Love Never Dies

Edward Rifle Mann & Helen Wolstenholme

Layton Cemetery is located in the seaside town of Blackpool, within the county of Lancashire. A holiday destination situated on the NorthWest Coast of England.

Opened in 1873 when the council decided its parish churchyard was replete with burying. This sprawling Victorian necropolis contains many notable graves.

If you walk through the original peeling cemetery gates and head towards the now derelict Church of England Chapel, you may catch a glimpse of a modest stone, weathered, crumbling and unassuming, yet adorned with the imagery of a strong Christian faith.

Love’s final resting place

Although obscured by a towering monolith celebrating the life of a local brewer, its worth risking a twisted ankle on the soft ground and paying a visit to the final resting place of Edward Rifle Mann.

During the summer season of 1886, Edward Rifle Man, a twenty six year old German national, was employed on Blackpool’s seafront by The Wolstenholme Bathing Van Co. Very much enjoying the summer sunshine, sea air and bathing belles he was happy in his work.

Bathing machine

Being young and strong he coped admirably with the physical labour and long hours, he worked voraciously, saving every penny he earned for his up and coming wedding to his beloved fiancée Helen.

Now bathing machines (or vans) were a necessary component of English beach etiquette during the 19th century. Typically a canvas, windowless box, stretched over a wooden frame with a door at each end which was raised off the floor by its wheels. Entry was made via a stepladder before being pulled out to sea.

The machines protected the modesty of bathers, allowing them the privacy to change into swimwear away from prying eyes!

Towards the end of the afternoon of the 1st of August, Edward, his boss Samuel Wolstenholme & Samuels brother, John, were preparing to pack up for the day when Edward was approached by two young gents eager to hire a van and enjoy a quick dip in the briny water. But the tide appeared on the turn, the weather seemed to be becoming inclement so conditions were not ideal.

The gentlemen though, could not be discouraged.

Against his better judgement Edward reluctantly agreed, dragging men and machine out to the waters edge.

After a short while spent standing on the beach, he noticed the swimmers in some difficulty quite a distance from the shore.

With no thought for his own safety Edward swiftly dove into the unforgiving waves in an attempt to rescue the pair.

Bravely battling against the current he managed to reach one of the friends and drag him to the safety of the sand. He then valiantly headed back out into the whitecaps, but the sea was relentless and the second man was swallowed by the undercurrent.

Tragically Edward lost his own life performing this courageous recovery, for he too was drowned.

With just two weeks until they were to be wed poor Helen was left bereft, her dreams shattered and her heart broken.

Helen had longed to marry Edward

Edwards memorial stone in Layton cemetery was paid for by the local townspeople. As news of his bravery had spread a collection was generously donated to – in testament to the heroic young man. It is one of very few English graves that relate the full story of how someone died.

Two months after Edwards sad demise a baby son was born into the Wolstenholme family. He was named Edward Mann Wolstenholme in Edwards honour.

Helen went on to marry John Wolstenholme, who you may remember was not only Edwards colleague but also his boss’s brother! But her first love was never far from her thoughts. In fact, she continued to carry a torch for him throughout the rest of her life.

Upon her death in 1903, her selfless husband arranged for her to be buried alongside her One True Love.

Helen lays here alongside her beloved Edward

So although parted in life Edward and Helen are forever reunited in death. They now eternally rest together.

Must be Something in the Water

Mermaid tales in folklore run as deep as the waters they swim in, they have been both feared and revered, celebrated and abominated. From the stories of my youth where benevolent beauties bestowed magical gifts upon menfolk, (often falling in love with them, thus transforming themselves into radiant women) to the older, darker fables of enchanting sirens luring unsuspecting sailors and seafarers to the inky black depths of a watery grave.

Fairytale Mermaid

The earliest mention of mermaids was most likely Atargatis, a Syrian goddess associated with water. She was reputed to have dove into a lake, wishing to take the form of a fish. However, she was rescued and emerged piscatorial from the waist down. Ataragatis was worshiped at a magnificent temple built in her honour, surrounded by pools of sacred fish.

Martin Mere is situated on the West Lancashire Coastal Plain, close to the village of Burscough, the outcome of the last Ice Age, when the glacial drift sculpted the landscape leaving behind vast depressions which filled with peaty, black water. When the pools became larger their waters merged, forming the largest body of fresh water in England covering 3,000 acres. In 1695 the land was reclaimed for agriculture following an act of parliament and work began on digging drainage channels. Although it was not until the Industrial Revolution, when steam powered pumps were introduced, the landscape began to look recognisable.

These days Martin Mere is home to a wildfowl collection, overseen by the Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust. It attracts pink footed geese, whooper swans, wigeon, numerous birds of prey and even the rare snow goose.

Martin Mere

Surprisingly, the wetlands also have a history steeped in folklore, local fables link the area to several sagas in Arthurian Legend.

Close companion of the King, Sir Lancelot (of the Lake) was brought from France to the safety of Lancashire by his birth mother and left beside the mere, whereupon he was stolen by a nymph and taken into the lake by her.

Martin Mere is also supposedly the body of water from which The Lady of the Lake handed Arthur Excalibur after his weapon was broken during an altercation with the King of Listenoise. Ostensibly, it has been named as the lake into which Sir Bedivere returned the aforementioned Excalibur, hurling the sword into the dark waters to fulfil Arthur’s dying wish.

Excalibur

But let us travel now to the seventeenth century, for I promised you a mermaids tale! A yarn filled with melodrama, abduction and murder!

Captain Harrington and his friend Sir Ralph Molyneux embarked on a ride around the mere, well caparisoned cavaliers the pair of them. As they trotted along enjoying the silence they observed the setting of the golden sun as it seemed to slide beneath the water. Simultaneously and unexpectedly, their curiosity was piqued by a female form raised half way above the pool, her long dark hair floating behind her as she mysteriously glided along.

Captain Harrington was the first to regain his composure and cried out to the creature, he addressed her as ‘Sea- wench’ which certainly attracted her attention.

After momentarily returning the gentlemen’s gaze, she flicked up her iridescent tail and disappeared with a small splash. Convinced their eyes had deceived them and the woman had just sunk they considered searching for her, but twilight was rapidly drawing in so they instead instructed their mounts to head for home.

The Sea-Hag

Their progress was rather difficult as their steeds were barely able to keep their footing, often often plunging knee deep into the quagmire.

Although completely lost by now the fellows continued, eventually spotting a light in a lone hut bordering the lake. They were greeted by a kindly fisherman who bade them welcome to his simple abode.

As they recounted their experience to the peasant and his wife, they were surprised to see no incredulity on the couple’s faces but alarm, or something similar perhaps, which awakened their suspicions.

Noticing the infant on the woman’s lap beginning to stir, Harrington paid it the obligatory attention, but as she smiled Harrington was at once smitten, for never before had he seen such a beautiful child, he thought her the image of perfect loveliness.

Suddenly, a low, guttural muttering was heard at the window causing the peasants wife to turn as white as a ghost. Her husband disappeared outdoors for a while before returning to relate quite the series of events.

It had indeed been the ‘meer-woman’ who had called at the hovel with a warning the child must be removed speedily. It transpired she had been stolen by the mere hag in an act of vengeance and could not be returned ‘till the wrongs were righted.

As the abducted babe’s life appeared in mortal danger Harrington agreed to her becoming his ward. His signet ring was passed, as a promise, to the mere hag in agreement that whomever presented the ring back to him would be able to rightfully claim the child.

Many years passed and Harrington was as good as his word, little Grace (as he had named her) flourished and blossomed. He went on to marry an altruistic lady who happily raised Grace as her own.

Haunted by the pact he had made Harrington took to seeking the elusive mere hag, but never could he find her.

Although their existence was a blessed one, the vow caused feelings of grave foreboding to grow in his heart.

One fine evening Mrs Harrington spoke openly with her husband, recalling a dream she’d had of a mermaid stealing away their precious daughter and began to sob as she repeated tales she’d been told of a mermaid haunting local waters.

Just days later, glancing over the balustrade, Harrington spied his worst fear. Beside a pillar, staring straight at him was a hooded, cloaked figure. The signet passed over, and he knew what he must do.

The next day Grace’s mare was prepared and Harrington mounted his steed, the child was filled with excitement as never before had she been permitted to ride to the mere. All the way she prattled on about ‘seeing a mermaid’ as her ‘father’s’ heart grew heavier.

When they arrived at the fisherman’s hovel it was dirty and damp with decay, but inside they went – and they waited. A low guttural muttering was heard by Harrington, he was in no doubt who was outside. He raced to the door to confront the mere hag, walking along the shore trying to catch a glimpse of her.

When the muttering became distant he returned to the hut to find his beloved daughter gone. He threw himself to the floor in anguish and wept as though his heart would break.

Abruptly, Harrington felt his arms pinioned as a bandage was wound tightly around his eyes. Rough hands steered him to a boat upon which he was forced to embark. Before long he was transferred to a larger vessel and thrown unceremoniously into the cabin.

As his bandage was removed and his eyes became accustomed to his dimly lit surroundings he found himself facing a weather beaten pirate, armed with both cutlas and pistol.

The captain told the tale of his own precious daughter, entrusted to a siren, stolen by Harrington, then dying in infancy. Harrington’s protestations fell on deaf ears.

As the ships clock began to strike midnight the fierce mariner drew his weapon. On the count of three as the bloodthirsty freebooter squeezed the trigger, the mere hag appeared, at once throwing herself between the executioner and the condemned.

The pirate seemed horror struck at his deed and as the mere hag threw him a look of reproach her spirit departed.

Years later, in a tiny cottage on the Harrington estate, dwelt a wisened old man and his beautiful daughter. The savage grew tame, he repented his many sins. The young woman, with her two devoted fathers, felt the richest in the land.

More recently there have been strange occurrences witnessed at Martin Mere, an unknown large creature has been spied attacking swans and large birds on the lake, dragging them beneath the surface, never to be seen again. There have been many reports of local folk observing something huge and dark circling the mere, one of whom described it as ‘a powerful, fast swimming creature of immense proportions’.

Richard Freeman, former head keeper of Twycross Zoo claims the beast is a very old, huge, Wels catfish.

Perhaps it is . . . but perhaps there’s just a possibility it’s something far more interesting.

Deborah Contessa Hargreaves

Military Murder at Princess Parade

When vacationing families return to their rooms and day trippers journey home, the bright lights of Blackpool are often witness to more sinister sights.

On such an evening, during wartime in 1944 the body of a local girl was discovered in an air raid shelter by North Promenade. Perhaps surprisingly, she had not fallen victim to the Luftwaffe but the US flying corps.

Miss Joan Long

Joan Long, a naive and cheerful Blackpool lass, lived in Bristol Avenue, Bispham, Blackpool. She was the eldest of three children and helped her widowed father, William, to run the home and raise her younger siblings.

William Long himself must have had quite a story to tell, achieving an exemplary military record, having signed up as a Private but leaving as Lieutenant.

Joan had suffered from meningitis as a child which left her partially paralysed, she walked with a pronounced limp and struggled to use her right hand effectively. She had also been born with what we now correctly refer to as learning difficulties, nevertheless she didn’t let this dampen her spirits and often visited the town centre hostelries to enjoy the lively nightlife on offer.

On the evening of July 25th Joan donned her glad rags and headed for the pub to meet friends, it was here she got chatting to a smart and attractive aircraft mechanic. Enjoying the attention she agreed accompany her newly acquired beau around further licensed establishments.

The couple were seen later that night huddled in a tram shelter before heading along the promenade towards the Princess Parade colonnades by The Metropol Hotel – originally built as sea defense but repurposed as an air raid shelter.

The Princess Parade Colonnades as they are today

In the early hours of Wednesday 26th, four chaps (two civilians & two servicemen) came upon the shelter in their search for somewhere to doss down for the night. After shoving the door open, entering and lighting a match, they were met with the most grisly of sights. The partially clothed body of Joan was laid out on the ground. Cuts and bruising were evident on her face.

Princess Parade in 1944

It didn’t take long for the police to establish Thomas Montoya as a person of interest in this case. He was traced to his base at Warton and taken in for questioning.

The 24 year old Native American Airforce officer from New Mexico was initially charged with the heinous crime of first degree murder but at his Court Marshal, heard at the local A.R.P headquarters, 24 year old Thomas Montoya pleaded not guilty. He claimed his companion that night had died from an epileptic seizure and his defense described her as “frothing at the mouth”.

Despite there being no evidence of this, Montoya was convicted of the lesser crime of manslaughter and was sentenced to ten years hard labour.

The Guardian’s report on Montoya’s sentencing

Joan had never been diagnosed as epileptic, during autopsy Dr Bruce, a police surgeon, concluded she had died of asphyxia due to manual suffocation.

Article from a Brisbane SA newspaper

(An interesting post script to the trial was the global headline ‘Dead Girls Brain Exhibited in Jar’ which referred to the brain being produced during the trial, for Doctor FB Smith, pathologist, to scrutinise – the murder itself was not so well publicised.)

Poor Joan Long (aged just 22) was laid to rest in an unmarked grass grave in a quiet corner of Layton Cemetery.

The unmarked grave of Joan Long

My Eerie Encounter on Yeadon Way

Sit down dear reader, get comfortable, let the train take the strain, as I regale you with the true life encounter of a phantom vehicle witnessed by myself back in the late 70’s . .

Tightly grasping each other’s hands we quickly scrambled up the steep incline, our pathway choked by brambles and weeds. Leslie yelled as a thorn bush encircled her ankle, tripping her and causing pinpricks of fresh blood to appear on her crisp white socks. After attempting to free my friend from her horticultural captor I felt the familiar tingle of nettle stings annoyingly prickling at my fingertips. This was not the start to our adventure we had imagined! Nevertheless, we continued to clamber precipitously as we were determined to investigate the highest point of the embankment at the rear of our adjoining homes.

We climbed the embankment from the other side of this bridge

Rising high above the ordinary row of terraced houses the seemingly perpendicular hill had been tempting us all summer, not because it was anything special, there was nothing grand or remarkable about it at all, the appeal came from the fact we were forbidden to play there and to two small children, this was reason enough! We had marveled at the bigger boys who had bravely stolen wire cutters from the nearby allotments and watched jealously as almost every afternoon they disappeared together through the hole they had snipped into the fence. So this is how we found ourselves scratched, stung and sore, disobediently trespassing on an old earthwork owned by British Rail.

 Upon reaching the brow of the mound we stopped to catch our breath and consider our surroundings. Unimpressed by what we discovered there, we nonchalantly wandered down a cinder path, stopping periodically to gather small posies of clover, daisies and buttercups until boredom got the better of us.

We pondered the appeal of the place and thought it was perhaps time to head home when we spied a great, grey cloud on the horizon, it came into view quite unexpectedly and appeared to be heading towards the pair of us at an alarming rate. We exchanged worried glances, searching each other’s faces in the hope of finding an explanation there for the strange anomaly before us. Suddenly, we became aware of a deep rumbling sound accompanied by a shrill whistle then the grinding of cogs and gears.

Falling to the ground, I was roughly thrust aside by a powerful rush of air and looking up I could scarcely believe my eyes… .hurtling by my friend and I was a magnificent, green steam locomotive followed by three shabby but still elegant carriages! It huffed and puffed along the embankment beside us proudly chugging coal soot and steam into the atmosphere.

Steam engine

 After such a shock, Leslie, being the oldest, gently took me by the arm and proceeded to carefully guide me back down the steep grassy slope.

Gingerly stepping back through the wire railings we were met by an irate group of our parents and neighbors all acutely concerned with our whereabouts.

As we began describing what we had witnessed that afternoon to account for our absence we found our explanation met with incredulous stares. The adults regarded us suspiciously and seemed completely unconvinced by our recount.

Incoherently babbling about the train we had seen we were stopped in mid-flow by my father, taking us to one side he patiently rationalised why our account was preposterous . . . steam engines had been replaced by diesel many years previously, trains had ceased to run along that particular (Marton) line in 1964 and by 1970 the tracks had been removed!!

As if this chronicle wasn’t ominous enough, there is also an uncanny postscript, Leslie and I were convinced we had been exploring for no more than an hour at most but according to our respective parents we had in reality been missing for the best part of the day, hence the search party!

Aerial view of haunted location

 Interestingly, the trackbed of this old rail route is still in existence, it is now ‘Yeadon Way’ the main road out of Blackpool Lancashire leading to the M55 motorway. I often wonder if anyone else has born witness to the phantasmagorical phenomenon of the spectral ghost train.

Deborah Contessa

Dead amongst the Dunes

Kathleen Elsie Breaks December 24th 1919

Even in death she was beautiful. But how did the ‘prettiest girl in Bradford’ end up dead among the sand dunes of Lytham, near Blackpool?

Imagine the excitement 25 year old Mrs Breaks (for she was in fact a married woman) must have felt as her train slowed to a stop at the platform of Blackpool Central station, for not only was it one of the most magical nights of the year (Christmas Eve) she was off for an assignation with her handsome and wealthy lover.

Frederick and Kathleen

After checking into the Palatine Hotel, Kathleen, who preferred to be known as Kitty, dined alone before styling her long brown hair, adding a slick of lipstick, then slipping on her coat in readiness to catch a tram to Lytham.

Waiting for Kitty on the coastal road was Frederick Holt, he had visited a local hostelry ‘The Fairhaven’ before heading to their rendezvous.

Fred Holt was a local man of independent means, the son of a respectable family, who had served Queen and country in the Great War as lieutenant in the North Lancashire Regiment.

Interestingly Holt had attempted to take out an insurance policy on Kitty’s life, but was rejected on the grounds of them not being married. This didn’t deter him and it’s believed he convinced Kitty to insure her own life naming Holt as the beneficiary.

The couple were spotted heading into the dunes by a tram driver on that fatal night, sadly though, Kitty was never seen alive again.

pathway through the dunes

On the cold and frosty Christmas morning of 1919 a most gruesome discovery was made by a man collecting driftwood. The body of an attractive and fashionable young lady lay prone on the sands, she had her bank book in her pocket so was easily identifiable.

The woman had been shot four times.

Identifying the murder posed no conundrum either as it was discovered Holt had left a glove, a revolver and distinctive footprints at the sand hills. A subsequent search of his home also revealed sand covered wet shoes, with a matching tread to the incriminating footprints found at the scene.

At his trial Fred appeared blasé about his crime. Huge crowds gathered at Manchester Assizes to hear his fate. Despite the fact Holt had tried to plead insanity the judge sentenced him to death by hanging.

An un-remorseful Holt went to the gallows at Strangeways on the 13th April 1920 and although he maintained his innocence his demeanor remained nonchalant.

declaration of execution

Legend has it Kitty Breaks was never able to rest, for around Yuletide on bitter winter nights the apparition of a beautiful, melancholic, weeping woman has been reportedly witnessed, wandering around the area where her lifeless body was discovered.

The Abominable Ablutions of Alice

Alice Burnham. Died 12/12/1913

In the eerie glow of a Bobby’s lantern a cheaply made coffin was raised slowly from its penultimate resting place.

This was the second of three disinterments requested by detectives in the February of 1915. The cadaver of 25-year-old nurse Alice Burnham (of ‘Brides in the Bath’ infamy) was removed from her Blackpool grave as local police exhumed her body for a further post-mortem.

Laying Alice to rest for the final time

Anyone who follows my posts should know I have an inexplicable affection for Alice and I often spend time at her unmarked grass grave.

Here I am at Alice’s grave

Alice, a bonny young woman from Aston Clinton in Buckinghamshire was the daughter of a coal merchant, she was a devout Baptist and somewhat ambitious for a lady of that time, after taking up teaching ( but failing her final exams) she went on to become a nursery governess before embarking on a career in general nursing.

A subsequent move to Southsea to privately nurse an elderly invalid left Alice with an abundance of savings but a deficit of affection as she was isolated from family and friends.

How her heart must have soared when a dapper chap named George came along and professed to be utterly bewitched by her.

George Smith was very much a product of the late Victorian period, arrogant and self important. In spite of this he went on to bigamously marry a string of women, leaving them with broken hearts and empty purses.

Far from being the gentleman of good character he presented himself to be, he had in fact first been incarcerated at the tender age of nine, where he resided in a reformatory until he reached 16.

By 1910 Smith had changed his modus operandi, leaving destitute women in his wake wasn’t enough anymore and he began his nefarious career as the villain in The Brides in the Bath saga.

Smith, in the role of a loving husband, would whisk his new wife off to a seaside honeymoon, insisting on accommodation with a bath tub. After convincing his spouse to bathe he would approach her as she reclined in the water. Suspecting nothing of his evil intentions they were caught by surprise as he stooped over the bath and deftly slid an arm under their knees, or grabbed at their ankles before swiftly lifting their legs.

Newspaper report on the fate of Smith’s brides

On Tuesday 4th November 1913, Alice became Mrs George Smith, she married a man she knew little about which caused a rift between herself and her family.

The following month Alice was thrilled to be whisked off on honeymoon by Smith and on the 9th of December they arrived in Blackpool. The newlyweds marveled at the Blackpool Tower as they walked the short distance to their boarding house.

After inspecting their accommodation George deemed it unsuitable, informing the landlady his wife required the use of a bathtub, luckily for him (but not so for Alice) their host was able to recommend a property at 16 Regent Road.

The couple took the room at Regent Rd, paying a ten shilling deposit to secure their booking. During a brief chat with the owner, Margaret Crossley, Smith complained his wife was suffering from terrible headaches. Mrs Crossley recommended he took Alice to visit her doctor.

Dr Billing was a registered medical practitioner at 121 Church Street, Blackpool, personal physician to the Mayors of Blackpool and the towns pathologist. His name might have been lost in history if it wasn’t for his involvement with the murders, for Doctor Billing examined Mrs Alice Smith ( née Alice Burnham) not once but twice, both in life and posthumously!

At the insistence of her villainous husband Alice was taken for a consultation with the good doctor, where Billing noted “She was a short, pale woman and extremely fat. I examined her tongue which was rather foul, dirty and coated, I believe she was suffering from nothing more than constipation.”

Just after 8pm on the 12th of December, as Alice took a bath, the Crossleys became aware of water dripping through the kitchen ceiling. Her husband was heard calling down the stairs “My wife cannot speak to me – go for the doctor!”

Sadly their next meeting was to be at the Smiths Regent Road lodgings, where Dr Billing had the unenviable job of freeing the body of Alice from the confines of the tub she had been drowned in.

The following day, after a thorough post-mortem examination, he ruled her passing as an unfortunate misadventure and it was recorded as accidental death due to drowning.

(In a strange twist of fate Alice & Dr Billing are buried just yards apart in Layton Cemetery.)

The grave of Dr Billing

George Smith became a victim of his own success, for once he had seemingly gotten away with uxoricide his hubris and greed drove him to commit the atrocity again and again.

Were it not for a newspaper report ( regarding Margaret Lofty’s watery demise) read with great interest by both the Crossleys of Regent Road and the Father of Alice Burnham, who knows how many other brides may have ended up penniless and lifeless at the hands of the evil Smith.

Mr Burnham couldn’t help but notice that Margaret’s death was suspiciously similar to that of his daughter’s and alerted the police. Mrs Crossley’s son had also written to Scotland Yard voicing his suspicions, including within a periodical clipping he’d saved regarding Alice Burnhams death. Smith was subsequently arrested in February 1915, as he visited his solicitor to discuss his claim on Margaret Lofty’s will.

Smith’s trial was one of the most sensational of the 20th century, the public was so fascinated by Smith’s crimes that for many decades an effigy of him stood in Madame Tussauds’ Chamber Of Horrors. The bath from Regent Road is exhibited in the Black Museum at Scotland Yard.

The Regent Road Bath at Scotland Yard

Bessie Mundy, Alice Burnham and Margaret Lofty finally had their day when In August 1915, Smith was hanged at Maidstone Prison for their murders. He was in fact only tried for for the murder of Bessie Williams in accordance with English law, but the prosecution used the deaths of the other two wives to establish the pattern of Smith’s crimes. All of the women were slain simply for financial gain.

He killed three innocent women, who were desperate for love but were met instead with cruel and untimely deaths.

Alice, Margaret & Bessie

The lovely Alice was laid to rest in Layton Cemetery, Blackpool, in a paupers grave.

The Last Goodbye of Abigail Whalley

On the 11th May, 1931 the body of eccentric widow Abigail Whalley was discovered in her bungalow on Robins Lane, Carleton, near Blackpool. She was believed to be away on holiday as she had earlier confided in a local resident she was going away and had said ‘Goodbye, I might not see you again’ as they parted company.

Her neighbour decided to keep an eye on Mrs Whalley’s home, for although the lady was thought of as miserly it was common knowledge she was actually rather wealthy. (Unbeknown to lots of people she generously contributed to various charities) She had also been overheard many times stating she had so much money she didn’t know what to do with it!

The home of Abigail Whalley

Becoming worried she hadn’t seen her neighbour return, this good Samaritan along with an acquaintance, went to investigate. They noticed the front door had been forced open and contacted the police.

The body of eighty five year old Abigail was found, battered about the head with possibly the same instrument that was used to jemmy the door. No murder weapon was ever found nor was anyone ever charged with this heinous crime.

A vagrant, a lavender seller and ‘red haired scarred man’ all came under suspicion but were either never found or cleared.

A popular vehicle from the 1930s

Police later confirmed reports of a suspicious vehicle seen in the vicinity on two separate occasions. A two seater car was spotted idling on the corner of Robins Lane in the early hours of the 10th of May. Two figures, thought to be a man and a woman, stole out into the darkness and headed toward Miss Whalley’s bungalow, however they soon returned to their car and drove away.

The corner of Robins Lane & Stocks Lane

As dawn broke on the 11th the mysterious motor was back, after parking up in the same spot the couple once again headed up Robins Lane.

The silence of that Monday morning was broken shortly afterwards by the harsh cacophony of a motor vehicle racing noisily away at brakeneck speed.

If the identity of this duo was ever discovered it was never made known.

Poor Abigail’s murder remains unsolved but her soul has hopefully found peace.

Interestingly, a sinister spectre is often spotted near the bungalow on Robins Lane. A local taxi driver reported he had seen a stooped figure with long dark hair, sunken eyes and a green (bruised & battered?) face! Could this be the ghost of this unfortunate woman?!

Thank you to Chris Clark ( former Police intelligence officer) for additional information.

Suffer the Little Children

ALAMI, Ahmad Saded-Din

Doctors have always encouraged a peculiar combination of faith and trepidation inside us all, within medical circumstance we are expected to give ourselves and our loved ones over to them when at our most vulnerable. Doctors have power over both life and death, we quite literally leave our lives in their hands.

Allow me to take you back several decades and over three thousand miles, for our story begins in the Middle East, Jerusalem, 1940 .

Born in one of the oldest cities in the world, Ahmad Alami had a good start in life, for not only was he part of a highly respected family his father was the citys leading Islamic cleric, the ‘Mufti of Jerusalem’.

By the 1960s Alami was serving with the Jordanian Armed Forces, where as a member of the medical corps he most likely witnessed combat in Kuwait and Palestine. Perhaps the horrors he endured while serving were the precursor to the paranoid delusions he began to suffer.

After experiencing schizophrenic episodes and receiving electroconvulsive therapy treatment (ECT) in 1969 Alami was diagnosed as Paranoid Schizophrenic and was subsequently discharged from the army.

Determined to continue his medical career Alami then arrived in England, securing the position of doctor at the Moorfields Eye Hospital in London.

Just two months later he relocated to Blackpool Victoria Hospital, where he was employed as a senior houseman as he trained to become an eye specialist.

It was while working in Blackpool (in the February of 1972) the despicable doctor committed the most unimaginably egregious of crimes. Upon entering the children’s ward he approached three sleeping toddlers ( Deborah Ann Carson, 4, Martin Langhorn, 2, and Nicholas Stott, 2.),and mercilessly stabbed them to death as they lay helplessly in their beds.

A fourth child (2 year old Darren Qamar), a student nurse ( Christine Nuttall, 22) and staff nurse (Mrs. Dorothy Simpson, 49.) were also brutally attacked, yet thankfully survived their injuries.

Appearing in court, hand cuffed to a police officer, Alami entered no plea. As a paranoid schizophrenic he was judged unfit to stand trial. The judge sentenced him to be detained at Broadmoor high security hospital for an indefinite length of time,

The arrest of Dr Alami

Several years later he was deported back to The Middle East. Once home in Jordan Alami wrote 25 books on Palestinian history, he also expressed an interest in studying for a PhD in London, although every application made was turned down by the UK authorities.

I’ve been unable to establish whether Ahmad Alami is still alive (he would be eighty years old by now.) Hopefully he has gone to meet his maker to receive the wrath and retribution of final judgement.

She Who Walks Between The Stones

Many people have enquired about tours of Layton Cemetery, Blackpool, Lancashire, which unfortunately weren’t able to go ahead this year because of Covid restrictions.

So allow me to take you on a fleeting excursion around some of the stones, giving a brief insight into the stories we will elaborate upon once we can safely escort you ourselves.

A taster tour of Layton Cemetery

The Monsterous Misses Flaherty

A house once belonging to three sisters from Ireland, situated where Forest Gate meets North Park Drive, was renowned for being haunted. Crying children could be regularly heard, along with pained screams of ‘Mummy!’ On the upper floors & attic tiny footsteps scuttled around.

During the 1930s the sewage pipes were dug up for replacement and a putrid mass of decaying flesh and scorched bone was discovered along with tiny teeth and clumps of hair.

The Flaherty sisters were thought to have fled back to County Cork and were never seen again.

The original house was gutted by a terrible fire in the 1950s and had to be almost completely rebuilt.

The reconstructed house of horrors

1926 was Blackpool councils Jubilee year, it was also the year of the coal miners general strike. The strike was called by the TUC for one minute to midnight on 3 May. For the previous two days, some one million coal miners had been locked out of their mines after a dispute with the owners who wanted them to work longer hours for less money.

On that very day in 1926, Charles Kennedy, an upstanding young man, joined the Blackpool march supporting the Great Strike. Approaching Forrest Gate the procession thinned and Charles, along with his friend Christopher Herd, began knocking on doors in an attempt to rally support. But what they saw through the window of the house on North Park drive sickened them to their stomachs. Three women were beating a defenseless blond haired child, slapping & pinching her as she cried out in pain. The two brave men forced open the front door in a valiant attempt to save the child.

Ruth, Flora & Emmeline Flaherty were furious at the intrusion and threatened to send for the police themselves! They explained the girl was a disturbed child who required strict discipline, one of many children they had selflessly taken in because their parents were unable to cope with their wayward behavior.

Seemingly unwanted urchins

The pals became anxious they might have overreacted and prepared to leave when they heard distressing moans from the rear of the property. Pushing past the sisters Kennedy was appalled to discover about a dozen youngsters in various states of undress, some seemingly unconscious, tied up and covered in dried blood from what appeared to be cuts and slashes all over their bodies.

The men fled the dwelling in search of a constable (there were plenty around due to the march).

A police search of the property revealed an upstairs room ankle deep in human excrement & bags stuffed full of children’s clothing. . . but of the children and Flora Flaherty there was no sign.

The authorities began an investigation but in these troubled times records were rarely kept, the sisters, who professed to be nurses had enjoyed a previously good reputation and eventually the case was dropped.

Interestingly, in January 1927, Ruth Flaherty had her handbag stolen whilst walking to Stanley Park and the horrified thief turned himself in upon unveiling a small, pickled human hand inside! Unfortunately, he had fearfully tossed away his nefarious find and despite a police search of the area it was never discovered.

Stanley Park Blackpool

Shortly after, the women put the house on the market and returned to Eire. Leaving us with one of the darkest, most diabolical tales I have ever had the misfortune to recount.

There was no extradition between southern Ireland & the UK back then. This enabled the sisters to just slip into the background, no proper checks or details would have been recorded. I wouldn’t be surprised if they had continued their abuse.

Intriguingly, I was discussing this case with an elderly Blackpool resident, who although only having a vague memory of the event, did recall her parents threatening her with the words “You keep that up young lady and the Flahertys will get you!’ If she ever misbehaved as a child!!