“I have always been fascinated by ghosts and ghouls since I can remember,” said Rob Pilmore. “When I was a little boy I always wanted to go on ghost trains but I’d be crying all the way round.”
Although he’s never seen a ghost, Rob has experienced a presence. “It was a few years ago, there was no-one in the house but I heard an old lady’s voice, gentle and soft, saying good night to me.”
“When my son was little he would play with two girls in the house, even though there was no-one there. I’d be changing his nappy and he would look over my shoulder and wave at them, saying ‘look at them in their green trousers’.”
Now 11, his son Coby likes nothing better than dressing up and accompanying dad from time to time on ghost walks.
Rob heads up Chesterfield Ghost Trails which have grown in popularity over the last three years, so much so that he gave up working as a chef at the Market pub to concentrate on developing his business.
This year has seen the addition of a monthly Murder Trail and a Horrible Histories-style Twisted Chesterfield to the programme.
He is also building up the murder-mystery side of the enterprise, hosting themed evenings at the Market pub and spending the daytime writing scripts inspired by Columbo, Sherlock Holmes and Hercules Poirot.
Rob, 27, of Sheffield Road, Chesterfield, said: “I trained in acting at Sheffield Hallam University. It is always what I have loved doing.”
He’s a chameleon on tour, changing his identity to suit the atmosphere of his trails. For the ghost walk, he adopts a Victorian look with top hat, frock coat and cane; for the murder walk, he resembles an archetypal detective in mac and trilby and for Twisted Chesterfield, the image is mad professor.
Rob’s quirky alter-ego and resonant voice draw plenty of interest from passers-by. He said: “My favourite heckler of all time was someone who kept shouting at me ‘Get back to your own country’. It took me a while to realise what he meant - Abraham Lincoln and that I should get back to America. The best way to deal with heckle is to make a joke of it.”
His trails started after he went on a ghost walk in York. He said: “It was a wet Tuesday night and about 20 people turned up - and I thought, I could do that in Chesterfield.
“We started off every other Thursday and as the bookings got more popular, we started doing them every week.
“Halloween is my Christmas - that week we’ll do eight or nine ghost walks. One Halloween we had 120 people turn up on one night which was a record.
“January is always quiet, it’s generally colder and people want to stop at home and save money. The murder trail came about trying to fill those parts of the year where ghost walks are slightly quieter.”
The new addition to the trails takes place on the first Saturday night of the month. Stories of foul deeds from 1434 to 1966 are shared as Rob takes the audience on a walk from The Shambles to Angel Yard. His Twisted Chesterfield tours, aimed at children, are open to the public on bank holidays at 11am, 1pm and 3pm. He hopes to interest schools in these tours as they were created with Key Stage 1 and 2 pupils in mind.
For details, visit www.chesterfield-ghost-trail.co.uk.