Coventry Corporation Transport Society

The Ghost of Harnall Lane

By Chris Marshall

I was out of my time, a fully fledged bodymaker and I was also out of the army after serving six months in a military hospital, near Southampton, then 18 months in Northern Ireland , at another military hospital just outside the tiny village of Moira.  The reason I was at military hospitals was because I was a medic in the RAMC.  I had also taken a clerical course, so apart from being a nursing orderly I was also a clerk.

My posting to Northern Ireland brought me two stripes, a full corporal, I became the Company Clerk, nice job but busy.  I enjoyed my time in Ireland but was happy to return to civy street.

Let us get back to the ghost, let us call it the ghost of Harnall Lane.  In the work shop at Harnall Lane, next to the electricians shop, was a heavy sliding door.  This door hid a flight of stone steps, which led up to the small garage paint shop.  Four of us used the upstairs paint shop as our rest room.  The room was equipped with trestles, etc, for the painting of replacement body panels and other body parts.

It was during one of these breaks that we heard the bottom door slide open and footsteps began to ascend the stairs.  No one appeared at the top of the stairs and when we went to investigate the door at the bottom was still closed and there was nobody there.

The painter that worked up there was called Jock Selby, he was paid a visit by the unknown visitor when he was all alone.  He was preparing a replacement panel when he heard the stair door open, this was common as body shop workers were always going up there for panels. Jock then heard footsteps climbing the stairs.  He was working on a panel that was very near the top of the staircase.  He turned to see who it was, footsteps but nobody was there.  He told us that his hair began to stand on end when no one appeared.

He dropped his paint brush and shot down the stairs into the garage below.  I saw him as he blurted out that the ghost had paid him a visit.  He was truly shaken, pale and refused to go back upstairs.

Jock did go back up and we went with him.  All was as he left it, but he swore that he had been visited by the Harnall Lane ghost.  Was it really a ghost or was it in our minds only.  Funny that all four of us had heard the door and the footsteps, but we shall never know what happened to our stair climbing ghost as the works has now gone and houses stand in its place.  I wonder if one of the houses gets paid a visit by our unseen visitor.

Addendum by Paintshop

In 1980 I was working in the Harnall Lane paintshop, a very bright,warm, lively place, always alive with talking, Radio2 constantly on, buses moving about outside so when it came up in conversation the building was haunted it didn't seem a problem.  I was never going to be there at night, was I?....

So on this particular evening I realised I had left some library books there, so not wanting to pay the 8p per book fine(!), I decided to have a ride up there on my motorbike and collect them.  It was about 7.15 when I went into the garage foreman's office, in those pre-security days it was unlocked as was the key press.  I took the key for the paintshop and walked up there, but as I approached the building I realised I had the key for the small door facing Stoney Stanton Road meaning I would have to enter via the paintshop.  In I went and stood in the dark.  The problem was the only light switch was at the other end of the room, walking the length of a bus and across the front of 3 buses and fumble on the wall until I found it.  This I did, immediately the room was bathed in light. To get to our upstairs rest room I had to open the door into the corridor. This door had a strong spring on it so during the day it was wedged open, but it also had a piston affair at the top to stop it slamming shut.  I pulled it back, entered the corridor and the door swung shut.  My way to the restroom was well lit, I got the books, returned to the paintshop and stood in the paintshop.  I now had to psych myself up to turn out the light and return across the room and down to the back door in almost total darkness.

Off went the light and I set off arms outstretched in front of me.  I had got to withn touching distance of the back door when I heard the spring creak on the other door, something was opening it all the way, then suddenly it made a deafening thud as it was slammed shut, something that was impossible because of the piston unless it was pushed very, very hard!!  As luck would have it I hadn't locked the outer door and I was out in a flash, locked it behind me and vitually ran all the way to the illuminated garage area.  I certainly didn't look at the paintshop window in case something was looking back at me.  Still no staff there, also no missing keys so no one else had been in the building so what had been able to open the door and slam it so quickly?  I don't know and nothing would have induced me to ever go back and find out.

There was one other odd incident.  Below the floor were the network of pits from the building's tram depot days, they had simply laid concrete slabs over the old rails so from entering via a hole in the spraybooth pit it was possible to explore the entire building from below.  One dinner time (prior to the above event) I took a torch with me and set off.  The tunnels were only 3'6 - 4' high and I had shuffled quite a way round when I became aware of noises.  I could hear people above me and outside noise but this was almost a dragging sound from within the tunnels.  Fortunately there were a couple of sections where a tunnel cut across side to side, I saw light from the pit area and made a dash for it.  I never ventured down the far side of the tunnels again, I wonder why?