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The Ghost of Burnopfield

The area around Burnopfield and the site of the old railway track is said to be haunted by a fearsome apparition with an "Eerie face with eyes that blaze." Others have seen "A face horrible, grotesque, twisted and scarred and a head covered with a shock of white hair." It has also been described as "Not the d=face of a demon, but that of a dead man."

Often the apparition has been seen near Gibside Hall, now run by the National Trust. In 1930 the following encounter was recorded by a local man: " I was coming down the line to get to Burnopfield Village about 10p.m. when I was stopped by hearing several mettalic clangs, sounding in every respect like those of a plate-layer when he is laying or repairing the rails. After stopping for a few seconds I walked on but my progress was again arrested by seeing a face hanging in mid air, horrible, grotesque. A face that grimaced, was twisted and scarred almost out of human semblance. Not the face of a demon but that of a dead man., and all around a shock of wild, white hair that floated like a shroud. The eyes flamed and blazed; they were unearthly, eerie, terrible. I saw the face for a fraction of a second, then I heard a thunderous roar like hundreds of coal wagons out of control on the line. I did not stop for any more but turned and ran."

The apparation has been seen several times near Gibside Hall, but on some occassions it has been described as "wearing a cowl" like a monk.

It has been ventured that the apparition is that of a David Tweddle, a platelayer killed on Burnopfield Bank railway in 1879 by a freak accident. He was struck in the face by a wire rope which had become detached from coal wagons while in motion.

The Shields Daily Gazette of the time gives a grim account of the accident: " Yesterday morning, shortly before twelve o'clock, a shocking accident occured on the Pontop and Jarrow Wagon Way. Whilst David Tweddle, 62 years of age, was working on the Burnopfield incline the first set of waggons left the rails, and the rope by which they were drawn caught him, and cut him nearly in two. Death was instantaneous." (Oct 7 1879).

I found separate accounts of a spiritualist in the 1930's and a medium in the 1980's visiting the area and both felt that the sounds of the ghost were that of a poltergeist and meant no harm. Whether the apparation and sounds tie in to this dreadful accident we can only guess.

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