London or Londinium as it was called when established by the Romans around AD 43 is the capital of England and is the second largest city in Europe. It is a city with a deep and sometimes dark history that is not seen in the post modern buildings and among the bustling shoppers at Christmas in Oxford street. But walking alone in the city when the workers have gone home, as you glide along the winding streets and back alleys somehow the atmosphere can often change into something a little unsettling, sinister even. The brick work of some of the older buildings have been a silent witness to devilish dealings in times past. The ancient gargoyles of churches stare down at you menacingly, as a Gothic mist on occasion descends as the shadows of London's old underworld move around quietly in the darkness just out of sight. Old London has a presence and atmosphere the essence of which almost demands tales of the supernatural. Here are some of the best
1. Saint Bartholomew's Hospital and the Spooky Lift
Lift shafts have been a popular area for hauntings for some time now. The Terror Tower Lift, an attraction at Disneyland is based around a lift that is controlled by other worldly forces, as the punters are thrown down as the lift free-falls after first encountering some of the ghosts. Indeed the ride is based on a television series; The Twilight Zone in which the lift of an old hotel is struck by lighting and becomes a vessel to a supernatural realm.
Archaic lift shafts, with the big brass hands clicking through the floors, have become a popular place for stories of ghosts. It is thought by some that the root all fear is based on the concept of the unknown. Therefore the idea of a lift with a mind of its own entails an unpredictable and frightening beast. A lift shaft is a small and claustrophobic place and one that moves independently of any human is surely a terrifying mechanism.
Saint Bart's hospital is the oldest surviving hospital in London. It has survived both the Great Fire Of London and The Blitz. Ironically it was hit by a Zeppelin raid in World War One and the outer masonry still bares the damage in the form of large chips.
Bart's as those who study and work here know it is famous for being the oldest hospital in London to still stand on its original site; its origins go right back to 1123. In the bowels of the hospital there is an old lift (elevator) which generations of doctors and nurses have come to know as the 'coffin lift'.
In the silent, early hours of the mornings it has been known to take unsuspecting passengers down to the basement regardless of which floor they have pressed the button for. Once there it's lights go out and it will not move. After a few moments of pushing the buttons, staff will be able to force open the gates and walk back to the ground floor. Here they find the lift waiting, its gates open and its lights on.
Should they then choose to walk up to the original level they were trying to reach, they will have the unpleasant experience of the lift follow them up, as the stairs they must take are twisted around the lift shaft. Which is an open shaft aside from the wire mesh enclosing it. If the person stops, the lift will stop. If the person speeds up, the lift will speed up staying a couple of feet below them. Tradition maintains that it is the ghost of a nurse, who was once murdered in the lift in the basement by a deranged patient, is responsible for the malfunction. The floor they arrive at is always the basement where the lift sits with its lights out. The terrified passenger is able to force the door open after a few minutes of struggle. When the passenger returns to the ground floor the lift is said to be faithfully waiting, doors open and the lights back on. If the passenger has not already left the building in terror and decides to take the stairs the sound of the menacing lift rattling up the column in the middle of the stairway is audible, apparently following the terrified hospital worker.
The spirit reputed to be responsible for the poltergeist activity of the lift is of a nurse murdered by a mad patient of the hospital inside the lift. Although the behavior of the lift might suggest that it is in fact the eccentric murderer that is haunting the old lift.
The spirits of former nurses also haunt other parts of the hospital. Grace Ward is the spectral domain of the Grey Lady, a nurse in old-fashioned uniform who, in life, is said to have administered a fatal overdose to a patient and to have killed herself in remorse. Now, whenever nurses are about to make a similar mistake, they are said to feel a light tap on their shoulders and, looking up, they see the grey lady, shaking her head in warning. A similarly attired lady has been seen on Bedford Fenwick Ward, although she appears to administer comfort. Nurses have long grown used to patients, shortly before they die, asking them to thank the old-fashioned nurse for bringing them a cup of tea.
2. The Houses of Detention - Clerkenwell
An old prison that saw around 10,000 inmates a year at its peak in the 19th century. It was shut down in 1890 before being used during the war as an air raid shelter. After a spell as a museum, it was shutdown again and is currently inaccessible. The prison is made up of a series of spooky underground passageways, all the windows lined with the bars that would have held the doomed inside. Many of the prisoners were awaiting trial and were to be put to death, many were left stuck in the terrifying dark alone as their sanity drained away.
Among the ghosts that were reported within the walls was an old lady that seemed to be desperately searching for something although is always unresponsive when asked for help. A sinister male presence that is reputed to follow lone females around the cavernous Dungeon. As well as the audible cries of the damned on spooky occasions, including the voices of children who were also imprisoned within the walls.
Not currently accessible but staring through the gates into the dark dank interior of the eerie prison can set the imagination running. If you are in the area it is certainly worth a look.
3. The Lost Princes - The Tower of London
A one time Norman castle the tower is more commonly known as the last resting place of many of London's lower and higher classes, both famous and infamous. From traitors gate to the heavily haunted white tower if there is any place in London that should have inherited a few angry spirits it is The Tower Of London. A place of torture and death in times past.
The 'Bloody' Tower is a home to one of the most well known stories of the Tower. It is the solemn last resting place of two pre-teenage princes; Edward V and Richard Duke Of York, whom were due to inherit the throne. But were suspiciously locked in the tower for 'safe keeping' by their uncle (Richard III) who by chance could also inherit the throne so long as they were not to get in his way. It is thought that Richard ordered the poor boys death to make sure of the title of king for himself. Two small skeletons were found in the tower in 1674, presumed the remains of the two young princes, rightly they were given a royal burial in Westminster Abbey.
It is said that on a quiet night the sobbing specters of two young boys have been seen wandering the dark halls of the bloody tower, gliding hand in hand for comfort, their expression one of fear and melancholy. The sight of the unfortunate princes often brings sympathy from witnesses but should they attempt to communicate with the boys the image of them fades to nothingness.
4. The Scratching Lady - Ham House
The archetypal haunted house; an old mansion in a remote setting with a long and dark history. In London and indeed throughout England these haunted houses often come in the rather deceptive form of a stately home. Owned by families of the elite and passed down from duke to duke, kinship to kinship. Countless generations living and dieing within the walls of the one building often these homes date back hundreds of years. Indeed a lot of time for a ghostly legend to materialize and haunt the atmosphere.
Ham house in South West London has been home to various English nobility including acquaintances of Charles the First. English writer Augustus hare wrote of perhaps the most well known ghost of the house; an old lady often heard scratching on the walls of an upstairs rooms.
As the story goes; "There is a ghost at Ham. The old butler there had a little girl, she was then six years old. In the small hours of the morning, when dawn was making things clear, the child, waking up, saw a little old woman scratching with her finger against the wall close to the fireplace. She was not at all frightened at first but sat up to look at her. The noise she made in doing this caused the old woman to look round, and she came to the foot of the bed and, grasping the rail, stared at the child long and fixedly. So horrible was her stare, that the child was terrified and screamed and hid her face. People ran in and the child told what she had seen. The wall was examined where she had seen the figure scratching, and concealed in it were papers, which proved that in that room, Elizabeth had murdered her first husband to marry the Duke of Lauderdale."
5. The “Smoothfield“
Smoothfield as Smithfield was originally known, was for many years one of London’s places of execution. In August 1305, Sir William Wallace, Braveheart, was put to death here, and a grey granite plaque on the wall of St Bartholomew’s hospital still commemorates his heroic exploits.
He, however, is not one of the ghosts that haunt the spot where his life was ended all those centuries ago. The ghosts of Smithfield belong to a later rain when Mary Tudor attepted to restore England to the Catholic faith and chose to do it using fire and the sword.
In the reign of Queen Mary Tudor, over two hundred Protestants were put to death in England, and many of them were burnt at Smithfield. ‘Bloody Mary’ was emphatic that green wood should not be used, since its smoke was likely to suffocate the victims before they suffered the full agony of the flames. We can only guess at the terrible suffering endured by those who perished here, as Mary strove to undo the work of her father, Henry V111 and her brother Edward V1, and bring Catholicism back to the people of England, using fire and the sword. For some of her victims, the torment appears to have proved eternal, and those who work in the area in the early hours of some mornings, have often been disturbed by anguished and agonised screams that rend the air, and by the sickly smell of burning flesh that is carried upon the night breezes
6. The Priory Church of St Bartholomew the Great.
This is the oldest parish church in London. It possesses a dark and mysterious interior, the ancient walls of which drip with atmosphere and which make a wonderful spot for ghost hunters to soak in the true ambience of historic and haunted London. It has been used as a location for films as diverse as Robin Hood Prince of Thieves and Four Weddings and a Funeral. It’s ambience has been described as the “holy gloom’ and it comes as little surprise to learn that the building is haunted. Even its beginnings are tinged with the supernatural. Rahere, a man who, according to legend, was once a jester at the court of King Henry 1st, founded it in 1123.
In November 1120, the King’s only son and heir had been drowned when the White Ship was lost in a winter storm off Calais. The court was plunged into despondency, and Rahere opted to become a monk and set off on a Pilgrimage to Rome. Whilst there, he fell dangerously ill with malaria and on his death bed vowed, that if he were cured and allowed to return to his own country, he would ‘erect a hospital for the restoration of poor men.’ Miraculously, Rahere’s prayer was answered, and he duly set off for England. But on the way he had a terrible dream in which he was seized by fearful winged creature and taken up onto a high ledge where he was set down, teetering on the brink of a yawning chasm. Just as he was about to fall, the radiant figure of St Bartholomew appeared at his side, and told Rahere that he had come to save him. In return, said the saint, “in my name thou shalt found a church…in London, at Smedfeld (Smithfield).” Thus the church was founded, and when he died in 1145, Rahere was buried inside.
His tomb now stands to the left of the altar, its reverse side clearly showing the results of a hasty repair carried out in the 19th century when the parish officials decided to report upon the state of the founder’s body. It was well preserved, and even the clothes and sandals are said to have been intact. A few days after the tomb had been sealed, one of the church officers fell ill and confessed that, when the tomb had been open, he had stolen one of the sandals. He gave it back and recovered, but it was never returned to the foot of its rightful owner, and since that day Rahere has haunted the church as a shadowy, hooded figure that appears from the gloom, brushes past astonished witnesses, and fades slowly into thin air.
On other occasions his appearances have been more active. In the mid 20th century the Reverend W.F.G Sandwich was showing two ladies around the church, when he sighted a monk standing in the pulpit, giving a very animated sermon to an unseen congregation – although no sound could be heard. The two ladies appeared to be oblivious to the apparition, but just to be sure, the Reverend Sandwich directed their attention to the pulpit, making the observation, “I don’t think that pulpit is worthy of the church, do you?” The ladies merely agreed with him, obviously quite unaware of the ghostly monk.
In May 1999, the then verger of the church, John Caster, who lived in the house next door, was woken early one morning by a telephone call from the security company, informing him that the alarms were going off inside the church. Entering the building he turned on the lights and conducted a brief search. The church was empty. Switching the lights off, he was about to leave, when he clearly heard the measured tread of slapping footsteps, walking down the central aisle. He called out, “who’s there?” whereupon the footsteps stopped for a moment. But then they resumed continued along the aisle. Convinced there was an intruder, he locked the doors and called the police. They arrived within minutes, but could find no sign of anyone inside the building. Furthermore, no windows or doors were open. The next morning the alarm company sent an engineer to check and reset the motion triggered alarms. Both he and John were astonished to discover that only the central beam, the one that passes Rahere’s tomb, had been broken. The beams by the doors, and the side and top aisles had not been breached, meaning that whatever, or whoever, was responsible, had somehow managed to simply “appear” at the centre of the church. It was then that John remembered that the footsteps had sounded like sandals, slapping over the stone floor of the old church.
7. The Rising Sun
This cosy and traditional 18th century hostelry that lay derelict and empty for much of the 20th century until, in 1984, Tadcaster brewer, Samuel Smith, purchased and refurbished the building. Its proximity to St Bartholomew’s Hospital has led to a local tradition that, in the early 19th century, a gang of body snatchers used the pub as a meeting place and later a hunting ground, for cadavers with which to supply the research needs of doctors. Whether there is any truth in the rumour that this dastardly band would replenish their merchandise by drugging and murdering patrons of the Rising Sun is debatable. But what is certain is that some long ago act of infamy has left a psychic stain upon the pubs ethereal plain and managers and staff have over the years, encountered several ghosts. Two Brazilian barmaids who worked here in 1989 and lived in, would often be woken in the early hours, by “presence” that would sit on the end of their beds, and which would, occasionally, slowly tug the bed clothes off them. Several bar men who have been cleaning up in the downstairs bar late at night, have been disturbed by the distinct sounds of footsteps running across the floor of the upstairs bar. However, when they went to investigate, the room was always empty. Finally, in 1990, the then landlady, was enjoying a shower in the staff bathroom one summer’s afternoon, when she though she heard the bathroom door open and close. The next moment, the shower curtain was pulled slowly aside and an ice-cold hand ran down her back. She turned quickly, but found the that she was alone.
Leave the Rising Sun by its rear door and turn left into Rising Sun Court. At the phone boxes go right along Long lane and continue ahead until on the left you arrive at The Red Cow
8. The Red Cow
This pub was for many years, under the tenancy of Dick O’Shea a characterful Irishman who attracted the likes of Bernard Miles and Peter Ustinov to try his legendary hot whisky toddies. The pub was open from 6.30am, serving the workers after their evening duties at Smithfield Market, opposite. Dick would sit in his rocking chair on the upper balcony keeping a patronly eye on his customers below. He died in 1981 but, for almost a year afterwards, regulars often caught sight of him, sitting on the balcony, rocking back and forth, as genial and watchful a host in death as he had been in life. The pub unfortunately has now been radically altered so the balcony is sadly no more.
Exit the pub and cross over Long Lane. Keep ahead along the right side of Lindsey Street. Turn right along Charterhouse Street and go left through the gates into Charterhouse Square and follow the railings that encircle the garden at the centre of the sqaure. St the top pause and look over the railings at the garden.
9. Many people consider this to be one of the neighbourhood’s most melancholic spots. The huge plane trees that tower above the peaceful lawns stand over a plague pit where 50,000 victims of the 1348 Black Death are said to be buried. Some of them would, no doubt, have been buried alive, and people walking by the square during the hours of darkness can sometimes hear the anguished screams of these poor unfortunates as they relive their final agonies amid the putrefying corpses. When the Charterhouse School stood nearby, new pupils were dared to creep into the square as midnight approached, press an ear to the cold earth and, as the witching hour chimed, listen to the screeching and howling that they were assured would sound from beneath the grass.
Follow the railings as they veer right and a little way after they do so cross over to the huge wooden gates that are the entrance to the Charterhouse itself.
The ancient wall of weathered stone that encircles the Charterhouse –London’s only surviving Tudor town house - helps keep the contemporary world firmly at bay. Beyond the massive oak gates of the gatehouse, visitors find themselves in a veritable time capsule, the origins of which stretch back to 1381 when Norman nobleman Sir Walter de many endowed a monastery for the strict order of the Carthusian monks. Here the holy brethren would offer prayers for the souls of the victims of the 1348 Black Death who still lie buried in the great square outside the gates. The monastery flourished until the Reformation, when its monks refused to accept Henry as head of the church in England. Their Prior, John Houghton, was hanged, drawn and quartered, and one of his arms was even nailed onto the monastery gates in attempt to persuade the surviving monks. But, inspired by their leader’s bravery and ghostly nocturnal visits from long dead members of their order who urged them to remain true to their faith, the friars held strong and refused to curtail to the King’s demands. One dark, wintry night, as they prayed in the chapel by dim candlelight, their came a flash of heavenly flame which caused every candle to flare up with a celestial brilliance. Encouraged in their battle with the State, the monks remained steadfast, even though sixteen more of their number were executed, before the monastery was finally dissolved.
The building was then granted to Lord North, who turned it into a splendid private residence. He entertained Elizabeth 1st here on two occasions, his hospitality being so lavish that he crippled himself financially and had to retire to the country. Thomas Howard, 4th Duke of Norfolk, then bought the house. His plans to marry Mary, Queen of Scots, resulted in his execution in 1572, and the house had several more owners before being purchased in 1611 by the immensely wealthy Sir Thomas Sutton. He converted he building into a hospital for aged men and a school for the education of the sons of the poor. In time the school became a distinguished public school; and moved to new premises in Godalming in 1867. Today some twenty or so elderly men live amid the ancient courts and forgotten cloister of this wonderful old mansion.
At night when the surrounding streets fall silent, a shadowy monk is said to drift aimlessly about the cobblestone courtyards, parts of which survive from the days of the monastery. He shares his weary vigils with the headless spectre of the Duke of Norfolk that comes striding down the main staircase, on which he was arrested, his head tucked neatly under his arm.
Continue clockwise to exit Charterhouse Square and turn left along Charterhouse Street' A little way along on the left pause at The Sutton Arms.
11. The Sutton Arms
Behind the enchanting, bow-windowed frontage of the Sutton Arms, is a snug and cosy interior that is haunted by a red haired old gentleman in old-fashioned dress who, since they have never been formerly introduced, the landlord has come to know as “Charley.” He has been seen sitting nonchalantly in a corner of the pub, and on one famous occasion, he appeared suddenly between two girls who were enjoying a lunchtime drink. Having given them a nasty fright, he grinned and then promptly disappeared. In October 1997, a friend of the then landlord, who was staying in one of the pubs upstairs rooms, was looking in the mirror, combing her hair, one night when a cold shiver suddenly passed over her. Net moment she saw the reflection of a red haired man, standing behind her smiling. She spun round quickly to remonstrate with the intruder, but was astonished to find no body there.
walksoflondon.co.uk | http://suite101.com/article/haunted-parts-of-london-a324403