It is Hallowe’en. Here are ten ghosts to look out for. All are stories, of course, but most of them have a kernel of truth at their heart

1. Lady Ann Day

This lady can still be seen tumbling to her death from the towers of the castle at Barnard Castle. Sometime in the 16th Century, she was either being chased through the castle by soldiers when she fell, or she threw herself off when her lover was beheaded. Her body splashes into the river and is never recovered as it is swept away by the rapid current. In 1569, Royalist supporters were besieged inside the castle for weeks and conditions became so desperate that scores did throw themselves to their deaths from the walls in their forlorn bid to escape.

2. Neville’s Cross

On October 17, 1346, 3,000 Scottish soldiers were massacred near Durham at the Battle of Neville’s Cross. If you walk three times (or perhaps nine times) around the remains of the medieval cross – a stopping point for pilgrims on their way to the cathedral – you will be able to hear the terrifying sounds of the slaughter. In the roads around, most notably Crossgate Peth, there are consistent reports of a grief-stricken woman, usually accompanied by a baby with a misshapen head, stopping people and asking for directions to the battlefield. She fears her husband was killed and she is seeking his body. She is particularly active around St Thomas’ Day, of December 21.

3. Lady Jarrett

Darlington’s most famous ghost was murdered in the Bishop’s Palace by renegade soldiers who sliced off her arm when she refused to give them the ruby ring on her finger. For centuries, her blood remained smeared down the palace wall where she bled to death. Now the town hall and the education offices are on the site where she still walks, searching for her lost limb, which was tossed in the Skerne with the ring removed. Her appearance is usually prefigured by the smell of coffee, and she seems to deliberately try to startle strangers – but don’t worry, she is, quite literally, armless.

4. Harperley

Near the roundabout where the A68 meets the A689 for at least the last 100 years, there have been regular reports of a careering black coach, pulled by four black horses with blood red eyes and steam streaming from the nostrils, tearing along the road to Weardale. A policeman in the 1970s spotted it; a mother and daughter spotted it in the 1980s. Nearby is Harperley Hall, the police training college, where a lady in black is seen forever leading her black horse away from the railway line. Whatever you think of such things, Harperley is definitely most haunted.

5. Redworth Hall

Between Heighington and Shildon, this mock-Jacobean hall is now a hotel but it the seat of the Surtees family. It has two ghosts connected to Crosier Surtees (1740-1803), a “mean and grasping man”, who when he was 30 married his 17-year-old cousin, Jane. It was a loveless marriage which still produced 11 children. One child had learning difficulties, but brutal Crosier chained it to the fireplace, and its cries of anguish can still be heard. The other ghost is that of a scullery maid who haunts the upper storeys before flinging herself off the tower – she had discovered that Crosier had made her pregnant. This horrific incident may have been the last straw for Jane who, after 31 years of pain, kicked out her cheating husband, and he drowned in a beck soon after. A huge portrait of Crosier and Jane hangs on the staircase of Darlington’s Central Hall.

6. Ferryhill Manor House

For 600 years, this hotel, once owned by the Prior of Durham, has been the principal property in Ferryhill. It was where Andrew Mills was held on January 25, 1683, having murdered the four Brass children near Kirk Merrington. He was hanged at Thinford crossroads on August 13, 1683 – perhaps within sight of the Manor House – and his spirit is said to still haunt the house. More than that, there are the ghosts of children in the house and the gardens, perhaps from a time at the start of the 20th Century when it was an orphanage. After Memories told of this haunted house in June 2019, we were contacted by a woman who, as a young girl in the 1980s, went with her mother to meet friends in the beer garden. The girl and her sister often played with two strangely dressed children whom they met in the garden. The girl was always puzzled why her mother wouldn’t talk to the children. It was only when she read the Memories article that she realised that the children were in late Victorian clothing and her mother, of course, couldn’t see the ghosts…

7. Peg Powler

Peg is the spirit of the River Tees. She has green skin, green hair and sharp teeth, and she lures people to their deaths. She has the power to turn the Tees from a quiet country stream into a raging torrent. She infested the river between High Coniscliffe and Piercebridge, and she had a lair in Hurworth at the foot of Knellgate, where the bodies of plague victims were unloaded for burial. Children were warned of her presence by white foam – “Peg’s Suds” – or a greenish scum – “Peg’s Cream” – on the top of the water. She was assisted by Hob Hedeless – a headless hobgoblin who waylaid travellers on the road between Hurworth and Neasham, although some mystical force prevented him crossing the Kent Beck and entering Neasham itself. On December 31, 1722, Hob Hedeless lured Darlington bricklayer Robert Luck to his death in the river. Villagers were so angered by the hobgoblin’s behaviour that imprisoned him beneath a large stone for 99 years and a day. The stone was fearlessly removed in the 1880s when the road was widened, and the Hob had gone. However, Peg’s Suds can still be seen floating on the river…

8. Durham Castle

Construction of the castle began in 1072, so it would be disappointing if it hadn’t amassed any ghosts. Two are particularly strong. The famous Black Staircase, installed by Bishop John Cosin in the late 17th Century, is a haunted by the wife of a Bishop of Durham who fell down it and broke her neck – she is known as “the Grey Lady”. In 1832, the bishop gave the castle to the new university, and one of the first students to live there was Frederick Copeman. After his finals, he dashed to see the results pinned on Palace Green – first class degrees at the top, seconds in the middle, thirds at the bottom and the failures’ names omitted – and when he couldn’t see his name, he jumped from the top of the cathedral. Tragically, his name was actually at the top of the firsts but it was hidden by the bottom of the paper pinned above it. He haunts his rooms at the top of the Black Staircase.

9. Blackwell Lane

This lane on the southern edge of Darlington has a large population of ghosts: a headless man accosts night-time travellers, and a medieval fellow called Old Pinkney, who wears a red nightcap, wanders about. Then there’s the fabulous story of Cicely Kirby, who was killed by a jealous English soldier in the lane on his way to the Battle of Culloden in 1745 – she appears to him on the battlefield as he lies dying and she haunts the scene of her death. Perhaps she is connected to an entry in Darlington's parish registers which says that on December 17, 1683, Beatrix Harrison, who had died a violent death, was buried in Blackwell Lane. In September 1935, council workmen discovered a female skeleton and marked the site of their discovery with a stone which can still be seen at the top of Hartford Road.

10. South Park

Several years ago, Memories told of the ghostly grey lady who wanders out of a cowhouse in the grounds of Polam Hall, in Darlington, and follows the course of an ancient footpath – Primrose Walk – down to the Skerne. She then drifts across the river, walking on a little wooden bridge that no longer exists, and disappears onto the South Park showfield. We later received a letter from an anonymous correspondent, thanking us for setting his (the handwriting looked like that of a male) mind at rest: as a child, in the 1950s, sitting on bench near the Victoria Embankment entrance to the park, with his back to the river and Polam Hall, he had had what he described as “the strangest, spookiest experience of my life”. He didn’t explain any further, but his encounter with the ghostly grey lady had stayed with him all his days.