A haunted tour of London

Jenna Patrick

10.22.2020

With January this year heralding the arrival of NJI in London. We thought we’d hand over to the Uk team to share with you some local lore and creepy tales this halloween from our second home.

As everyone is remote, what better time to flex that imagination and immerse yourself in some tales from England’s Capital city. There are tales of spooky old pubs, creepy plague pits and haunted towers. From the labyrinth streets of the city to the sprawling alleyways leading to the river there’s plenty of things to share with you on this “ghost walk”.

Beginning in the heart of the old city of London, below the tower blocks and banking behemoths there is something below in Bank tube station. Ask anyone who has caught the last tube home, waiting on that deserted platform, your imagination stirs as you wait to see those bright lights bloom out of the black tunnel ahead. Stale hot air and something oily and dark coats the back of your throat as the tube charges towards its stop. But there’s something else too, something sour and putrid, that seems out of place on the empty platform 40 metres down in the earth. 

With a city so steeped in history, you’ve got to acknowledge the bones it was built upon, literally. Even today we still unearth burial sites, temples and plague pits as we churn up the ground to make room for the new. Those steep curves on some of the older tube lines are rumoured to exist because it was easier to dig around the bones then to remove them. 

Bank station is rumoured to have left the bones of an old plague pit where they were found and just built the station upon them. Smells of dank earth and decay are meant to waft through the tunnels, there’s a shadowy figure that can be seen on the tracks and people have said to have felt incredibly sad, waves of grief and desperation, and that’s not just on the average Monday commute. Bank is not the only station said to be haunted. Many other underground stations were used as makeshift bomb shelters during the war and others even became part of an underground network to help ferry the dead out of London when they started to outnumber the living.

You can’t talk about the dead and London, without talking about bodysnatchers. Although the Scottish pair Burke and Hare are the most notorious “resurrectionists”, The East End Burkers followed in their stead turning to murder within the impoverished Tower Hamlets to make a few pennies. Just off Shoreditch high street in the shadows of St Leonard’s church is where they made their killing, in more ways than one. People can still hear the scuffle of a struggle and something being dragged slowly along the ground, but when checking there’s never anything there.

If you feel the need for some dutch courage, there’s plenty of pubs to choose from. The Viaduct Tavern opposite the Old Bailey (London’s oldest Criminal Court) occupies the site of a former jail and dates back to 1875. The Viaduct was previously a gin palace and is the only example with the old city boundaries. It has its fair share of strange noises, knocks, footsteps and flickering lights going on. Previous landlords have recounted their tales of hearing something in the cellar and going to check to find nothing. Only to have the lights turn off and the door slam shut. And no matter how hard they try, the door refuses to open. It’s not all cliche terrors and bumps in the night though. There’s a story from the late ’90s to do with two electricians who were called in to repair something in the rooms above the pub. They had removed the carpet, rolled it up and were getting to work on lifting floorboards when one of the workers felt a couple of taps on his shoulder; turning around they saw the rolled-up carpet lift up the ground, hover and then slam to the floor with a thud.

I know geographically we’ve ended up staying more east than intended but it wouldn’t be right if we didn’t stop by the Tower of London. The tower itself is a wealth of stories, superstitions and legends. We have the ghosts of two little princes, headless queens and women in white. Rooms that fill unexpectedly with a floral perfume, armour that moves on its own and shadows just lurking out the corner of your eye. The tower at one point was quite the zoo for lords and ladies. There are stories of hearing the roars of lions echo around the courtyard, horses galloping along the cobbles and something bigger emerging from doorways. There’s a report in a logbook from a sentry man in the 1800’s who claims to have seen a huge bear loom out from the darkness, he went to attack it with his bayonet but was shocked to have it pass through the shape and stick in the empty door frame. He passed out from the fright of it and never recovered.

Finally let’s finish off with a quick nightcap in Camden Town, the home of NJI London. Although The Black Cap pub is sadly no longer with us. With its reputation for being inclusive, it has opened its doors to many drag artists and even ghost hunters over the years. Some historians say that in the 16th century, a coven of witches used to occupy the site of the bar. The best known of all these was Mother Black Cap who would dress all in dark colours and had a bit of a thing for killing ex-lovers. The story goes that the cinders of one unfortunate beau were found in her oven, while another simply vanished after a drunken row. Could one of these missing men be the face that leers outside the windows long after time has been called? Rumour has it that on the day she died, the devil entered her home and never left. Could her spirit be the cause of the knocking doors and shadows in the mirrors?

Whatever your stance on ghosts and the supernatural, you’d find it hard not to wonder if there’s any truth to these tales, especially walking the older streets of London on a cold dark night. Although it’s not quite the same there are ways to experience this from home with virtual walking tour happening over the next few weeks, you can check it out here

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