National Justice Museum | Visit Nottinghamshire

Nottingham’s National Justice Museum is one of the true jewels in the city’s attractions. Not only is it unique, fascinating, and full of atmosphere, but best of all, it is authentically creepy. Having been Nottingham’s primary city gaol and courtroom for over 500 years, the museum is home to cramped cells, dank caves, original torture devices and towering gallows in the exercise yard. Even for a cynic it is easy to believe this building could be genuinely haunted, because some genuinely awful things have happened there, repeatedly and for centuries.

Having visited a few times I was aware of this information, so I should have realised what I was letting myself in for by booking on one of their Fright Nights. I have never considered myself the type to scare too easily, but then I rarely find myself in dark, haunted prison cells. This is an opinion I must now reassess. I had invited my most jumpy friend as my companion and to be honest, I had been more looking forward to being entertained by his reactions rather than considering how I would handle it myself.

It was only as we waited and listened to some tense music in the museum's grand atrium that it dawned on me. I asked the attendant if it was possible to take photos during the tour, and she replied sympathetically that once it got started, I probably wouldn’t be thinking about photos. She was quite right. I took one photo which just about summed up the mood:

Fright Night | Visit NottinghamshireThe great doors to the hall slammed shut and the lights were extinguished, then the noises began. A horrid, shuffling, dragging noise, with an irregular CLANK and occasional quiet snarl. My companion and I found ourselves clutching each other tightly, and the other party of four girls quickly huddled towards us too.

I won’t say much more as not to give away the surprises in store, but you get to explore the depths of the museum (albeit in the darkness) and there are plenty of scares along the way. Throughout the tour my emotions flickered from trepidation and terror, to a bemused hilarity at the ridiculous shrieks that I kept involuntarily letting slip. I’m not sure I have felt that kind of adrenaline for a long time, if ever.

It was also amusing to observe the variety of coping mechanisms that emerge in such a situation; the most popular being clutching at friends’ arms, refusing to be the first to step into the dark rooms, and trying to avoid being left at the tail end of the group. I personally opted for the odd tactic of trying to ‘please’ the figures in the shadows, and found myself saying things like, ‘Hello nice lady…’, ‘We are coming in now, please don’t scare us…” and “We know you’re in there...!’

I am not sure if knowing a bit about the museum’s history made the tour even more terrifying, or if exploring the caves and cells blindly would be extra hideous, but I thoroughly suggest taking a regular visit to brush up on some of the museum’s hardcore history. Either way, if you enjoy feeling like you’ve been dropped into a horror film, a Fright Night is for you.

As the doors shut behind us and we stepped out into the night, the tension faded and I felt quite exhilarated. Despite my earlier screams I really enjoyed myself, and it was nice to get up to something completely different on a Saturday night. But as we wandered through the Lace Market to find a much-needed stiff drink, I couldn’t help but hesitate at the corners and dark alleyways, just in case a shadow had escaped the cells to unleash its terrors into the real world beyond.


Fright Nights take place at the National Justice Museum every other Saturday until 16 November 2019. The tour takes just over 30 minutes.

Scroll down for more spooky events happening at the museum throughout autumn!


This blog was written by Sophie Gargett - Marketing Assistant at Visit Nottinghamshire

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