Old houses and ancient, crumbling castles are not the only places where ghosts have been reported. Over the years, there have also been many cases of spirits haunting major department stores, and even corner shops.
As Webmaster of this site, I personally can relate some quite spooky incidents where apparent ghostly activity has been experienced in a shop. A few years ago, my mum worked in a confectioners in Birkenhead. With it being a very old shop, it was said to have a resident ghost. My mum soon found out that the stories were true.
One day, when she was serving in the shop, two old ladies came in, and they walked up to the end of the counter to look at the cakes on display. My mum was at the other end at the till. On top of the counter was a large straw tray, which was used to display packets of batches. As the other assistant was taking hot pasties out of the oven, my mum had just finished serving a customer and was putting the money into the till when suddenly, without any visible cause whatsoever, the tray got lifted up off the counter and thrown at her shoulder. The tray then crashed to the floor and all the packets of batches fell onto the floor. The two old ladies that were in the shop looked on in utter shock and disbelief, and declared that it wasn’t them as they were standing at the other end of the shop. Furthermore, my mum’s work colleague said that she too had witnessed what had happened, and shook her head in disbelief also. My mum had no explanation for this strange incident, but it was just one of many more incidents she experienced in the shop, including serviettes flying around in the air after they had all been neatly put in the window, crisp packets getting dropped on the floor on their own, and different items mysteriously going missing.
One of the most creepy incidents in this cake shop happened to the manageress, who told the story to my mum. She used to go to the shop early in the morning to prepare everything for the opening at nine o’clock. As she was putting the trays of cakes into the racks, ready to put on small trays later, she had a feeling she was being watched. She looked over her shoulder . . . and there, standing in the doorway of the shop, was a tall, handsome, young man, dressed in a boiler suit, and he just stood there, staring at her silently. Her immediate thought was that it was a customer, so she told him to hang on a minute while she finished putting the cakes into the racks. When she turned back around a few seconds later, the man had vanished. She then went cold as she realised something: how could this man possibly have entered the shop, when the door was locked? Thinking that he might have gained access through the back entry, she went out there to check, but discovered that the padlocks were all still on the door. Again, she could not explain this incident, and therefore decided that it must have been a spirit.
The Toys ‘R’ Us store in Sunnyvale, California, has a long history of being haunted by a ghost called “Johnny Johnston,” said to be a disappointed lover who bled to death after a farm accident, and store workers have reported seeing strange things happening, such as rag dolls and toy trucks leaping off shelves, balls bouncing down the aisles, children’s books falling out of racks, and baby swings moving on their own. The shop’s staff have tried to find a logical explanation for all these incidents, but just can’t. The store has been featured on the TV show That’s Incredible and other programmes. A Hollywood scriptwriter for the movie Toys spent two nights there doing research. Psychic Sylvia Browne held a seance in the store in 1978 and has since been back a few times.
An Asda store in Pwllheli is said to be haunted by the ghost of a long-haired man in a trench coat. The apparition has often been seen by staff in various parts of the store.
The Marks & Spencer store in Church Street, Liverpool, is said to be haunted by the ghost of a woman from the 1930’s called “Lulu”. This spirit often appears on the top floors of the store, and she carries a soda syphon, which she has occasionally squirted at people! The other ghost said to haunt the store is that of a man called Billy McMullen, a 22-year-old junior porter who suffered a tragic violent death at the Compton Hotel (the building that once occuped the site) in March 1877, after fooling around in the hotel’s lift.
Another Liverpool retail site which has garnered something of a reputation for ghostly activity is the old Owen Owen building, which now houses Tesco Metro. Back in the 1970’s, an Owen Owen female sales assistant saw a tall distinguished-looking gentleman dressed in Victorian clothing as she worked in an upstairs room. In another incident, a young man serving in one of the departments saw and felt a hand on his shoulder. As he turned around, he was shocked to see that the hand had no arm or body attached. A customer also witnessed this eerie apparition. When a medium visited the Owen Owen store soon after it closed, she determined that there were at least seven spirits haunting the building, all from different eras.
A security guard also had a strange experience whilst working there during a refurbishment prior to occupation by another firm. He soon discovered the place was haunted when he did his rounds. On one occasion the security officer found a strange pair of scissors lying on the floor, and when he examined them, they looked blackened and quite old. He put them in his rucksack, but the next morning, when he reached home, the scissors had mysteriously vanished. The guard and some of his workmates used a the Ouija board at the haunted building one night, and a word that the men didn’t understand came through: GORSUCH. The guards laughed at the word. They didn’t know that in the 19th century, a barber named John Gorsuch had his premises on Parker Street. This would probably explain the scissors that had appeared in the building.
In Hereford, there have been quite a few retail stores where ghostly activity has been witnessed. For instance, at the Sainsbury’s store – a very modern building which, as such, would be the last place you would expect to be haunted – the ghost of an old lady has been seen many times by staff. She does a lot of waving and smiling at people. One morning, at 4am, a member of staff came in to open the store, and he saw the old lady as he was unlocking the fire exits. The old lady was standing there waving at him, her appearance so clear that the man waved back thinking it was a customer – only to suddenly realize that it was 4 am in the morning and no one was in there shopping! When the man approached the lady to ask her to leave the store, she simply disappeared into thin air. A similar story was when the manager once saw the old lady in the periphery of her vision. The manager asked her to go and do something, under the misconception that it was just a member of staff. After this, a member of staff popped her head around the corner and asked the manager who she was speaking to. The manager looked to where she saw the old lady, only to find that she had vanished. The staff who work in Sainsbury’s say that there is a presence and a feeling of being watched. However, the ghost does seem to be a nice, friendly spirit. Sainsbury’s supermarket was built on the old Barton Railway Station. In 1934, a G. V Bennett was in charge. The station was used for goods as well.
The Boots store, situated on Hereford’s High Street, has some ghost stories that are very creepy. One evening, when the shop was empty, somebody saw a dark figure in the basement. On another occasion, there were two members of staff in the building, and they witnessed the fire drill being set off by unseen hands. The store was checked immediately, but no one else was present in the building at the time of the incident. If ghostly activity is really behind these incidents, then it is not surprising as the building has been around for many years and has had different uses. In 1879 this building was two different shops: a Thomas Frederick Hawkins was a Printer and Stationer, and a Mrs. Harriet Reeves was a Watchmaker. The place was also occupied by Marks and Spencer in 1934.
The Primark store, situated on Hereford’s busy Widemarsh Street, has crowds of customers shopping there daily. But for a building that is so modern, it really is surprising to find a ghost story and so much history here. The building is known to stand on the site of where the Black Swan hotel previously was. A graveyard previously occupied the site before the Black Swan was built. The store itself is very large, and the front of the shop is said to be the oldest part. The old co-op store was previously at this part of the store, Above is the stock room and cash office, and it is in these two rooms that the ghost of a smartly dressed man has been seen wandering around on numerous occasions. The staff have christened him “Freddie,” and he has been sighted wearing a blue shirt and trousers. One member of staff who had a first hand account of the ghost was so upset and traumatised by her encounter that she left her job altogether. It is also believed that this ghostly man travels through the shops next to Primark. The Paperway shop, which is one shop down, also has a ghostly man in their shop who occasionally visits, and he is seen wearing the same clothing. The man could be from the old co-op store, as the staff uniform was blue. The dress shop one door away from Primark on the left also has a ghost of a man in the basement so it could be that the same ghost is travelling in between all three of these shops. When the site was the Black Swan hotel, it had a reputation of being one of the City’s best pubs and coaches left the inn daily travelling to Liverpool in 1834, the inn had many landlord’s over duration, Thomas Jones was victualler in 1822 and in 1909 a Thomas Owen was head of the inn, the Black Swan also had air raid shelters provided in the basement.
Thornton’s chocolate shop in Eastgate Street, Chester, is said to be haunted by a ghost called Sarah, who hung herself after being jilted on her wedding day. Sarah wreaks most of her unearthly havoc in the top floor front room and in the cellar. However, her ghost has also manifested in other parts of the shop. Although she is never seen, she has been heard coming down the stairs singing a strange song and holding out her hands, as if lifting up a long dress to facilitate her descent. She once pushed an American tourist down the stairs. She once frightened an electrician who came to read the meter in the cellar. During Valentine’s Day 1991, Sarah got upset over the display in the shop and scattered the heart-shaped boxes of chocolates all over the floor. However, the ordinary boxes of chocolates were left undisturbed. An exorcism held in 1965 dispelled Sarah’s poltergeist-like antics for a while. However, she has apparently returned, and still creates ghostly disturbances in the shop right to this day.