On tours of epic abandoned stations you expect tourism in all its variety. This has been the case with the tours around Mayfield Station. Guests have included people who have passed by for years and been itching to get inside, former railway workers, former parcel depot workers, general tourists and every now and then, individuals who are a little more unusual.
It’s easy to understand why the tours have been popular. There is a romance to abandoned spaces and ruined structures, they give a pause to the hectic rush of much of life, they are contemplative, almost meditative. That’s why aristocrats would place fake ruins in their estates to close views. Ruins reflect human life, youth, middle-age and decrepitude. Time flies, abandoned places whisper, so seize the day.
Mayfield Station’s long sleep is coming to an end with U+I, of course, and the whole site, along with the station, looks set to become one of the most colourful of UK city districts. Buildings sometimes come back to life, unlike humans.
Then again, according to a couple of my guests on the tours, some humans don’t go away even when dead. For some who have ventured into Mayfield Station, since it opened in 1910, time seems to have stood still.
On one tour a guest introduced himself as a psychic medium. His name was Lee and he was a charming man accompanied by his partner, Laura.
I am a sceptic about spooks. I conduct ghost tours as a professional tour guide and I love the storytelling. I love how Manchester, for instance, has some classic ghost tales that are much more powerful than “I feel a presence here, you can tell from the cold spot.” Right, yeah.
Lee isn’t a sceptic however, and on the tour had a couple a good hits. On the Mayfield Station platform levels he identified a man in a boiler suit who had died in 1968 and had been pacing the central platform ever since. Apparently, this ghost was a gentle sort. Of course, nobody else in the group sensed him. More worryingly in the depot, in the gloom, Lee identified another spirit, but this one was troubled and angry.
A couple of weeks later Lee and his partner booked themselves on the tour again. They wanted to free the spirits so they could leave for wherever spirits usually go. Afterwards Lee, who apparently has this talent for liberating ghosts, wrote to me: ‘The spirit on the platforms was happy to leave and is now back with his wife and children.’
That’s sweet, I thought.
He then wrote: ‘In the depot there was a spirit in the arches who was unhappy at me for asking him if he wanted to leave. Sometimes when a spirit is unhappy with something it can leave marks on you. I’m home now and Laura has noticed scratch marks on my back. This is not the first time this has happened to me but it all adds to the evidence.’
I’ve been past the place where the angry spectre is supposed to reside many times but I’ve felt nothing. Nor have the people in the groups. What the story does do is add an extra layer to the experience of this monumental structure and its history, real or supposed, natural or supernatural. The tales of Mayfield Station just keep on growing. Lee’s evidence is maybe not something we would all take as concrete proof of the supernatural. Yet proof or not we all love a good ghost story.
Written by Jonathan Schofield.