We asked our readers which Southampton building they think is the most haunted. There was one clear answer - South Western House.

It may not be the oldest building in Southampton but it has seen more than its fair share of tragedy and death over the years, perhaps resulting in the numerous sightings of ghostly apparitions through the years.

The building, designed by John Norton in a French Renaissance style, was opened in 1865.

Designed to be the most opulent hotel in the South East of England, the Imperial - as it was originally named - was located on the corner of Terminus Terrace and Canute Road, just a stone’s throw from the bustling docks.

The red brick hotel contained 100 suites and was an instant hit with Southampton society, quickly becoming a hive of social activity.

Daily Echo:

In 1925, an ashlar stone-clad eight-storey extension was added to the hotel to provide a further 100 bedrooms.

One of the most famous stories about the hotel's haunting involves Room 667. 

In 1929, a couple named Mr. and Mrs. Dawson checked into the hotel. During the night, Mr Dawson shot and killed his wife and then himself. 

The room was closed off for a long time after, but some guests reported hearing strange noises and seeing apparitions in the hallway outside.

Some guests reported hearing strange noises, such as footsteps, voices, and music, coming from empty rooms. Others claimed they felt cold spots or being touched by unseen hands.

Daily Echo: South Western Hotel.

The hotel's management did not officially acknowledge the ghost sightings, but some staff members reported having their own experiences. 

The Grade II listed building, which has stood firm through a rapidly changing Southampton landscape, was acquired by the London and South Western Railway Company in 1871.

Red uniformed porters would scramble to meet and greet passengers from trains which arrived on the railway platforms just outside the hotel’s main entrance.

One night, one of the porters claimed he saw a woman in Victorian clothing standing at the end of a hallway. He said that she turned and looked at him, and then disappeared into thin air.

A Victorian lady, perhaps the same apparition, was also said to have been spotted in and around the hotel’s ballroom - a room that seemed to be a focal hub for paranormal activity. 

Daily Echo: RMS Titanic departing Southampton on 10 April 1912.

Another staff member said she heard the sound of children's laughter coming from the empty room. She went to investigate, but there was no one there.

Many guests stayed overnight at the hotel before embarking on the ill-fated Titanic maiden voyage in 1912.

These included Joseph Bruce Ismay, White Star Line’s managing director, Thomas Andrews, the liner’s designer, and The Countess of Rothes.

One of the ghostly sightings at the hotel since then, and perhaps one of the most grandiose, was when a guest claimed to have had visions of a ship sailing through the walls of the hotel.

Not many will remember the building serving as a hotel - the outbreak of the Second World War put an end to that.

The Royal Navy took over the premises and became HMS Shrapnel - a military intelligence establishment - until September 1946.

Daily Echo:

The hotel is believed to have been one of the places Winston Churchill and Dwight Eisenhower met up to discuss plans for the D-Day invasion.

Fitting that before this, the ghost of a man in military uniform had been said to have been seen roaming around the lobby.

There were also said to have been sightings of doors opening and closing on their own, lights flickering, furniture moving around and inexplicable voices whispering.

Despite the hauntings, local people would often rely on the hotel whenever they wanted to check the accuracy of their watches as, in the early part of the last century, a “time ball” was fitted to a mast on the roof of the building.

At exactly noon each day, the large five-foot black ball would be dropped down the mast so that ships in the docks and the Solent could verify their chronometers.

After the war, the building changed to South West House and provided offices for British Railways, Cunard and then studios for the BBC.

The hotel was converted into flats by Berkley Homes and, in 1999, was renamed Imperial House.

The ghost sightings at the South Western House have been reported for many years. Some people believe the ghosts are the spirits of former guests or staff members who have died at the hotel.

Whether or not the former hotel is truly haunted is up for debate. However, there is no doubt it has a long history with many deathly tales.