The Magazine of Lenton Local History Society

Derby Road - Lenton

From 'The Lenton Listener' Issue 22

January - February 1983

The Ghost With Unlikely Associations!
by AH

Recently shown at the Savoy is Poltergeist one in a long line of films intent on scaring us rigid. We return home from a visit to the cinema, half expecting to hear bumps in the night, the rattle of chains, or to catch a glimpse of a strange figure slipping inexplicably through solid brick walls as we disturb its nocturnal ramblings. Perhaps we have come to expect such supernatural phenomena as a necessary ingredient of arty decaying abbey, stately home or ancient castle. But it seems you can expect to find them in somewhat less atmospheric surroundings - such as the Clifton Estate or Bridlesmith Gate in the city centre and of course, not to be outdone, in Lenton. Our own local ghost and/or poltergeist would appear to reside in Fanum House, the regional headquarters of the Automobile Association, on Derby Road.

Photograph by Chris Dent

This ghost was referred to in Andrew Green's book Our Haunted Kingdom, published some nine years ago. The author, a co-founder of the National Federation of Psychical Research Societies, quotes Fanum House amongst four Nottinghamshire hauntings. But his is but a brief reference and for a more complete story we suggest you read on.

Fanum House was built in 1957 on land at the corner of Triumph Road and Derby Road which had for a time served as a local council refuse dump. Alongside it on Triumph Road were the premises of a fruit machine supplier. This building now houses Leisuretex Ltd. Both buildings have had visitations from what is assumed to be the same ghost. This spirit seems to have great strength. While fruit machines were stored in the building, the owner was occasionally disturbed when opening his store in the morning to discover that the one-armed bandits, each weighing between three and four hundredweight had been, to quote, 'tossed around like cardboard boxes'. Next door in Fanum House, the poltergeist took the blame for a dreadful mess when one of the tea urns was transported dramatically from one side of the staff canteen to the other. Another incident was the removal of a supervisor's cap from the A.A. offices. The cap was only found again when it was spotted by someone looking through the window into an upstairs room. Not very unusual you might think, but that particular room had remained locked up for 3 years and a thorough search of the building was needed before the appropriate key could be unearthed. This would seem to rule out the likelihood of a staff joke, with the additional factor that the cap belonged to a highly respected senior officer who would not have taken kindly to any schoolboy prank.

When Andrew Green's study was published in 1973 he stated that there had only been two sightings. He referred to that of Ken Glasby, a shift worker, who at 1 a.m., believing he saw a client seeking aid from the centre approached a figure standing by an upstairs door. That figure then dematerialised. Disturbed by the incident, and who wouldn't be, Mr. Glasby checked the front door of Fanum House and discovered it was locked. One explanation given was that the figure was a spectre. Since that occasion other sightings have been reported, but because the ghost has become something of a celebrity it is difficult to determine which reports are genuine and which the result of impressionable minds and over-active imaginations. To dispel rumours, several members from the local psychic research groups stayed overnight in the building. Although their results were not conclusive they were convinced that the building contained a 'presence'. They also noted a distinctly defined cold zone in an upstairs corridor, a phenomenon mentioned by members of the staff.

What or who is this spectre? The ghost has not yet been identified, but all the descriptions of the figure match - a male of average height wearing casual civilian clothing. It has been suggested that the ghost is that of Superintendent Howard, the Association's area supervisor, who collapsed and died at his office desk only a year after Fanum House was opened - in the room where the missing cap was eventually found. Against this is the fact that no one who has viewed the ghost has suggested that its appearance matches Mr. Howard's. A further point against, as the present office supervisor, John McKnight points out, is that were it the ghost of Mr. Howard, he would be more likely to be wearing his A.A. uniform. So for the moment, at least, the identity of this 'visitor' or 'resident' must remain a mystery.

You may not be convinced of the existence of ghosts or of this ghost in particular. But many at Fanum House are. Today the lights on one particular upstairs corridor are always kept on and some staff will only venture there with the greatest reluctance. The staff may joke about their ghost, but there are still definite feelings of apprehension. Only six months ago a female member of staff saw a figure disappear as it stood in an open doorway. Whatever your feelings towards the existence of the spirit world, Fanum House, such an ordinary looking building, does appear to have a secret. I, for one, would not volunteer for the night shift.

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