Late at night, a group of shivering listeners huddle around a man in a long black coat and cane. He is graphically describing how a bitter young factory worker poisoned his baby daughter in 1829. The crowd gasps and winces, nervously eyeing what might be the original crime scene.
Steel City Ghost Tours started in 2005 and the company offers a range of guided night time walks for tourists of all ages and stomach strengths.
Tours run three times a week, and participants are taken on a macabre stroll around Sheffield city’s lesser-known landmarks.
Jo Johnson-Smith, a partner at Steel City Ghost Tours, said she believed the experience was different as it doesn’t talk about the mounted riders, the lords and the ladies.
She said: “It focuses on the history of the common people, the ones who lived, worked, and died in the city.”
The mysterious storyteller, who introduces himself as Mr. P Dreadful, first sets the scene with a colorful description of life in the 18th and 19th century, reminding listeners of social conditions at the time.
He said: “Ladies, a spoon in the drawer was worth more than you.”
Then follows a historical story filled with gory details, sourced from the Sheffield City Council archives, old Police Gazette editions, or verified by the company’s personal researchers. Fact mixes with folklore and true characters become ghosts during the course of the journey. Walkers learn about Irish gang murders, cholera outbreaks, anarchist revolutions, vengeful smugglers and Sheffield’s bold industrial legacy.
Ms Johnson-Smith said at least six months of research go into designing the tours and three eye-witness accounts are needed to approve each ghost story.
She said: “We’re always reworking the tours to keep them fresh and vibrant.”
The walks end at a central location where it is easy to access public transport.
The company currently offers an architecture tour, several ghost tours, and a historical crime and murder tour. Research is underway to launch a new feminist tour.
Tickets are £5 for adults and £4 for students, with no pre-booking necessary.
More information about the ghost tours can be found here.