The Royle Family star was heartbroken by the loss of his beloved eldest boy Clifton at the age of 33.
Now, 12 years on, he says Clifton stays in touch from beyond the grave. Ricky, famed for his role as sofa-dwelling Scouser Jim Royle, told the Sunday People: “I believe in ghosts and spirits. I’ve had experiences I’ll never forget.”
Ricky, 77, who now stars as a wizard in the Sky One children’s fantasy The Last Dragonslayer, said he often feels Clifton’s comforting presence on his bed.
A deeply spiritual man, Ricky also told how his mother communicated with his late father and revealed his brushes with ghosts at his Liverpool club.
Clifton, one of Ricky’s three sons with former wife Marlene, died in hospital on December 4, 2004, after a long battle with drink and drugs.
Time has eased the pain but his late son is never far from Ricky’s thoughts.
“I talk to him all the time, in my head,” he said after marking the painful anniversary. “It’s not just this time of year, it’s regularly. He was great and harum-scarum. He knows I loved him.
“And although I can’t see him, now and then he sits on the bed with me.
“I can feel him, this weight. I know that sounds strange because ghosts are invisible. But I know it’s him.”
The pain is close to the surface, although hidden most of the time by Ricky’s exuberant personality.
“It’s difficult,” he admitted. “I’m one of three brothers. When we lost my dad, it was a tremendous loss. I loved him. But it was a different feeling when Clifton died. Our Clifton. He was my eldest lad.”
Ricky’s voice was filled with emotion as he recalled one special moment at a cottage in Coedpoeth, North Wales. “I used to go there to get out of the way and write,” he said. “It’s only a little one-bed place with an open fire and log burner.
“We’d had a bad, bad winter and I could just about drive to the cottage before the snow was too deep to get any further.
“I put the fire on and a butterfly came in the room and settled on my hand.
“It was our Clifton coming to see me, that I’m sure of.”
His late mother Peggy, who died of a stroke three years ago aged 86, apparently had similar reunions with Ricky’s late father Albert after his death at 55.
Ricky, who also played Bobby Grant in Merseyside soap Brookside , said: “Mam knew when she was dying and used to talk to Dad. They used to go on these coach trip holidays every year down south.
“My dad did all the organising. When he died she started going away to similar places with her mates and I said, ‘Don’t you miss my dad, Mam?’
“She said, ‘No, your dad comes to visit me every year before I go on my holidays to see if I’m all right.’”
Ricky recalled a number of psychic experiences.
In 1987 he took on a five-year lease of a building in Liverpool, planning to renovate it as a hub for where aspiring actors and entertainers could perform.
It soon transpired that the venue, called The Limelight Club, was haunted.
Ricky recalled: “We had an old hooker, God love her, who used to come in.
“She wasn’t too well one night and I said, ‘Don’t worry, Chloe, you get your head down here for a while.’
“We were playing snooker downstairs when we heard screams. When we went to see her, she’d climbed out on to the window ledge more than 200ft up.
“I said, ‘What are you doing?’ ‘Ricky’, she said, ‘I was going to come down because I felt a lot better.
“But there was this old guy, standing by the door in a long brown overcoat and cap, and he wouldn’t let me out.’
“He kept saying, ‘I’m waiting for Nellie, I’m waiting for Nellie.’”
“We also had the police out one night because I could hear people talking in one of the rooms.
“We were near a bank so I thought they could be burglars. But when the police burst in there was no one there.
“Another time I was coming down the stairs and saw a lady with a baby in a pushchair and a little girl holding her hand. I walked into my office and when I turned around they’d gone.
"I had a lad staying there at the time. He was in a bit of trouble so I’d given him a room upstairs. One morning I saw him going downstairs, looking up at the wall.
“I said, ‘What’s the matter?’ He said, ‘You won’t believe this. Every morning when I go out there’s a woman with a little baby in a pram and a girl holding her hand.’
“When I get to the door she’s gone and it’s locked.’
Ricky, married since 2003 to Rita Cumiskey, is still in touch with David Drew, the psychic who finally put an end to the hauntings at the club.
He said: “He stayed for a few days and on the last day there was something going on in the bathroom. He came out and I thought he’d been fighting Mike Tyson . He said, ‘It’s gone’. And I asked, ‘What was it?’
“He said it was person who killed someone then committed suicide but wouldn’t accept he was dead and move over.”
Ricky made another grisly discovery while filming an episode of the genealogy series Who Do You Think You Are? to be screened on December 22.
It turned out that one of his ancestors was the victim of body snatchers, who sold corpses and organs illegally.
Now Ricky is delighted by his latest role in The Last Dragonslayer, describing the experience as “an absolute joy”. It is set in a Harry Potter -style world in which magic is dying out and needs restoring.
Ricky said: “It was tremendous because I’m a bit of a dinosaur when it come to special effects. I’ve only just learned to text – but I really enjoyed it.”
In one scene Ricky had to fly. He recalled: “That look of fear was real. They strap you to a bicycle seat on a giant seesaw and throw you up in the air.
“Afterwards the producer said, ‘Marvellous, you looked terrified.’ And I said, ‘I was bloody terrified.’”
During filming people even mistook his wizard look for a tramp.
Ricky explained: “I had my own beard but I had stuff put on my hair to make it stand on end. I’ve got a big enough nose as it is but they’d put this red stuff on it.
“I didn’t have the heart to ask the make-up girls to take it all off at the end of a long day, even though they’d offer.
“So when I got into my hotel, people would turn around and look at me”
He added: “I can’t wait for my grandkids to watch it.”
Story and source: Mirror