Malcolm Bull's Calderdale Companion : Foldout
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Foldout : John Almighty Whiteley
The haunted portrait
In 1810, John Almighty Whiteley became landlord of the Star
Inn, Sowerby when he married Alice Jennings, the widow
of the former owner.
In the 1950s/60s, several reported hauntings at the Star Inn,
Sowerby – many involving the sounds of singing, and the opening and
closing of doors and movement of the door-latches – were associated
with a portrait of John Almighty Whiteley which hung
in the tap room there.
These events caused so much concern that the portrait was taken down
and put away in the loft.
Whenever a new landlord hung the painting back on the wall, the
mysterious happenings would start all over again.
In the 1950s, the painting hung in the offices of
It was sold at auction when the Brewery closed.
When Mr Allan Kenny bought the painting and took it
home, he and his wife reported unexplained events:
The picture was hanging in their 17th century farmhouse in Keighley,
which you had to enter an old arch inscribed FEAR THE LORD AND
There was a very noticeable sudden chill as you walked through the
arch, even with an AGA keeping everything very warm
They heard door-latches flicking opened and closed in the middle of
When their new-born daughter was asleep in her bedroom above the
picture and the baby-listening monitor switched on to hear any
disturbance, Mr and Mrs Kenny could even hear her slight
murmurs, when suddenly as clear as day they both heard a soft voice
singing the tune to Brahms Lullaby.
As Mr Kenny tiptoed up the stairs whilst his wife
remained by the monitor.
On the landing, right outside the bedroom door, he could hear the
lullaby as he stood outside, and his wife could also hear it still on
As he entered the room, the singing stopped immediately, with nothing
In 2006, the painting appeared on the BBC TV when Mr
Kenny took it to the Antiques Roadshow which was
visiting Arundel in West Sussex.
Philip Mould, an art expert, looked at the painting and
commented on how ugly Whiteley was.
At the same moment, there was the sound of breaking glass and one of
the frames containing old newspaper clippings
about Whiteley smashed, startling everyone around
Following the TV programme, a caller to the BBC – Patricia
whose father owned the Star Inn between 1959 and
1962 – recalled the haunting in the pub and that her father had to
take the portrait down.
She also said that, in 1960, she had a baby boy.
The child subsequently died and he had a toy, a teddy bear that
played Brahms Lullaby
It has recently been suggested that the painting may be by Branwell
The frame is inscribed
John Whiteley aged 44 years (at the top)
The Reward of Integrity in the Discharge of Arduous Public Service
(along the bottom)
The Lynx-Eyed Thief Catcher and General Candidate for Halifax AD 1832
(down the sides)
John Whiteley Firth
Malcolm Bull 2017 /
Revised 13:09 on 5th July 2017 / ww_8 / 7