Mike Covell investigates Sweet Fanny Adams and other tall tales about Hull

The abduction of Fanny Adams, as depicted by the Illustrated Police News.

A few years ago, I was taking a party on a ghost walk around Hull when they asked me about a number of stories that I had never heard of.

Intrigued, I discovered that a so-called “psychic” was responsible for these tales and had told them to a lot of people.

I decided to look into the stories to discover whether there was any truth behind them.

Hull has more than its fair share of myths and tall tales. It is a city full of weird and wonderful stories that are, nevertheless, nonsense, historically speaking at least.

So join me for a quick-fire tour of murders that didn’t happen, headless people who didn’t exactly lose their heads, lipless ladies, and the story of a polar bear being buried under a Hull road. Continue reading “Mike Covell investigates Sweet Fanny Adams and other tall tales about Hull”

10 of the most daring Hull prison escapes

A scene from the Buster Keaton film Convict 13 (1920).

Harry Ogle cut his throat while breaking out of a Humber Street jail but ran as far as river bank before he died.

From that day, according to an old legend, the prison – part of the town walls – was known as Harry Ogle’s Tower.

It is hardly surprising he would want to escape: For centuries, Hull’s jails were notorious places, helping to inspire the famous line, From Hell, Hull and Halifax, May God Preserve Us.

The main town gaol has occupied several sites since the 18th century, in Fetter Lane (now the site of the magistrates’ court), Castle Street (1785), Kingston Street (1829) and, finally, in Hedon Road (1870). Not one has been escape proof.

Some prisoners had little to lose. In December 1789, four men made a break for it while awaiting transportation. They included mariner William Gill, about 22 years old; a “good-looking fellow” called William Muschamp, about 26; Joseph Kershaw, commonly called York Joe, and William Townes, about 35, who had a scar on his right cheek. In the days before an organised police force, a bounty of 10 guineas per man was offered for their return.

As security and the professionalism of prison guards improved, escapes became harder to pull off, but this only led to inmates becoming more ingenious, whether fashioning homemade keys, ropes and ladders, planning elaborate distractions, or wearing convincing disguises. Continue reading “10 of the most daring Hull prison escapes”