The city of Nottingham was my home base, in the form of college housing, for the duration of my study abroad.
A veritable smorgasbord of shops and restaurants were within walking distance, including a phenomenal fish and chips shop, the coffee shop where most of my writing took place, a falafel restaurant which turned into a frequent stop in the middle of the night, and of course, Starbucks.
Nottingham is most well known for the legend of Robin Hood. There were reminders everywhere, from the statues of Robin and the Merry Men found outside Nottingham castle, to the street names and souvenirs in shops aimed at tourists.
The city was absolutely steeped in the myth. However, my most memorable experience in Nottingham had nothing to do with Robin Hood whatsoever.
My first time through The Original Nottingham Ghost Walk with a few other study abroad students. The tour was run by an animated guide and intimately tied to the history of Nottingham.
The tour was so much fun the first time, that I decided to go back for photos and an interview. The owners of the ghost walk were kind enough to agree to let me come back with my equipment about a week later and ask some questions.
The second visit to the ghost walk was on a gray, blustery day that was almost atmospheric considering what was about to happen.
There were two guides, both dressed in eccentric steampunk outfits. Bryan Hall, the co-owner of the ghost walk, explained Lauren Dalby was a new ghost walker who was taking a group on the tour for the first time. He was there to answer my questions and step in if she needed help.
The ghost walk starts outside of “Ye Olde Trip to Jerusalem,” the oldest pub in England.
Hall informed me the ghost walk was over 29 years old. The co-owner, and Hall’s best friend Simon Unsworth, got him to start helping with the ghost walk about seven years ago.
Although a man named David came up with the idea of the ghost walk, Hall described Unsworth as its backbone.
“Simon was the first ghost walk to take place, and Simon’s still doing it. Simon has been this sort of consistent factor for the last 29 years,” Hall said.
Lauren started the walk once everyone had gathered. The stories told on this walk would be different from the ones from my first walk.
As Hall would tell me later, different ghost walkers have different stories to tell. He said if you were to come back for five different weeks and get five different people, you can hear five different sets of stories, or some of the same stories told in five different ways.
This walk began with a story about a haunted galleon located in “Ye Olde Trip to Jerusalem,” said to bring misfortune upon any who touched it.
We were then led up the street to the Robin Hood statues outside of the old castle. There, Dalby told an animated story about Kitty Hudson, a seamstress who ended up with a body full of needles. Dalby then led us to the castle gates, where Hall took over to tell the story of the fair Mortimer, an especially gruesome tale of love, betrayal, revenge, and mercy.
We walked down the street for two more tales after Mortimer. The first was a tragic tale about a baby in a wall. The second, told outside of the house where he once lived, was the story of Marshall Tellard, a political captive who was beloved by the people of Nottingham. Those tales led us to our final destination for the evening, the Salutation Inn.
The tour normally goes down into the caves beneath the pub as the bombastic guide explains the process of being drawn and quartered while we laughed and gasped in equal parts delight and horror.
This time, Hall and I settled into a booth to continue our discussion while Lauren led the group down into the caves for the grand finale.
The Original Nottingham Ghost Walk hosts a ghost walk every Wednesday evening, with walks on Saturdays during the summer to accommodate the tourists and extra walks during the Halloween season as well.
They had never canceled a walk in all of their years running prior to COVID-19. A few of those walks proved particularly eventful.
“We’ve had a few people come over a bit faint, especially the gory bits. Medieval stuff’s always gorey,” Hall reminisced.
Yet one tour was remarkable beyond a little squeamishness.
He recounted the time a customer approached him after he finished telling a story outside the castle gates and asked if he had seen the light in the window. Hall asked what he was talking about.
The customer said that while Hall was telling the story, a light turned on one of the windows of the locked, empty costume, revealing a woman in period costume. She was crying. When the story ended, the light flickered off and the woman disappeared.
“I have not a clue what it was or why it was, but this young chap seemed to be 100% convinced,” Hall said.
We shifted onto the subject of the future once we were done discussing ghostly encounters.
Hall revealed they are looking at starting a second ghost walk around Nottingham’s lace market area, since they have more stories than they can tell on one walk.
The project had been in the works for a while, but was delayed by the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Now that things are getting back to more normal, that might happen. And we’ve got a lot of the stories, we’ve got the route, or a couple of alternative routes, we just need somewhere to end. Because when we end here, in the caves, it’s a really good end to the ghost walk,” Hall said.
We finished our discussion by talking about some of the things Hall likes to do around Nottingham.
He recommended that tourists spend some time at the theaters and music venues around the city. Nottingham also sports a few Michelin star restaurants, which Hall suggested trying.
With that, we parted ways, Hall leaving to attend a birthday party, and myself to take a short walk from the lively, delightful, possibly haunted streets of Nottingham, back to the dorms that were my home for the month.