The witching hour is upon us and Southampton's horrific past will come back to haunt us this evening. Echo reporter Kieran Fox braves hearing of the city's true ghost stories...

HAVE you heard the tale of the murderous chambermaid who haunts a historic Southampton house?

Legend has it that a woman called Ruth Dill worked at the medieval Merchant's House, in Castle Street, in the 1890s.

To supplement her income and satisfy her passion for jewellery she used to sleep with wealthy sailors staying at the house.

One night Ruth tried to rob a visitor of his valuables only for him to catch her in the act.

She turned and struck him with a fire iron, killing him instantly.

Realising the man was dead Ruth made her getaway and in doing so threw the jewellery she had taken down the nearby well - she was never heard of again.

Now a shadowy figure of a woman has been seen walking the corridors of the medieval house and staring longingly down the well outside as if looking for something.

Visitors have reported being pushed from behind on the landing and experiencing a cold clammy sensation.

Candles in the cellar blow themselves out and footsteps can be heard climbing the wooden staircase before a solid wooden door opens and closes of its own accord.

The ghostly tale of Ruth Dill is just one of many that can be seen this Hallowe'en when the city's haunted and horrific past comes back to life.

Hardy souls brave enough to share in the city's spooky history will wait until after dark tonight before departing on a ghost walk around the city centre led by the Curdridge witch.

Among the tortured souls, which are bound to reappear tonight is Lizzie Loader.

Lizzie was an Itchener back in the 17th century who used to make the journey across the River Itchen to sell her dairy products in the city.

One evening she was brutally murdered on her way to catch the ferry home and later buried.

But custom of the time believed that if you touched the body of a murder victim you would be cured of ill health.

So the body of Lizzie Loader was exhumed and propped up in Southampton's High Street for people to come along and touch it hoping they would be cured.

The ghosts of Lizzie Loader and Ruth Dill will be portrayed by the Sarah Siddons Fan Club, a Southampton-based street theatre group which will be leading the ghost walk and acting out the various horror stories and spooky tales.

Formed 15 years ago the group of 12 amateur actors perform in their own idiosyncratic way, historical incidents based on people who lived in Southampton.

They take their name from Britain's leading actress of the 18th century and one time resident of the city for seven years, Sarah Siddons.

As club secretary Gloria Tack, of Darwin Road, Shirley explained, all the group's productions are based on real life characters who once lived in or visited the city, but the ghost walks performed at Hallowe'en and Christmas are always the most popular.

She said: "One tale concerns Lord Scrope and his attempt to undermine King Henry V in the 15th century.

"When the ghost walkers arrive at the Bargate, they will be met by Lord Scrope himself as he walks around carrying his entrails in a bucket.

"Lord Scrope was tried for treason at the site of the Red Lion Pub, in High Street, Southampton

Mrs Tack said:"Henry was based in Portchester before he went off to France to fight in the Battle of Agincourt.

"Scrope was found guilty and he was hung, drawn and quartered at the Bargate.

"At another stop near the old walls of the city and WestQuay, the ghost walkers will meet victims of the plague, which struck the city during the 17th century.

"The plague claimed the lives of almost one third of the population of Southampton so there are many tales to tell."

If you dare to meet them and hear their dreadful stories then join the Sarah Siddons Fan Club on the ghost walk led by the historical "Curdridge Witch" from Holy Rood Church, in High Street, Southampton.

Tickets have all sold out for the 7pm tour but some are still available for 9pm. For more information contact the city information office, in Civic Centre Road on 023 8022 0536.


Hampshire's most haunted sites - some you may like to visit this Hallowe'en:

Angel Hotel, Lymington. Haunted by no less than six poltergeists and one of Britain's most haunted pubs.

The Beaulieu estate. Lady in white sits in the back of a Victorian era London taxi in the motor museum.

Also, Grey Lady, the spectre of Isabella, Countess of Beaulieu and daughter of the second Duke of Montague, plays the piano and opens and closes doors at will.

Netley Hospital, Royal Victoria Country Park, Netley. Grey Lady seen by countless frightened walkers. Said to be the ghost of a young nurse who committed suicide after accidentally killing a patient.

Dolphin Hotel, High Street, Southampton. A cleaner called Molly can be seen gliding across the ground floor.

The Mayflower Theatre, Commercial Road, Southampton. An old man sits in a wicker chair backstage.

Tudor Merchant's Hall, Westgate, Southampton. Offices nearby were plagued by a poltergeist. The front door would open and close of its own accord.

Red Lion, High Street, Southampton. A ghostly procession has been witnessed leaving the pub for the Bargate.