Despite summer seeming to somehow make a last minute attempt to brighten up the city, I for one am well and truly happy to see the colours of Autumn. No more days of avoiding grey T shirts, constantly dabbing down my sweaty brow and camping out in Morrison’s refrigerator section, I am definitely not built for summer. All the best stuff happens towards the end of the year anyway, the club scene gets regenerated after the festival season, bonfire night isn’t too far away, Christmas triggers are starting to go off in the back of your head and my favourite night of the year, Halloween.
With that in mind, I decided to check out a few of Manchester’s spookiest attractions, and first up in these tales of terrors is Flecky Bennett’s Haunted Underground Experience Manchester
I stumbled across this whilst looking for a tour of the underground tunnels in the City centre which I have heard so many interesting things about. This particular tour however is advertised as a mix of theatre, history and paranormal investigation. Being the total bloke I am and obviously not being scared of anything, I got in touch with Flecky and had the pleasure of joining one of his tours. Here’s what went down.
We meet the rest of our group outside the church in St Anne’s Square, appropriately next to a grave and as the bell tolled 7, an eerie looking man dressed all in black, carrying a cane slowly walks towards us. A few people on the tour are obviously regulars and recognise him straight away but I had my suspicions it was our tour guide. I think the red contact lenses were a bit of a giveaway, he wasn’t exactly dressed for a night out on Deansgate.
After a brief introduction, we are escorted down a dark side street to the sound of classical opera music (don’t really know how else to describe classical opera music) until we reach a door attached to Barton Arcade. We entered the building and are immediately taken down a couple of flights of stairs, past the boiler room and further in to an underground bunker.
The tour starts here and we are given a full in depth explanation of what the bunker was once used for and some very interesting historical facts about Barton arcade. I never knew how many brothels there used to be in the city centre in olden times, living in the Georgian era doesn’t sound all that bad. Strolling through the pitch black corridors we are given a further history lesson as we find out about the Manchester Rat People who used to live under the city. At this point Flecky attempts his first conjuring of the dead, and after asking for a spirit to give us a sign, we waited in anticipation but there was no response. Obviously the Rat People are a very private bunch.
We continue further along the pathways until we come to a corridor, the place of somebody’ untimely suicide, and where we also here stories about the spirits of two dead children who haunt the bunker. Flecky again asks the dead to show themselves. This time something responds. Footsteps can be heard, there is a banging in the distance and people start to complain about feeling cold. Members of the tour were starting to get in to it but I wasn’t scared, obviously.
We move on again before things get hairy, my friend reminds me I have forgotten my proton pack so best not mess about. On to the next stop of the tour, a morgue, great. The spot paranormal investigators have said is the most supernatural in the whole complex, even stating it is a portal to another dimension. We cram in to this morgue and try to summon the spirit of The Dirty Man. I couldn’t help but snigger a bit at the thought of summoning the spirit of The Dirty Man, who apparently has a foot fetish for Converse trainers, thank god I’m wearing a classic brogue.
This bit did seem to give people the chill, one member of the party claimed something or someone had scratched their leg. “Turn the light on Flecky” was yelped by somebody, but after a quick check, there were no marks on the person’s leg and nobody’s trainers had gone missing. I guess we just weren’t The Dirty Man’s type, I blame The Rat People.
With the audience suitably spooked, we go forth in to another chamber where we try The Bloody Mary Experiment.
After Flecky uses some sort of weird thermometer to decide who is “the coldest lady in the room”, he invites her to place a candle under her chin and face a spooky looking mirror. Those familiar with the film Candy Man will know what the experiment entails, this time saying the words Bloody Mary three times whilst facing the mirror. The results are what appears to be the morphing of the ladies face in to that of The Key Keeper who walks the corridors at night. At one point you could definitely hear a jangling of keys in the distance, my mate assured me it was him messing in his pockets.
On to the last part of the tour, the Ouija board, probably the most famous apparatus used for contacting the dead. I’ll not go too much in to this part, I wouldn’t want to spoil it for you as it’s something you should experience yourself but things got a bit weird down there and although we did all come out unharmed, many of the party were touched by something. That brought us to the end of our tour.
To sum it up, if you are up for a bit of fun, are open minded about things and have an interest in the city’s past, this is a great and very different way to spend an hour and a half of your evening. This isn’t a scare attraction, you won’t have people jumping out on you and there is nobody waiting in the shadows. All the information you will hear is claimed to be historically accurate, as for the ghosts, well, you need to make your own mind up about that.
As a guide Flecky is great company and up for a laugh which makes the event entertaining for even the biggest sceptic. There are more shows planned at a number of the locations in the city