Meet Emma Parker - The Indytute's go to expert on the bits of London you never knew you wanted to know. Emma inspires and surprises on her brilliant and amusing walking tours. We asked her to take us on a tour of London's Most Haunted Places...
London is claimed to be the most haunted city in the world and there are a whole host of ghostly tales that take place in the capital. Hallowe’en, along with the Winter solstice is allegedly when the barrier between the spirit world and ours is permeable and ghosts return en masse. Not scary at all!
1. The most haunted tourist attraction
It is completely understandable and logical that the Tower of London is considered the most haunted building in London if not the world. This former palace is more like a medieval village with walkways and alleyways, turrets and towers and it has enough ghosts to fill most towns. There are ghosts we would expect at the Tower, including Ann Boleyn (with and without her head) who has been seen in different parts of the tower and wandering mournfully around her execution site. Thomas A Beckett was the very first ghost to be seen here; apparently, he objected to some alterations that were taking place – a latter day Prince Charles! There have also been sightings of two small boys playing by the White Tower. No doubt, these relate to the princes in the tower whose bones were found during the 17th century. My favourite ghost is a bear – yep, one unlucky guard who spied a great grey bear and was so shocked that he thrust his bayonet into the apparition with so much force that it took two soldiers to release it from the wooden door in which it was embedded. He died two days later from shock and no doubt haunts the tower and so it goes on!
The Tower of London
2. The most haunted pub
I don’t know why so many people seem to see ghosts after they have been drinking but there are almost as many ghosts in pubs as there are pubs! There are poltergeists that move beer and hide keys (I think we all have one of those in our homes), men in period clothing and plenty of shady ladies. The Ten Bells in London’s Spitalfields has many of these. One such lady is wearing green and walks in the basement near the lavatories. She is allegedly the final victim of Jack the Ripper, Mary Kelly, who was murdered in nearby Whites Row. She was drinking in the pub before she was brutally murdered on 9th November 1888. The green dress denotes her Irish heritage and the fact that she haunts the lavatories makes me think that this is the real reason why women go to the loo in pairs.
3. The most haunted building
50 Berkeley Square is not a place to be taken lightly. It is a miracle that it hasn’t been pulled down out of sheer terror. The ‘beast of Berkeley Square’ has been seen and heard at this address for many years. There were rumours abound from the 1840’s so armed with this information, you would imagine people would give this place a wide berth! Unfortunately, it had the opposite effect. Ghost hunters and those who love a wager have all met the same horrific end. One such brave speculator was Sir Robert Warboys who had learned of a room within this house where hideous and nasty things happened. So he took on a bet and asked the landlord if he could stay within the room. The landlord tried to convince him not to but in the end agreed that if anything happened, Sir Robert would pull a string that was attached to a bell in the landlord’s room below.
Yes, you guessed it, shortly after midnight, the bell in the landlord’s room was rung violently and so the landlord ran up the stairs armed with staff and weapons and through open the door to the room. There he was, the hideous form of Sir Robert, mouth and eyes opened in wide terror as if what he saw was so hideous, he was literally scared to death. This was not the last time that such a death occurred there but hopefully, over the years, progress in entertainment, casinos and betting shops, has meant that people can get their kicks elsewhere.
The Ten Bells, East London
4. The weirdest ghost
Take your pick – the chicken ghost of Highgate? The possessed arm of the City of London? Or maybe Ladbroke Grove’s own haunted bus?
My vote is for the chicken ghost! Many of us have heard of Sir Francis Bacon’s experiment with freezing food, in particular his forays into freezing a chicken. On a particularly cold April day, 1626, he buried a chicken in snow and came back to discover that when it defrosted a few days later, it was still edible. Now comes the sad part. Sir Francis caught a chill whilst out and about which turned into pneumonia and he died soon after. However, this is the strange bit: it is not Sir Francis who haunts Highgate but the chicken. Reports of sightings of a badly plucked chicken came soon after Sir Francis’s death and have been going ever since. The chicken seems to run around Highgate Pond like the proverbial headless fowl or sits spookily up a tree. If anyone goes near, it vanishes. WWII air raid wardens, a local vicar and others have experienced this chilling apparition, probably before heading off to the closest KFC.
5. The busiest ghost
Ann Boleyn has an agent; well, I think if she hasn’t, she is a very driven self-publicist. Her ghost is seen in nearly every quarter of England. She haunts her family home, Blickling castle in Norfolk, Rochford Hall, where Henry VIII first laid eyes on his new queen-to-be, Hever Castle, Hampton Court, Windsor Castle and she has just announced a residency in Las Vegas (to be verified). In London, she haunts her former residence in London, York Place, which is found near the Thames close to the Embankment, however, her favourite place to haunt is the Tower of London which she does in many ways.
One night in London’s most haunted castle, a Captain of the guard saw a flickering light coming from the Chapel Royal of St Peter ad Vincula. Knowing that this building was locked at night, he decided to investigate. He grabbed a ladder and leant it up against the window. It took him a few moments to understand what he was seeing. He had disturbed a night-time procession of knights and ladies who were following a lady dressed in elegant garb and clearly recognisable as Ann Boleyn. She has also been observed hurrying along the path between the chapel and the Queen’s House, where she stayed the night before her execution. The execution site itself has also had reports of sightings of Henry VIII’s second wife but at this location, she is headless. This is probably the most terrifying of her manifestations and a bit of a show-stopper. She can be seen Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays at the Tower of London! Enjoy at your peril!
The Chapel of St Peter ad Vincula
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