Chorlton has a more chilling history than you may first think. Thanks to ‘Ghost Walker Extraordinaire’ Flecky Bennett, members of the public can be given a unique tour of the area’s unnerving past – all part of his monthly ‘Chorlton Chiller’ performance.

Spread across two hours, the ‘Chorlton Chiller’ is an exciting evening out and a chance to learn more about this seemingly quaint suburb of South Manchester. Flecky is a highly knowledge guide capable of integrating factual accuracy with fast-paced interaction, and the performance began on the historic Chorlton Green – which was designated as a conservation area in 1970 – with Flecky using the space to show how the old Chorltonians used to entertain themselves.

The audience listened as accounts of old Chorlton entertainment on the Green came to life. This included women carrying women and men carrying men across the grass, as well as an unusual practice endured by fighting couples – where ‘nagging’ women would be lambasted by having the punishment of neighbours clanging pots and pans at them every time they tried to leave the house. Such a series of strange rituals were revealed, and the mood was already becoming spooky.

Pace-egging, playing the devil and so much more was discussed.

And that was just the start. Flecky then continued to acquaint the audience with the area, by detailing the dark history of the Horse and Jockey pub, located next to The Green. He explained that Chorlton has been a historically popular drinking area, and during the Victorian era this included the practice of people paying for their own funeral via the bar. When people would buy a drink at their local, part of the charge was kept to contribute towards their funeral, whilst a room in the pub would have also been used to lay out dead bodies.

Participants enjoyed a nerve-settling drink in the pub itself, before the performance proceeded back out to the old St Clement’s churchyard, on the opposite side of The Green. Ever the entertaining and interactive guide, Flecky directed participants to proceed in a single file line, adding to the sense of occasion – recreating perhaps the historic processions once associated with death.

Each section of the experience was punctuated with points of historical richness from Flecky, and the group crowded under the entrance to old St Clement’s, Flecky explaining that this was a ‘Lychgate’ – meaning, a ‘corpse gate’ – with streets in the area  also named after such a structure.

Spooky sound effects from Flecky’s ‘musical codpiece’ added to the experience, underlining a guide capable of blending history with humour – keeping all involved on their toes and alert, on entering what would have once stood as St Clement’s Church.  Now a ruin with foundation stones left, it is thought that burials began in the area in the 1750s and up until the early 20th century – the church itself in use for an estimated 160 years.

Now many graves lie set into what would have been the floor space, with one particular stone giving the name of ‘Nicholas Cock’ – a character Flecky proceeded to tell us more about. Nicholas Cock was a Police Constable in late 19th Century Chorlton, who during one night of 1876 was alerted to the activities of a cat burglar operating in the area. He noticed a mysterious character lurking in an alleyway and attempted to confront the individual… however, he was shot in the chest and tragically died in the process, yelling out ‘Murder’ as he went down.

If this murder was not chilling enough, then there was added angst as two local men– The Habron brothers – were arrested, charged and sentenced to hang for the crime. It was only years later that the notorious Charlie Peace, a travelling burglar, admitted that he had killed P.C. Cock. Fortunately, the two brothers had not hung by this point and were pardoned.

However, it is still thought that the spirit of P.C. Cock could still inhabit the area, and Flecky was keen to demonstrate this – taking the group to the nearby ‘Lead Station’ bar (which was the former Police Station’) for a paranormal experience or two. Flecky kept the mood high by informing the audience at every stage what the plans were, the sign of a guide who clearly cares about each participant having a rewarding experience – and there was the opportunity for members not to participate in the paranormal too.

Upstairs in the old Police Station was the final spooky stop of the ‘Chorlton Chiller’ experience, where a séance and Ouija board became part of the evening. The group gathered around the board, using the correct protocol in an attempt to possibly connect with the spirit of Nicholas Cock himself.  Although Flecky is a humorous guide, he sensibly and sensitively emphasized the importance of sincerity at this stage of the evening – so at no point did the experience feel disrespectful. The audience were engaged and interested.

Intriguing activity from the Ouija board was quick to occur, with the pointer quickly coming to focus on an off-duty policeman who happened to be on the tour – a fact unknown to other audience members before the séance began. This added to the eerie feel of the evening, though Flecky helped put audience members at ease by explaining that during  the Victorian era, Ouija boards used to be popular family entertainment. He also allowed guests to make their own decision in terms  of how the board works; with both paranormal and scientific reasons possible.

After the séance had ended,  participants were welcomed to talk to Flecky and enjoy another drink; again testament to an accommodating, accessible host. It underlined ‘The Chorlton Chiller’ as part-walk and part-experience, a highly varied evening which really encouraged the exploration of this suburb’s mysterious past, appreciation of historic figures and plenty of unnerving entertainment too. An evening out you won’t forget.

Flecky Bennett’s ‘The Chorlton Chiller’ runs monthly and must be booked in advance – visit here for more details. It is just one example of the extensive tours Flecky puts together looking at the creepy histories of areas in and around Manchester.