In Haunt

From embarking on the Original Manchester Ghost Walk to delving into the dark history of Didsbury and even exploring a secretive Stockport air raid shelter - Flecky Bennett’s ghost walks cover Greater Manchester and beyond… immersive experiences that are sure to thrill!

Flecky Bennett (pictured below) is the character creation of Ian Waring – a Preston-born now Manchester-based actor who studied at the notable Manchester Metropolitan School of Theatre; going on to star in films such as Crimes That Shook Britain and taking lead role in TV drama Bloody Murder. Ian’s interest in the darker side of culture, hidden histories and twisted tales certainly stood out in his acting – but he was curious to see if he could take it even further. 

Flecky Bennett

In 2009, Ian decided to take the plunge… into the world of Manchester ghost walking. The character of Flecky Bennett was created; a bearded, mysterious figure complete with a skull and crossbones hat and a voice sure to seize your fascination. A pirate from another age perhaps? He went on to carefully devise a city centre route, loaded with hidden histories and unearthing accounts of eerie occurrences – ‘The Original Manchester Ghost Walk’ that still continues today. Featuring weird and wonderful highlights such as the terrifying tale of ‘the mummy of Manchester’ and even the story of the devil being summoned at Chetham’s Library, this two hour experience certainly proved popular. 

An utterly unique guide – full of flair and loaded with historical knowledge – Flecky Bennett then turned his sights on other regions. Over the last 11 years, the range of Flecky Bennett ghost walks available has expanded to over 15, now taking place across Greater Manchester and including London and Paris! Just some highlights include the Chorlton Ghost Walk – that includes the opportunity to reach out to the resident ghost of The Lead Station, the new Ancoats Ghost Walk and an eerie exploration of the oldest townhouse in Stockport: Staircase House.  As well as walks, Flecky also offers a number of ‘experiences’, such as the opportunity to explore The Tavern of the Dead and an air raid shelter hidden away in Stockport… there’s even a river cruise – with a difference!

The expansion of walks and experiences over time indicates a public appetite for the strange and spooky – as underlined by the range of positive responses Flecky has received over the years. In fact, he was awarded Tripadvisor Certificate of Excellence 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018 and 2019, as well as featuring in the Tripadvisor Hall of Fame 2018 and 2019​! There is now the opportunity to buy Flecky Bennett Merchandise too – even if a kind of souvenir to say that you have survived your trip! 

Flecky Bennett

From Bolton to Bramhall, Flecky Bennett is busy across the boroughs – and 2020 sees even more spooky prospects ahead. Here at Haunt Manchester, we decided to speak to the man behind Flecky Bennett, Ian Waring, to find out more…

What inspired you to start putting together Manchester ghost walks – and when was the first?

My first ever performance as Flecky Bennett was on The Original Manchester Ghost Walk on 13th July 2009. The inspiration for starting the Manchester Ghost Walk and creating the character of Flecky Bennett was after I had visited one of the ghost walks in York.  I saw that maybe there was potential for one in Manchester but knew it had to be done completely different to others I have been on.  I believe I am the only professional actor running ghost walks in the country. 

“When creating the Manchester Ghost Walk, I was determined to create a unique style and the basis for that style is that I wanted to create the perfect performance that I would want to go on myself.  I don't want my performances to be long-winded with lots and lots of history, I want it short, fast, exciting and fun.  My performances are designed to pack a punch to all of the audiences senses, using lighting effects, dry ice effects, smells, special effects and props including my musical codpiece - which itself has become legendary!”

Original Ghost Walk

Here at Haunt Manchester we are interested very much in the Gothic. Do you think that Greater Manchester could be seen as a particularly Gothic region?

“I don't believe it's a particularly Gothic region, though I think my performances bring a lot of 'Gothicness' to Manchester.  When I first started the Manchester Ghost Walk in 2009, I was told by various people, ‘you'll never make it work because it's not Gothic at all in Manchester unlike places such as York and Edinburgh where there are lots of ghost walks’. Just because a place has lots of ghost walks, is that what makes it Gothic, or is Gothic more a state of mind?”

Can you tell us any of your favourite spooky stories that might make people think twice about places they pass every day?

“On the Original Manchester Ghost Walk, one of the most fascinating stories is that the devil is supposed to have been raised at Chetham's by Dr John Dee. The hoof print where the Devil stood on the table can still be seen to this day. 

“Another example is the Saturday Night Ghost Walk around the Castlefield and Campfield area, during which I take my audience into the biggest burial ground in Manchester which is in St Johns Garden. In these gardens, people enjoy their picnics there in the summer blissfully unaware that over 22,000 dead bodies including plague victims, cholera victims and victims from the Emma tragedy are buried beneath them.

Tavern of the Dead

“During the Tavern of the Dead performance in Manchester City centre, I take my audience into the oldest public house in Manchester called The Shakespeare Inn; although technically, it isn't allowed to be called that as it was actually moved brick by brick from Chester and rebuilt here! The top room was the setting for two suicides and is haunted by a girl on fire.

“On the Altrincham Ghost Walkthe performance finishes outside the only bar in the world that is built into a hospital mortuary. This incredibly atmospheric bar is haunted by a little girl called Mirabelle who is frightened of the dark.

“The Chorlton Ghost Walk involves the amazing story of the most popular serial killer before Jack the Ripper who actually operated in Chorlton-cum-Hardy. His most famous victim is buried in the graveyard there and not many people know about this story.

“The Bolton Ghost Walk features one of the strangest hauntings that I have ever come across. There's a pub called The Blue Boar which is now derelict, but I tell the story of how it is haunted by phantom dog muck...(now that's some scary shit!)

“On my Didsbury Ghost Walk I take the audience into the grounds of the old parsonage which is haunted by the ghost of a woman in black. One of the people who lived there; the Reverend Kidd, saw the woman in black and ended up dying in front of a train in Didsbury. He was the first person to die under a train in Didsbury and one of the first in the country. For those who are familiar with the film The Woman in Black, you'll know it ends when Daniel Radcliffe's character falls under a train, I'm not sure if the scriptwriters knew about Didsbury's 'woman in black' but they are very similar spooky stories.

Didsbury

“The Manchester River Cruise Experience involves sailing from Spinningfields to Media City and back, where I tell the haunted, spooky history of that particular stretch of the Manchester Ship Canal. This includes the amazing story of Mark Addy; a civilian who saved over 50 people from drowning, the tragic death of those who constructed the canal and ghosts that have been seen on the banks of the canal.

“On the Stockport Air Raid Shelter Experience I take my audience along the full network of the tunnels for the first time in 80 years. The route leads us under a graveyard where you can see body parts starting to emerge through the red sandstone tunnels below, including teeth and melted skin!

“In Stockport Old Town, I have access to Staircase House which is the oldest townhouse there built in 1460. I get the chance to take my audience into rooms and areas that are not usually open to the general public. The highlight however, is showing my audience the 'witch marks’ that are hundreds of years old. 

“On the Bramall Hall Experience, I exclusively take my audience into Bramall Hall in the evening and tell them the brilliant legend of the 'Red Rider'. By the end of the performance, he always makes an appearance!

“The Stockport Ghost Walk involves taking my audience to the location of the old dance hall. This is the place where the rectors daughter met the Devil one night before he disappeared on the steps which are now known as the 'Devil's Steps'.

Stockport

“On the Ancoats Ghost Walk I take my audience to the site of the old cross which was used as a suicide plot. Here, the deceased would be decapitated and would have their bodies literally pinned to the bottom of the grave so their spirit (which was thought to be evil) couldn't come out and get you!”

Your walks have continued to grow in popularity – what is it about exploring the city, the supernatural and history that captivates people, do you think?

“My performances have grown and grown because, like I previously mentioned, I create performances that I would want to go on myself. I make history as exciting as I can, I bring it to life and get the audience to participate by acting out the parts as I tell the story. I don't think I have ever had anyone refuse to take part. There is lots of audience participation, sound effects, lighting effects and adult humour as they are adult-only performances. Audience members in turn become my fans and they come back time and time again. My fans are affectionately known as ‘Fleckers’ and ‘Fleckettes’ and they are always the first to attend any new performances I create. As I have created over 17 different performances since 2009, that's testament itself to the level of entertainment you can expect.”

Your walks are growing in range too! Can you tell us about some new walking tour options… and are there any more in development?

“New for 2020 is the Ancoats Ghost Walk and research is in the early stages for Ordsall Hall in Salford.”

Ancoats

Have your walks/experiences ever involved the presence of the supernatural? 

“On a few of my performances I do séance and Ouija board sessions with my audience but I'm sure to explain to them the scientific reason why these things work, as well as the paranormal reason why these things work, then let the audience decide for themselves. Lots of my audience members believe in the paranormal and believe that they have experienced something paranormal by the time that they leave me on these performances. I am very clear to them that I am a professional actor and performer and I am absolutely not a psychic or a medium and it is entirely up to the individual to make up their mind. Personally, I believe a lot of it is scientific, however I have witnessed things that I can't explain, such as answers coming through from audience members that only I could possibly know the answer to.  Also on photographs that audience members have taken, you can see faces, shadows, shapes etc. captured in addition to the photo itself. One scientific theory for this is that our minds are programmed if you like, to make faces out of everything, (food, clouds, patterns)… but some things I really can’t explain!”

To find out more about Flecky Bennett as well as the range of walks and experiences available, visit the website: https://manchesterghostwalk.co.uk/

By Emily Oldfield 

Images provided with thanks to Flecky Bennett/https://manchesterghostwalk.co.uk/

Related

0 Comments

Comments

Nobody has commented on this post yet, why not send us your thoughts and be the first?

Leave a Reply