Friday, 26 June 2009

Haunted Phone Box???

A recent post placed on a ghost related thread of a local forum raised a query concerning the (by now, somewhat famous) 'haunted phonebox' of Erdington, Birmingham. The question concerned related to a particular aspect of the ghostlore that has - quite erroneously - become associated with the box in question over recent years:

"The ghost of the woman in the phonebox in Erdington, does the phonebox still stand?

Also, does anyone have any light on the story about the housefire that killed her family?"

For those that aren't familiar with the case in question, suffice it to say - for the moment at least - that the ghost of a woman has supposedly been seen using the box..... Local legend has 'now' come to dictate that this poor, unfortunate figure is the apparition of a local woman who, in vain, tried to call the firebrigade as a raging fire burned down her house and killed her family......

A most horrfic story, to be sure....... but is there any truth to it all? Firstly, lets go back to basics, return to the very beginning of this legend and see where such a dramatic tale originates.

Firstly, the box in question came to public attention - via the local press - during the mid-1970's, when tales of a 'solitary', alleged 'ghostly experience' was reported by local, paranormal investigator, Colin Smith. The tale was later, widely publicised in the books by the late Andrew Green, who was honorary president of the ghost hunting society run by Smith.

The original published data from Colin - the story being related directly to him at 1st hand by witnesses involved - ran as follows:

The incident concerned occurred in December 1975. Three people, a Catholic priest and a couple, were waiting outside the phone box - situated in Station Road - intending to use the phone. All present reported seeing a woman inside the box and described her as perfectly normal / contemporary looking, 25 to 30 years old and dressed in dark blue costume, with reddish polo-neck jumper. After waiting for a while, the priest, somewhat impatiently, opened the door of the box, intending to use the telephone directory......

At this point, the woman is said to have 'vanished' before their eyes...... there one second and gone the next!!

As far as is known, this is the ONLY, first-hand sighting of any ghostly figure or alleged apparition associated with the site in question (in almost 35 years). Nowhere in the original news stories / book entries are there ever mentioned any further sightings of the woman...... and all references found for a number of years deal solely with the aforementioned experience. (Colin himself had suggested that the figure seen was that of a 'living person' and possibly fell into the category of 'apparitions of the living', etc).

The phone box, which features in the original story, was removed when the change from the old red boxes was made many years ago. Of course, as with such matters, this hasn't stopped subsequent phoneboxes / boothes in the area being attributed with 'haunted' status - a silly situation which hasn't been helped at all by sensation-hungry reporters and investigators over more recent years! This 'updated' story has now appeared in numerous publications and such places as Richard Felix's 'Brum Ghosts' DVD!!!!

Unfortunately, it is 'now' strongly suggested that the whole matter is indeed a case of 'haunting' and suggested that a 'number of people' have also seen the figure of the woman over a prolonged period of time, etc. Typically with such myths, no witnesses have ever actually come forward to relate these experiences 'personally', of course, suggesting that the professed ghostlore concerned is nothing more than the propagation / continuance of a 'friend of a friend' tale based on the original encounter.

As it turns out, the story involving the tragic house fire, etc, is clearly nothing but one of those embellishments that you frequently find being associated with such tales..... As mentioned re. the 'fire' related aspect of the tale, such stories - with each re-telling - gather momentum (description-wise, especially) like the old snowball rolling down hill.......

In reference to the alleged 'apparition' itself, the woman described has - within recent years - apparently become 'dressed in period costume' in many re-tellings.... mainly being referred to as 'Victorian' in style. (Some references advocating this detail even go to lengths to outline how many telephones were present in the Erdinton area during the Victorian period and so on! It's a great pity that more effort wasn't employed in checking out the basic story concerned, before any endeavours towards technical detail employed!! Laugh!!). Also - erroneously - she is now frequently found being referred to as 'the lady in the pink cardigan' and 'the woman in the red dress' for some reason(???) The basic tale has also been embellished at one point with the details that she apparently smells of 'pear drops', indicating that she has been 'poisoned with prussic acid'........ this detail appears in at least one newspaper article and is almost certainly a mixture of two ghost stories associated with the Brum suburbs (the other case being from the Hockley area, but also appearing in the press around the same time as the phone box case, etc).

As with a great many such tales, the above mentioned information appears to be in a continual state of flux..... leading us to recognise that 'Chinese Whispers' certainly have a lot to answer for in the research world!! Laugh!!!


The W.M.G.C.

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