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As we enter Halloween Week, I bring you Ghost Stories from London. The capital city of England, London boasts a long history that stretches back to Roman times. That history includes its fair share of darker episodes and notorious people such as Jack the Ripper.
Some of London’s iconic structures such as Westminster Abbey, the Tower of London and Buckingham Palace are famous for reasons that go beyond interesting architecture.
Grab a cup of hot tea and settle into your favorite chair while I tell you five stories from London’s spooky side.
Ghost Stories from London
This magnificent city, that survived plagues, fires and bombings, stands today as one of the world’s greatest cities. For more than 2000 years it’s been a major settlement for the area and a powerful, influential center for arts, commerce, education and finance.
London’s population of almost 9 million people, as of 2019, makes it the 5th largest metropolitan area in the world. It also boasts a large unseen population of spirits and ghosts who wander the streets after dark or inhabit many of the historical buildings.
The Tower of London Ghosts
Numerous ghosts haunt the Tower of London. This complex began as a royal palace and eventually became known for its prison. Since 1067, the Tower has experienced many deaths, mostly by executions and the occasional murder.
Supernatural activity in the Tower includes strong, repugnant smells, temperature drops in rooms, mischievous poltergeists and even a death heralding bear!
Among the more famous ghosts are the murdered young princes, Anne Boleyn and the White Woman in the Castle Keep.
In 1483 two young princes, Edward and Richard, came to the Tower. Their father, King Edward IV died, technically making his son Edward the next King of England. At age 12, Edward was too young to rule so his uncle Richard III became Protector of the Throne.
Unfortunately, Edward never became king. The princes disappeared, believed murdered by their ambitious uncle. The murder was never officially solved, however the skeletal remains of two young boys were found buried in a stairwell 200 years later. They are thought to be the princes.
The shadowy figures of the two little lost boys appear often in the White Tower, holding hands as they drift from room to room.
Anne, the 2nd wife of King Henry VIII, was imprisoned in the Tower in 1536, after failing to give the king a son. She was beheaded the same year. Her ghost is spotted in different parts of the Tower, inside buildings and also outside on the Tower Green where she was executed.
Visitors report seeing her headless torso pacing the Tower at night. She’s also seen in the Chapel of St Peter, where she is buried. A captain of the guard, patrolling the Tower at night, saw a flickering light in the chapel and investigated. Peering through the window, the astonished captain watched a procession of lords, ladies and knights in armor. A small woman appeared in the center of the festivities. He identified the woman as Anne Boleyn.
After a few minutes, the light faded and the procession of ghosts disappeared.
The White Woman in the Castle Keep
The White Tower, at the center of the Tower of London, is called the Keep. Amazingly, almost all keeps in England are haunted by a similar ghost…a woman wearing white or black robes.
In The Tower Keep, visitors catch a glimpse of a woman in white, from the corners of their eyes. They then report smelling a pungent, stale perfume. Some feel as if the room closes in around them while others say that chills run down their spines. In recent years, people feel taps on the shoulder. When they turn around, there’s nothing there except a wisp of white that disappears.
Buckingham Palace Ghosts
Buckingham Palace, the royal home of English monarchy, houses hundreds of people and a host of ghosts. The two most repeated stories involve a monk and the secretary of King Edward VII, who committed suicide in an office on the first floor.
The Ghost Monk
The palace is built on the site of a monastery. A monk died there, chained in his cell. The ghost of the monk appears frequently on the palace’s rear terrace, cloaked in his brown cowl. Others report hearing the rattle of chains and moans from the same terrace at night, when no one is out there.
The King’s Secretary
During King Edward VII’s reign, from 1901 to 1910, his private secretary Major John Gwynne was involved in a scandal. After divorcing his wife, the Major couldn’t handle the rumors that followed his decision. He ultimately shot himself in the head, in a first floor office.
Today staff and employees avoid that office. They report an uneasy feeling in the room. Some claim to hear a single gunshot coming from the empty office.
Westminster Abbey Ghosts
Buckingham Palace isn’t the only place in London with the ghost of a monk. Westminster Abbey has one as well, along with the ghost of an unknown soldier.
For 500 years, a Benedictine Abbey occupied the site of the Westminster Abbey. Edward the Confessor rebuilt it and from 1066 on, the current abbey serves as the place for the coronations of England’s kings and queens.
Over the centuries, during many renovations and additions, the abbey’s floor level lowered. This might explain why the ghost haunting the abbey floats a few feet above the floor. Called Father Benedictus, this spirit is frequently seen bobbing about the cloisters in the early evening.
Father Benedictus appears so solid that visitors often have conversations with him. He once helped a lost couple find their way out of the abbey. And in 1900 he entertained a group of 25 people, who watched him drift around and then disappear into a wall. Two American visitors claim the spirit spoke very politely to them during a long conversation.
The Unknown Soldier
In the abbey is the Tomb of the Unknown Warrior. It is a memorial to soldiers who died during WWI. On November 11, 1920, an unidentified soldier received a royal burial in soil brought in from the battlefields of France. He rests beneath a marble stone quarried in Belgium. When the abbey becomes quiet after dark, the soldier ghost materializes beside the tomb. He stands for several minutes, head bowed, and then slowly fades away.
The Ghosts in London’s East End
London’s most notorious person, known as Jack the Ripper, terrorized the city in 1888. The serial killer was never caught nor was his identity confirmed. He killed at least five women, all prostitutes in the Whitechapel District in London’s East End.
With the ferocity of the killings, it’s not surprising that several locations and buildings near the murder sites are haunted. The ghosts of some of the victims stalk the streets where they died. However, the Ten Bells Pub is strongly linked to the Jack the Ripper story. Located at the corner of Commercial and Fournier Streets in Spitalfields in the East End of London, this pub is connected to two of Jack’s victims, Annie Chapman and Mary Kelly.
Annie, the second victim, was reportedly seen drinking in the pub shortly before her body was found around the corner. Her ghost appears, sitting in the exact same spot where she sipped her last drink before death. She’s also known to move pints of beer, break glasses and even steal from patrons.
And staff members working at the pub claim to see a ghostly older man dressed in Victorian clothing. They’ve encountered cold spots in the pub and experience feelings of uneasiness. Others who slept upstairs in the building heard footsteps in the hall and faint laugher, when no one else was present, or woke up to find the specter lying next to them in bed!
London’s Most Haunted House
Claimed by many as London’s most haunted house, 50 Berkeley Square looks like a normal townhouse from the outside. However, stories of its hauntings became so prevalent that it sat empty for many years.
The ghosts of 50 Berkeley Square include a child wearing a kilt, a young woman who committed suicide and a man who went mad, locked in a room in the attic.
A Young Man Goes Mad
A couple of people occupied the house in its early days, without incident. But when Thomas Myers moved in, in 1859, a shift occurred. Thomas prepared the house for his soon to be bride, however days before the wedding, she jilted him. Despondent, Thomas moved into a room in the attic and did not leave the house again until his death. He supposedly went mad in his seclusion. Passersby saw him moving from room to room by candlelight, late in the night.
After he died, people walking by still saw the flickering candlelight, moving throughout the house.
People who lived in the house after Thomas experienced strange things in that attic room, including seeing a brown mist appear. Several died and at least one went insane.
A maid making up a bed in the attic room for a visiting man screamed in terror. Occupants of the house found her lying on the floor, muttering “Don’t let it touch me.” She died the next day. The visitor, a Captain Kentfield, arrived and decided to sleep in the room anyway. Thirty minutes after going to bed he screamed. The house owners heard a gunshot and found him lying dead on the floor, a horrible expression on his face.
Another man, Lord Lyttelton, spent the night in the attic room, armed with a shotgun. When an apparition approached him, he fired his gun. Although he heard something fall to the floor, he couldn’t find anything beyond cartridge shells.
Another story is the tale of two sailors who, needing a place to sleep, broke into the abandoned house in 1887 and slept in the attic room. They woke to the sound of footsteps climbing the stairs. The door creaked open and a strange shapeless creature with a huge gaping mouth entered the room.
One terrified man squeezed past the apparition and ran for help. He returned with a police officer. They found the second sailor impaled on the iron fence, below a broken window in the attic room.
Another ghost associated with 50 Berkeley Square is that of a young woman who jumped from the attic room, after suffering abuse from an uncle. And the child in the kilt is thought to be a young girl killed in the house by a servant.
Eventually the house stood vacant and run down, for many years.
Maggs Bros, antique book dealers, purchased the property and occupy the ground floor. Although staff hear strange noises from the upper floors of the house, no one goes up to check. In fact, no one is allowed to go upstairs. A posted sign warns that the upper rooms are not to be used for any reason.
One More Post in This Series
Next week, just before Halloween, I’ll share the last post in this series, tales from my own hometown. I’ll include a couple of personal stories as well.
Whether you believe in ghosts, or not, I hope you are enjoying this series of scary tales from some of the world’s most amazing cities.
And I’d love to read your ghost stories, in the comments below!
Check out the other posts in this series:
And…Ghost Stories from Edinburgh
Great Reads from Amazon:
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