Quirky History: When Hauntings Made Real News

Posted by E.H. Kern

There are many ways for a journalist to spice up the newsfeed these days. Scary anecdotes about spiders living in women’s ears or bizarre science discoveries for example. But not too long ago, the go-to sensational pieces in respectable newspapers were about ghosts and haunted houses.

In 1896, the London-based newspaper The Pall Mall Gazette reported about a church in Sunderland, England, where parishioners claimed to see a ghost in one of the church windows. The ghost stayed up to an hour at a time (how rude!) and wouldn’t go away when you walked up to it to take a closer look.

The Pall Mall Gazette claims that ghosts who haunt churches are particularly difficult to deal with because a regular exorcism doesn’t affect them. Although the ghost was identified as the former vicar who returned to make life difficult for his successor, The Pall Mall Gazette doubts that this is the case. If it indeed were the former vicar, the ghost would not only be a nuisance, it would also be very rude.

A successful exorcism of a ghost was reported in 1913 by the Scottish newspaper Aberdeen Daily Journal. According to the article the ghost that had haunted the Asfordsby Rectory in Leicester for over thirty years had finally been vanquished by the heroic intervention of Reverend F.A. Gage Hall. The ghost that Hall vanquished was a quiet character with certain pet peeves (we think he might have been a bookworm while he was alive). He seems to have found bedcoverings particularly offensive because he had a habit of pulling them off people in the middle of the night while they were sleeping. In an interview, Hall claimed his exorcism was successful because they had “seen or heard nothing of the ghost.”


The appearance of an idiosyncratic ghost was also reported by the Dundee newspaper Courier and Advertiser in 1934. Apparently a gas stove in Saragossa, Spain, had become haunted by a ghost that simply refused to stop talking.

The Church had sprinkled holy water on the stove but to no avail. The police were called, the plumber was called—it was a big mess. Tourists traveled from as far away as Bilbao to listen to the stove. The article in the Courier and Advertiser declares that hauntings have now entered into the modern age. Not only is it a gas stove that has become possessed, the stove stands in an inner-city apartment. And by using the pipes of the stove to speak it would seem that ghosts now understand the principle of the loudspeaker, and wants more cake.