SPIRITS of a ghostly kind – rather than alcoholic – are on tap at pubs across Wearside.
Indeed, according to new book Ghost Taverns of the North East, scores of watering holes in and around the city are home to at least one supernatural resident.
The Black Horse at West Boldon, has a “Sad Cavalier” which has been spotted by staff at the former coaching inn.
Described as wearing the tall boots, leggings and wide-brimmed hat typical of the 17th century, the “swarthy” man simply vanishes into thin air when asked if he needs any help.
“The landlord admitted the hairs on the back of his neck stood up when he saw him,” according to Ghostly Taverns authors Darren Ritson and Michael Hallowell.
“Not wanting to alarm his staff, he kept his strange experience to himself. It is at this point the story begins to take on a distinctly credible air.”
Within weeks of the first sighting, two other staff members also reported spotting the Cavalier sitting on a stool at the bar.
Again, he disappeared in a matter of seconds.
“As you can imagine, the two women in question were somewhat relieved to find out they were not the only ones to have clapped eyes upon this spectral visitor,” record the authors.
The sound of a ghostly child has also been heard in a bedroom above the pub, while the spirit of a Victorian girl aged about nine has been seen in the gent’s toilet.
“Unlike some spectres, her identity may not be so difficult to establish,” said Darren and Michael, who are paranormal investigators.
“In the 19th century, a school stood adjacent to The Black Horse.
“The young girl in question allegedly toppled over the playground wall in a freak accident and died instantly.”
Several other pubs around the Boldons are also said to be haunted, including the Black Bull, at East Boldon, where numerous peculiar incidents have been reported.
Gaming machine alarms have gone off late at night, gas taps attached to beer pumps turn themselves on and off and bottles behind the bar “rattle violently” on occasion.
The ghostly figure of a toddler has also been seen sitting at the bottom of the cellar steps, while several landlords have reported sightings of “fleeting whisps” floating around them.
Visitors to one restaurant might be told to “Stand and Deliver” by the resident ghost.
Highwayman Robert Hazlitt is said to haunt The Blacksmith’s Table at Washington – a 400-year-old building which was once a thriving blacksmith’s workshop.
Hazlitt was known to “work” the roads in and around the Washington, Wrekenton and Long Bank areas during the late 18th century, demanding money with menaces from travellers.
One day, however, he was seen galloping away after a coach robbery by a local boy, who later recognised Hazlitt’s horse while it was being cared for at the blacksmiths.
The smithy agreed to help out the authorities with Hazlitt’s capture and, when the thief arrived to collect his horse, he was promptly arrested and taken away.
As he was frog-marched to face his day in court, however, he was heard to curse the blacksmith for his betrayal. Just one week later, Hazlitt was hanged for his crimes at Durham.
“It is little surprise, then, that his restless spirit is said to haunt the cocktail bar of the restaurant,” records the book.
** Ghost Taverns of the North East, by Darren W Ritson and Michael J Hallowell, is published by Amberley Publishing at £12.99.