OF HAUNTED STATIONS & GHOSTLY FIREFIGHTERS…….
Article written by Matt Morgan, originally for the Firefighters' Union Magazine
***We ask that you do not approach this site for ghost hunting as the current owners will not appreciate it.
Ghosts! The very word conjures up a chill and a shudder in many people. It is amazing how very few will bring the subject up, but willingly offer their own stories and anecdotes once a conversation about ghosts is underway. A little bit of research into a tale I heard quite some time ago brought up the following story from various sources. All the anecdotes are sworn to. Can it really be true? Was there more to the old Sunshine Fire Station than met the eye?
One nightshift in October 1974, SO2 John Laverick gathered the crew of Sunshine Fire Station in Hampshire Road together in the watchroom for drill. Built in 1928, the station featured a vast, highly polished engine bay floor, extensive varnished timberwork, a beautiful timber-lined pole well, and a tight spiral staircase leading to the quarters upstairs. By the 70’s, the old station had gained an atmospheric patina that is only born because of a solid existence through the storms and dramas of many, many years. It might be said the building had its own personality: a personality gleaned from the thoughts and emotions of the many firefighters who had worked there over the last fifty years. Firefighters who unwittingly allowed their personalities to soak into the walls and stay there long after they had passed on.
As Station Officer Laverick drilled his crew, their attention was suddenly drawn to the glazed double watchroom doors that led to the engine bay. Without any warning, both opened as though someone was entering the watchroom. Mild interest was replace by horror when it was realised that there was no-one on the other side. They had, indeed, swung open by themselves.
Wind, you might think? Wind, coming through those big engine bay doors that had to be manhandled open each time the appliances turned out? No, they were shut tight. For those who have never seen them, the watchroom doors of those long past days were made of heavy, sprung glazed timber that required a strong shoulder shove to open.
Needless to say, the drill period was cut short. But S.O. Laverick and his crew were not truly surprised by the incident. The old station had long been the source of footsteps that were heard by all but remained unaccounted for. The heavy tread of boots was often heard coming across the engine bay floor to stop at the watchroom door, only to reveal no-one when the firefighter on station duty opened the door to see who it was. They were also heard upstairs in the long hallway that serviced the men’s mess and quarters, making their way to the spiral staircase, causing each stair to creak audibly in the night. You could count each step that was taken.
The encounters did not stop with the footsteps. A young fireman, for they were known as such in those days, looked out of the watchroom across the engine bay floor about 2:30 one morning and was horrified to see the door at the rear of the bay swing open and slam shut. Making his way across to the door, the young man opened it and peered across the empty yard. There was no-one there. He quickly retreated to the watchroom, and noticed a shutter had dropped on the board. It was number 6. He pushed the plug in and answered, "Watchroom." There was no answer. But the shutter HAD dropped. Someone in the officers’ quarters had called the watchroom. It was then that realisation set in, for there was no-one in the officers’ quarters; indeed, there hadn’t been for years. The room was locked.
Charlie McDonald found himself in a terrifying encounter when on station duty one night in the mid 1970’s. A terrible, unbearably heavy weight suddenly pushed down on this chest, and pinned his arms by his side. The pain was such that he thought he was having a heart attack, when, as suddenly as it occurred, the weight was removed, leaving no trace of its having been. It is small wonder that many firemen refused to spend the night in the watchroom in Hampshire Rd. It has been said that the footsteps are those of a PP (part-paid) fireman who hung himself in the pole well during the Second World War. It is proving difficult to substantiate this. However, it may answer a lot of questions.
The old station has now been turned over to private enterprise, having ceased to be operational in 1987. From all accounts, though, this has not meant a halt to the unexplained footsteps, strange sounds and shadows on the wall in the shape of a human being, even though there is no-one else there at the time.
Sunshine Fire Station still has an indefinable aura about it. In fact, it ponders the question: did the station possess this atmosphere when it was staffed by those firefighters of so long ago? If this is so, then it is not difficult to imagine the PP fireman during the 1940’s, his soul tormented by some indescribable sadness, finding the atmosphere unbearable. It was then he made his final decision, and hanged himself.