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Authors: Peter Underwood

Haunted London

BOOK: Haunted London
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For Chris and Maggie with love.

This electronic edition published 2013

Amberley Publishing
The Hill, Stroud, Gloucestershire

Copyright © Peter Underwood 2009, 2013

ISBN 9781848682627 (PRINT)
ISBN 9781445628592 (e-BOOK)

All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reprinted or reproduced or utilised in any form or by any electronic, mechanical or other means, now known or hereafter invented, including photocopying and recording, or in any information storage or retrieval system, without the permission in writing from the Publishers.

British Library Cataloguing in Publication Data.
A catalogue record for this book is available from the British Library.


List of Illustrations



Ghosts of the City and East London

Ghosts of Covent Garden, Bloomsbury and the Strand

Ghosts of Mayfair, Soho and the West End

The Haunted Thames and its Margins

Haunted Hampstead, Highgate and North London

Some Ghosts of West London, North of the River

London Ghosts, South of the River

The Ghosts at the Tower of London

Select Bibliography


Amen Court near St Paul’s Cathedral
Greyfriars Churchyard, Newgate Street
St Andrews-by-the-Wardrobe, Queen Victoria Street
St James’s church, Garlick Hill
The stage door of· the Adelphi Theatre in Maiden Lane
The Albery Theatre, St Martin’s Lane (formerly the New)
Aldline House, Bedford Street, Covent Garden
Covent Garden Underground Station
King Street, Covent Garden
Red Lion Square, Holborn
Coutts Bank in the Strand
Berkeley Square, Mayfair
Burlington Arcade
Green Park, Westminster
The Grenadier, Wilton Row
The Haymarket Theatre
St James’s Palace
St James’s Place
Vine Street Police Station
The house in Buckingham Street, Strand, where Pepys once lived
The Thames Embankment in the vicinity of Cleopatra’s Needle
Haunted London seen from Waterloo Bridge
Lambeth Palace from Lambeth Bridge
The National Liberal Club, Whitehall
The haunted archway at the Temple
Highgate Cemetery
Pond Square, Highgate
The Spaniards Inn, Hampstead Heath
Eaton Place, Belgravia
The Wakefield Tower, Tower of London
The Queen’s House, Tower of London


The author wishes to acknowledge the generous help and co-operation he has received from the following, during the years that he has been compiling material for this book:

Robert Aickman, Mrs Trixie Allingham, Mrs Margaret Ashford, Arthur Askey, Dennis Bardens, Geoffrey Bernerd, Miss Gwyneth Bickford, Mrs Cicely Botley, Miss Yvonne Burgess, Miss Adele M. L. Butler, Commander A. B. Campbell, Fred Cavell, Sir Francis Chichester, Miss Geraldine Cummins, Eric Davey, Charles Dawson, James Wentworth Day, Alan Dent, Pamela and Crispin Derby, I. E. S. Edwards (Keeper of Egyptian antiquities at the British Museum), Charles Fishburn, the Revd Kingsley R. Fleming, the Revd H. J. Fynes-Clinton, Roy Grigg, the Revd R. W. Hardy, Jack Hayden, Lady Seymour Hicks (Ellaline Terriss), Dr Peter Hilton-Rowe, R. Thurston Hopkins, Miss Rosaline Howe, Edward C. Hull, Barry Jones, Guy Lambert, CB, Richard McGhee, W. J. Macqueen Pope, Mrs Margery Macqueen, Eric Maple, Brian Matthew, Prebendary Clarence J. May, Commander W. E. May, Dr Edward J. Moody, Mrs Munton, Miss Margaret Murray, Henry Oscar, Joseph Pearcey, W. G. T. Perrott, Billy Quest, the Revd John Robbins, C. H. Rock, Eric Rosenthal, Donald Ross, Miss Margaret Rutherford, Miss Dorothea St Hill Bourne, Dr Sidney Scott, Dr Mervyn Stockwood, Graham Stringer, John Sundell and J. M. Dent & Sons Ltd, Mrs Beryl Sweet-Escott, Reg Taylor, Dylan Thomas, Mrs Jerrard Tickell, Geoffrey Bourne-Taylor, Mrs G. C. Watson, Mrs Stuart Watson, Dr Donald West, and also various officers and authorities at New Scotland Yard, Tower of London, Hammersmith Public Library, Westminster Reference Library, British Museum, the British Library, the Post Office, the Society for Psychical Research, the Unitarian Society for Psychical Studies and The Ghost Club.


Is London haunted? The answer depends on whether you are prepared to believe in ghosts in the first place. Personally, in thirty years’ investigation, I have never seen anything that was indisputably a spontaneous ghost, but accounts of ghosts and haunted houses have interested me for as long as I can remember and there is no doubt that legion upon legion of people believe that they have seen ghosts. It is with the stories they tell that this book is concerned.

London is a very special city, it is always changing: presenting a new facet now and then even to the most native and long-established Londoner. London has more reputed ghosts and ghostly phenomena than any other place on earth. It is no exaggeration to say that practically every street in London has, at some time or another, been the scene of some kind of psychic happening, and my problem in writing this book has been to decide what I must leave out rather than what I will put in.

It seemed to me that I must include the famous ghost stories of London — the Cock Lane affair, the Man in Grey at Drury Lane, the haunted house in Berkeley Square, and the ghosts at the Tower of London — but I hope I have something new to add to these important cases. I have included also a sprinkling of poltergeist infestations, those strange happenings that take place in all kinds of properties for a limited period, and also some of the lesser-known ghost stories and psychic experiences that it has been my good fortune to come across. Much of the material has never been published before and I am very grateful to friends and correspondents who have been most helpful with information over the years, enabling me to present for the first time a representative picture of haunted London.

If the place of death can sometimes be haunted by the person who died there, it is probable that some hospitals should be haunted, and as there are authentic cases of hauntings associated with hospitals throughout Britain, so London hospitals also have their ghosts. Curiously enough, however, there are few recorded instances of apparitions of patients returning to the wards or rooms in hospitals where they died, and the more convincing accounts of hospital hauntings involve nurses or hospital staff.

A hospital ward at night can be an eerie place, especially in an old hospital; a place of laboured breathing and uneasy slumber, a place of anxiety and pain, of light and shadow — the kind of atmosphere in which imagination can play strange tricks. Yet most nurses and doctors are practical, realistic people and many of them have odd and unexplained happenings to relate.

There must be as many haunted theatres as there are haunted churches and it is interesting to consider the possibility that concentrated thought and preoccupation with death (and what may lie beyond) provide the requisite atmosphere for ghostly happenings in churches and theatres. In the artificial frame of the theatre, all the happiness and sadness, the evil and the good that mankind can experience is expressed by actors who often themselves have tragic lives. It may be that concentrated thought, whatever its direction and aim, can in certain circumstances and under certain conditions produce an atmosphere conducive to ghosts and apparitions, just as tragic and violent happenings may, in special circumstances, give rise to hauntings. There are hundreds of haunted theatres around the world and London has more than its fair share. Inns have been described as the perfect microcosm of humanity, and certainly hostelries harbour, if only for a little while, the young and the old, the good and the bad, the rich and the poor, the happy and the sad. If (as some people believe) nothing is ever really lost, and every word, deed and thought is preserved for ever, it seems likely that occasionally something of that past, either a happy moment or one of tragedy, might return in some mysterious way and be visible or audible to present-day frequenters of the hundreds of historic inns and pubs of London.

To the sceptic I would say that no logical man could resist the weight of evidence of apparitions having formed a part of human experience through the centuries: similar and even identical reports are available from every part of the world from earliest times to the present day. There is simply too much evidence for it to be ignored. There can be no doubt that even in this prosaic age of rush and bustle, men and women with sound minds and sound bodies do sometimes see ghosts of dead persons in circumstances that rule out illusion or deception.

In 1971, a Hampstead mother of six, who believed that she was haunted by the ghost of her grandmother, killed herself by taking a drugs overdose. In 1969, actor Richard Harris filled a room in his London house with toys — not for the children to play with but to lay a ghost. He discovered that a child had once died in the room from which he heard the sounds of knocking and bell-ringing. ‘I thought the toys would help the ghost to be happy,’ he said at the time, ‘and it seems to have done the trick.’ The parents of Derek Bentley, executed in 1953 for his part in the shooting of P.C. Miles, have left his room untouched and they have heard his footsteps, his dog has howled and seemed to recognize its dead master, and bedclothes have been disturbed by no visible hand — years after the youth was hanged. Dr Sidney Scott, the eminent authority on Joan of Arc, told me, in February 1973, about the ghost of an unidentified Frenchwoman accompanied by her ghost dog that used to haunt the old houses behind St Peter’s church in Cranley Gardens. A huddled form, thought to be the ghost of Catherine Eddowes, a Jack the Ripper victim in 1888, has been seen in a corner of Mitre Square during recent years, a spot long known as Ripper’s Corner. Writer Robert Aickman has told me of a haunted hotel at Little Venice where the ghost of a dead man has been seen near a mysteriously opened window — the window from which the man ‘fell’ to his death.

Such snippets represent the rich tapestry of paranormal happenings in London, generally but not always the result of tragic or violent occurrences. Small wonder that I once met a lady who insisted that one morning she looked out of her window overlooking Marble Arch and saw the re-enactment of an execution with hundreds of people milling around dressed in the manner of two centuries ago. Is it unlikely that a power that many people sense and a few see with that inner eye pervades the site of Tyburn Tree where something like fifty thousand people met their deaths? It may be that all happenings are preserved and spin round in time and space, to be glimpsed again occasionally. A London bookseller once told me that he thought half the people one saw on the streets of London were ghosts, which is food for thought indeed! Whatever the explanation, London is full of ghosts and I hope that any reader who has knowledge of strange happenings in London — or anywhere else for that matter — will let me know, for it is important that permanent records of such experiences are preserved. I am very grateful to my son Chris for all the time and patience he has expounded on the excellent photographs that add so much to the book, and as always I am immensely indebted to my wife for her continuing interest, practical help and sincere understanding of the many problems involved. I hope that this book will give readers as much pleasure as it has given me to write it.

Peter Underwood
Savage Club, 1 Whitehall Place, London, SW1A 2HD



At the east end of Paternoster Row and just east of St Paul’s Cathedral, this delightful little place, guarded by black iron gates, is always so quiet that it might almost be another world. Here, in the reign of Henry IV, lived the turners of beads who were called Pater Noster Makers; the name of the court may well be explained by the nearness to Old St Paul’s. It was here that Richard Harris Barham lived between 1839 and 1845 whilst he was a minor canon of St Paul’s, and wrote the
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BOOK: Haunted London
4.11Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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