Sitting at the top of a hill on Seaham Road sits a pub known as the “Copt Hill Inn” which now according to Google is, “Permanently closed” with the pandemic having been the deathkneel. The venue dates from the late 19th century, being found on an 1890 ordnance survey map, which would make it one of the oldest standing pubs in Sunderland.

Being so old, such an inn is not without its own myths and legends, with a longstanding story circulating that the pub is in fact haunted by the ghost of a former landlord who apparently hanged himself in the bar. The spirit has allegedly been over the years seeing re-enacting the hanging, a grizzly experience if it were true.

In October 2002, local historian Paul Lanagan and his friend Peter Corfield decided to pursue a “ghost hunt” and investigate the legend of the Copt Hill Inn ghost themselves and spent the night in the venue to see what they could find. They took their effort very seriously, bringing two video cameras to film the entire experience and conducting a number of experiments. This involved filming old coins positioned on paper and drawn around to see if they would move, as well as an attempt to “record voices from the grave” with microphones.

Not surprisingly, both of these efforts amounted to nothing. However, they went on to state “our night in the pub proved to be anything but uneventful.” They claimed that “throughout the night we experienced a mixture of emotions and body temperatures, ranging from warm and calm to cold and uneasy. At nineteen minutes past midnight, we were chatting away when suddenly the main internal door into the bar swung open and slammed immediately shut!” They also claimed to experience a “paralysis” when sleeping.

But did they of course witness the purported figure of a barman hanging himself? Unfortunately not. Even if the ghost is not real, one must hope that the pub itself will “come back from the dead” and one day reopen again. Although its profitability is proving a challenge, it is nonetheless of too great a historical interest to be demolished and lost.

By SGM

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