By Pat Regan, Southport UFO and Paranormal investigator
Old Lancashire has some fascinating ghost stories and I have an intimate family relationship with the following account.
The Birkdale Palace Hotel was a lavishness hotel situated in the coastal resort of Birkdale, Southport, on the north-west coast of England.
The Palace opened up in 1866 and was demolished in 1969. During the Second World War it was utilised as rehabilitation centre for US airmen and in the last two years of its existence was used as a film setting. The popular comedian, Norman Wisdom, actually stared in a film called ‘What’s Good for the Goose’ that was partially set in the Palace Hotel.
The Palace however was also alleged to be a haunted hotel.
The tale of the haunted lift at the Palace Hotel has filtered into local folklore. Legend has it that the architect, William Mangnall, committed suicide at the Palace, via leaping off the roof. This he was originally alleged to have done because the hotel was built the wrong way around. However, later research may dispute that particular claim as another account indicates that William Mangnall died from some natural cause such as tuberculosis around 1868.
Nevertheless, later on in the hotel’s history a group of demolition workers reported that the lift at the old Palace was acting very mysteriously.
Strange things began to happen soon after the team started the job. First they were woken up by uncanny voices and other weird noises in the middle of the night, and then the lift suddenly began to work, all by itself.
Supplementary examination made known the fact that although the the lift’s power had been cut and the brakes were on, the four ton box was ‘still’ making its way between the hotel floors, just as it did before the establishment was closed down.
The workers were understandably very intimidated by this strange experience.
The team of hard-bitten demolition workers became so nervous that they cut the giant lift from its holdings, but still the thing didn’t fall. Reports claimed that the workmen were thought to have hammered the top of the lift until they caused it to come rolling down from the third floor into the basement.
Voices, the sounds of arguments and inexplicable footsteps clattering through the reception area, were also reported by workers. The workers were even locked in their rooms at times it was alleged.
Another account tells of two sisters carrying out a fatal suicide pact within the luxurious rooms of the Palace.
Then there were tales of the murder in the Palace of a six-year-old Southport girl named Amanda Jane Graham, by a hotel porter, in 1961. Amanda’s body was I believe found under a bed at the hotel. Incidentally, a search on Amanda’s name only revealed a ‘Birth’ of a child by the name of Amanda Jane Graham from Preston, which is some 20 miles further north of Birkdale. I was unable to discover more about this young lady’s fate in any records.
THE FISHERMANS REST
The only surviving piece of the Palace Hotel remaining today is a public house called the Fishermans Rest, on Weld Road in Birkdale.
Like the Palace, the pub is also believed to be haunted. The spirit of a little girl allegedly haunts the place. Could it perhaps be Amanda’s restless ghost?
Staff members over the years at the pub have expressed concerns that they have felt unearthly presences whilst in the cellar; uncomfortable feelings of not being alone, and being watched etc.
Above: The Fishermans Rest in Birkdale, Southport.
Another reason for the unnerving psychic presence may also be evident at the locality when we observe the following.
Fourteen heroic Southport lifeboat men were provisionally laid to rest at the pub after being drowned trying to save other poor souls on December 9, 1886.
A sailing ship called the Mexico was driven aground off Southport in the famous Southport and St Anne’s lifeboats disaster. Eliza Fernley, the Southport crew’s lifeboat, had been launched from Southport in response to distress signals from the Mexico’s crew. When the craft reached the Mexico, it was struck by a huge green wall of seawater and capsized.
Some hours later, the craft was found approximately three miles from Southport at Birkdale. Fourteen of her sixteen-man crew perished.
The “News of the World” magazine, (12th December 1886) covered the disaster like this:
LOSS OF TWENTY-EIGHT LIVES
‘A distressing catastrophe occurred off the Lancashire coast early on Friday. It seems that during the gale which raged on Thursday a large barque, the Mexico, of Hamburg, from Liverpool to Guayaquil, was seen to be at anchor in a dangerous position off Ainsdale. During the evening she dragged her anchors, and drove on the beach. The Southport lifeboat, Eliza Fernley, was launched about 11 o’clock, and manned by a crew of 16 hands, pulled gallantly through the raging sea in the direction of the wreck, which could be plainly seen by the lights of her signals. Two of her masts were gone, and her crew, lashed to various parts of the vessel, were shouting wildly for help. After a fierce battle with the wind and sea, the lifeboat was seen to get within about 20 yards of the wreck, and her success seemed assured. Just at this moment she fell off with the force of the wind, and before she could be brought up again a terrific sea struck her, and she was capsized, all the crew being thrown into the water. Instead of righting herself, as she ought to have done, she remained bottom upwards, and was blown onto the beach. Three of the crew managed to get hold of the upturned boat and drifted ashore with her in safety; but the other 13 were drowned, three of the bodies being found entangled under the boat when she touched the beach. The remaining ten bodies were washed ashore during the course of Friday morning. Of the 13 deceased 10 were married, and many of them have large families. The men saved were Henry Robinson, John Jackson, and John Ball. The last-named died on Friday night in the infirmary, thus making 14 deaths.’
The bodies of the crewmen were viewed at the pub by the jury from the hurriedly convened coroner’s investigation held at the Palace Hotel.
In respect for the departed heroes the pub was named ‘The Fishermans Rest.’
As a teenager I would frequently set lines to catch fish on the local beach at night near the pub. Birkdale beach after dark is quite a foreboding place, especially when the fog comes down and it’s snowing in winter. I can well imagine what that terrible night for the ill-fated crewmen must have been like.
I feel an immense affinity for the Southport heroes that died that tragic night and the epic Southport lifeboat disaster still brings tears to my eyes.
So what is my own particular attachment to the Palace Hotel?
Well, my Swiss grandfather on my mother’s side was a man called ‘Eugene Gshwinder’ and he was the Head Waiter at the Palace Hotel in the 1920s.
Above: Eugene Gshwinder (author’s grandfather) seated far right at the Palace Hotel, with other staff members.
Does the above picture show an inquisitive resident (top left hand corner) peeping out of the hotel, or is it yet another Palace apparition? Some have claimed it to be the latter, but I make NO claims.
Above: Love endures forever. Eugene Gshwinder married Jennie Swarbrick, my grandmother, on the first day of May as the hawthorn blossomed in 1918.
The entire area of the Palace Hotel may have a paranormal draw and hold a certain vortex of energy for whatever inexplicable reason.
Some places hold positive vortexes, which can lead to sensations of elation, whilst other areas bring down a more negative charge of force.
The catastrophic and unnerving events surrounding the old Palace Hotel, and today’s Fishermans Rest location and historical record would seem to indicate the latter.
Nevertheless, I am honoured to have some small connection to this story due to family inheritance.
Pat Regan © 2011
Founder of North West UFO Research and Author of:
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The Torch and the Spear
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