Cardiff; the Welsh capital…so often associated with hordes of sports fans on international rugby days, tourists visiting the castle grounds and music fans filling one of it’s many diverse venues…it’s a busy, thriving, modern city center…but like most places it has it’s secrets. Today we’re going to be taking a sneak peak into some of the cities hidden mysteries, as The Paranormal Magazine finds writer Gavin Griffiths talking to Carl John, the host of the Cardiff Ghost Walk, as he shares with us some of his favourite locations and stories from the capitals hidden history. Here’s what he had to say…
Carl, thank you very much for taking the time to have a chat, I’d like to start off if I may by doing a quick dive into your journey into the paranormal. What initially caught your attention and what inspired you to originally pursue this as an interest? Were there any particular events or experiences that made you question everything?”
“Hi Gavin! Your welcome! Right…how did this all start? Well I have always been interested in ghosts, mystery’s and odd things. I was the kid who always wanted to know what’s around the corner…I am one of those odd people you meet that weird things happen to. Coincidences and knowing things before they happen, even to this day! But if I had to say WHO got me into this, I am convinced it was Arthur C Clark; the great sage of Taunton, who had two series on Mysteries back in the 1980’s that started me on my life long Journey into “What the hell was that?”
He did not believe in them, and he always had a glib answer for anything that did not fit into his world view. But I was always skeptical of the answers or explanations, even though I was reading books on Sherlock Holmes at 8 years of age and I am still a fan today. Odd I know…to Holmes’. logic and reason explain all things, but not me, I have seen way too many things that don’t quite fit in to our Materialistic, Reductionist view of the world.
So anyway I went to my library and took out a book called “This House is Haunted” by G L Playfair. It’s about the Enfield poltergeist and wow! I read it and went back for more and more, I think I was the only 11 year old who knew who Jack the Ripper was! What the Loch Ness monster could have been, and who Allister Crowley was! What did the Fox sisters start in America, and folk law, magic both stage and real, I was reading books meant for adults! Even now I’m still reading books and looking into dark places to see what’s in there. And then In my other life as I call it, I am a full time Mind reader and Mentalist.”
Now you’ve taken this passion and interest and you’ve decided to share your incites with the public as the host and guide for the Cardiff Ghost Walk, firstly how did you find yourself in this position and how did the walk itself come to fruition?
“I’m a performer, and I travel a lot and most cities have a ghost walk, or a murder walk. Cardiff did not have one and I thought it was a shame as the city has a history that many don’t even know is there. They think Cardiff is the same as it always was…as I say in the opening of the tour; “Ah yes, you think you know Cardiff? Then if you listen to the shadows they will tell you their tales”. So as I say, many believe they know Cardiff city center, so let’s look at the Hayes area?
The Hayes and the restaurant quarter was once an industrial area, with slums and a vile “Death house“ for storing the unclaimed dead or murdered unfortunates, plus the suicides. Often in the area of the canal tunnel called “The Hole” or lock 50, and there was the cattle market in Golate Street, and even now if you look at the roof of the Sandringham Hotel on St Mary Street. You will see a life sized statue of a lion. The city has so many stories and secrets, In short “You see, but you do not observe.” :- Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.
They will be lost if they are not spoken about and forgotten. No one know they were even there. Thousands walk past every day and do not even know they were there!”
Cardiff is always a busy and bustling city center; were there any issues or complications when it came to setting up and planning the tours route? Is this something you’ve required permissions for from council authorities and such?
“I have had no problems expect for the odd drunk who comes on the tour for a while. Sometimes I will change the route, to avoid St Mary Street; the street of a thousand drunks. To be honest the biggest problem I have had on the walk, is people asking me if I’m Wizard or a priest. Due to my big flappy coats!”
Speaking of the route itself, you mention the hidden gems and ghost stories, but Cardiff isn’t somewhere you hear spoken of when it comes to haunting’s, what more can you tell us about some of the stops on the tour? (Without giving away too much, of course!)
“Cardiff has a hidden history and tales of terror to tell, we do stop at many of the landmarks of Cardiff; the Castle of course and the Rummer tavern, that was my favourite story for a while. But new things are popping up all the time…like where the Gibbet was on Working street. The hidden tunnels under the city, The Elephant of Queen Street, what Dead Drunk is and the numbers in Dead mans lane?
I bet it’s safe to say you’ve had to do a lot of research into these locations; trying to legitimise and authenticate the hidden history and stories you convey; do you have a favourite in particular?
“That’s the hardest part of it all! Some story’s sound fantastic, but they don’t stand up to real scrutiny. For instance. I heard of a tale of young Irish girl who lived in Mary Ann Street (By the Motorpoint arena) who went to London and became a lady of the night “Hum hum a poor unfortunate” and she was the last victim of Jack the ripper…she was Mary Kelly (9 November 1888, Dorset Street, London) Yes it’s possible, as that area was just outside the slums known as little Ireland.
And she did say that she married a miner called Davies, who died. But so much is distorted and vague. My new favourite is not a ghost story, but the tale of one “Billy Short Legs” a vile villainous man who attacked the good folk of the Golden Cross pub. In the 1800’s he was drunk and seriously assaulted the drinkers in the pub. He was thrown out, the doors locked and he broke in 3 more times before the police were called and arrested him.
After assaulting both of them as well he was sent down for 6 months with hard labour. Fair enough you say, now here is the rub; Billy was called Billy short legs yes? Why? Well he had no legs below the Knees! He lost them working on the canals that run through Cardiff! But, he was still a feared individual. Birmingham may have had the Peaky Blinders, Cardiff had people like him, Billy and some of his fellows. Maybe in a new tour of Cardiff’s crime history if I find the time.”
What kind of people do you most commonly find booking your tours? Is there a noticeable demographic and, have you faced much skepticism whilst on the job?
“I find all types on the walk, no real “type” just people who want a good time and to be entertained, amused and intrigued. I do get a lot of people from Cardiff and I show them things they have never seen before, even though they live here. Skeptics? Yes, had a few but the walk is an entertaining walk with history and ghosts. I let people make up their own minds.”
Is the tour as it is set in stone, or as you maybe uncover new stories or discover new locations with interesting history, is there the possibility of expanding the tour?
“The tour is not set in stone, no, there is too much to tell people, and it depends on my mood, (And the audience) as I often ask the audience what would you like now; a Murder, Horrible History or a Ghost story? As to extending the tour, yes, I’m planning on making it a two hour walk as there is so much I would love to put in. Maybe after the pestilence has gone from the land!”
Obviously with the world in the position it’s in right now, everything is on hold, but I’m sure you’re eager to get back up and running, giving your customers goosebumps, where can people find you and the information they need to tag along? Plug away your social media for when lock-down ends.
“Yes of Course! You can find me at.
Carl, thank you so very much, and I look forward to joining the walk myself sometime soon!