Paranormally speaking….anybody home?
Have you ever heard the elders warn against that particular room or felt the presence of some apparition around…or that somebody is in your attic…..that you have unseen guests residing at your place….that some shadows are lurking at the background…or simply had that eerie feeling about someplace? If your answer to the above questions is YES, then you have had encounters of the unearthly kind!!
Every culture boasts of some folklore that reveals a secret or two about the history of that place. Almost all the known cities in the world have some really old structures or buildings that have been privy to something sinister that continues to breathe through legends, superstitions and sometimes through personal experiences of people having been “visited” by inmates of an otherworldly realm. The English seat of royalty, London, is no different. It has its fair share of such ghostly occurrences and structures that by virtue of their location, history or simply by word of mouth acquired that dubious distinction of being haunted.
A Royal Jinx
The entire city of London, as a whole, has the reputation of being the most haunted capital city in the world with specters spanning hundreds of years that provide a multitude of glimpses of a dark past replete with regal conspiracies and sinister plots resulting in barbaric beheadings and unnatural deaths. Major locations across London have majestic buildings that though a symbol of grandeur but have been the silent witnesses to something disquieting, menacing and portentous, something that exists through maledictions till date.
Get a sneak peek into the history of the city by visiting the Tower of London, Her Majesty’s royal palace and fortress. The historic castle located in central London played a prominent part in English history. The Tower was besieged several times and controlling it has been key to controlling the country. The Tower has served many roles – as an armory, a treasury, a menagerie, the home of the Royal Mint, a public records office, and home to the Crown Jewels of the United Kingdom. The peak period of the castle’s use as a prison was the 16th & 17th centuries when many figures have fallen into disgrace. Its reputation as a place of torture and death notwithstanding, only seven executions took place within the Tower before the World Wars.
Tower of London
The legend still going strong is that the ghost of Anne Boleyn, mother of Queen Elizabeth I, beheaded in 1536 for treason against her husband Henry VIII, allegedly haunts the chapel of St Peter ad Vincula, where she was buried, and walks around the White Tower carrying her head under her arm. Other ghosts reported haunting the Tower include Henry VI, Lady Jane Grey & Margaret Pole. In January 1816, a guard on duty outside the Jewel House claimed to have seen an apparition of a bear advancing towards him and reportedly died of fright a few days later. In October 1817, a tubular, glowing apparition was claimed to have been seen in the Jewel House by the Keeper of the Crown Jewels. The night staff at the Tower has reported other nameless and shapeless ghostly entities in recent times.
The damned ones who passed through the infamous Traitor’s Gate never to return, present a who’s who of English history, & forms haunting this formidable fortress offer an indubitable pecking order of the spirit world.
London is home to many addresses notorious for such “sightings” reported to be of key historical/ political figures. One such example is 50 Berkeley Square, the haunted townhouse on Berkeley Square in Central London, which in the late 19th Century came to be known as The Most Haunted House in London. Home of the British Prime Minister George Canning from 1770- 1827, it has since 1937 been occupied by a firm of antiquarian book dealers. The legend goes that the attic room of the house is haunted by the spirit of a young woman who committed suicide thereby intentionally throwing herself from the top floor windows after being abused by her uncle. The spirit is said to turn into brown mist, though sometimes it is reported as a white figure. A version of the tale is that a young man was locked in the attic room, fed only through a hole in the door, until he eventually went mad and died. Another version states that the attic room is haunted by the ghost of a little girl killed by a sadistic servant in that room.
Find Holiday Homes in Mayfair near 50 Berkeley Square.
Victorian Era saw two deaths because of the house after people spent the night in the room. The first ghostly happenings were reported by George Canning, who claimed to have heard strange noises and experienced psychic phenomena whilst living there. The later occupants too had similar experiences hinting at ghostly presence in the mansion. In 1879, Mayfair reported that a maid who had stayed in the attic room had been found mad and died in an asylum the next day. The day she was found, a nobleman deliberately took up the challenge to spend a night in the room, and he was the first death recorded in the house; he was pronounced dead of fright. Reportedly, after another nobleman had spent the night in the attic room, he was so paralyzed with fear that he lost his voice.
Though different studies are at loggerheads about the house being actually haunted, the mansion still remains a “haunted house” in English folklore.
Another spook story is presented by one of Greenwich’s most elegant and graceful buildings. Designed for Charles 1st’s wife, Henrietta Maria, the Queen’s House was completed in 1635.
The Queen’s House
In 1966, Reverend Hardy and his wife, from British Columbia, visited the house and took a photograph of its splendid Tulip staircase. When they returned & developed the film, a shrouded figure was clearly visible on this particular picture.
Closer scrutiny revealed the appearance of two figures, apparently ascending what had certainly been an empty staircase. Despite rigorous examination by experts, no rational explanation has ever been offered to explain the presence of the figures, other than that they must have been there when the picture was taken.
The magnificent red-brick Sutton House built in 1535 has been home to merchants, Huguenot silk-weavers, Victorian schoolteachers and Edwardian clergy. The building falling into decline by 1980s & frequented by vandals was resurrected in the 1990s and is now open to the public. Though inevitably altered over the years, it remains essentially a Tudor house with its oak-paneled walls, majestic staircase and carved fireplaces reminiscing about a bygone era.
It has its lion’s share accounts of howling and shimmering wraiths wandering inside. Dogs are heard wailing in the dead of night. Thought to be belonging to a wealthy wool merchant who lived at Sutton House in the 1500s, the dogs can still be seen near the fireplace of the building’s Little Chamber. Whenever dogs are brought into Sutton House, they often freeze at the foot of the painted staircase, hackles raised, visibly transfixed by something they can see on the stairs but which remains invisible to humans.
Another ghost is that of the lady of the house, who died at childbirth in 1574, and her shimmering form has been seen gliding around the old rooms. During the renovation of the property, an architecture student staying there woke up in what is now the exhibition room, to find a lady in a blue dress, hovering over his bed. A house steward recently encountered this same specter, when she interrupted his naps by violently shaking his bed. Sudden drops in temperature, doors that open on their own and objects flung across rooms by unseen forces are some of the other phenomena regularly confronted at this place.
George F. Handel moved into his newly built house at 25 Brook Street, Mayfair, in the summer of 1723, and died in the bedroom upstairs in 1759.
When in 2000 the upper storeys of the building were leased to the Handel House Trust, during the restoration project it was reported that an ethereal spirit was haunting the building, and in July 2001, the Handel House Trust went on to seek the services of a local priest, to see if he could lay the ghost that had been sighted by 2-3 people. The apparition was encountered in the room where Handel died.
The ghost was described as being female and the people who “saw” it, describe the feeling to be like the pressure you get when you brush past someone in the Tube and they are too close to you. Staff also reported the strong, lingering scent of perfume hanging in the air of the bedroom. Although Handel lived alone, sharing his home only with his manservant, he was visited by two sopranos, who competed with each other to perform in his operas, and it was possible that the ghost might be one of them.
Fact or fantasy, the issue of a ghostly presence at a place is highly debatable keeping in mind that there are as many believers as there are non-believers, and personal experiences as well as history & religion both provide enough to fan the fire of credulity. Nevertheless, such occurrences make for interesting folklore and for a tourist, they offer a myriad of out of the world travel experiences.
So….. are you game for a mystic holiday in the city of the Royals??