Little East Street sits in the shadow of Brighton Town Hall and runs from Bartholomew Square to King’s Road on the seafront. Tucked snugly at the southern end is number six, a listed cottage with bow-fronted windows, dating from 1800. The building was originally two separate shops; the right half dealing in ironmongery and hardware; the left half a stationers. In the mid-nineteenth century the whole building became a fishing tackle shop under the tenure of Samuel Andrews. It remained with that family up until World War II when it became a tailor’s shop.
The cottage has since changed hands many times. However, when it became the Strand Restaurant in 1997, for some inexplicable reason, paranormal activity seemed to manifest itself. Many of the staff spoke of hearing their names whispered in their ears. Jim Bingham, the former owner of The Strand recalled: “My own experiences tended to be hearing my name called from front of house, whilst working in the kitchen during the daytime. I would walk through into the public area to find no one there. This happened to me, and others, on several occasions throughout my time at the restaurant.”
In 2008 a Finnish couple, Pauliina Talvensaan and Manu Lappanen, took over the premises and it became known as Northern Lights; a friendly and welcoming Scandinavian bar. The previous owners had made flippant remarks to them about the building being haunted, but reassured them there was little cause for alarm as the ghost was quite friendly. Nonetheless, they were somewhat taken aback at the prospect of inheriting a spectral associate with their new business.
Pauliina and Manu were both rational people and hardly the type to be easily duped into believing implausible tales of ghost or ghouls. Their rational reasoning, however, was soon about to be challenged. They began wondering if the entity might make itself known; as it turned out, they did not have long to wait.
After much hard work, converting the former restaurant into a bar, an opening night party was held. Copious amounts of Finnish beer and vodka were consumed, with everyone in fine spirits. As the party got into full swing the previous owners’ accounts of ghostly goings on were all but forgotten. Furthermore, the bar staff remained free from any unearthly mutterings in their ears.
At around three in the morning the party drew to a close. As the final guests left, Pauliina and Manu, along with Niklas Vaittien, a member of the bar staff, sat chatting over a quiet drink in the downstairs area. After a few minutes their conversations was unexpectedly interrupted by the distinct sound of footsteps ascending the narrow staircase at the far end of the bar. They each stared at one another in disbelief knowing they were alone in the bar. Manu later explained: “It was around 3.00 a.m. and the three of us were having a quiet drink at the far end of the bar. We suddenly heard footsteps going up the stairs, though we knew no one else was in the place. Nevertheless, Niklas and I went up stairs to investigate but found no one.” Manu later went on to describe the footsteps as “slow and lumbering; the kind one might associate with an elderly or weary person.”
It was curious that the entity had made its presence felt on the opening night. It was almost as if it had been in the bar throughout the whole of the evening’s celebrations, before finally making its way back to its former home above the bar.
At a later date, while on the Ghost Walk of the Lanes, a local psychic paid a visit to number six. At that point he had not been informed as to where the entity had taken to manifesting itself. As he approached Northern Lights he became acutely aware of intense paranormal energy emanating from within the building. On entering the bar the force became ever more intense and led the psychic to the two areas giving off the most paranormal sensations; the staircase and the area around the fireplace in the upstairs room.
It would make perfect sense that any former resident might have taken comfort in snuggling beside the hearth on a chilly winter’s night. Perhaps the bar’s ethereal inhabitant was merely occupying the area that had offered him most comfort during his lifetime. This concurred with the psychic’s belief that the spirit was perhaps stuck in limbo twixt this life and the next and had formed a sentimental attachment to his former home.
In May 2009 Pauliina Talvensaan’s sister, Anna-Reeta, came to stay and seemed to gain an even deeper insight into the paranormal goings on in the bar. Anna-Reeta always claimed to be attuned to the spirit world and had experienced paranormal encounters from a very early age. Moreover, she professed to have made contact, on numerous occasions, with the ‘other side’. Having listened to Pauliina’s account of what had happened on the opening night of the bar, she felt determined to try and communicate with the entity.
Late one evening she sat alone, in quiet meditation, beside the fireplace in the upstairs room. After a while she began to attempt contact. Anna-Reeta explained: “I was in the upstairs room, sitting close to the old fireplace. I spoke aloud and assured whoever might be listening that the new owners’ would look after the house. I then asked to be given a sign if anyone was there. After about a minute I heard three clear knocks, which seemed to come from the ceiling. Having made a connection I entered a psychic trance and soon had an image of an elderly man. From his gestures and appearance I sensed that he was a very proud and dignified man who took great pride in his house. Furthermore, that he was intelligent and enjoyed good company and conversation. I also felt he was one who warmed slowly to others, but was reliable once one had earned his respect. Nevertheless, I sensed he could, at times, become hot tempered and difficult. My visual image of his appearance was that of a man in nineteenth century attire carrying a walking stick or cane.”
Alongside the elderly gentleman, Anna-Reeta received images of someone else she sensed had once lived in the building and, for some reason, was being very secretive. She went on to explain: “In the cellar lives a girl who is shy and quiet. She wears a light coloured dress and seems to be hiding something. Sometimes she walks everywhere, but her presence can be felt most strongly in the cellar. When I was trying to reach her, images of Brighton flooded into my mind when there were horses and carriages on the streets and people’s clothes looked very different. The town also looked different, yet I could still recognise it as Brighton. Northern Lights looked different but recognisable.”
Northern Lights closed in February 2017 but will soon reopen as Pipeline. However, while Pauliina was sitting in the bar, having gathered her belongings and preparing to leave, she heard the distinct sound of footsteps walking across the upstairs room. Perhaps her one-time spiritual associate had come to say goodbye and to wish her well for the future.