Chilling Apparitions Still Appear Aboard S.S. Great Britain

Strange sightings and ethereal events have been happening at the SS Great Britain since the early 1990s, the Bristol Evening Post can reveal.

A member of staff 15 years ago came face to face with the figure of a broad-shouldered, middle-aged man in a white-collared shirt – the spitting image of Captain John Gray, who disappeared from the ship one night in 1872.

Sonny Graffo, 33, a barber from Stockwood, was studying travel and tourism at St Brendan's College in 1993 when he did a summer placement working in the souvenir shop.

Mr Graffo, then 17, took himself on a tour of the ship, which was undergoing maintenance and refurbishment, and came across the apparition that still gives him chills.

"I was looking across a deep chasm into the bowels of the ship, about 30 or 40 feet below me, and there were beams of wood going across the gantries," he said.

I did a double-take and saw a chap sat on a beam of wood, staring across the gap at me.

"He was wearing a white-collared shirt, had broad shoulders, a grey-white beard and looked scruffy. He was just sat there swinging his legs, and looked like he had been dragged through a hedge backwards, a bit like Captain Birdseye.

"I thought he was a workman and called across to him, but he just sat there staring at me. Then I wondered how he could have got there, as there was no way of getting out to the plank."

Mr Graffo went back to the shop, and a member of staff told him it was probably "Johnny", who had been seen around the ship before.

"I went white and the hairs on the back of my neck stood up as I wondered if I had seen a ghost," said Mr Graffo.

"I just froze when she told me the story, and when I saw the picture of Captain Gray it was strikingly similar and just brought it all back to me.

"I think there is stuff out there that has no explanation, and that figure I saw was not natural, but supernatural.

"It has certainly changed my opinion on the afterlife."

Mr Graffo's story is even more spooky because of his birthday – July 19 – which is also the date when work on the ss Great Britain's iron keel began in 1839, when the ship was launched in 1843, and when it returned to its dry dock in Bristol in 1970.
Other sightings have occurred in more recent years.

In 1999, maritime timber conservationist Dr Derek Sinclair heard footsteps when he was working alone on the ship and heard metal poles falling at the front of the ship – but nothing had moved when he looked.

Martin Williamson, who plays Brunel on event days at the ship, has heard footsteps behind him and doors opening and closing when there was no-one there, and last month saw a ghostly pair of legs walk into the captain's state room and vanish.

Garry Evans, a medium and paranormal investigator, said: "I would dearly love to investigate the possibility of hauntings on the ss Great Britain.

"You may just find that certain piece of evidence that everyone looks for in a paranormal investigation, that would prove beyond doubt that there is life after death."

TV show Most Haunted uncovered a host of ghostly spectres when it carried out a paranormal investigation in May.

Its crew discovered the presence of a Victorian woman, heard tapping and thuds and said they had things thrown at them

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