THE Bradford district has many spooky locations. Some of them, like Bolling Hall and East Riddlesden Hall, are among the well known haunted buildings in Yorkshire.

But what of the ghost stories lurking in the old streets, alleyways and underground passages...

Much of Bradford’s ghostly past is linked with its dark criminal history. You may have walked past City Hall many times and never been aware that beneath it lies a labyrinth of Victorian police cells, where thousands of prisoners were locked up for over a century. More recently the cells have appeared in TV’s Peaky Blinders, The ABC Murders and 2019 film Official Secrets.

Ghost tours have been popular at the museum, located on the site of Bradford’s main police station, court and chief constable’s office from 1873-1974, and visitors have been spooked by tales of spirits, not least Chains Charlie, a burglar tortured in one of the cells and executed for murder in 1888. Chains Charlie is said to haunt the cells, where staff and visitors have claimed to see a headless torso.

Other ghosts include a young girl, one of many children imprisoned there, who sits on a bench in a cell. Then there’s James Berry, a constable who became a hangman in the 1880s and hanged 130 people over 10 years.

Paranormal activity reported by guides, visitors, security and police officers in other areas of the museum, such as City Hall’s Victorian courtroom, includes cold spots, electrical disturbances, mechanical objects suddenly turning on, banging on walls, unexplained voices heard in empty areas and foul smells.

“The ghost tours are hugely popular. Some visitors say they’ve felt someone touching them, or walking past,” said museum director Martin Baines, a retired police inspector who set up the museum in 2014.

Reader David England got in touch about his ghostly encounter at the Police Museum: “I went to one of the ghost tours and there was a candlelit talk in the courtroom, all about Chains Charlie. It suddenly felt very cold and I noticed a figure moving quickly out of the corner of my eye. One or two others saw it too, but when we looked again there was no-one there. I felt very unsettled after that, although it was a brilliant tour and a wonderful museum. Well worth a visit.”

So what of Bradford’s other spooky locations?

l Hellfire Crossroads. Ever wondered how the busy crossroads near Wyke got its name? Legend it there was a fatal road accident there in the 1940s, when a motorist was distracted by a light in nearby woodland, causing him to smash into a wall. In 1977 a woman claimed to have spotted a flying saucer hovering just a foot above the ground at the site, before it spun round and took off.

In the 1980s it was reported that a bus driver had crashed at the crossroads after seeing a mysterious smokey white light shining from the nearby woods. There have been several other sightings of lights in the woods near the notorious crossroads.

l Midland Hotel: In 1905 famous Shakespearean actor Sir Henry Irving dropped dead at the Bradford hotel following his performance at the Theatre Royal - where his character had died on stage. As he collapsed on the hotel staircase Sir Henry was attended by his manager Bram Stoker, better known as the creator of Dracula.

l Dalton Mills in Keighley. The historic mill complex is a popular site for production companies, and has appeared in films and TV dramas such as The Limehouse Golem, Gunpowder, The Great Train Robbery and To Walk Invisible. There have been numerous reports of strange sights and sounds in the mill, which dates back to the 1780s. It was rumoured that a lady in clogs could be heard wandering around one of the top floors, and that a former foreman roamed the building, watching over his workers.

l Paper Hall. The historic hall, on Barkerend Road, Bradford, built in 1643, is thought to be the oldest surviving domestic building in the city.

The hall is said to be haunted by distinctive footsteps walking up and down steps, possibly belonging to the ‘peg-leg’ of an old admiral supposedly murdered in the building long ago. There are also accounts of a pair of large staring eyes and a ghastly face often seen looking out of the windows in the 19th century.

l Ilkley Moor. Local historian Dave Welbourne got in touch with his account of harrowing encounters on the famous moorland:

“The moors around Ilkley were once inhabited by prehistoric communities, as is evident from flint finds, cup and ring markings and hut outlines. There are those who claim to have had closer encounters with these ancient beings.

“One such man was Nicholas Size, whose macabre story was published by WM Walker in 1934, under the title, The Haunted Moor. One evening Nicholas was walking over the moors from Bingley to Ilkley. Passing a stark location known as the Place of Horror, he heard a chilling groaning and sobbing. On closer investigation, he was shocked to see, hanging from crosses and broken trees, bodies in the throes of agonising death. Within minutes, the ‘hallucination’ faded and he hurried home.

A few days later, in need of reassurance, he took a friend to the site, but there was no evidence to suggest the ghastly incident had taken place. Instead of dismissing the episode, his companion told Nicholas there were many tales that the moor was haunted, and that crosses had been erected near to where the ancient grass track crossed the Keighley Road as a refuge from supernatural dangers. It was possible he had witnessed executions carried out by Druids. It is believed such killings and sacrifices took place on the moors above Baildon and Ilkley.

Nicholas often visited stone circles scattered over the moorland. One June evening he heard voices singing with, at intervals, a sinister howling. He realised it was coming from a procession of ghostly figures crossing the Dick Hudson track; warriors armed with spears, axes and bows. Women hurried among them, their long hair streaming behind them. Nicholas crept forward and noticed a second group of about 20 men in white carrying long bundles shoulder high on poles.

The bundles were bodies, human sacrifices. Nicholas followed them, the crowd gathered around and the chanting stopped just before sunrise; the signal for the poor victims to be attacked with hatchets and knives. Then the gathering vanished, as if the experience was a nightmare, with no sign that anything had happened.”

Nicholas reported witnessing other sacrificial horrors on the moor, including a wicker cage filled with screaming children.

Says Dave: “Was he insane, or had he a fertile imagination? Or could it be that these were re-enactments of incidents which took place in a previous life around the Roman occupation of Ilkley?

“Whatever the explanation, Nicholas Size left the area to live in the Lake District, leaving the ghosts of Ilkley Moor to the folks of Ilkley, or to the unsuspecting visitors who dare to roam the moors alone at night.”