‘Ghostly vandals’ spooked Sunderland family

ZION STREET: A tenement block in Zion Street was at the centre of a haunting in the late 19th century.
ZION STREET: A tenement block in Zion Street was at the centre of a haunting in the late 19th century.
Have your say

A WEARSIDE family was left living in terror after ghostly vandals targeted their Nile Street house in the summer of 1949.

Spooky faces peered through their windows, lights mysteriously switched on and off, glass smashed and eerie footsteps were heard.

“The first inkling something was amiss came late one night, when the back door started creaking,” said Darren Ritson, author of new book Haunted Wearside.

“The interior lights were then mysteriously switched on but, when the husband got up to investigate, there was no-one to be seen.”

Over the next four weeks the family suffered a series of eerie incidents including five broken windows, ghostly visitations and spooky footsteps.

Even stranger, the lady of the house discovered a brown paper parcel in her washhouse – which was found to contain a ghoulish mask.

“Prior to these bizarre occurrences, the son of the couple had chanced on two villains pinching lead from a nearby house and given chase,” said Darren.

“Naturally, many people were convinced that the thieves had returned to exact retribution on the son, by smashing windows and terrorising his family.

“Tempting though this theory is, however, in some respects it is unlikely.”

Indeed, the spooky goings-on had attracted the attention of both police and ghost-obsessed Wearsiders, who descended on Nile Street in their droves.

“It seems unlikely the thieves would have continued their campaign of intimidation given the crowds and the regular police visits,” said Darren. “Another telling factor is that, even if the thieves had attacked the house, it does not explain the many other ghostly incidents that occurred.

“To add insult to injury, the family started receiving letters from “cranks.” Eventually, they vacated the house and moved in with relatives.”
The ghostly vandals were not the only spooks to haunt Nile Street - with the spirits of dead miners and foundry workers also reported over the years.

“In March 1909, a young miner was killed in a brawl with members of the notorious Nut Gang. His ghost was said to walk Nile Street,” said Darren.

“But one of the most celebrated legends of Nile Street is centred around Coronation Chambers, which stood on the corner of Coronation Street.

“Witnesses repeatedly testified they had heard footsteps and doors banging and a ghostly figure was seen strolling around on a number of occasions.”

A cleaner in a nearby pub also had an unnerving experience one morning, when she found a man standing at the bar - even though the premises was locked.

When she asked the chap who he was, and what he wanted, he replied “I’m looking for the foundry” - before simply vanishing into thin air.

“The premises were thoroughly searched and the doors were found to be perfectly secure,” said Darren.

“The mysterious interloper was never found and the consensus was that the cleaner had seen a ghost.”
l Read more tales in Haunted Wearside, by Darren W. Ritson. It is published by The History Press at £9.99.