John Ellis, Oldham Road, Rochdale
John Ellis (Born 4 October 1874 – Died 20 September 1932) served as one of the United Kingdoms executioners for 23 years before retiring in 1924. During his service he attended 203 hangings, the last of which was the execution of John Eastwood at Armly Goal in Leeds. The executions took their toll on Ellis who sought peace in drinking and eventually attempted suicide following his retirement. He shot himself in the jaw. As suicide was illegal, he was bound over for 12 months at Rochdale Magistrates Court. He eventually died by his own hand in 1932 when he cut his own throat.
John Ellis was also a barber and newsagent. His father had also run a barbers shop on Oldham Road as did Ellis before becoming an executioner. The following article dated 17 April 2010 was published in the Manchester Evening News and suggests his old barbers shop may be haunted.
‘BE AFRAID, be very afraid. One of Britain’s most notorious hangmen is back with a vengeance and could be haunting his former shop in Lowerplace.
John Ellis was Rochdale’s last public executioner and after a well-documented lifetime of dispatching others, he brought his own days to a gruesome end when he committed suicide in 1932.
Now more than 75 years after his death, there’s been some ghostly goings-on at the April Cotton florists in Oldham Road, his former barber shop.
The new owner Susan Cotton and her partner George Rushbury only opened the shop in June, but after a series of spooky sightings, they’re wondering if his ghost is haunting the building.
Mr Rushbury said: “A few things have happened which have been a bit eerie and it all started when I was decorating the shop.
“I felt a hand on my shoulder so I turned to see who it was, but then I realised I was the only person in the shop. It wasn’t a weak hand, it was a very firm push and it was quite unnerving.
“I started thinking about what had happened and then a similar thing happened shortly afterwards. It sounds comical but I had my back side pinched as well.
“I jumped up to see if anyone else was here but again I was the only person in the shop.
“Maybe John Ellis was a hangman who liked pretty flowers – I don’t know but it was very eerie, that’s the best way to describe it!”
Mr Ellis was appointed a public executioner in 1901. Among the infamous characters dispatched by him were Dr Hawley Harvey Crippen, brides-in-the-bath murderer George Smith and Roger Casement, who was involved in the Irish Easter Rising.
The couple were unaware of the shop’s history and in a strange coincidence, just before they discovered its past, they watched a film about the life of Albert Pierrepoint, another hangman who worked in the Manchester area.
Ms Cotton added: “I took the shop on without knowing about Mr Ellis. I had no idea about his life and it’s fascinating.
“People still come from across the country to see the shop and I had to put the number back on the door so people would stop asking if it’s 413 Oldham Road.
“John Ellis doesn’t frighten us. We realise he was just doing his job, but I still won’t go down into the cellar. That’s too scary.”
The duo are keen to find out more about the hangman and would be happy to welcome ghosthunters from the popular television programme Most Haunted to reveal more about the spooky happenings.
Mr Rushbury added: “It interests us and if we are being haunted then it’d be interesting to find out more, so if they’re happy to take on the challenge, then it’s over to them.”