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London's Haunted Buildings

Home > London > Tours | Historic Houses
by Kat Parr Mackintosh (subscribe)
Young and coffee in varying degrees, Kat also says stuff @ThoroughlyMode
Published October 29th 2010
London is heavy with history. It's not just her hallowed buildings and the ancient Thames, it's also her thoroughfares and passages. Terrible things have happened to some inhabitants of the capital, tens of thousands died of the plague - and some of them were buried alive before they were quite dead - and hundreds have been murdered, some of them by 'the Ripper'. Not even Royalty have escaped horrible ends, quite a few of them met untimely demises, some of them in 'The Tower'. So London's moniker of 'The World's Most Haunted City' is well deserved...

And Halloween is an appropriate time to fully appreciate some of London's horrible history by visiting some of the old girl's most haunted nooks and crannies.

Hundreds of people have met their end at the Tower of London, and lots of them in grizzly ways. Henry VI, who was 'stikk'd full of deadly holes in the hour before midnight', 21st May 1471 probably by the Duke of Gloucester later Richard III, who is also accused of killing Edward IV's two sons, 'the two princes in the tower' - and the unfortunate wives of Henry VIII are just some of the most famous, but lots of less royal executions took place on the green and hundreds of people were imprisoned in the dungeons and tortured. Anne Boleyn has been seen carrying her head, Lady Jane Grey is seen wearing white praying on the battlements, and the ghostly figure of the 72 year old Countess of Salisbury is seen running from the scaffolds only to be hacked to pieces by the axe man. The White Tower is the oldest and most haunted of the Tower's structures, known for unexpectedly powerful whiffs of cheap perfume and the oppressive, and reportedly physically, felt presence of Henry III's huge suit of armour.

The Ripper's spirit is reputed to visit quite a few places, but it's unlikely that it's really him, considering no one really knew who he was but one of his victims, Catherine Eddowes is thought to haunt Mitre Square, and another, Annie Chapman, is said to haunt the backyard of 29 Hanbury Street.

Any city as old as London is going to be built over the bones of its past inhabitants, and in no places is that more literal than in churches, where packed crypts contain the bones of thousands of ex-Londoners. The Kitchener Chapel in St. Pauls Cathedral is said to be haunted by a whistling, wizened old clergyman; the The Priory Church of St Bartholomew the Great in Smithfield is haunted by its founder, once Henry I's jester; and the churchyard of Christchurch Greyfriars is said to be home to the restless spirits of two beautiful husband murderers: Queen Isabella, who floats around holding the beating heart of her husband Edward II and Lady Alice Hungerford.

One of the fullest crypts, and thus most haunted, is that of the church of St. Mary-le-Bow, but it's fearful reputation comes also from the black masses that used to take place here, under the beautiful arches, in the 11th and 12th centuries. The reason it appealed to Satanists was that it was common knowledge that it was cursed. Part of its roof blew off killing several people, and part of its tower collapsed 200 years later killing a score more. A man named Lawrence Duckett was murdered within its walls and seventeen men were hanged and one woman burned at the stake for the crime...

Hospitals are another place where many people have died and some of them aren't happy about it, and London has some Gothic looking hospitals that are just the place to give yourself the willies. St Bartholomew's Hospital's most famous spirits are supposed to be nurses rather than patients though both of them are dressed in grey, which was the done thing for nurses in the period when they died. One of them administers comfort to dying patients, the other stops nurses from administering incorrect doses of medication with a tap on the shoulder, supposedly because she accidentally killed one of her patients with a fatal overdose and then committed suicide the same way in remorse.

But it's not just the public buildings, London has its own haunted houses as well. Within the Georgian exterior of No. 50 Berkeley Square exists one of London's most sinister spectres, or so 18th Century citizens would tell you. It's said to have caused the death of at least two men who dared spend the night here hoping to catch a glimpse of what has been described by those who saw it as a man without skin, just a raw head and blood bones. So unpleasant was the idea of this that it was empty for many years though people in the street could hear all sorts of awful sounds coming from the house including the thump thump thump of something being dragged down the spiral staircase... Maggs Brothers Antiquarian Booksellers are the building's living tenants and their line of work has lead its interior towards an even more Dickensian air, the leather bound tomes adding to the effect of the now chilly open fireplaces with marble mantle pieces...which means you can go in and take a peek...

And this is just one of the houses that's now open to visits from the regular public...
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Why? Because it's that eeire time of year...
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