IT’S ONE of the most historic pubs in Southampton with a history dating back more than 130 years.

So perhaps it should come as no surprise that staff at the Talking Heads Pub in Portswood Road have reported a series of apparently ghostly going-ons.

These strange disturbances include the owner of the pub reporting he has been ‘slapped’ when no one was there by a ‘mysterious force’.

Bar manager, Will Wilkes, also claims he saw a white dress in the corner of his eye in the cellar, and the beer gasoline markers were turned off in the beer cellar when no one was there.

Meanwhile barmaid Maddy Hobbs said she heard strange noises on several occasions.

When she and Will asked the spirit to make noises – it apparently obliged.

To find out what really was going bump in the night, workers at the pub called in a paranormal investigation team from ‘Haunted Southampton’.

The team included Peter Collins, who investigated the history of the pub and Andy Ford, a medium. And then there was me.

Let me say from the outset I was sceptical. It didn’t help that the owner at the bar was holding a skull in a bowl as the investigation began.

Equipped with temperature reading devices, electro-magnetic field detectors and torches we headed into the darkness upstairs, the floorboards creaking and cracking beneath our feet.

No one lives upstairs – there’s just storage rooms.

The rooms were noticeably colder up here however – but then there was no heating.

Most of the rooms were filled with heaps of clutter. Old paintings, mirrors, board games, and old furniture made them look like a hoarder’s dream.

I was fine, but the medium obviously wasn’t.

Andy was clearly concerned and said: “My mouth has gone dry – it’s like I can’t settle.”

Soon he was picking up more, and added: “I am seeing the essence of a male and a female. I am feeling the glimpse of someone in the corner of my eye.” he said.

I could see nothing in the gloom besides the heap of junk in the room next to the corridor.

Then we came to a room where the door was firmly shut.

Peter Collins whispered: “This is the room – the one with all the activity.”

Unlike the other rooms, it wasn’t littered with junk. It just had chairs and wooden floorboards.

Then it happened.

As I walked in, my stomach turned, and my legs turned to jelly. I can’t explain why, but I was overwhelmed with a feeling of nausea.

Again Andy started sensing something and he mentioned the date 1693, and asked if it meant anything.

Nobody answered.

I couldn’t have uttered a word even if I had wanted too. I felt awful.

Silence fell and we simply looked at each other with blank faces.

The investigators then attempted to communicate with any possible inhabitants, a series of questions breaking the silence.

And it all apparently led to the confirmation that a woman lost her child in this pub in 1693.

I had my doubts as we retired to the bar, as did a few of the others.

Some, however, remained adamant that this was the closure they were after.

I left the pub with my doubts very much intact – but I couldn’t deny a distinct feeling of unease.

Why did my stomach turn as I walked into that room? Was 1693 significant?

And perhaps the most unnerving question of all: had I been spooked?.


The pub's history

THE PUB dates back as far as 1875, when it was owned by a Mr Brown.

It used to be known as the Red Lion and was renowned in Victorian times for its music and entertainment – a legacy which still continues to this day.

But there are no records of the pub or building before that date.

If it was operating 200 years ago, the pub would be a popular spot for travellers who wanted to have a drink as Portswood was part of the village of Highfield – which led to the heart of Southampton.

Near the pub would have been St Denys Priory and also Portswood Estate.

The pub has had many owners over the decades.

Between 1878 and 1884, Ben Bunney was the landlord of the pub. He was followed by Tom Higgins who took over in 1899 and then Charles Burton took over the reins just before the First World War in 1913.

Next Annie Burton became landlady from 1917 through to 1921, but she was fined £2 in June 1920 for selling liquor outside permitted hours.

From the 1950s through to the 1980s, the pub was regularly full with bands playing sessions regularly.