A guide to the most haunted places in London
As one of the oldest cities in the world, it is not surprising that London has its fair share of ghosts milling around. Although evidence tends to be anecdotal rather than the cold hard facts, you'll just have to judge the spectral merits of these pubs, theatres, streets and tube stations yourself. Whether it's headless horsemen, suspicious spooks, unexplained noises or tube apparitions, if you want to scare yourself silly in London here's a list of haunted places to get you started.
1. Haunted pubs
If you hear a London pub is famous for its spirits, it might be best to check whether it's for the generous measures or number of ghosts before venturing in. It turns out that rather than hanging around in cemeteries, spooks are drawn to the energy of the living, which might explain why there are scores of haunted pubs in the capital.
This haunted pub is hidden away in exclusive Belgravia, at the end of a charming, cobblestone mews only minutes away from Hyde Park Corner. A bright red sentry box stands outside as a reminder of the pub's former military history, when it was the officers' mess of the nearby barracks. It was here that a young army officer was savagely beaten by his comrades for cheating at cards, which sadly resulted in his death.
According to Tina from Guided Walks in London although the date this occurred is unknown it's thought to have happened in September, as it's at this time of year spooky activity has been observed. A silent, shadowy figure has been seen moving through the rooms, objects have moved or vanished overnight and there's an icy chill in the air. Footsteps have been heard pacing about in empty rooms with the occasional moan from the cellar. Most famously, it was said that when the Chief Superintendent of New Scotland Yard visited, smoke wafted round him and he was burnt with an invisible cigarette.
Pub giant Taylor Walker can perhaps lay claim to having the most haunted pubs in London, because along with The Grenadier, they also own a further eight pubs if you fancy a spooky pub crawl.
Given the pubs name, it might come as no surprise to find out that the Coach and Horses in Mayfair has been haunted, starting in the late C18th, by a supernatural coach and horses; driven by a headless coachman of course. "Hanging" Judge Jeffreys has yet to call time at the bar in the Prospect of Whitby, one of London's oldest riverside pubs, more than 450 years after his death.
The "Goldsmith's ghost" haunts Ye Olde Cock Tavern in Fleet Street. This popular pub, famous for its heritage (1549) and its narrow frontage, is supposedly haunted by writer Oliver Golsmith who was buried outside; his disembodied head appeared in the bar in the 1980s. When a woman headed to the toilets of the Silver Cross in Whitehall after closing time, the manager though someone had locked themselves in. When she checked, there was no sign of the mystery lady. Legend has it, the pub is hanted by the ghost of a prostitute who was murdered there.
Jack the Ripper
The Ten Bells pub in Spitalfields was the local of several of the Ripper's victims, including Mary Kelly who had was last seen alive there. In fact, in the 1970s and 80s the pub's name was changed to Jack the Ripper to cash in on the notoriety before reverting back. However the main ghost has been a man, dressed in Victorian garb, who kept appearing on the top floor to scared staff in the 1990s.
Poor trainee milliner Anne Naylor is now better known as the "Screaming Spectre", after being murdered aged only 13 by her adopted mother. Her screams in the sewer have been heard by tube staff and are also sometimes audible in the ticket area.
One of the most famous tube ghosts is Sarah Whitehead, more commonly know as "The Black Nun". Driven mad by her brother's hanging for fraud, she visited the Bank of England every day for a decade before she died, asking clerks where her brother was. She has been spotted by staff, who thought she was stuck in the station after closing, and is thought to be responsible for ghostly knocking in empty lifts.
Aldwych and Covent Garden
At Aldwych Station (built on the site of the Royal Strand theatre) cleaners have reported numerous sightings of a ghostly woman on the deserted tracks, believed to have been an actress. Actor William Terris was stabbed to death on the Strand in 1897 and since then has haunted the Covent Garden area and tube station in particular. Numerous sightings of Terris, dressed as a Victorian gentleman should be in frock coat and hat, had been seen on the platforms, but in the mid 1950s he apparently appeared in the staff areas, freaking out several workers.
3. Haunted theatres
After pubs, theatres appear to be the ghostly place to hang out, with actors, stage hands, theatre owners and even dolphins refusing to take their final curtain call.
Theatre Royal Drury Lane
Drury Lane has long held the title of most haunted London theatre. Their own "Man in Grey" melts in to the wall in broad daylight, replete with wig and cloak. Rumour has it that the sighting precedes a good run, so no need to call the ghostbusters. Keep an eye out for pioneering clown, Joseph Grimaldi, who died in 1837 and gives unsuspecting actors and staff a "comedy" kick up the backside. Another former pantomime dame, Dan Leno, haunts the stage and whose modus operandi from the other side is to practice his clog dance.
Theatre Royal Haymarket
Former actor and manager Sohn Baldwin Buckstone has haunting Haymarket since the 1800s. He's said to bring luck, and Sir Patrick Stewart is among the actors who've claimed to catch sight of him.
The Dolphin's demise
One of the oddest supposed hauntings in London theatres is that of the The Peacock Theatre (now a London School of Economics lecture hall and spin-off performance hall for Sadler's Wells theatre company). The legend goes that one of the dolphins kept in a tank below the stage for a 1970s revue show died. Since then a strange squeaking noise has been heard in the theatre by actors, staff and theatregoers.
Some people find it hard to let go of a job, and in pipe organ designer Henry Willis's case, he's been hanging on since 1901. Two young ladies of a seemingly dubious past are also said to haunt the auditorium. Dressed in their finery and strolling arm in arm without a care, they've been spotted by staff and visitors alike over the years.
4. Haunted palaces
Built by Cardinal Wolsey more than 500 years ago and "given" to Henry VIII, this palace has had a violent past. Henry's fifth wife, the tragic Catherine Howard, is believed to haunt the spot where she was arrested for treason. Hampton Court's very own "Grey Lady" Dame Sybil Penn, who nursed Elizabeth 1 before succumbing to smallpox, haunts various apartments in the house. But if "proof" is needed that the house is haunted, then watch the video below to see the famous 2003 CCTV door ghost, "Skeletor".
The Tower of London
One Beefeater is said to have died of fright when confronted by the ghost of a bear. It's believed to be either a Polar bear, donated by the King of Norway to Henry VIII or "Old Martin" a Grizzly bear from Canada (both of whom were part of the Tower menagerie, which formed the basis of London Zoo.)
5. A haunted hospital
As the oldest hospital to stand on its original site, St Bartholomew's Hospital, West Smithfield, has a story behind it - also told to me by Tina (@GWinLondon). In the hospital (known as Barts) there's an old fashioned lift which has been nicknamed by the doctors and nurses as the Coffin Lift. In the dead of night it has been known to take its passengers to the basement regardless of which floor number they have pressed. Once they arrive in the basement the lights go out and lift appears stuck. The passenger is able to open the gates and escape but as they walk up the stairs the doors suddenly shut and the lift makes its way back to the ground floor where it is waiting, gate open and lights on. The story goes that it is haunted by the ghost of a nurse who was murdered in there by a patient.
6. Haunted houses, streets and squares
Bleeding Heart Yard
Given the evocative name, it probably isn't hard to see where this tale is going. Allegedly Lady Elizabeth Hatton had her organs and limbs ripped apart by either the Devil or a jealous lover (depending on the source), her still pumping heart left to bleed into the cobbles. It's still worth a visit if only to go to the Bleeding Heart restaurants and pub that now reside in the yard, just off Hatton Garden.
No. 50 Berkeley Square has long held the unfortunate title of most haunted house in London, but the surrounding streets have also seen some action in the last few hundred years. The hauntings of the house are believed to have begun when the owner, a Mr Myers was jilted at the alter and spiralled in to madness in the mid C19th. Since then, there have been maids fainting or going mad, soldiers brave enough to spend the night in the attic dying of fright, and other tales of terror. Since the house was taken over by Maggs Bros. Ltd, rare books and manuscript dealers in the 1930s, the sightings have supposedly stopped.
Poultrygeist in Highgate
In 1626 Sir Francis Bacon in Pond Square, Highgate in 1626, killed and then stuffed a chicken with ice to make what was the first frozen bird. Sir Francis died shortly after of a chill, but it is believed the spirit of the chicken lives on. Over the years people have seen the phantom chicken, especially during the Second World War, although it tends to disappear into thin air when chased.
Tour guide Laurence Scales pointed out that several London churchyards still have old watch houses. These were built for a time when guards looked out for grave robbers in the days (until the Anatomy Act of 1832) when anatomists offered a good price for fresh corpses.
Have you been to these haunted places in London?
We would love to hear about your spooky experiences in the capital. Have you visited any of the pubs or theatres, or have you discovered some even scarier venues? Tell us your terrifying tales by leaving a comment below or getting in touch with us @lastminute_com