MANCHESTER MYSTERIES: Does the Trafford Centre have thousands of body bags hidden beneath it?
Have you heard this one?
There were reports a few years back that the Trafford Centre is not only home to designer shops and water features but also thousands of body bags in the basement.
As a kid, the Trafford Centre was almost on par with Disneyland. Not only did it feel like the size of a small country, but it was also so decadent there was even a ship in it.
Looking back I think this is mostly just my childhood imagination running wild and creating a fantasy dreamland in the Trafford Centre. Going now is actually pretty stressful and that roundabout induces panic attacks.
Way back in 2002, when I was a bright-eyed and blissfully ignorant 6-year-old, a rumour circulated that the government had bought 5,000 body bags in case of a ‘terrorist chemical attack’, according to The Telegraph.
This article reported that the body bags would be stored at ‘16 locations’, meaning they could be ‘distributed within minutes of a terrorist attack’.
The orders of the equipment reportedly came after the Home Office received a warning about ‘dirty’ bombs or poison gas that would cause large numbers of casualties in British cities. The alert was retracted to avoid fears and widespread public panic.
According to Philip Ward, the managing director of the country’s leading manufacturer of emergency and rescue equipment at the time, Ferno UK, orders were for ‘huge’ quantities and were increasing by the day. The first big contract was in excess of £50 million worth of gear.
These reports were completely unrelated to the Trafford Centre at the time, but could offer us an explanation as to how this urban myth was created.
The report called for 16 unnamed locations which would house the 5,000 body bags.
Now, shopping centres are considered a prime target for terrorism. The 1996 IRA bomb occurred on a busy Saturday morning in Manchester’s main shopping area.
Across the world there have been numerous occurrences similar to the Manchester IRA bomb. There was the Omagh car bombing in 1998 which tragically killed 29 people and left 220 people with serious injuries.
A terror incident in Westgate shopping mall in Nairobi killed 67 and wounded 175 in 2013. While a non-terror related event killed 10 people and injured 36 in a shopping mall in Munich in July 2016.
So there is a significant threat to shopping centres for whatever reason that may be. Perhaps it’s a hatred of Western capitalism, something that is significantly highlighted by shopping centres, or just because they’re almost guaranteed to be full of people.
The Trafford Centre isn’t the only shopping centre that has been rumoured to house hundreds of body bags beneath shoppers feet.
In the early nineties, rumours spread that management at Meadowhall in Sheffield kept a stash of them in case of an ‘IRA outrage in the centre’. There have also been near-identical claims in Cribbs Causeway and Bluewater.
So is it true, does the Trafford Centre really store something between 400 – 5,000 body bags in the basement?
Well, like most other shopping centres, The Trafford Centre has widely denied these reports on Twitter and Facebook, stating that they simply have ‘no truth to them’ and are an ‘urban myth’.
There’s also the small problem of not a single photo or video surfacing of them. With the number of workers in The Trafford Centre who bob down into the basement, from cleaners to caretakers to retail assistants, surely someone would’ve seen something and snapped a picture?
The Manchester hiking communities helping people overcome anxiety and depression
‘When you’re in the mountains, everything else just seems so insignificant’
If there’s anything good we can take away from the pandemic, it’s a fresh appreciation for nature and the great outdoors, and a reignited love of walking for pleasure.
When the global Covid-19 pandemic caused the nation to press the emergency stop button on the fast-paced and relentless treadmill of work and life, it brought many back to the simple joys of getting out for a walk — and all the benefits that come along with it. Out of lockdown, a number of hiking groups were born — seeing the trend grow in popularity among younger people too.
A lot of these communities formed online on platforms such as Instagram, where people have been scrolling in search of ‘their people’ and ‘tribe’ as they reached out to make human connections and share a commonality with one another. It just goes to show, no matter how much alone time we sometimes desire or need to recharge our batteries, humans really are a social species.
Maybe we just need to know there’s others out there, going through similar experiences to us, and that even though we enter this world alone and leave it much the same way, we are all journeying through our individual paths of life alongside one another. Rather than dwelling on everyday stresses, hiking in nature allows us to stay present, focus on the task ahead, and ignites the senses.
Chris Jervis was assaulted one night while out in Liverpool in 2021. The ordeal caused him to suffer with severe anxiety, and even left him feeling suicidal. He’s currently signed off work due to the effects on his mental health and is with a working health coach. After speaking to doctors, he decided to get outdoors and start up a group hiking community.
“I got assaulted in Liverpool city centre and I started suffering with anxiety attacks around people,” he said. “The trauma gave me anxiety and depression. I ended up feeling suicidal from it as well. So, when I ended up speaking with a doctor, they were telling me about putting myself in situations I can come in and out of. So I started looking into group hikes.
“I started putting it out there for people to come on a group walk with me and then building up a little community that way. At first there were five or six people but then I would end up getting 40 people out on walks. Depending on how I felt on the day, I could dip in and out of the walk because I was in an open space.”
Chris spoke of some of the effects the traumatic experience had on him when he found himself in crowded places, saying: “Normally, if I would go into a shopping centre, I’d faint. I used to black out a lot because of the anxiety.” About the benefits of group walks for his mental wellbeing, he added: “I won’t walk on my own because I don’t like being in my head.
“The groups offer support. Everyone’s there for a reason. You’re in a safe space, you’ve got people around you, and if you want to talk, then they’re there. I find it easier opening up to some random stranger on a walk who I might not see again. It’s hard opening up to your friends or family sometimes.”
Chris says he now wants to ‘look into the mental health side of things’ and incorporate it into his walks. He was in care when he was younger and now wants to help get children — who’ve had bad experiences and suffered from trauma in their lives — into hiking outdoors, as he said: “I want to show them that there’s something better out there.”
Hannah Probyn, 30, lives in Manchester and found the lockdowns had a negative effect on her mental wellbeing due to working from home, being cooped up and not being able to ‘switch off’ from it all. She found Chris while searching online and decided to join him on his group walks. She said: “I’ve been hiking since I was little. My dad used to live in the Lake District, so my step mum used to take me and my brother out hiking, and I loved it, and enjoyed being outdoors.
“Then, during the pandemic, I started joining different groups on Instagram. A lot of them were putting up that they were doing group walks so I thought, ‘I’ll do that and go and join them’ — and it’s been great. I’ve met so many people. I can’t even begin to tell you how many groups I’m in now, it’s a bit ridiculous.
“My first massive group hike was with Chris and we did Striding Edge up to Hellvelyn. He was doing it for charity ticking off the Wainwrights, and on that walk I decided I’ll tick them off too. So, I met him through that and now we’ve stayed friends. I’ve hiked with him pretty much every weekend.”
The Wainwrights are a huge number of hills and fells around the Lake District that hikers like to ‘tick off’ their list. Alfred Wainwright — a British author and fellwalker — picked 214 hills that he thought had the nicest views and now it’s become a goal for hikers to complete.
Hannah enjoys joining different groups for walks but her biggest achievement is her solo walks, as she said: “I’m in some girls only groups and I’ve been hiking with them. I’ve also done quite a lot solo as well — which is sort of a big push for me.
“I’ve been to The Lakes, Wales, The Peak District — my mum hates it. My mum has images of me going missing on a mountain. A lot of them I’ve done in The Lakes more recently on my own. I think that sort of came from a place of not wanting to be alone with my own thoughts because I don’t always do very well with that.
“But then I was like, ‘right, push yourself out of your comfort zone, do it’ and honestly, it’s mad how — when you’re in the mountains — everything else just seems so insignificant. If I’m at home on my own I feel like I should be doing something, or there’s something going on in my head. Whereas when I’m out on my own, I’m not really thinking about anything.”
When on a long solo trek, Hannah sometimes sleeps over in her car and carries on with the walk the following morning. “I just love it, people think I’m mad. I work in social media and my job is kind of a 24-hour job. In theory, 5 o’clock comes and you should just be able to switch off. But if you’re out, you can’t get any signal half the time so you’re not messing with your phone. And people know that they can’t contact me.
“I use my social media now as my diary, it’s my online photo album. I post things in chronological order for my own benefit. It’s so I can go back and look at it and I can see from say five years ago to now, I can see personal growth in it. I love that for myself. It makes me feel proud of myself.”
Michael Di Paola set up Fresh Walks, a networking while hiking community, a number of years ago. His experience pre-dates the pandemic but he says it was a much needed business rationale for the fast-paced lifestyle led by most office workers in this technological age.
He said: “If you rewind to eight or nine years ago, to say to people can you take a day out of work? Meet me at the train station in the morning, have a bit of breakfast, get on a train and head to the hills for the day — and justify that to yourself commercially — it needs a business rationale.
“The pandemic has changed things. People seem to have more flexible working now. With the lockdowns and people being cooped up, I think people started to tune in to the benefits of accessing nature, getting outdoors and just enjoying the freedom of it.
“For me, nothing has changed, I just think the pandemic has accelerated some of this work-life balance. Businesses were already tuning into the wellbeing of their people — this was already happening — but I think the last two or three years has almost put some fuel behind that and I think people are very much tuned into their own wellbeing now.”
“I think it really pays to disconnect and try and counter balance this feeling that we’ve all got. When I used to work in an office job 20 years ago, I’d finish at five o’clock and that was it. I’d be done for the day. But most people in office jobs these days are constantly contactable.
“More and more people are now working from home, so they don’t see other adults throughout the week maybe, so they crave this human contact, because we need that. I think a shared sense of achievement can also be taken from walking in groups and we can underestimate how positive that can be for our minds.
“There’s very few things in life now that force us to slow down, but hiking does.”
If you’re an urbanite finding yourself feeling irritable, unable to switch off and on an express train to burnout, why not get yourself out for a hike?
Escape the suffocating feeling of city life and head to the hills. There, you can feel the warm sun on your skin, the fresh breeze on your face, put things into perspective and ultimately feed your soul.
The Manchester man who’s been rescuing animals from the frontline in Ukraine
‘The drive was just really silent. Some were complete strangers just comforting each other in the back of my van’
A man from Greater Manchester is making a second journey to the war-torn country of Ukraine after deciding to help fleeing refugees and save animals, last year.
Stuart Adamson, from Stockport, watched in horror as Russia invaded Ukraine in February 2022 and many peoples’ lives were turned upside down overnight. Being the hands-on person that he is, he decided he had to help in some way.
Stuart started a fundraiser to get some cash together to take to the frontline and help victims of war. Once he had enough funds, he left his job, packed up his eight-seater van and made the long journey to the Ukraine border, all alone.
He helped with the evacuation of refugees for a month, assisting many families with children. From there, he ventured into Vinnytsia, central Ukraine and later joined a charity called Breaking the Chains, where he rescued animals from the front lines including lions, bears, wolves, farm animals, foxes, dogs, cats, and many more.
After six months in the country the money had run out and Stuart returned to the UK, where he took up work as a bartender in Manchester, ever more determined to get the money together and get back out to Ukraine.
He now plans to travel there on April 7th in his van and has set-up another fundraiser for those who wish to donate. He said: “I was just watching the videos and watching it unfold and thinking, ‘I’ve got to do something, I can’t just sit here’.
“So, I loaded up my van, dropped some supplies off at Poland and headed to the border.” When asked what it was like when he first got there, Stuart said: “It was…I think surreal is the best way to describe it.
“You can watch as many videos and read as many articles as you like but nothing prepares you for going into a warzone.”
He continued: “I remember 20 minutes in, as I was driving in, I put the radio on and after five minutes of listening to music, the emergency response system came on. There was an air raid siren and Ukrainian warnings.”
These went on for around 45 minutes and when Stuart tried to switch the radio off, he was unable to do so.
“There was tension and nerves, but I just kept thinking, ‘someone’s gotta do this’,” he added. Stuart said while evacuating refugees, it ‘got a little emotional at times’ and they were relieved to be picked up and taken out of danger.
“I just started picking people up from the border and saying, ‘where are you going? I’ll take you’. I was just loading families up at the time and getting them to where they needed to be. It was noticeable that there were just women and children because all the men can’t leave the country at the moment — except for in exceptional circumstances.
“The drive was just really silent. Some were complete strangers just comforting each other in the back of my van.”
Stuart had to break up his trip after falling ill, but was determined to get straight back to it after he recovered. “Eventually I got Covid so I ended up coming back. But about a week later, I went straight back out again with new supplies and went into Ukraine this time,” he said.
“I ended up with a charity called Breaking The Chains and doing animal rescue.”
Animal charity Breaking the Chains International specialises in extracting animals of all types and sizes to safety from dangerous and arduous conditions around the world.
Stuart went on: “So, we went to the front lines and, I mean, we got everything. I’m talking…dogs, cats, a lion extraction from a zoo. We got bears, wolves, hawks, ravens, farm animals — anything you can think of, we got.
“We went to the front lines and got within about 600 metres of the Russian checkpoints. I’m not gonna lie, it got a bit hairy at times with missiles dropping and tanks everywhere.”
Stuart now plans to go back to Ukraine for a second time.
In a time of national crisis, Ukrainian vets are being used to administer First Aid treatments for those on the front lines. Stuart said: “Now I’m going back with a different organisation called Worldwide Vets and the focus here is going to be on veterinary care, in-country, as opposed to animal rescue.
“So, there’s a lot of towns and villages with left behind pets, strays that have not been spayed or neutered. We will be going to the front lines but not as close as we were, to get to all these cut off villages to try and maintain the animal population before it gets out of control and becomes another problem further down the line.
“I’ll also be going out with another organisation called Paws For Peace and we’ll be dropping supplies off to the Korsun region — that’s a little more dangerous. We’re gonna be picking up three dogs from there and getting them out.”
You can donate to help Stuart HERE.
Seven-year-old Man United fan walking 40 miles to Old Trafford to raise money for Alder Hey
Good luck, Harvey!
A seven-year-old schoolboy will do a 40 mile walk from Alder Hey Children’s Hospital to Old Trafford football stadium in a fundraiser held close to his heart — and he will be joined by a Manchester United legend.
Harvey Goodman will be taking on the mammoth trek next month to raise much needed funds to donate to the children’s hospital, in Liverpool. He decided he wanted to take on the task after he learned of his seven-year-old cousin Zak’s cancer diagnosis — for which he is receiving intense chemotherapy.
The news came out of the blue for Harvey and really upset him. Only six months prior he had lost an uncle to the awful disease. Harvey saw the excellent care his cousin received while being looked after by doctors and nursing staff, and was especially impressed to find out that the ward Zak was on had a chef on hand and unlimited use of an XBox.
He saw the good work the staff at Alder Hey do and how well they look after the patients in their care, and decided he wanted to do something to help. Just last year the determined school boy walked 15 miles from Stockton Heath to Old Trafford to raise cash to give his school playground a much-needed renovation for pupils to benefit from.
This time he decided he wanted to do another walk to help raise funds to donate to the hospital. He will be splitting the walk over the weekend of April 1st and 2nd. Joining the young United fan will be his mum, dad and even his little sister Olivia.
His class teacher and headteacher Dan Harding will also join the cause, as will Manchester United legend Sam McIlroy. Around 200 people are expected to be marching the distance to make a difference alongside Harvey.
Naiomi Goodman, Harvey’s mum, said: “I’m so proud of Harvey and what he is doing for Zak and Alder Hey. He told me he wanted to do a big walk to help his cousin and other sick children at Alder Hey, which made me burst with pride. He is so kind hearted and always wants to put others first.
“I never imagined we would be here again, one year on from his first fundraising walk about to undertake a 40 mile walk!” Harvey has set-up a Just Giving page with the help of his family. It has already smashed the target of £10k and, at time of writing, has raised over £13,000.
He is preparing for the marathon walk by getting out for walks at any chance he can with his family. Harvey is also very active and likes to play football, swim and go to kick-boxing classes in his spare time.
Mrs Goodman continued: “He’s so excited for the challenge, he’s checking the amount raised on his JustGiving page most days and reads through the messages of support and encouragement people have sent. The kind words really help Harvey on his long walks — it gives him that extra boost to carry on!”
Dan Harding, Harvey’s headteacher, said: “Harvey is a very special boy indeed. Harvey is also a great friend to his peers, an incredibly selfless, kind and caring person who always wants to do good for others.
“Last year Harvey raised in excess of £8,000 for school by walking from Stockton Heath to Old Trafford football stadium. His fundraising contributed hugely towards our playground development project and we are eternally grateful to him for this.
“This year, Harvey has been motivated by a different cause and is determined to go bigger and better with his fundraising. Harvey’s cousin Zak is receiving intensive cancer treatment and support from Alder Hey Children’s Hospital and when Harvey learned that Alder Hey also happens to be one of our chosen partner charities, he decided this was the perfect cause to raise funds for.
“I cannot stress enough what a wonderful child Harvey is. He is a model pupil in school with exemplary behaviour and attitude to learning but it is his thoughtfulness for others that truly sets him apart – what a star!”
Pascale Harvie, President and General Manager of Just Giving said: “Harvey is an inspiration to us all. At just seven years old he’s taking action to raise vital funds to help his cousin and so many other poorly children being treated at Alder Hey Children’s Hospital.
“I want to say thank you to Harvey for coming up with and taking on this challenge and wish him the best of luck on his mammoth walk.”
If you would like to donate to Harvey’s Just Giving page and support his cause, click here.