Prepare to take fright: Is Manchester Airport haunted?

  • Airport's Terminal 3 plagued by sightings of phantoms in flight uniforms
  • Terminal 3 built on top of old RAF base that was in service during WWII
  • Staff afraid to work night shifts

As we approach Hallowe’en, Northern Quota is looking into some of our city’s events as well as paranormal myths and legends.

You might not expect sightings of ghosts to occur in the hustle and bustle of an international airport, yet workers at Manchester’s Terminal 3 hate the night shift due to its ghoulish goings on.

Documents that surfaced from the 1970s detailed accounts from staff seeing figures wearing pilot’s hats walking into rooms and vanishing without a trace shortly after, or doors slamming with no apparent cause upon investigation.

Some of these spectral happenings have been attributed to a night watchman who was killed on the spot in the 60s, but it is difficult to find any verifiable accounts of such a thing having taken place. Ringway Publications, which chronicles the early days of the Airport, has many anonymous accounts of its paranormal history, however.

Hangar at Ringway in the 50s
Hanger at Ringway in the 1950s. Credit: Tom Bancroft

What is now Terminal 3 is built on the site of an old RAF base used in WWII, but later became a disused part of Ringway Airport, as it was so named from its construction in the 30s until 1975 when it was deemed to be within the Greater Manchester area.

During the Second World War, many pilots took off from that base never to return and it has been theorised that the mysterious figure could be the ghost of one of the unfortunate airmen.

One particularly tragic tale has it that a WWII airman suffering shell-shock shot himself at the base and it could be his spirit roaming the corridors of Terminal 3, which opened in 1989.

A lighter theory suggests the ghost belongs to a farmer who used to own the land before the Airport was built and he is unaware that he is wandering around a busy terminal.

As well as seeing inexplicable events, staff and passengers have also noticed sudden unexplained changes of temperature in certain parts of the Terminal.

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So, is the UK’s third busiest international airport actually haunted? As with most paranormal sightings, it is good to have a healthy dose of skepticism.

Most of these accounts are unverified and posted on forums anonymously. Though it would seem odd for so many people to outright lie and create fantasies for no real reason, these stories could well have been exaggerated in their journey to the website.

A lot of these accounts are also from secondary or tertiary sources. When a story starts with: “My friend/dad/uncle used to work at Ringway Airport,” there will be some details lost in the retelling of the story and if the account goes on to say: “And they heard from other staff there were stories of a ghost…” then the truth has been filtered at least once more. Though it would be rude to dismiss a story based upon this, it is unwise to take it as strong evidence either.

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For a brief amount of time, I worked as a waiter in a restaurant at the Airport, albeit in Terminal 2 rather than 3. I did not see any spectres during my time there, but I had shifts when there would be a gap of a few hours between flights, meaning the departure lounge would be completely empty, besides a few staff. 

When the otherwise busy departure lounge is devoid of noise, full of empty seats and only semi-lit because there’s nobody to trigger the lights’ motion sensors, it does feel eerie. If you feel creeped out and your senses are heightened, your mind can easily play tricks on you.

However, absence of evidence is not necessarily evidence of absence so I may well suspend my disbelief, until this weekend at least. I am getting a flight from Terminal 3 on Saturday, so I shall keep my eyes peeled and my mind open and will report back should I become a passenger on British scareways…

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