In 2007 I did a series of murals in The Leopard Hotel, Burslem, Stoke-on-Trent.
One image was based on a story of a woman in the 18th or 19th century who had been murdered in the back rooms of the hotel. Stabbed to death, in one of the small “snug” rooms which the back room was divided into.
In the painting the woman is slumped in an old high backed arm chair, her glass of red wine lying on its side on the floor. At first she just looks like she is asleep, but the pool of wine is slowly mingling with another red liquid. The woman sits in front of a raging fire. But her skin is pale. Almost white. She wears a mob cap and a low cut blue dress. Is she a maid in the hotel, a pottery worker, or a lady of the night plying her trade?
No one I spoke to knew her name or why she had been murdered. It could have been a crime of passion or a theft of money. If anyone had heard anything surely the criminal would have been caught?
Does her ghost walk the back room of the hotel, looking for her killer or his children down through time. Is it her footsteps that are heard when the room is quiet and empty?
I don’t even know if the story is true, but I made her a simple maid, cut down on a dark cold night, abandoned with no care about how it would affect her family, her parents, her siblings.
Murder looks so simple, a moment of rage, without thought to the victim or their family.
I hope it did not happen….that it is just a story and the chill that runs down my spine is just the central heating playing up.