Foggy, cramped and sharp, the pungent smell of the Thames, the legends of plague pits and Jack the Ripper, memories of bombs bursting open tube stations and soon-to-be–beheaded Queens praying for the King’s soul…London is a city much more violent than its posh exterior sometimes suggests. And these proper people seem to like to terrify in the afterlife, perhaps finally getting the chance to expose the turmoil buried under their witty and laconic personae.
Grenadier: London boasts dozens of haunted pubs, but none claim more ghostly goings-on than this quaint and cozy nook (with a priceless pewter bar) in charming Wilton Mews. Once the Duke of Wellington’s preferred hang-out, the Grenadier was a popular spot for soldiers, with an officer’s mess above and a soldier’s hall below. The killing of a young officer after a card game is said to have started all the hauntings which include gliding figures, rattling furniture, pacing footsteps, moans from the cellar and a smoking ghost who burns his cigarette out on human arms.
Highgate: A massive, Neo-Gothic Victorian cemetery favored by the elite, Highgate had fallen into disrepair by the 1960’s. Packs of occult enthusiasts began roaming the park and reports of countless ghosts, including a spectral cyclist, began circulating. Soon two paranormal researchers began a feud, both claiming there was a Vampire on the loose in the cemetery, killing foxes and releasing spirits of the dead. Media frenzy ensued, culminating in a series of arrests and the discovery of a mutilated woman at the cemetery. It has now been restored to its former splendor and is a surprisingly lovely place to visit.
50 Berkeley Square: Built in the late 1700’s, this Georgian townhouse in posh Mayfair was the longtime home of Prime Minister George Canning, who believed the house to be haunted. Things got downright macabre in the Victorian era when a jilted man by the name of Mr. Myers moved in and locked himself in the attic as the house fell into disrepair. Most paranormal activity centers around this attic, which is now purportedly permanently sealed. A maid, a nobleman and sailors who stayed there overnight are all said to have gone mad and died of fright.
Bank-Monument Underground Station: Not only was this busy station in the City of London built through a plague pit, it was also the target of an air raid during the blitz that claimed over fifty lives. Many visitors report an overwhelming sense of melancholy, depression and horrible smells upon entering the station. The resident ghost is a woman named Sarah Whitehead whose cashier brother was convicted of forging checks and hung in 1811. For the rest of her life Sarah would wait for her brother outside the Bank of London in all black, leading people to name her “the bank nun.” She is now frequently spotted on platforms in the midst of the hustle and bustle of daily life.
Tower of London: So many ghosts so little time! Since 1078, the Tower complex has been the spot for the torture, intimidation and murder of the noble jet set. Among the tormented apparitions are the screaming ghost of Margret Pole fleeing the executioner’s blade, the white lady who wears “cheap perfume,” the huddling and trembling Princes of the Tower, Anne Boleyn carrying her head, Sir Walter Raleigh, a giant brown BEAR, a wailing Guy Fawkes, Henry VI and Lady Jane Grey.