Ghosts love three things. Freshly washed linen, big chains to rattle… and recording studios. For as long as rock‘n’roll has reigned, spirits have messed with the dials and fiddled with the amps. Who can blame them? It’s well known that ghosts are especially fond of rhythm and boos. Ahem. Anyway, here are 10 of music’s most haunted spaces…
St. Catherine’s Court, Bath, Somerset
This 16th Century monastery, was – under the ownership of Bond actress Jane Seymour – used as a recording studio, at least until complaints about the noise forced its closure. The Cure recorded there, as did New Order – most of Radiohead’s 1997 opus ‘OK Computer’ was laid down there too. “Ghosts would talk to me while I was asleep,” Thom Yorke has said. “There was one point when I got up in the morning after a night of hearing voices, and I decided to cut my hair with a penknife.”
Likelihood of seeing a ghost: Let’s just say it’s a great place to get a scare-cut.
Clearwell Castle, Clearwell, Gloucestershire
Black Sabbath were so scared during the 1973 recording of their classic fifth album, ‘Sabbath Bloody Sabbath’, at this Gothic Revival House, built in 1727, that drummer Bill Ward reportedly went bed each night clutching a knife. Guitarist Tony Iommi has said: “One night I was walking down the corridor with Ozzy and we saw this figure in a black cloak. We followed it into the armoury and there was no-one there. The people that owned the castle knew all about this ghost and they said, ‘Oh yes, that’s the ghost of so and so.’ We were like, ‘What!?’”
Likelihood of seeing a ghost: If Ozzy Osbourne is there, then the chances are good. As we will learn, ghosts have a habit of following Oz around…
Chepstow Castle, Chepstow, Wales
If castles had Tinder profiles, Chepstow would most likely include the sentence ‘the oldest surviving post-Roman stone fortification in Britain’ within its bio. Innovative Brazilian metal types Sepultura chose the locale to record the instrumental ‘Kalowas’, for their 1993 release ‘Chaos A.D.’ No strange goings on were reported by the band, but it’s said that the construct is haunted by the ghost of vocal anti-monarchist and English lawyer Henry Martin, who died on the property after choking on his chicken dinner in 1680.
Likelihood of seeing a ghost: High. If you’re lucky you’ll see that of the chicken too.
The Garden, Shoreditch, London
Built in 1981 by original Ultravox singer John Foxx, the now-demolished east London studio welcomed Siouxsie and the Banshees, The Cure and Depeche Mode into its live room during its time in this mortal realm. Other residents include the Arctic Monkeys, whose singer Alex Turner once reported that “a young girl, Elsie, haunts the chamber – unexplained faint whispers have appeared on recordings in the past…” The album they were there to make? 2007’s ‘Famous Worst Nightmare’.
Likelihood of seeing a ghost: Eeee bah gum – it’s off t’mill for you, spooky lad.
The Mansion, Hollywood, California
Errol Flynn’s former home – later bought by production titan Rick Rubin – has mystique built into its walls; it was once used as a practice space by the great illusionist Harry Houdini. The first record to be recorded there was the Red Hot Chili Peppers‘ 1991 breakthrough ‘Blood Sugar Sex Magik’. The sessions for said record were odd, to say the least. Drummer Chad Smith was so unnerved he refused to sleep over. Bassist Flea reported seeing a shrouded figure, while guitarist John Frusciante was so excited by being in the presence of ghosts that – and, reader, there’s no nice way of saying this – he used to masturbate in front of them.
Likelihood of seeing a ghost: Low. They’re all far too traumatised.
Alley Studios, Los Angeles, California
Zak Bagan is the most famous paranormal researcher in the United States. This writer once spent an evening exploring the haunted mansion he owns in Las Vegas, which doubles as a museum in which the Illinois ghost hunter stores items he calls ‘the most haunted artefacts in the world’. In 2018, Bagan’s took his TV show, Ghost Adventures, to investigate LA’s Alley Studios, which has served pop alumni such as Elvis Presley, Kurt Cobain, Michael Jackson, John Lennon and Tom Petty. There they found a ghost of a person who, it’s believed, murdered the facility’s Head of Operations.
Likelihood of seeing a ghost: High – and really good ones, too. The studio is rumoured to be possessed by the spirits of many, many cats.
4670 Encino Drive, Encino, California
Foo Fighters‘ Covid-delayed 10th album was recorded at a house in Encino, California. The recording, says Dave Grohl, was besieged by paranormal activity. “When we walked into the house, I knew the vibes were off but the sound was fucking on,” he told NME. “All of the guitars would be detuned. We would open up a Pro Tools session and tracks would be missing. There were some tracks that were put on there that we didn’t put on there…” Grohl approached the buildings landlord to enquire about its past. He was told, but asked to sign an NDA as the house is on the market.
Likelihood of seeing a ghost: High. By the way, what’s a ghosts favourite Foo Fighters song? ‘The Best Of Boo!’
Blackwing Studios, Southwark, London
Housed inside a deconsecrated church that was partially destroyed in The Blitz, Blackwing Studios is a name woven into the (stretchy, colourful) fabric of ’80s pop. Depeche Mode recorded there, as did Yazoo, and as the home of Nine Inch Nails’ ‘Pretty Hate Machine’ (1989), My Bloody Valentine’s ‘Loveless’ (1991) and Pixies‘ ‘Trompe le Monde’ (1991), it can lay claim to capturing the sounds that led to at least three seminal albums. The place is now closed, but rumours of spirits walking its halls were common currency in the music industry for years.
Likelihood of seeing a ghost: High. And mostly likely one with impeccable taste.
Monnoe Valley Studio, Rockfield, Monmouthshire
Recording his 1980 debut solo album ‘Blizzard Of Ozz’ at the legendary Welsh studio, Ozzy and his crew – guitarist Randy Rhoads, bassist Bob Daisley and drum tech Spencer – decided to hold a séance with a Ouija board. “After a while of asking questions and getting Y-E-S and N-O answers, the glass spelled out R-A-N-D-Y followed by Y-O-U A-R-E G-O-I-N-G T-O D-I-E,” Daisley wrote in his 2013 memoir For Facts Sake. “We didn’t like the vibe and stopped. We broke the glass, threw the paper letters of the alphabet into the fire and poured salt on the table…” Rhoads, the greatest guitarist of his generation, died three years later, on March 19th, 1982.
Likelihood of seeing a ghost: Once again, if you’re in the company of Ozzy…