WE may owe Ferryhill an apology. Recently we mocked its manor house.

Not that we have anything against the manor house itself. It is now a hotel, and once was the chief mansion in the town. Its roots may date 600 years or more when the Ferryhill estate was owned by the Prior of Durham, although the current building was started in the 17th Century.

It is undoubtedly venerable, but we recently mocked the old wives’ tale – put forward by Geoff Gregg of Tursdale – that there was a secret tunnel that connected it eight miles to Durham Cathedral, and we ridiculed a 45-minute episode of Britain’s Most Haunted which apparently proved that it was one of the most terrifyingly haunted building in the country.

It was filmed in 2004 after reports that a seven-year-old boy sleeping in bedroom number eight had awoken to find himself being throttled by a violent ghost which left its bright red fingerprints on his neck.

During filming, all sorts of spectral orbs hovered magically in the darkness, and former Blue Peter presenter Yvette Fielding was horribly spooked by a ghost in the cellar which brushed past her while whispering “bleurgh” in her ear.

And a medium was so possessed by an “evil child killer” that he started speaking in a very strange slow voice and had to be physically restrained. He felt he had been possessed by “a spirit who had slaughtered children and had subsequently been hanged”, said Yvette.

“He’s a bad one, he’s a bad one,” said the medium, once he’d recovered.

No explanation was given for this peculiar manifestation – it was just an everyday hazard of being a ghost-hunter.

It was utterly unbelievable… In response to our recent report, Albert Curle of Ferryhill got in touch to say that he, too, had heard of the secret tunnel, only his version of the story was that it didn’t go the full eight miles to Durham but that it went a more plausible mile or so.

“I understood it to be a tunnel to safe house nearby, and from there a monk could steal into the fields and make his way unseen to Durham Cathedral, away from religious persecution,” says Albert.

Then Memories came to speak to Ferryhill Local History Society, and they, too, had heard of a secret tunnel. In their version of the story, it followed the ridge a couple of miles to Kirk Merrington’s church.

So, ok, perhaps a tunnel of some form may exist, but who believes in ghosts…

Well, Ferryhill turns out to be alive with ghosts. There’s definitely a ghost in the old Gaiety cinema; the concert room of the former Kings Head, just off the Market Place, is so haunted that dogs won’t venture upstairs, and the manor house is riddled with the ghosts of children apparently going back to when, before the First World War, it was used briefly as an orphanage.

Yes, but really, “spirit who had slaughtered children”. That can’t be possible…

But then a member of the society pointed to the story of Andrew Mills who on the evening of January 25, 1683, axed the Brass children – Jane, 20, John, 17, and Elizabeth, 10 - to death at a windmill midway between Ferryhill and Kirk Merrington.

Mills was quickly captured as, covered in blood, he tried to make his escape. He was taken to Durham, where he was tried and executed on August 13, 1683. His pitched-and-tarred body was returned to the Thinford crossroads, near Ferryhill, where it remained hanging from a gibbet for many years.

But where, said the member of the society, was Mills held in Ferryhill on the night of his arrest immediately after the murder. It was, of course, in the town’s biggest house, the Manor House, where the medium had been possessed by “a spirit who had slaughtered children..."