It has been dubbed as the ‘ghost coast’ after reports of strange figures appearing on its Victorian Pier. And now it seems as if the shadowy figure which has made various appearances on the 153-year-old landmark is back.
Over the years visitors and fishermen at Clevedon Pier have claimed to have seen a mysterious figure on the Grade 1 listed tourist attraction. In 2012 a photography student claimed he captured an image of an apparition of a man on the pier in the early hours of the morning when it was closed to the public and the gates were locked.
Matthew Hales caught sight of the ghostly figure at 6.30am at the pier, despite it not opening until 10am. After appearing out of nowhere, the figure suddenly vanished out of sight.
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He only spotted the ghostly apparition after checking over each individual frame when he returned home. Both angling clubs said they had no members on the pier at the time the figure was spotted.
The ghost, which can seemingly walk through the locked pier gate without triggering the security light, has been seen by other fishermen. In the past it has been spotted halfway along the pier, sitting on the side benches, or standing mumbling in the corner of the pavilion.
The pier was the subject of an investigation by Bristol and UK Supernatural following the sighting with it reporting that there was ‘definitely paranormal activity’ and claimed to have made contact with a spirit near one of the lamp posts.
While searching the area, the group came across what is known as a level two spirit – a being which can make physical contact and interact with people and objects – belonging to a doctor called Jimmie. The group said after sending in mediums and cross referencing with an earlier visit they confirmed a spirit at the fourth lamppost on the right hand side of the pier and were given the words doctor, balloon and Jimmie.
They then discovered a plaque underneath the lamp post was that of a doctor, James Dunn. The figure was affectionately known as the ‘toasty ghosty’ due to the smell of burnt toast which used to emanate from the landmark at times.
Now it seems as if the ghost – this time with a friend – has made another visit to the pier. A volunteer working alone in the Bell Room beneath the Pagoda cafe on a ‘cold and windy’ day earlier this month was busy painting when he felt he was not alone.
While sitting painting, he started to hear muttering between a man and a woman – despite there being no other people on the pier. The volunteer, who did not want to be named, said: “I was working all alone in the Bell Room beneath the Pagoda café.
“The pier was closed to visitors and the café was also closed. No other earthly volunteer was on the pier.
“I was painting the inside of the Bell Room window frames when I heard what sounded like muttering between a man and woman. It was a muffled conversation that was quite indistinct, but definitely a conversation.”
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The volunteer – spooked by the sounds – then carried out a check of the area. “I checked around me to see who had ventured to the end of the closed pier in these conditions,” he said. “There was nobody there.”
The volunteer returned to his painting only for the muffled conversation to resume. “I wondered whether it was it the wind resonating through the pier’s wrought iron spans like some late 19th century 300 metre long musical instrument,” he said.
“I listened intently to the wind passing by the spans under the Bell Room and that wasn’t it.” After hearing the chatter return for a third time, the volunteer then questioned whether the noise was coming from pigeons roosting on the pier legs and stairwell to the landing stage.
“The Bell Room floor is made of a composite waffle type board,” he said. “ I could see and hear the birds clearly.
“Their gentle cooing was not the sound I heard.” His thoughts then turned to whether swimmers were trapped under the pier – perhaps in one of the caves – and in need of help.
He added: “I wondered if the seafront acoustics could be the source of the muffled conversation and whether there were swimmers ensconced in one of the caves chatting away with their conversation being projected in my direction.
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“Nobody was there and the sea state was very swimmer unfriendly anyway. And 300 metres is a long way for a conversation to travel, even with the best of acoustics available. There were no boats around where you might expect to hear excited fishing folk discussing their catch.”
A man died during the construction of the pier in the 1860s. Henry Groves was killed while hoisting a small boat under the pier.
Three other men were also saved from drowning during the construction. It has long been wondered whether the apparition on the pier is infact the ghost of poor Henry.
The volunteer added: “I’ve always been ambivalent on the subject of ghosts and hauntings. I neither believe or disbelieve.
“But this experience set me thinking about the pier being haunted and when I mentioned it to other volunteers it didn’t surprise any of them.” When the volunteer returned to continue his work a week later, all was quiet on the landmark, once described as ‘the most beautiful pier in the world.’
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He said: “One week later in almost identical circumstances and weather I was back painting at the same time in the same place with the wind whistling around the pier head. I never heard a thing.”
Clevedon Pier and Heritage Trust chairman Phil Curme said there had been many reports of ghostly sightings on the pier over the decades.
Mr Curme said: “For years we’ve had reports of ghostly happenings on Clevedon Pier. I’ve not seen any spectres myself but given the hundreds of thousands of people who have trod the boards over the years and the steamers that have come and gone, I do wonder whether there are some wisps of the past in the air.”