two women in Woodward Road and a policeman near Dacre Hill in the early hours of a July morning in 2006. In 1971 there was a rare sighting of the train. Hearing a racket around 1am, Alan Burke looked out the window of his house near the Old Chester Road and saw the shadowy steam train with a plume of white smoke pouring from its funnel as it chugged south towards Bebington station.
Birkenhead’s Central Station has a military ghost – a soldier, dressed in the World War One uniform of a corporal or sergeant who gets on the train and stands gazing at the doors until he reaches James Street Station in Liverpool. He carries a ‘swagger stick’ under his arm, and looks two-dimensional on some occasions. He was seen quite a lot in the 1990s, but I have a few reports of this spectral soldier being seen as far back as the 1960s. His identity remains a mystery.
Rock Ferry railway station dates back to 1891, when it served as the terminus for Mersey Railway’s line from Liverpool (by way of the Mersey Tunnel). Since those days, many strange incidents have taken place in and around this station. In January 1925, 11-year-old Nellie Clarke of Rock Ferry was raped and murdered, and her body was left propped up against a telegraph pole in an entry off Highfield Grove. As the child fled from her attacker on the night of her murder, she stopped at one house and shouted through the letterbox ‘Father Christmas is after me!’ but unfortunately, by the time anyone came to the door, the child was gone. The killer was never brought to justice, but there was a report that the killer – described as a tall and well-dressed man in a light overcoat - had been seen by an omnibus driver at Rock Ferry station after the murder. This man was seen to play with a piece of paper and laugh hysterically. The description of this man matched the description of a man, seen by a butcher, close to the murder scene. There is a full account of this tragic murder in Haunted Liverpool 15. It is said that on some nights when the background noises of human activity drop, the eerie cries of a child shouting ‘Mam! Mam!’ can be heard close to the place where Nellie lived on Byrne Avenue, Rock Ferry. Even Nellie’s mother reported hearing these ghostly cries not long after her child was murdered. If Nellie’s murderer did indeed board a train at Rock Ferry station to escape from the scene of the heinous crime, perhaps his remorseful ghost is still haunting the platform there, for a ghostly tall man, dressed in clothes that could easily belong to the 1920s, has been seen lurking at that station over the years. Some say his outline has even been captured on the CCTV cameras at the station. In April 2003, two 17-year-olds, Mike and Tobias, got off the train at Rock Ferry around 11pm after an evening out with two girls in Liverpool. The teenagers distinctly heard someone shout the name “Seddon” to them as they walked along the platform. They turned around and saw only an elderly man walking with his head bowed to a light drizzle. It soon became apparent that this old man wasn’t the source of the outcries. There came a sound of heavy footfalls down the platform, which passed the old man and unnerved the youths. They soon left the station and made their way to their homes on Bebington Road, and on several occasions during the ghostly pursuit, Mike and Tobias distinctly heard the same voice they had heard on the platform shouting “Seddon”. The young men split up upon reaching the roundabout; Tobias went left and Mike went right. The invisible pursuer followed Tobias, and the panting teenager could even hear the footsteps coming alarmingly close as he frantically inserted his key into the front door. Tobias opened the door, slammed it shut behind him, and hurried into the kitchen, where he told his older sister Rose about the spooky incident. Brother and sister then heard a single hard rap on the front door of the house. Both went into the dark hall, and saw the letterbox flap lift up twice and drop after a few seconds, as if someone invisible was watching them. On the following evening, Mike and Tobias were so afraid of encountering the phantom stalker, they got off at Green Lane station when they returned from Liverpool and walked an alternative meandering route to their homes. I have since discovered that in late October 2002, a 13-year-old girl named Vicky who went out Trick or Treating on her own, was approached by a tall man in black on Clyde Street, about twenty yards from steps leading to Rock Ferry railway station. The man said, ‘Can I be your friend?’ in a rather posh accent, but Vicky drew back and then shouted to a passing woman. The man walked away then darted around a corner, and a second older woman walking up nearby Bedford Road threw her hands up to her face and gazed in shock at that corner. She came over to Vicky and the first woman and said she had seen the man vanish into thin air. Both women urged Vicky to go home immediately, and the girl did this, but on her way home, she heard footsteps behind her and a gruff voice muttering something she couldn’t understand. She reached her home on Tennyson Avenue and screamed and hammered on the door because he could hear footsteps close behind her and heavy breathing sounds. When Vicky’s father saw how terrified his girl was he thought she had been followed by a living person, not for one moment suspecting that a ghost was the culprit, but he too heard the muttering sound close near the front door. He asked who was there, and heard footsteps walk off. Only then did he realise something highly strange was going on.
Just whose ghost follows people home from Rock Ferry station and the identity of “Seddon” remain two unfathomable mysteries.
Our next stop on this haunted line is Port Sunlight railway station, and there have been a few remarkable incidents, both on the tracks and on the train here. In the late 1990s, there were a number of sightings of a huge low-flying plane, similar to a Hercules transporter type of craft, only it looked much older, with a rusty fuselage and flaking paint on its wings. This plane, which was never identified, was seen in the skies from north Wales to Liverpool, and around 1997, the plane circled Port Sunlight, Lower Bebington and Barnston. Calls were made to RAF Valley, Anglesey, but the officials there were adamant that no rusty-looking plane had left their island station, and no other airfields within a hundred miles was sending up the dilapidated oversized plane. The day after the mystery plane was seen over Port Sunlight, a railway ticket inspector spotted two elderly men who had boarded the train at Hooton being bothered by a youth. It transpired that, as well as trying to cadge money off the pensioners, this youth didn’t have a ticket, and when the inspector challenged him, he bolted from the train as soon as the doors of the carriage slid open at Eastham Rake station and ran off. The Liverpool-bound train continued on its journey, and one of the old men asked the guard if he had seen the so-called ‘ghost plane’ that had been buzzing the skies of the Wirral. The inspector said he hadn’t but a colleague had seen the enigmatic plane. The old man smirked, nodded, and then said, ‘Would you like to know where that plane came from?’
‘Okay, what’s your theory?’ the inspector asked.
The old man seemed very annoyed for a moment, then told him: ‘This is no theory, this is fact. That plane –‘
An incident flared up at that moment when three teenaged girls started fighting among themselves. The ticket inspector was distracted by the fight, and told the girls to behave, but they only paused for a few seconds, and then one girl grabbed the hair of another girl and began to shake her about. A guard came on the scene from another carriage and told the girls to calm down, and they reluctantly complied. By now, the train had reached the next stop, which was Bromborough. Before the doors of the train opened the ticket inspector turned to see that the two old men had vanished. The ticket inspector stepped off the train and looked both ways down the platform, but he could not see the two elderly men. A few days after that, a guard on a train travelling from Hooton saw an old man wearing a tartan scarf vanish in front of his eyes as he stood up, ready to get off the train at Spital. When the ticket inspector heard this he was very intrigued, as he recalled that the old man he’d chatted to about the ghost plane had also worn a tartan scarf. Since that day, the ticket inspector has pondered on just what the ghost was about to tell him, concerning the rusty old phantom plane before he vanished, along with his companion.
Spital railway station is haunted, but by whom or what, no one seems to know. Footsteps that follow rail staff and passengers have been reported since the 1950s at least, and I once interviewed a rail workman who was repairing tracks near to the station one Sunday afternoon in the late 1990s when he felt an intense sensation of being watched. He looked to his left and a dark and elongated figure wearing a hood like an archetypal image of the Grim Reaper, stood there for a split-second, then vanished. Something – perhaps the same ‘thing’ – regularly taps on metal at this station. Some who have heard the inexplicable noise have likened it to the sound of a coin being rapped on metal. I have received dozens of letters and emails from people who have had creepy experiences at Spital railway station, and a majority of these communications talk about the feeling of being watched by something. Perhaps a credible medium should be taken to this station in an effort to make contact with the durable haunter to discover its identity and the reasons behind its haunting.
We now change stations, and travel westwards to Upton. The railway station there has undergone many changes since it was first opened in 1896. The station once had a quaint booking office on the bridge that spans the two tracks, as well as waiting rooms, but the office and the rooms were demolished in the early 1970s, when the northern terminus of this line was changed from New Brighton to Birkenhead North. Eight years after the change, the terminus was changed yet again, to Bidston.
One autumnal evening in 2006, a 22-year-old Manor Green woman named Clare Whitlock was waiting in the shelter at Upton Station, eager to catch the train down to Shotton to visit an aunt. There was a downpour, and the rain hammered on the roof of the shelter and lashed the Plexiglas windows. There was no one else around, but amidst the din caused by the rain pelting the shelter, Clare thought she heard a sigh close to her left ear, and so she turned – to see no one. The young lady took her Apple iPod out of her pocket, put on the earphone inserts, and played a few tunes on the MP3 player for company. She happened to glance through the rain-slicked window of the shelter and caught sight of a dark outline of a figure standing in the shelter on the other side of the tracks. She reasoned that the sigh she had heard had come from this person. Sound does seem to travel further at night, but only in the still of night; how could a mere sighing sound travel across the tracks from the opposite shelter during a noisy downpour? Clare began to ponder this question, and she popped her head out of the shelter to look along the tracks, hoping to see the lights of her train. The track was empty, and the skies were darkening with heavy rain-laden clouds. A song called Sometimes You Can't Make It On Your Own by U2 began to play on the iPod, and not being in a mood to listen to that melancholic tune, Clare was about to go to the next track on the player when she suddenly noticed that the figure who had been in the shelter on the opposite platform had gone. Then she noticed someone tall in dark clothes standing to her left in her peripheral vision field – in the shelter. She turned and saw a woman, well over six feet in height, dressed all in black. Her face looked grey, and her abnormally large bulging eyes inspired terror in Clare. They looked coal-black and lifeless, like doll’s eyes. For a split second, Clare remembered seeing a motorist dead in the road after a crash when she was eleven, and she recalled how his lifeless eyes looked exactly like the eyes of this female stranger. Clare ran out of the shelter through the blinding rain and didn’t stop running until she was almost home. She was completely soaked through, and when she reached her house, she gave a garbled version of the weird encounter to her father. He tried to reassure his daughter that she had merely seen a Goth, but Clare had never seen anyone with eyes like the pair the entity possessed, and she still shudders talking about the creepy incident today. Clare is convinced she met a ghost in that shelter, and thinks the long ankle-length skirt the apparition wore was like something from Edwardian or Victorian era. When I showed Clare a sketch of a ghostly woman in black seen on nearby Windermere Road, which is just a stone’s throw from the railway station, she held the drawing with a tremble in her hand. The sketch was made by a student named Jon Moody, who almost collided with the eerie figure one spring morning in 2003 as he went on his morning run. At around 6 am, Jon ran around the corner of Windermere Road that morning, ready to turn into Noctorum Avenue, when he startled the outdated woman in black, who seemed to be staring intently at the corner house there. Jon apologised for almost running into the oddly-dressed woman, but when he noticed her unearthly-looking eyes, he ran off a little quicker than he normally would on his morning jog. At my request, Jon later made a sketch of the strange woman. Clare said the figure Jon had drawn was undoubtedly the very image of the ghost she had seen, from its hat to the long black skirt, and she remarked, ‘Oh, I’ll have nightmares after looking at that now.’ She then handed the sketch back to me.
I mentioned the encounters with this ghost on the radio one evening during a programme about local paranormal encounters, and received many letters and emails from people who had also seen and heard things they couldn’t explain at Upton station. One woman, a pensioner named Mrs Rogers, had once seen someone’s exhaled breath condense on the glass of the railway station’s shelter. An invisible finger then drew a triangle. On another occasion at the shelter, a mother and her young daughter heard someone singing, even though there was no one else about. What song did this incorporeal crooner sing? Well, from the fragmented recollections of the witnesses, it seems the ghost was singing Two Lovely Black Eyes – a Victorian song popularised by Charles Coburn, a music hall singer and comedian. Just whose ghost was singing a music hall song and why is anyone’s guess.


Copyright Tom Slemen 2010. All rights reserved