Friday, 19 August 2011

The ghost at the Robbie Burns, Co. Durham

Always ready for a chance to learn something new about ghosts, and rarely opposed to a pint of quality beer, I visited Ye Robbie Burns Inn in Houghton le Spring, Co. Durham. The pub is, of course, named after the famous 18th century Scottish poet. Taking his inspiration from folk tales from around his home near Ayr, Burns wrote in the local dialect and has been adopted as the unofficial national poet of Scotland. He was born into a farming family but turned to writing when his farm teetered on the edge of bankruptcy, and he later became a customs officer. Despite his great fame, it is not his ghost that lurks in the pub that takes his name.

The ghost I had been sent to find was that of an unfortunate man by the name of Thomas Caldwell. In 1876 Caldwell was working as a barman at Ye Robbie Burns when a dray called with a delivery of beer barrels. Caldwell hurried down to the cellar and opened up the cellar trap door to allow the barrels to be rolled down. The drayman deposited his barrels and prepared to leave. What happened next is a bit of a mystery, but something went very wrong and the drayman heard screams coming from the cellar. He hurried down to find the luckless Caldwell pinned beneath a barrel. The barman was still alive, but barely so. A doctor was sent for and the barrel carefully rolled away, but Caldwell died before medical help could reach him.

The sad spectre of Caldwell has been seen in the cellar several times since. And this ghost is not content merely to roam restlessly. He moves things around, switches lights on and off and generally fiddles about with whatever is left unattended in the cellar.


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