First ever haunted house?

A few years back, when I wrote several articles for The Spooky Isles magazine, one of their suggestions was to write about the first ever place that I thought was haunted. At the time, I couldn’t remember where I’d first got that frisson of other-worldliness for the first time, but I’ve thought about it, on and off, ever since. And then, a couple of weeks ago, I was looking through an old photograph album of pictures I’d taken on “proper” film with a non-digital camera, many years ago. And hey presto! I discovered two pictures of a house that was almost certainly the first one I ever considered as being haunted.

The house, or series of linked houses and cottages, is in the small town of Formby, on the coast just north of Liverpool. It’s where I grew up, and walked to school every day. The town is mostly designed on a grid pattern so my route varied, but one of the possibilities took me past this amazing old house on the corner of Grange Lane. It’s made up of at least three different properties, all linked or terraced together. Part of it was called Tower Grange, and part featured a tower-like structure, together with high gables and tall chimneys, as well as a much lower section (above) which is roofed, unusually for the town, in thatch.

I’ve seen more recent photos and the whole property has clearly been refurbished and looks a lot more wholesome now. But back when I was passing as a kid, it was dark, dilapidated, and very, very spooky. Part of the reason why it looked so odd was that the windows were like black eyes into the building’s soul; you couldn’t see into the house at all. It was creepy and unnerving, and there was never any sign of life – people coming in and out, children laughing and playing in the garden. It was always deserted and silent.

I’ve never managed to see the inside of the property so I don’t know whether the spookiness continues indoors. But certainly from outside it gave off an unwelcoming feeling, so much so that my friends and I hated walking past it, and would creep, tiptoe or run to get to a less scary part of the road.

Interestingly, the building may well be one of the oldest in the town. There seems to be a lot of disagreement on when it was first built, with suggested dates varying from the nineteenth century to the fourteenth. It’s clearly an amalgamation of several properties, some timber-framed, some built in brick, all of which have been altered over the years. There’s a stone lintel above the main front door of Tower Grange but the cartouche where the date might be carved is annoying vacant. So no clues there. If I was to hazard a guess I’d say at least part of the house, closest to the street corner, is sixteenth century: there’s an impressive timber section in the main gable which looks original (below), and the roof is delightfully wonky. There’s also a hint in the house and street name: that reference to a grange could well be an old monastic farm, although which monastery it would have belonged to is anyone’s guess! If anyone has any clearer idea of the date – or any stories about ghosts – then I’d love to hear them.

I’d also love to hear whether anyone else has a place that counts as their ‘first haunted house’. Drop a line in the comments if so, or feel free to nick the idea for a blog yourselves!

And if you want to see the whole property, then pop along to the junction of Grange Lane and Freshfield Road in Formby – or check out this link which I’m hoping will take you to the right place on Google Maps, and look at the street-view image.

Apologies for the rather hazy quality of the photos, by the way. The originals are black-and-white, and scanning them has lightened the images. Although it does make the houses look even spookier, I think!

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