Our Paddington store is located next to what used to be Paddington Green Children’s Hospital. The hospital opened in August 1883 and was designed as an emergency hospital for seriously sick children who could not wait for a doctor’s appointment. The main building was extended over the years and many buildings were added on surrounding plots of land.
Sadly in 1893 there was a serious outbreak of diphtheria and in the 1800s when medical resources were limited, death was an almost certain outcome. Many of the new outpatient buildings were demolished after the outbreak and the hospital was moved. However although the remaining buildings have been repurposed, some of the old inhabitants still lurk in our corridors.
“I had a member of staff call me late one night, asking what to do about a child he’d seen wandering in one of the corridors on her own. He could see her standing at the top of some stairs at the back of our building on one of the CCTV cameras but when he went to check, she wasn’t there. He went back to look at the cameras again and she was gone” – Paul, Regional Manager.
Bristol Ashton Gate
Our Bristol Ashton Gate store was one of three bonded warehouses constructed to meet the demands of the booming tobacco trade in the early 20th century. What is now Safestore’s Ashton Gate branch was once known as the 'C Bond warehouse' and was the last ever tobacco warehouse to be built in Bristol back in 1919. It is now a Grade II listed building. The warehouses are nine storeys high and many of the upper floors had large loading doors to allow cranes to deposit large shipments directly from the ships.
These large loading doors were extremely dangerous and, unsurprisingly, health and safety wasn’t a key concern in the early 20th century. Records show that many warehouse workers met a grisly end by falling from the loading doors or at the hands of the hoists and cranes and there have been reports of ghostly occurrences in our store since it opened.
“It was the end of August and, with the help of my parents, I was finally able to move into my new house which meant emptying my storage unit. It was on the 5th floor and all was well – until we were about to leave. There was no one around and we started to hear loud, discordant sounds. It sounded like bells echoing and ringing. The corridors are like mazes so we tried to follow the direction of the sound, but every time we got to where we thought the sound was coming from, it would change direction and appear as though it was playing somewhere else” – Richard, a Safestore customer.
Our Bermondsey store is located on Old Jamaica Road. Occupying several arches under the historic London Bridge to Greenwich railway viaduct, it is one of our most unique store locations. Built between 1834 and 1836, the viaduct is one of the oldest in existence and was the first elevated railway line in the world. The engineer responsible for the viaduct was Thomas Landmann who, in response to the housing crisis, suggested that the archways should be turned into cheap housing. Tiny arched houses under a noisy railway bridge? What could go wrong!
A small number of these dwellings were built and the living conditions became less than desirable as the cramped conditions became a major breeding ground for tuberculosis which was rife in the area. And to add more death to an already bleak past, Jamaica Road and surrounding areas were damaged by a V2 rocket in 1945 during World War II. It’s hardly surprising that we’ve had reports of things going bump in the night!
“I was one of the last customers at the store after a long day of transferring stuff from my removals van to my unit. I heard a woman crying from inside one of the units near mine and rushed to get someone to unlock it thinking maybe the person had locked themselves in. A member of staff opened the unit but it was completely empty and the crying had stopped. We both heard it.” – Karen, a Safestore customer.
“The Safestore branch in Southend opened on the 5th November 2010 and everything was fine until the 11th December 2011, a year after opening. The customer who was renting the room at the time complained that they’d found shards of glass all over their stuff. I looked inside the unit and it looked like someone had smashed a large quantity of glass over the entire room. We looked through the CCTV on the day that the customer moved in and no glass was stored in, or around, the unit. We never found an explanation or reason for the event so helped the customer to restore the unit to a clean and safe state, simply putting it down to a strange event.
The second occurrence happened on the 3rd of May 2012 when a different customer using the unit reported that a large marble sink had been smashed all over the unit floor. We checked the CCTV again and could see the sink being placed into the room on the 19th January 2012 when the customer moved in; it was stored securely for months without any problems. The unit was not accessed again until the 3rd of May and when the unit door was opened the sink could be seen in tiny pieces all over the floor. It almost looked like someone had taken a hammer to it and smashed it into tiny pieces. A fall alone wouldn’t have done that. The customer was compensated for the sink, the room was cleaned and nothing happened again for some time.
There were four more customers in the unit over the years who didn’t report any issues and the store team started to forget about it. However they got a booking for the unit in October 2015 went to prepare the room for the customer moving in. A store consultant went into the unit to sweep the floor and found that there was a fine black dust on the floor, almost like ground coal. He cleaned the mess and checked the roof and surrounding areas to find a cause. All seemed fine – the roof was intact and there was nothing else in the area that could have resulted in the dark pigment found on the floor. Days later another staff member went to check the room to see if the dust had returned – it had. The room was cleaned again and left until the morning that the customer was due to move in. Yet again the dust was back – it only occurred in the room in question, nowhere else. The units either side were unaffected as were the corridors. It was cleaned again and the new customer moved in – to keep their stuff safe we supplied some plastic dust covers for their items. The dust returned so we moved the customer to a different unit.
Later that year another customer using the room visited reception where we had a friendly chat about the football and the weather; however it quickly turned to darker topics. The customer was using the troublesome unit and although in this instance nothing had happened, he claimed to be a spiritual medium and believed he could feel the spirit of an older man who was extremely unhappy we were using the area. He also believed that the older man had the ability to move items as he had physically felt his presence. Mediums call this an ‘intelligent haunting’ which means that ghosts or spirits can interact with the living.
I decided to try and verify what he was saying and spoke to another customer called Fiona; in previous conversations she’d mentioned her interest in the paranormal. I explained everything that had happened up until then and asked what could be done. Fiona asked if I would walk her around the building and she would mention if anything felt off. We walked a few corridors and Fiona mentioned nothing. However in the aisle leading up to the unit, she began to notice something. We got to the door of the room in question and Fiona stopped dead in her tracks. It suddenly felt colder and Fiona said “it’s here isn’t it?” She had not been told specifically which unit it was and after walking past tens of units it seemed impossible that this was a coincidence. A cold rush of air moved through the aisle and we decided to leave.
Then on the 6th May 2016, just before midnight, I discovered an issue with the CCTV camera situated in the same corridor as the haunted unit. For a ten minute period all cameras appeared to be running normally apart from the one in question where it seemed to be experiencing interference. The cameras at Safestore all run in the same way – they are continuously recording but the screens in reception display images in a sequence, flicking between the cameras. When a camera detects movement, a screen in reception will continue to display the footage from that camera until movement stops; at this point the screens revert to displaying images in a sequence. The camera in question seemed to have picked up some movement as the screen remained focused on the one corridor. The image was flickering, like static, fading in and out of focus. There was no one in the main building at the time. Nothing could have caused the movement detected. And the camera was checked for damage; there were no connection issues and the static hasn't happened since.” – Alan, Store Manager.
If you've seen or heard anything strange in one of our stores, or want to share a spooky story, leave us a comment below!