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Step back in time with Kendal ghost walk
AS AN ancient market town it is only fitting that Kendal should have some darker, perhaps even paranormal, episodes in its rich history.
And they provide plenty of material for ‘ghost walker’ Simon Entwistle, renowned in the North West for his fascinating tours.
It was on a wintry night that a group of Kendalians looking for a scare gathered in the blustery rain outside the Rifleman’s Arms on Greenside.
Originally from Colne and now living in Clitheroe, guide Simon has been telling spooky stories for more than 15 years.
He has visited some of the country’s most haunted buildings and is often invited to take part in programmes like Most Haunted. He is also an expert on the Pendle Witches.
But he is best known for his ghost walks throughout Lancashire and Cumbria, when he dons a top hat and black cape to lead groups in search of the locations of gruesome crimes, myths and hauntings.
Outside the Rifleman’s he told the story of a man called Jonathan Martindale who, travelling through Kendal by coach in Victorian times, was anxious to make it home in time for the birth of his first child.
After warming himself by the fire in the inn, he looked outside to see if the coach was ready to leave.
Finding it was, he climbed in to see a lady sleeping quite soundly with a baby on her lap.
The coach set off up the road to Brigsteer and with quite an unpleasant smell in the air, Mr Martindale went to open the window.
To his horror the casing was rotten and it came away in his hand. When he looked back at the woman, where her face should have been there was just a black cavity.
He screamed and fell from the coach. When the landlord found him lying, shaken on the ground and heard what had happened, he told him no coaches had left the inn.
But in 1873 a coach travelling to Windermere had come off the road, killing a woman and her baby.
"It is said that people can still hear the coach horses galloping up on the hill some nights," Simon said.
The group was also told about the ill-fated meeting of a milliner’s assistant, Lily Hadwin, and soldier, Private John Musweek, in the pub in 1915.
After a whirlwind romance she met a gruesome end at the bottom of a cliff on Scout Scar, with him the apparent murderer.
Although he was acquitted of the crime, the soldier was soon after killed in the Somme.
Her troubled spirit was said to still roam over to Beast Banks.
Simon himself lived in Kendal during the 1970s, during which time he was a hospital porter at the old Westmorland County Hospital.
He recounted a story he had heard from earlier in 1959, when a man called Jonathan Burrows was travelling back from Natland to Kendal.
He saw a girl lying injured on the side of the road in terrible pain and helped her into his car to take her to the hospital.
He pulled up at the entrance to the old casualty and she stumbled out while he went to park the car.
When he came back he asked hospital staff if she was alright, because she had looked in a terrible state.
But he was confused when doctors said they didn’t know who he was talking about, even though he had just dropped her at the entrance.
A staff nurse heard what was going on and asked how old the girl was. When he said she was 18 or 19, and quite badly injured, he took him into an office and pulled out a copy of the Lancashire Evening Post.
"To his astonishment he saw the face of the girl he had just driven to the hospital," Simon said.
"She had run away from home and been killed on the road. The man could not believe he had picked up a tormented ghost."
A fascinating piece of Kendal history, unnoticeable to most that pass by, is carved into a wall on Serpentine Road.
Artist John Watton, who worked for K Shoes, lived at the house after the Second World War.
Serving with the Territorial Army he was captured during Dunkirk and taken prisoner. However, he proved an expert escapist and broke free three times.
He was then sent to the infamous Colditz Castle where he remained for the rest of the war but where he used his artistic skills in forging German documents and passports to aid escapes.
Back in Kendal, Simon said his family was struck down with scarlet fever. With them in hospital he spent an anguished two days working on their finely detailed portraits on the gatepost outside their home.
And another infamous character in Kendal’s history is Molly Birkett, who reportedly ran the Rule and Square pub on Fellside until she died aged 101 in 1882.
She followed her husband to the Napoleonic wars but he was killed and she was forced to make her own way home.
Among her troubles she gave birth to a daughter on the roadside who died very quickly in the freezing conditions, and she was shipwrecked as she worked her passage back on an Irish ship.
The story goes that she was helped ashore by a dog, which stayed with her at the pub.
For many years people said a dog could be heard barking in the dead of night as they caught a glimpse of Auld Molly walking up the hill.
For Simon himself, he said while he finds ghost stories fascinating, he said he has never tried to contact the dead or play with Ouija boards.
"I have never seen a ghost myself, but there is one experience that was quite frightening," he said.
"I run a heroes and villains tour in Accrington and there is one particular story about a little girl who was horribly abused by her step-father.
"He committed a terrible act and had died in prison. It is a story I don’t particularly like telling.
"When I got home after doing the tour for the first time, I felt very uneasy and fell into a troubled sleep.
"In the night my wife woke up to a noise, thinking there was a burglar in the house. When we looked, our wedding photograph suddenly fell to the floor.
"After that there was an air of calm again."
For more information on Simon and his ghost walkers around Cumbria and Lancashire, visit www.tophattours.co.uk