The Monkey Man – ghosts on the canal

Bridge 39
Home of the Monkey Man?

It’s the perfect time of the year for ghost stories. Fires are being lit, the nights are drawing in and a white fog lays like a blanket on the fields. Dickens was fascinated by the supernatural and wrote a number of short stories featuring ghostly apparitions. Perhaps the most famous of these was The Signalman, made into a television drama with Denholm Elliott in the title role as a man driven mad by the silence and solitude of his job. It is well worth reading or watching for its Gothic horror.

Transport, whether it is roads, canals or rail, often seems linked with supernatural activity. This may be because crossroads have been important meeting places for centuries. It may be because many lives have been lost here, or it may be the feeling that nothing is permanent; we are in a constant state of flux. The Shropshire Union Canal is an eerie place that has attracted its share of spooky goings-on. Just north of Norbury, near Stafford, the poor navvies who dug the canal had to contend with huge embankments. I walked this stretch last Sunday (October 17) and left Norbury in bright sunlight. Half a mile later I could see my breath rising as a chill fog. I was deep in the cut, with mossy banks of bracken and giant beech and oaks towering over me. It was dark and damp and chilly. The bricks seemed a luminous green. Bridge 39 looks odd and it is said to be the home of the Monkey Man, a shaggy creature who descends on unfortunate travellers. There have been sightings from Victorian times. He is said to be the ghost of a drowned boatman. Click here to learn more about ghosts on the Shroppie.

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