Feel the fear with Museums at Night 2009

By Adam Bambury | 08 May 2009
A picture of a skull and two candles

Spooky goings on at Benjamin Franklin Museum. Picture courtesy Benjamin Franklin Museum.

When you combine the esoteric collections and winding corridors of museums with the infinite blackness of the night, one thing is more inevitable than any other: spooky goings on.

While many museums have chosen to fend off the darkness with jazz bands and a handful of extra lightbulbs, some have refused to ignore the very real prospect that fearsome forces may dwell within their informative walls.

Dare you join this brave - some might say foolhardy - group of curious curators, wide-eyed psychics, mild-mannered archivists and seasoned storytellers, as they explore the dark worlds that lurk beyond the light of human understanding where there’s plenty more to fear than fear itself?

What follows is a selection of locations where such activities are taking place as part of Museums At Night 2009. Visit them at your own risk, and remember: Culture24 accepts no responsibility for any heart palpitations, fainting fits, or malevolent entities that follow you home…


Things will begin comfortably enough at the Benjamin Franklin House on May 16, with visitors treated to a lamplit tour of the Founding Father’s former residence. But entering the basement the tour takes a turn for the macabre - visitors will be handed glasses of wine to steady their nerves as they hear the shocking story of the bones found under the floor and the activities of the bodysnatchers from nearby Craven Street anatomy school.

The Craven Street Bones at Benjamin Franklin House, May 16 2009. Two tours, starting 8:00 and 9:00pm. Tickets £10, £8 concessions, including wine. To book contact 02078392006 or info@benjaminfranklinhouse.org. For more information visit The Benjamin Franklin House.

Witness a Victorian Surgical demonstration by gaslight on the hour every hour at The Old Operating Theatre Museum and Herb Garret until doors close at 9pm on May 15. The later you come the darker it will be as the theatre has a skylight. The amputation kit awaits, will you survive!

For more information go to The Old Operating Theatre Museum and Herb Garret website


Turn your life into an episode of Scooby-Doo at Bodelwyddan Castle, which is hosting a spooky sleepover in its haunted rooms on May 15. You won’t get to keep the castle if you last the entire night, but you will get treated to a Haunted Family Treasure Hunt and buffet supper before things get serious with a torchlit ghost tour led by the castle’s Paranormal Investigation Team.

Bodelwyddan Castle Spooky Sleepover, May 15 2009, 7:00pm – 9:00am. Family friendly, children aged 7-12 years only, minimum of one adult for every two children. Tickets £30 per person (adults and children). For more information visit Bodelwyddan Castle.

A photograph of the exterior of Bodelwyddan Castle

Dare you spend the night at Bodelwyddan Castle? Picture courtesy Bodelwyddan Castle


In an event that is most definitely not suitable for the sensitive and impressionable minds of children, Nottinghamshire Archives will be blowing the dust off their ancient tomes and delving deep into the world of Strange Deaths and Ghostly Occurences. Archivist and author Chris Weir opens proceedings with a twisted talk bound to send shivers down the spine, then a mysterious sect known only as the Storytellers of Nottingham will begin expertly weaving otherworldly tales.

Nottinghamshire Archives: Strange Deaths & Ghostly Occurences, May 15, 8.00pm – 10pm. Tickets £6.50. For more information visit Nottinghamshire Archives.


Enter the dark side quite literally at Whitworth Art Gallery in Manchester, where unsettling artist Gregor Schneider’s instillation Kinderzimmer lurks. Completely blacked-out and entered one at a time, visitors venturing into the work will find themselves lost and alone in an abandoned children’s nursery room. Should this confrontation with the uncanny proove too intense, there is music and socialising in the rest of the gallery to bring you back to the “real” world.

Whitworth Art Gallery, The University of Manchester, May 16 2009, 6:00pm – 12:00am. For more information visit Whitworth Art Gallery.


The intrepid folk at Gateshead Heritage Centre are venturing out of their comfortable building to take a lantern lit tour of St Mary’s Church graveyard. Visitors will learn the long history of church, but could find themselves distracted from pious thoughts by the appearance of spectres and sinister characters from the past who may not take kindly to wanderers entering their home unnannounced. Those who make it back to the Heritage centre in one piece will offered a local beer and a hearty pat on the back.

Gateshead Heritage Centre: St Mary’s by Lamplight Graveyard Tour, Newcastle upon Tyne, May 16 2009, 9:30pm – 11:00pm, free. For more information visit the late shows.

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