If you visit Torquay harbour stop for a minute and look up at the hill behind ‘Hoopers’ department store where the main shopping street starts its climb up to the town centre.
Standing out above the shops overlooking the harbour is St John’s church. It was built in 1867 to replace a smaller chapel that was used by Torre parish church.
A visit to the church will give you the chance to see the Burne-Jones stained glass window and a huge rectangular font with steps leading down into a pool for baptism by total immersion. What makes the church so striking from the outside is the large white cross high on the tower which is illuminated at night and shines out over Torbay. However, the church is also well-known for its spooky reputation.
In 1956 it was decided to raise funds to buy a new organ because the old one was not only wearing out, but was also supposed to be haunted.
The vicar at the time told the story of Henry Ditton Newman, a young organist at the church who died in 1883. While his body lay in the church before his funeral the organ was heard playing. No-one took any notice, and everyone thought that someone had decided to play the church’s organ in memory of the dead man. But when a member of the congregation went to see who was playing the organ, there was nobody there: the music stopped and nobody could be found.
It wasn’t a one-off experience. In the years since the death of the organist several reports have been made of ghostly music coming from the church.