Time for a fundraiser with a frightful difference, taking place in one of Manchester’s most-loved buildings. On the night of Halloween itself – Wednesday 31st October – a group of local icons will be locked inside the supposedly haunted top floor of Afflecks…. and their only way out is to get friends and family to pledge as much cash as they can!

Icons taking part in this terrifying challenge include actor and writer Steve Edge (you may know him from Benidorm and also Peter Kay’s Phoenix Nights), Former Lord Mayor of Manchester and current LGBT Advisor to The Mayor of Greater Manchester, Carl Austin-Behan and beauty guru Sam Marshall. DJ John Locke, businesswoman Chloe Khan and the boys behind Didsbury Gin – Liam and Mark - complete the line-up.

But how do the frightful and the fundraising combine? Each of the competitors has had a JustGiving account assigned to them – open to the public to donate to – and during the course of the lock-in, they will be released to safety depending on how much is in their account.

Therefore, the public must donate to the account of their favourite figure, in order to ‘save’ them. Who will be the last person left to face the spirits?  But it’s a petrifying process which is positive too – as all the proceeds raised will go towards local charity Forever Manchester and their current Happy Days campaign.

These Manchester figures will not be alone however, as accompanying them through the eerie surroundings of this former Victorian drapery warehouse is resident ghost hunter Stuart Marshall.

Stuart certainly knows a thing or two when it comes to mysterious and haunted happenings in Manchester. Last year he conducted a lockdown in the eerie underground space beneath Deansgate’s Barton Arcade, close to where the Victorian arches used to be. He’s also conducted events in Old Granada Studios – which is close to the site of a former cemetery, as revealed by Flecky Bennett during his Manchester ghost walks – and The Corn Exchange.

But why is Afflecks so creepy? The interior sprawls across multiple massive floors, with a network of stairs, snickets and passageways. Stallholders have historically reported strange incidents including stock moving without any other people being present, the passing of ghostly figures, items thrown around on the top floor – even a deck of cards laid out fully. A Mancunian Matters piece revealed a number of reported examples and it is likely that the upcoming lockdown will reveal even more.

Many people certainly have passed through Afflecks over the years, with its origins in Affleck & Brown, a drapery business on Oldham Street in the 1860s. This developed over time unto a full department store, added to the Debenhams portfolio by the 1950s.

However, it was a case of from Debenhams to difference – as although the department store on this site was forced to close in 1973, it opened as a place for local traders to try out their luck – becoming Afflecks Palace (as many still call it) in the early 1980s. Affordable rents meant that many weird and wonderful businesses began to spring up, sand there are many stallholders with an unusual twist that Afflecks still celebrates today – be sure to check out HAUNT Manchester’s ‘Gothic Guide to Afflecks’ here.

Since then, Afflecks has continued to flourish as an emporium for alternative culture... including everything from fantastic fancy dress to tattoos, piercings and underground music. It’s certainly a good place to prepare for Halloween too, as there a number of shops within well-stocked with items ideal for the spooky season.

There’s even a Halloween Party on the second floor this Saturday 27th October, as Violet Loves Vintage presents live music from Yzzy-Bella, prosecco and plenty of spooky surprises from 2pm onwards.  The day also marks Afflecks’ annual Spooktacular – with stallholders invited to dress up and visitors can vote for their favourite via a ‘hall of scream’ photo board.

With over 73 businesses inside, it certainly is bustling – and amongst that, there may well be a ghost or two…

“We’re all excited to see what happens during the Lock Down!” Tony Martin, General Manager at Afflecks commented “There have been plenty of spooky happenings over the years – this is a building with a rich past, starting out as a warehouse for Afflecks and Brown Department Store in the 1860s, so who knows what the ghost buster will turn up!”

The lock-in competitors will encounter some of the creepiest parts of the building, including areas that are not typically open to the public – from secluded stairways to secretive storage areas.

According to Carl Austin-Behan: "I am really excited to be involved with this charity event to raise money for various groups, organisations and individuals across our communities here in Greater Manchester as part of Forever Manchester. "In a way I hope that I don't raise the most as I am really looking forward to being locked up and do some ghost hunting in one of Manchester's most famous buildings."

To find out more about the Halloween ghostly investigation and the numbers you need to call/text to make your donation to keep your favourite figure safe, visit the Forever Manchester website. Here you can also find out about the different ways in which the funds will be used to make a valuable, charitable difference to local communities. Keep an eye out for the Hashtag #ForGooseBumps too.


Afflecks, 52 Church St, Manchester M4 1PW