Can a ghost be stolen? Does a pub “own” the ghost that haunts it? One of the oldest pubs in England – dating back to 1251 - has been haunted since 1644 by the ghost of an earl who drank there right before his execution in front of it. Until now.
Richard Greenwood, the current owner of Ye Olde Man & Scythe in Bolton, England, claims the ghost of James Stanley, the seventh Earl of Derby, was secretly captured in the pub’s bathroom by Chinese artist Lu Pingyuan, who has it imprisoned in a metal canister that he has on display at the at the Centre for Chinese Contemporary Art in nearby Manchester. Is this a paranormal kidnapping or a brilliant publicity stunt?
The history of Ye Olde Man & Scythe and the story of the ghost of James Stanley is well known. The pub is mentioned in a 1251 charter and is considered to be the fourth-oldest in Britain. While still in its original location, the structure was rebuilt in 1636 and has been remodeled extensively, although the original cellar and a few original beams remain.
The pub was owned in 1651 by the family of James Stanley, Seventh Earl of Derby and a Royalist during the English Civil War. For his participation in the Bolton massacre where an estimated 1,600 Bolton residents died, Stanley was beheaded outside the family pub after a last drink. The chair he sat in both while drinking and when executed is still in the pub.
As was his ghost ... until recently. Artist Lu Pingyuan claims he was introduced to the story by a 2014 video allegedly showing Stanley’s ghost.
I was totally captivated by the legend, that the ghost remained in the human world long after his decapitation.
He claims the video inspired him to travel from Shanghai to Ye Olde Man & Scythe, where he cornered the ghost of Stanley in the bathroom, recited an incantation to draw it into a steel canister and then sealed the bottle and snuck it out – taking it to the CFCCA where it is now on display.
Lu claims he got permission from Stanley to conduct the ghost-napping.
I told his ghost about my proposal the second time I visited this place and James Stanley agreed that I can put him into a jar in order to exhibit him in galleries and museums alike. I wish him to exist and be treated as a real artwork and to present him around the globe, getting respect and tribute from people everywhere.
That sound good for the CFCCA, OK for Stanley’s ghost but bad for Richard Greenwood, owner of the pub which now has no ghost to attract customers. Greenwood sent a scathing letter to Lu demanding his return.
I would have liked to have been privy to your actions and indeed to the exhibition before the ghost of James Stanley was taken out of Bolton, his ties to the town and to Ye Olde Man and Scythe run very deeply. I feel very strongly that James Stanley’s ghost should remain in Bolton and at Ye Olde Man and Scythe to preserve the natural order of things.
To avoid an international and potentially otherworldly incident, Greenwood says Lu can finish the exhibition and world tour as long as he then returns Stanley’s ghost to Ye Olde Man & Scythe.
Will Stanley’s ghost be returned? If it isn’t, what court should Livingston take his case to? Can you own a ghost? Can it be listed as an asset on your business taxes?