From a Victorian house, to a massive Tory HQ, to a nightclub and now an exhibition space - Antwerp Mansion has really seen it all. If you’ve ever lived in Manchester, you could probably agree that Antwerp Mansion is a unique place - being the host of art studios and exhibitions, which are generally a safe space for those in sex work and LGBTQ+ communities; as well as allowing small artists & brands to showcase their work - “it feels like a home you’ve forgotten you’d lost and are happy to have found again”.October 28th, 2022 | Abby Brooks
If you were lucky enough to have experienced it as a club and rave venue before it was closed, then you will understand the vibe I’m talking about: dishevelled but cool, covered in graffiti and murals but in an inviting, artistic way.
Sadly, due to a mass of issues ranging from noise complaints to health and safety issues (and the fact it never actually held a license to be a club), it was closed down (boring, but probably for the best before it was forced to close down due to an inevitable horrific accident).
But, it wasn’t always this mystery exclusive cultural hub, or a sweaty venue filled with students on drugs in the early hours of the morning. Built in the mid 1800s, it was originally a private home, and then became the home to the Belgian Consulate until it was a Conservative Club in 1924.
There have been rumours of it being haunted for years, with “staff experiencing strange noises or a feeling of being watched”, sightings of people and shadows, stories from the late 70s of furniture rocking by itself, to name a few. Even in its clubbing days, partygoers reported being pushed by unseen hands, although these instances could probably be debunked by the use of illegal substances.
1892: the death of Leo Pinto Leite, aged 6 months
1910: the deal of Sophie Jeanne Pinto Leite, aged 57
1922: the death of Joaquim Pinto Leite, aged 72
1941-1945: the death of several club members in WW2
1950: a fire in the red bedroom
1960s: a child fell through the skylight, age 7-10
2008: fire in servants wing
“It is believed that the past has left an imprint on the present and souls from the past still have their stories to tell the living”. Rumour has it that several more deaths occurred in the house which were covered up, too - which means even more haunting potential.
To many, this would be an automatic deterrent and a sign to simply never visit this place. But, it doesn’t take a genius to guess that everyone at Koi was massively intrigued by the possibility of a genuinely haunted gaff - so we needed to shoot our Halloween campaign there. Of course we did.
Entering the gates of the mansion on a typically rainy Manchester day to see the decaying house, it already wasn’t looking good. Inside, floorboards were wobbly, there were multiple holes in the floor and a leaky ceiling - but this was only the surface of what we were to see.
Venturing downstairs into the cellars, I walked past a piano (instant haunted vibes) and there were multiple little rooms leading into each other.
The first I entered didn’t have a door, but the doorway had yellowing PVC door curtains which was already a bad vibe. I’m not sure what I expected to see but it wasn’t a medieval-looking throne placed next to a black first aid bed - the whole room was serving torture.
Onto the next room: very small and dark, containing nothing but a pile of mannequin heads, torsos and limbs. Nice.
The final cellar room I exploring looked innocent at first - just filled with a lot of old furniture…until I spotted the Victorian-looking doll on its own, right next to the concrete table with a Pentagram chalked on. Overall I would give the whole downstairs a 90% on the haunted scale.
The rest of the gaff had a similarly eerie atmosphere and an overwhelming number of rooms - each with various elements to explore. You could definitely spend a whole day here exploring.
Antwerp’s aesthetic really enhanced the spookiness of the campaign images, creating a nice juxtaposition. Polished makeup looks, perfect outfits, gorgeous models - contrasted with the dark side of the shoes and then of course the dishevelled nature of the setting, cooking up the perfect Halloweeny harmony.
We shot the campaign images with our models, as well as filming a fun, slightly Mean Girls-inspired video. Check it out here. The shoot lasted the full day, with a few mini-breaks spent investigating the rooms of the mansion since it would be rude not to.
There was an instance where the models had been looking in the cellars, and they came back upstairs looking shaken up - telling us that they had just spoken to a little girl, wearing a night gown and no shoes. This well and truly shit me up: in my head, a little girl in a night dress is the literal mascot of a haunted house. To our relief (and a little bit of disappointment) it was clarified that she was just the daughter of the family who now own the mansion and now live next door, and not in fact the ghost of a Victorian child.
It was all going so well, until our Marketing Manager’s face was unfortunately eaten by our CEO - she was chased through the mansion for hours until she . This was all part of our newest Koi Original video: an original horror movie shot and edited by the creative team. If you’re someone who loves a scare and has morbid curiosity, I would highly recommend giving it a watch. To see a gorgeous face being eaten, check it out here!
We didn’t find any ghosts, but why don’t you go and experience it yourself? You can take part in an overnight ghost hunt at Antwerp Mansion for just £35 per person. It goes on from 9pm to 3am - do you think you’re brave enough to do it? Past ghost hunters have supposedly seen shadow figures and formations lurking around the mansion. As well as shadow people, it’s common for people to hear voices and growling, especially in the cellars.