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Beauty for Discount Store, Kirkgate (1977)

Mike Hallowell recounted the following story of a Leeds ghost in his article entitled ‘The strange case of the cellar dweller’ which was published in the Shields Gazette on Wednesday 10 October 2007.

LOOKING back through my archives the other day, I came across an old newspaper cutting from 1977 which reported the disturbing appearance of a ghost in a Leeds store.

The tale is quite an unusual one, so I thought I'd share it with readers.

On Saturday 26 March, 1977, Paul Brown and Gary Sutherland, both 15, turned up for their Saturday job as usual at the Beauty for Discount store in Kirkgate.

After a quick cup of tea they were asked by the manager to go down into the cellar and give it a good sweep.

Dutifully, the two youngsters went down the steps, picked up a broom each and got to work.

However, Paul suddenly noticed a movement out of the corner of his eye in a part of the cellar away from where they were sweeping.

He turned, and was staggered to see an old woman standing there.

Sensing that there was something eerie about the lady's sudden appearance, he grabbed his pal Gary by the arm and dragged him to one side.

Then they watched, speechless, as the old woman floated by them "as if she was on a conveyor belt".

Later, the youngsters said that the woman appeared to be in her 90s and had a very wrinkled face.

She had upon her head a chequered headscarf and wore a shawl about her shoulders.

They also recalled that she wore a dull-coloured woollen skirt.

There was no doubt in their mind that they were seeing a ghost, for the bottom half of the woman's legs were missing.

This is a common feature of apparitions, although no one knows why.

The old lady disappeared at the other end of the cellar, and after they'd recovered their composure they bravely went to see if they could find her.

She'd disappeared, and there was nowhere she could have gone to.

Without delay they then went and told the shop manager.

Intriguingly, it turned out that two other "Saturday boys" had witnessed an almost identical spectacle two years previously, and other members of staff said that they'd heard eerie footsteps in a storeroom upstairs.

Even stranger is the fact that the apparition only seemed to manifest itself in the presence of young, blond-haired men!

Concerned for the welfare of their staff, the proprietors of the store asked the Reverend Michael Taylor, the Vicar of St Peter's Church, in Hunslet, to help.

He seemed to think that the spirit in the store wasn't trying to harm anyone, but that it may have been "disturbed" in some way.

Rev Taylor carried out a discreet service on the premises using holy water, although I have been unable to discover whether it was successful or not.

Just who the ghost was is an enigma, and no one then or since seems to have been able to link the apparition to a known historical personage.

However, the building is very old and at one time used to be a residential dwelling house.

I suppose it's just possible that the old lady may have been a resident there in times gone by.

Paul Brown later drew a sketch of the ghost, a rather sad old lady who looked as if she had all the cares of the world upon her spectral shoulders.

Whoever she was – or is – one can only hope that she eventually finds the peace that hitherto seems to have eluded her.

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