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Haunted London

Tower of London

This is not a full gazeteer of Haunted London and all its spooky spots, it’s more a curated selection of ghost and monster stories that can be linked to real places in London, which is why I’ve included maps where I can. Here are haunted houses, ghosts, monsters, and killers. And I’ve mixed true stories like Jack the Ripper with fiction like Dracula, because both contribute to the uncanny atmosphere of these places. The key thing is you can go and explore these streets and parks and feel the atmosphere that clusters there, and actually imagine you’re there witnessing what happened. And maybe if you are (un)lucky enough, to see the spirits for yourself! Check out the hotels and flights, the ghost walks and dungeon attractions. You could be here sooner than you think!

The Enfield Poltergeist: A True London Ghost Story?

The Enfield Poltergeist is an interesting case. Haunted London articles generally relate to areas you can readily visit, this one is slightly different. It relates to credible reports of a quite disturbing haunting that happened in Enfield, a suburb of North London, that used to be a market town in Middlesex where lambs were reared in Anglo-Saxon times and which, in the Middle Ages, was a heavily forested hunting park for the local lords.

You may have seen The Conjuring 2 which came out in 2016. It is based on this case.

284 Green Street, Brimsdown, Enfield

The Enfield poltergeist haunted happened in a regular street to regular people at 284 Green Street in Brimsdown, Enfield. Brimsdown was earlier Grimsdown – Grima’s Hill. And Grima was a name used for the Germanic God Odin or Woden to the Anglo-Saxons. Odin used to call himself Grima or Grim -meaning ‘mask’ or ‘helmet’. (See Llewellyn’s Complete Book of Names for Pagans, Wiccans, Witches, Druids by By K. M. Sheard) when he wandered among the unsuspecting person. And Odin was fond of playing tricks on this humans. In fact he was a very tricksy fellow.  Bear that in mind for when we talk about the poltergeist.

But back to the poltergeist. The hauntings occurred between 1977 and 1979 and were centred around two sisters aged then 11 and 14. It was investigated by the British Society for Psychical Research (SPR), and the two investigators involved felt the haunting was genuine. It is only fair to say that when the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry reviewed the case, they felt that on the contrary the haunting was a hoax. But in turn it should be noted that the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry have been criticised over the years for trying too hard to disprove psychic phenomena, to the extent that they themselves allegedly may have strained or forced their numbers and investigations to show a negative result.

How it Began

Peggy Hodgson, who was a single parent, rang the police in August 1977 and started the whole furore over the Enfield Poltergeist. She phoned the police to say that furniture was moving on its own in her rented house and that there were knocking sounds and sounds heard on the walls. Peggy had four children, Margaret aged 14, Janet aged 11, Johnny 10 and Billy 7, and they’d lived in the same house for years with no problems.

The reason Peggy rang the police was that in the middle of the night of 30 August 1977,  daughter Janet woke her up to say her bed was shaking. Police who visited the house claimed that an officer saw a chair slide across the floor without anyone touching it. As the story progressed there were reports of demonic voices, rocks and toys being thrown, chairs flipping over and the children even levitating. Reports came to an end in 1979.

Investigations

As noted, the Enfield Poltergeist case was investigated by the SPR and the Society sent two members, Maurice Grosse and Guy Lyon Playfair. Gosse was an engineer by profession and had personal experiences of psychic phenomena when his daughter (also called Janet) was killed in a motorbike accident in 1979. He joined the SPR following these. Gosse spent many hours in the Enfield house with a tape recorder and video camera.

Playfair later wrote a book called This House is Haunted: The True Story of a Poltergeist and he maintained it was a true haunting though he though the two girls might not have been totally honest, might have exaggerated what happened and might even have played tricks on the investigators. Maurice Grosse even saw the daughter Janet banging a brush shank on the ceiling to make a noise and she hid his tape recorder.

However some of the accusations of the girls seem overrated including that Janet used ventriloquism to create some of the sound effects. Successful ventriloquism is a pretty specialist skill that many stage performers still don’t get right, so to suggest an 11 year old girl was an accomplished ventriloquist seems to be stretching it a little. She did produce the low growling voice of a man who said he was called Bill and who’d died in the house of a stroke before the Hodgsons moved in.

Janet was again accused of faking levitation by being photographed when she was merely bouncing on the bed.

Enfield Poltergeist

It was actually a neighbour who rang the newspapers and when they arrived at the house, he came out and told them that things were going on again. The newspaper reporter didn’t see any activity himself but he was quite convinced the family were terrified. ‘You can’t fake fear like that.’

The newspaper photographer Graham Morris was hit in the face by a piece of Lego. Sceptics say the investigators turned their backs and the girls threw Lego at them but if this is so, how come the photographer was hit in the face? There are also reports that electrical equipment switched itself on and off. The same photographer managed to photograph one of the girls levitating with a terrified look on her face. This is contrary to the sceptics saying that this photograph was caught on time-lapse and just so happened to catch them bouncing on the bed.  When I’ve seen the picture, she is definitely not just going vertically up from the bed, but seems to be hanging mid-way between the beds.

Ed and Lorraine Warren, the American paranormal investigators who investigated the Amityville Horror also visited the home. It has been claimed arrived uninvited and were turned away, but from Janet’s 2016 reunion with Lorraine Warren, that appears to be a smear. The Warrens were convinced that the girls were possessed by demonic entities and it was these who were causing the strange phenomena in the house.

Later Testimonies about the Enfield Poltergeist

YouTube Video about the Enfield Poltergeist

Forty years after the haunting, Janet and Margaret Hodgson returned to the house in Enfield for the first time and gave an interview where Janet claimed that they didn’t fake the incidents and that she was actually used by an entity which levitated her and spoke in demonic voices and that she even felt it might kill her when it wrapped a curtain around her neck. Lego bricks were thrown across the room and Janet recalled a chest of draws moving by itself over the floor.  As an adult she denied faking the phenomena and pointed out she was heavily bullied at school because of her role in the case; they called her ‘Ghost Girl’, so why would she fake it? She also hated all the investigators coming in and out of her house and didn’t enjoy the attention at all.

Investigator Guy Playfair also recalled a marble appearing from nowhere and dropping at her feet. A book travelled through a wall to appear in the room next door. He remained convinced that the events were real.

Enfield Poltergeist

Enfield Poltergeist: Conclusion

Something happened. On balance, I don’t believe the family faked things. I know that people who believe in psychic phenomena can often be credulous because, paraphrasing Fox Mulder, they want to believe. On the other hand the sceptical community can go too far the other way because they are desperate to prove such things can’t be.

Go visit Enfield. It’s a long way from Central London and the journey is complicated by public transport, but if you have plenty of time, you might want to visit this ordinary house and stand outside and gaze in. Probably don’t knock.

 

 

Hawksmoor’s London Churches: An Occult Pentagram

Hawksmoor Pentagram

From Hell

An exploration of the mythology of Hawksmoor’s London Churches connects us with Jack the Ripper, Freemasonry and Secret Societies and eventually good King Lud, who reputedly gave his name to London itself.

We must mention Alan Moore’s graphic novel, From Hell, made into a movie starring Johnny Depp which suggests that Jack the Ripper was killing prostitutes to conceal the birth of an illegitimate baby fathered by Prince Albert Victor, Duke of Clarence, and that he was a high level Freemason. The character who is the Ripper conducts a tour of London’s landmarks such as Cleopatra’s Needle and the churches built by Nicholas Hawksmoor saying they have occult significance. ‘Hawksmoor was no Christian,’ he says.

And so the Ripper kills women to feed these monuments with blood and the monuments are arranged in a pentagram across the city of London, with St Paul’s Cathedral at its centre.

Nicholas Hawksmoor the Architect

Known as The Devil’s Architect, Hawksmoor was born a farmer’s son in 1661.  From 1684, he was a student of the famous architect Sir Christopher Wren and worked on key projects in London, including St Paul’s Cathedral. In 1711, Parliament wanted fifty new churches in London and Hawksmoor built six of them. Hawksmoor’s churches are unusual in style because instead of steeples they have obelisks and pyramids and pagan looking sacrificial altars. Of course the 18th Century had a strong interest in Egyptian themes and myths. A belief rose up that Egyptian architecture had mystical significance and this was embodied in the symbols of Freemasonry and occultism and so the Great Seal where the eye in the pyramid still appears on the US dollar bill.

You will recall that Hawksmoor’s London Churches were supposed to need to be fed with blood. So where did this idea come from?

The Eye in the Pyramid

Hawksmoor was certainly a Freemason, and the Freemasons like mysteries and they write in symbols and allegories. In the 18th Century, they were associated with the Illuminati and other organisations who claimed to have conveyed occult knowledge to modern times from its origin in Ancient Egypt.  When reading the following extract from the Freemasons’ texts you might be forgiven for thinking human sacrifice was really carried out:

The temple is perfected on the killing of the architect. The masterword being withheld, his assailants strike the skull three times… The body is buried on top of a hill. The grave is a secret marked with a sprig of acacia.

We see it’s mentioned in Alan Moore’s Graphic Novel From Hell, published in serial form between 1989 to 1998, but the idea that these churches had occult significance has an even longer history

Peter Ackroyd’s Hawksmoor

In 1985, Peter Ackroyd published his award-winning novel Hawksmoor. It fictionalizes Nicholas Hawksmoor and calls the builder of seven churches in London Nicholas Dyer (not Hawksmoor) in the 18th Century. Dyer is a Satanist and makes human sacrifices at the church sites before building them. The story goes that in the 1980s a series of grisly murders are committed in these same churches. When they are investigated by detective Nicholas Hawksmoor, it seems that the buildings themselves require blood. When the detective Hawksmoor investigates the 1980s victims he finds they have died mysteriously, with no fingerprints left and no traces of the murder. As Hawksmoor stalks the church sites, he finds the shadows growing and the evil hunger of the buildings manifest themselves.

Lud Heat

But the idea that Hawksmoor’s London Churches have occult significance goes back further than 1985. In 1975, Ian Sinclair, a great London poet, published Lud Heat: A Book of Dead Hamlets. This really is a psychogeography of London in verse. In book one, Sinclair talks about Hawksmoor’s churches. Sinclair suggests that Hawksmoor deliberately planned his churches to form a pattern of power and that Christ Church, St George’s in the East and St Anne’s Limehouse make a triangle and with them St George’s Bloomsbury and St Alfege’s Greenwich form a ‘pentancle star’.

A triangle is formed between Christ Church, St George-in-the -East, and St Anne, Limehouse. These are centres of power for those territories; sentinel, sphinx-form, slack dynamos as the culture they supported goes into retreat. The power remains latent, the frustration mounts on a current of animal magnetism and victims are still claimed.

St George, Bloomsbury, and St. Alfege, Greenwich, make up the major pentacle star. The five card is reversed, beggars in snow pass under the lit church window; the judgment is disorder, chaos, ruin, discord, profligacy. These churches guard or mark, rest upon, two major sources of occult power: the British Museum and Greenwich Observatory. The locked cellar of words, the labyrinth of all recorded knowledge, the repository of stolen fires and symbols, excavated god-forms – and measurement, star knowledge, times of calculations, Maze Hill, the bank of light that faces the Isle of Dogs. So many spectres operate along these fringes;

Of course the pentancle or pentagram is a powerful occult symbol. Sinclair later said he made the pattern up and it doesn’t really exits, but the relationship of fact and fiction in this Haunted London is a strange one and it flows both ways. Fact creates fiction, but fiction then creates fact as we shall see.

The churches Hawksmoor built in London were:

St Alfege’s Church, Greenwich

St George’s, Bloomsbury

St George in the East, Wapping

St Mary Woolnoth, Bank

St Anne’s Limehouse

Christ Church, Spitalfields

I will merely note that most of these sites are well within Jack the Ripper territory. Not St George’s Bloomsbury though, which has a strange atmosphere to me at least though a wonderful interior. I myself have noticed occult sigils drawn in chalk on the walls around this site. I wonder what’s going on?

St George's, Bloomsbury

 

King Lud

Lud is in fact the Celtic god known in early Welsh sources as Llud map Beli Mawr, which means Lludd son of Beli the Great. And Beli the Great in ancient British is Belinos. Though the Celtic root means shining, I harbour a theory that it is originally a Semitic word related to the Carthaginian God Baal, which in origin comes from a word meaning ‘lord’ (also seen in Beelzebub). Whether this god was brought to Britain by Carthaginian traders or the pre-Celtic inhabitants of Britain and Ireland spoke a Semitic language is unknown.

King Lud supposedly founded London and when he died was buried at Ludgate, near St Paul’s Cathedral. We see the pentagram of Hawksmoor’s London Churches has St Paul’s at its centre (which Hawksmoor worked on as an apprentice to Sir Christopher Wren), and St Paul’s was undamaged by the Nazi blitz that blazed through the area around it. So is St Paul’s built on the King Lud’s grave? And if so, was this site a site of power back into Celtic times as a cult centre for Lud?

Ludgate that leads up the hill to St Paul’s once had statues of King Lud and his sons on it. These are now in the porch of St Dunstan in the West on Fleet Street, nearby, if you want to see them.

St Paul's in the Blitz

A Note on Psychogeography

Official explanations of the origin and purpose of psychogeography can be found elsewhere, but to me it is about the ghost of a place. That’s the whole purpose of this blog in fact. Certain places pop and fizz with certain energy, whether the Dragon Energy of the stone circles or the energy that I personally feel in certain places like Glastonbury, Whitby or Cartmel, and many others. These places have attracted religion, myth, folklore and art. So psychogeography to me is the soul of a city, not just the buildings, not just the people, but the buildings, places, parks and people together. We don’t just experience things with our eyes and ears, we experience the deeper dreams of places, perhaps only when things go silent, or night falls, and ghosts emerge. Do we create them or do they exist when we’re not there? I don’t actually know still. And that’s why you come to these places: to find out.

Check out

NB: For a full, academic discussion of these issues, see David Ashford’s Article in the Literary London Journal, 2013, 10 (2)

 

 

Jack the Ripper’s London: Ghost, Monster, or Madman

Jack the Ripper's London

Jack the Ripper wasn’t a ghost, but he was a monster.

I’ve included the Ripper in this page on Haunted London because, to get fancy, Jack the Ripper is as part of London’s psychogeography as Spring-Heeled Jack, The Enfield Poltergeist, Nicholas Hawksmoor, Aleister Crowley, Sherlock Holmes and Count Dracula. You will see that at least some of the people in that list are fictional, and when we are walking the streets of haunted London, we’re often looking over our shoulders for creatures that may or may not exist. The Ripper certainly existed, but who he actually was, and why he did what he did has been subject to all sorts of explanations from the psychiatric to the supernatural to the down right occult.

Jack the Ripper is the name given to an unidentified serial killer who slaughtered women in the Whitechapel area in the East End of London between 1888 and possibly 1891, if the murders committed in that year were actually carried out by the Ripper.

There are five murders that are said to certainly have been carried out by the same man, the Ripper. These are known as the canonical five.

Mary Ann Nichols

Nichols, aged 43, was the first victim and she was murdered on Friday 31 August 1888. Her estranged husband alleged she was a prostitute at the time and the police noted her drunken ‘antics’. She was known to be an alcoholic and thief. At the time of her death she was in living in a common lodging house locally.

Her body was found at 03:40 in Buck’s Row, Whitechapel, London. That street is now Durward Street, a narrow street that has been rebuilt since the Ripper’s time and is a mix of social housing and industrial units. The area wasn’t rich then, and still isn’t. She’d been seen leaving a pub in Brick Lane, not far away at 00:30, and her room mate saw her alive on the corner of Osborn Street and Whitechapel Road at around 02:30 when she said she’d earned money for her bed that night, but had spent it on drink.

Nichols’s throat was cut twice and someone had sliced open her lower belly and stabbed he several more times in the guts. What makes this murder more attention grabbing is that the spot was patrolled by policemen every thirty minutes.

Annie Chapman

Annie Chapman was 47 when she was murdered. She lived in a common lodging house nearby and was known to drink heavily and get into fights with other women in the lodging house. She had no money for her lodging on the night of her death and at around 01:30 went out to earn some on the street, presumably by prositution.

Chapman’s body was found at 06:00 on Saturday 8 September 1888 near a doorway in a back yard at 29 Hanbury Street, Spitalfields. This is half a mile and eight days after the first murder. Her throat was also severed by two cuts and her belly slashed completely open. When investigated it was found that someone had removed her womb. There was a witness to this case who said they’d seen Chapman with a dark-haired man about 05:30 at the back of 29 Hanbury Street who was said to be ‘shabby-genteel’ looking.

Elizabeth Stride

Elizabeth Stride was 43 at the time of her death and originally from Sweden. She like the others was a prostitute. She also lived in a common lodging house. Like the others she drank heavily. She was spotted by a local police officer with a man (she’d been seen with others earlier in the night) around 24:35. This man wore a hard felt hat and was carrying a long package around 18 inches long.

Stride was killed in the early morning of Sunday 30 September 1888 and her body found around 01:00 at Dutfield’s Yard, off Berner Street (now renamed as Henriques Street). This is about a half mile south of the first  killing and about three quarters of a mile southeast of the second. Stride was killed by an incision that cut her carotid artery in her throat, but her belly was not cut open so people wonder whether it was the Ripper who killed her, or whether he had killed her but was interrupted before he could rummage in her guts. Witnesses said they’d seen Stride earlier with a man but the descriptions varied, either dark-haired or fair-haired and either shabby or genteel.

Catherine Eddowes

Catherine Eddowes was 46 when she died. Like the others she drank heavily and lived in a common lodging house locally. She also engaged in prostitution to pay her rent and for drink and food.

On Friday 29 September at around 20:30 Eddowes was found drunk on the street and taken to the local police station to sober up. She was sober enough by 01:00 and left the police station around that time.

Eddowes was killed the same night as Elizabeth Stride and her body was found at Mitre Square at 01:45 on Sunday 30 September, so forty-five minutes and 0.7 of a mile west of where Stride was found. That would take around fifteen minutes to walk these days, and so probably about the same in 1888, or less if the murderer walked briskly. Like the others her throat and like all except Stride, her belly was slashed open. The womb but also this time the left kidney were cut out and removed. A local witness called Joseph Lawende had crossed Mitre Square with friends shortly before the murder at 01:35 and he said he saw a fair-haired man dressed shabbily with a woman who might (or might not) have been Eddowes.

Eddowes’s blood stained apron was found at the doorway of a tenement at Goulston Street, Whitechapel, which is more or less halfway between where Eddowes and Strides bodies were discovered. There was graffiti daubed on the wall at Goulston Street that said,

The Juwes are not the men that will not be blamed for nothing

It’s hard to make out what this actually means. The graffiti may not have anything to do with the murders. It might be a complete coincidence that it was found near the bloody apron. But the East End of London had a swelling population of Jews fleeing persecution in Russia and Eastern Europe. This inevitably (because it’s a sad repeated feature of European history) led to anti-Semitism and riots, and of course the Jewish people will have reacted against this. There was a rumour in the East End that the Ripper murders were the work of a Jew, though this again is predictable anti-Semitism, and these rumours led to prejudice and discrimination against Jews in the area.

 

The From Hell Letter

George Lusk, chairman of the Whitechapel Vigilance Committe received a letter on 16 October 1888 that had been posted in Whitechapel the previous day. It contained part of a human kidney.  The letter reads

From hell.

Mr Lusk,
Sor
I send you half the Kidne I took from one woman prasarved it for you tother piece I fried and ate it was very nise. I may send you the bloody knif that took it out if you only wate a whil longer
signed
Catch me when you can Mishter Lusk

A photograph was taken of the letter, which still exists, but the original is now lost.

Mary Jane Kelly

Twenty-five year old Kelly is the last of the canonical five murder victims. She was found lying on the bed in the single room of her home at 13 Miller’s Court, Dorset Street, (no longer there) Spitalfields at 10:45 on Friday 9th November, so about five weeks after the previous murder, and about a six minute walk (a third of a mile) from Goulston Street where the bloody apron was found. This was one of the worst area of slums in London. The Ripper hacked off Mary Kelly’s face, cut her throat down to her spine, emptied her belly of organsm and cut out and removed her heart. This is the only organ he took with him.

We see that all victims were killed at night. All were women. The murders were done in a very small area and usually happened near the weekend. As they went on the attacks became more and more frenzied. All but Mary Kelly were killed outside.

These five are considered definitely  to be victims of the Ripper, but there were further killings that may or may not be put down to him.

Jack the Ripper's London

Rose Mylett

Mylett was found strangled at Clarke’s Yard, High Street, Poplar on 20 December 1888, so five weeks after the previous murder. It was suggested she had caught her collar when drunk and hanged herself, but the coroner felt it was murder. This is over three miles east from the Ripper’s usual haunts.

Alice McKenzie

McKenzie was killed on 17 July 1889 by having her carotid artery cut. She had bruises and cuts on her body when she was found in Castle Alley Street, Whitechapel. It’s seven or eight months after the previous Ripper killings but it’s just the next street east of Goulston Street where the bloody apron was. Similar, but not the same modus operandi too.

The Pinchin Street Torso

The headless, legless torso of a woman was found under a railway arch at Pinchin Street, Whitechapel on 10 September 1889. This may represent body parts of someone murdered elsewhere and dumped here.

Frances Coles

Coles was killed on 13 February 1891 under a railway arch at Swallow Gardens, Whitechapel. What made people think this might be the Ripper is that her throat was cut. However, her abdomen was not cut open. A man called James Thomas Sadler was arrested for her murder as he’d been seen with her earlier, but he was acquitted through lack of evidence.

Jack the Ripper's London: Occult Connections

Jack the Ripper’s London: Occult Implications

Now, as this is a blog about Haunted London, so it’s inevitable jack the Ripper’s London is going to discuss the occult aspects of the Ripper kilings.  A theory was put forward in 2002 that the Ripper was in fact an occultist named Robert Donston Stephenson, also known as Roslyn D’Onston, and that the murders were carried out as an occult ritual. The layout of four of the murders is roughly the shape of the Christian cross and the Ripper’s purpose was to defile that image.

This theory came out in a book by Ivor Edwards called Jack the Ripper’s Black Magic Rituals where Edwards claimed the different organs, heart, kidney, genitalia and uterus were removed to meet the demands of black magic. And when you think of it, it’s interesting that different organs were taken each time and when organs weren’t taken it was probably because the Ripper was disturbed. Edwards also makes the point that the victims were carefully laid facing north, east, south and west. He went so far as to measure the distances from victim to victim and take compass bearings and found both a Christian Cross shape and also two overlapping equilateral triangles which Edwards says is a Satanic symbol.

When Edwards took bearings and examined the positioning of the fifth victim, Mary Kelly, he saw that all the victims were killed within a 500 yard radius in the Vesica Piscis symbol. Now this symbol is an ancient one with both Christian and pagan connotations. It appears in various holy sites such as on the top-stone of the Chalice Well at Glastonbury, so to claim it is a Satanic symbol is a little beyond my understanding.

However, Edwards is on firmer ground when he talks about his supposed Ripper, Robert Stephenson who was an ex military surgeon, author, journalist  and an occultist who had travelled to West Africa for occult knowledge. Edwards says such practices were common there. Edwards even wrote on this subject and his books were titled One Who Knows and Tautriadelta.

There is a great article from the San Franscisco Call from 7 June 1896 where Stephenson, calling himself Tautriadelta reveals himself as a ‘true magician.’ He claims to have been a pupil of Lord Edward Bulwer-Lytton who wrote occult fiction and had an interest in magic and was a member of the Rosicrucian Order.

He allegedly confessed to murdering Africans when travelling there in pursuit of occult knowledge. Stephenson was arrested twice by police for the Ripper crimes but released on both occasions. He lived very close to the site of the murders. His wife Anne, nee Deary disappeared in 1887. A dismembered body of a woman was found in a river near a house Stephenson owned in Brighton on the south coast of England later on in 1887. After his wife was out of the way, Stephenson frequented the company of prostitutes in London.

Stephenson admitted himself to The London Hospital in Whitechapel on 26 July 1888. The first killing was a hundred and fifty yards from the hospital around a month later.

Baroness Cremers told the occultist Aleister Crowley that Stephenson was the murderer and he had committed the crimes as part of a magic ritual, as Crowley documents.

After the murders he wrote a long article about them for the Pall Mall Gazette where he showed intimate knowledge of what had gone on. His theory in that article was that the murderer would have to be a black magician, a subject that Stephenson was well versed in as we have seen.  His last writing was published in 1904, a tome called The Patristic Gospels. An article in the Guardian says he disappeared after that and was never heard of again. However, the Wiki entry on him says he died on 9 October 1916.

And that’s all we have to say for now on Jack the Ripper’s London.

Jack the Ripper's London

 

 

bella lugosi

Dracula in London

Place is very important in Bram Stoker’s 1897 novel Dracula. Most famously it takes place in Transylvania, which was at that time part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire under the control of the Kingdom of Hungary. Also, Whitby on the North Yorkshire coast is very important. Both of those places (and Stoker never visited Transylvania) are heavy with atmosphere. But equally important to the novel are the episodes in London.

At that time, London was the centre of the every expanding British Empire and the pre-eminent city in the world in terms of commerce and power. Dracula wants to come from the (to me delightful) obscurity of Transylvania to the centre of the world so he can further the plague of vampirism. Key places mentioned in Dracula are the Albemarle Hotel where the Honorable Arthur Holmwood stays in the centre of fashionable London when he’s in town.

Dracula arrives in Purfleet

Dr Seward runs his asylum at Purfleet east of London in the county of Essex where Dracula’s servant Renfield eats flies and is contained in a straight-jacket. Nearby is Carfax Abbey which Dracula rents out and has his boxes of earth transferred to. It’s a dusty old place and while there is no place named Carfax Abbey at Purfleet, the London History Society did some research and suggest Carfax Abbey might be based on Purfleet House built by the brewing family Whitbread. This house is now demolished and the stones recycled into a modern church. The London Historical Society tells me something I didn’t know that there is a plaque marking its site that was placed by the beautiful Ingrid Pitt, who starred in such vampire classic movies as Carmilla, Countess Dracula and The Vampire Lovers.

Ingrid Pitt

Vampires in Hampstead

Hampstead Heath

Lucy Westenra first falls victim to Dracula in Whitby where she is on vacation, but when she returns to London, the count follows her to her home near Hampstead Heath.  Later, when Lucy rises as a vampire she haunts Hampstead Heath (which interestingly is not far from Highgate Cemetary, haunted by the famous Highgate Vampire in the next century. I recall from his book that Bishop Sean Manchester, had theorized that a Romanian nobleman originally from the 15th Century and now ‘King Vampire’ had come to be buried in the crypts at Highgate and that this might be the origin on the Highgate Vampire, and in passing one wonders whether this allegedly real vampire was the inspiration for Stoker’s Dracula. Or the other way round.)  Both Manchester and his rival David Farrant wrote books of their experiences at Highgate, which are now rare and expensive.

London Zoo at Regent’s Park is the scene of the escape of the Norwegian wolf Berserker, who goes missing from his cage and goes up to Hillingham where Lucy lives (a made up place near Hampstead) and appears at the broken window. Berserker is a savage animal tearing at his cage to get out but the keeper recounts the story of a strange man who was able to tickle the wolf’s ears. We already know from Transylvania that Dracula has influence over wolves. Then the wolf mysteriously escapes and the keeper can’t account for how that might be. The wolf goes up to Lucy’s house at Hampstead and breaks the glass in the window, scaring her mother literally to death, who snatches the protective garlic from Lucy’s throat,  and somehow letting in Dracula as a cloud of specks:

The air seems full of specks, floating and circling in the draught from the window, and the lights burn blue and dim.

And that’s Lucy’s fate sealed.

Lucy is buried in a church in Kingstead (Hampstead). Hampstead is a delightful place and worth visiting if you’re in London. The church that Stoker seems to have intended as Lucy’s resting place is St John at Hampstead. Again, a great church and well worth a visit for its atmosphere. Probably don’t tell them you are vampire hunting though. Later the vampire Lucy wanders Hampstead Heath killing small children.

THE HAMPSTEAD HORROR.

ANOTHER CHILD INJURED.

The “Bloofer Lady.”

We have just received intelligence that another child, missed last night, was only discovered late in the morning under a furze bush at the Shooter’s Hill side of Hampstead Heath, which is, perhaps, less frequented than the other parts. It has the same tiny wound in the throat as has been noticed in other cases. It was terribly weak, and looked quite emaciated. It too, when partially restored, had the common story to tell of being lured away by the “bloofer lady.”

Van Helsing and Dr Seward go hunting the vampire at Hampstead and eat at Jack Straw’s Castle (now luxury appartments with a gym!).

About ten o’clock we started from the inn. It was then very dark, and the scattered lamps made the darkness greater when we were once outside their individual radius. The Professor had evidently noted the road we were to go, for he went on unhesitatingly; but, as for me, I was in quite a mixup as to locality. As we went further, we met fewer and fewer people, till at last we were somewhat surprised when we met even the patrol of horse police going their usual suburban round. At last we reached the wall of the churchyard, which we climbed over. With some little difficulty—for it was very dark, and the whole place seemed so strange to us—we found the Westenra tomb.

This seems to be St John at Hampstead and Van Helsing and Seward break into the tomb but they find Lucy’s coffin is empty, but as they wait the vampire returns with a dead child. These aren’t sparkly Twilight vampires remember. They are nasty.

Suddenly, as I turned round, I thought I saw something like a white streak, moving between two dark yew-trees at the side of the churchyard farthest from the tomb; at the same time a dark mass moved from the Professor’s side of the ground, and hurriedly went towards it. Then I too moved; but I had to go round headstones and railed-off tombs, and I stumbled over graves. The sky was overcast, and somewhere far off an early cock crew. A little way off, beyond a line of scattered juniper-trees, which marked the pathway to the church, a white, dim figure flitted in the direction of the tomb.

The intrepid vampire hunters don’t encounter the vampire Lucy there and then but they take the child’s corpse to the Heath where it can be discovered by the police and catch a cab from The Spaniards Inn.

The Spaniards Inn

You will remember that when Dracula left Transylvania, he brought with him boxes full of his native earth, dug from the old ruined chapel at his castle by his Slovak servants. There were fifty boxes of earth in the chapel and Jonathan Harker found the count asleep in one of them during the day. These boxes were on the ship Demeter which was wrecked at Whitby, but they were recovered from the ship by Dracula’s servants and all fifty are sent to Dracula’s rented house at Carfax Abbey, next to the asylum where the madman, and servant of Dracula, Renfield is kept. Renfield becomes very agitated when he spies these boxes being delivered to the abbey and goes out and attacks the workmen delivering them, only just being beaten off with a whip. It’s fun that Stoker mentions these boxes all the time, seen by his characters or mentioned in letters and reports, but no one figures out what they are until much later and then they have to track down all the boxes all across London in case Dracula is resting in one of them.

Dracula in Piccadilly

Army and Navy Club Piccadilly

Nine of the boxes are sent on from Carfax  to a house he was also renting in the heart of fashionable Piccadilly, “only a few doors from a big white church or somethink of the kind.”  The only church I can find on Piccadilly is St James which is red brick with white stone dressing, so perhaps Stoker made this up, or perhaps he changed the description?

The house in Piccadilly where Dracula was lurking was a high one with a stone front with a bow in it with steps up to the door.  Jonathan Harker goes searching for the house and takes a cab to Piccadilly Circus then walks west down Piccadilly past the Junior Constitutional Club at 101 Piccadilly. The north side of Piccadilly here is built up but the south is Green Park. It was beyond this he found Dracula’s house encrusted in dust with the shutters up. It looked empty.

If I were to guess, I’d say the only one even slightly matching this description — stone with a bow in it — is 105 Piccadilly. Now a very swanky place.

Later they see the Count on Piccadilly ‘grown young’.

As well as sending boxes of earth to the fashionable West End, Dracula also rents a property at 197 Chicksand Street, Mile End New Town, in the unfashionable East End area known as Whitechapel. This area is now completely different as it was bombed flat in the war and the old houses have been swept away and are replaced by council housing.  But, everyone reading Dracula knows Whitechapel as the scene of the horrific Jack the Ripper Murders. There were eleven brutal killings in Whitechapel from 1888 until 1891 and Dracula was published in 1897, though written earlier of course.  This area was one of great poverty, disease and crime and the Victorian readers of Dracula would have had all sorts of images of murder and danger and darkness conjured in their imaginations (and remember that Jack the Ripper was thought by many to be supernatural at least in part). Jack was thought by many to be an outsider, a foreigner or a mad aristocrat and so again we see a linkage with Dracula.

The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde was published in 1886 with a stage version in 1888 and the monstrous Mr Hyde went hunting from his house in Soho, an area painted in dull and sinister colors:

The dismal quarter of Soho seen under these changing glimpses, with its muddy ways, and slatternly passengers, and its lamps, which had never been extinguished or had been kindled afresh to combat this mournful re-invasion of darkness, seemed, in the lawyer’s eyes, like a district of some city in a nightmare.

London Dracula Itineraries

I would suggest that if you want to experience Dracula’s presence in London you might try the following things:

The Dracula Walking Tour by Transylvania Tours

Visit: Oasis Cafe – Dracula’s House – Highgate Cemetery- Highgate Woods

Meet your guide, outside the Oasis Cafe beside Tower Gateway station(on the Docklands Light Railway). Dr J. Macmillan-Pope-de-Locksley was born in London 1953.  With him you will see today Dracula’s House, Highgate Cemetery, the strangling ghost of graves and vampires.

You will also see the Highgate Woods where satanists and witches performed their rites in the 1970’s, visit the haunts of serial killer Dennis Nielsen, and much more!

Or you could try the

Ghostly Hampstead Heath by Night walk by London Walking Tours

Discover the London of Bram Stoker’s Dracula and the amazing enigma of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.

Hampstead has a myriad of secrets to tell when the sun sets and the flickering gas lights come to life.

This is the village of mystery and miracles when the real atmosphere of this extraordinary London village comes to life.

Or you might want to go your own way.

My Own London Dracula Itinerary

If I wanted to add a little Dracula flavour to my trip to London (and if I was coming from the States, I’d probably combine it with a trip up to Whitby in Yorkshire), but I would:

1 Start at Buckingham Palace and walk north through Green Park to Piccadilly, then up through the area of Mayfair north of Piccadilly has a lot of charm and history and wealth! The American Embassy is on Grosvenor Square but before you get there walk through Mount Street Gardens, then go west to the Grosvenor Chapel, the so-called American Church  which was used by American  armed forces personnel during the Second World War. Then go up to Grosvenor Square, nod at the Embassy and wander up to Bond Street, past the expensive shops to get on the underground railway at Bond Street Station. Take the tube to Hampstead which will take twenty-two minutes (exactly!) and you’ll need to change three times. You might want to find a different station, get on a bus, take a taxi.

Here’s the free London transport planner app to help you work out your journey by public transport.

2. From Hampstead Station. Go to St John at Hampstead, but have a coffee. Walk down Flask Walk and go onto the Heath. Enjoy Hampstead, it’s my favourite place in London.

Then you could travel to nearby Highgate and visit the cemetery, but that’s for another post.

 

Spring Heeled Jack

Spring Heeled Jack

Jack’s Background

Who was Spring-Heeled Jack? He was seen first in London in 1837 but later when his fame spread, there were sightings all over England and in Scotland too, but mainly he is a spectre of the urban landscape.

He was called Spring-Heeled Jack because he could leap to enormous heights, and so of course, the Victorians wondered whether he had springs in his shoes! Because his appearance was so devilish, it’s easy to think that maybe the sightings were due to a devil hysteria in a Christian country, which Britain was in 1837, and in fact the United Kingdom was undergoing an evangelical revival with the growth of Methodism and a building of chapels across the country.

Jack was described as having hands with claws – on one account at least, metal talons — and eyes like balls of red fire. There are some bizarre aspects to his description though. He had a black cloak – fine – but underneath the cloak he wore a skin-tight suit that was shiny like an oilskin. He was also supposed to wear a helmet. Another almost dragon-like feature was his ability to breathe blue fire.

Mary Stevens

The story goes that in October 1837, Mary Stevens was walking near Clapham Junction Station heading for Clapham Common in South London, when she was attacked by a strange man. She said he gripped her tightly and tried to kiss her before ripping at her clothes with his cold, clammy claws. Mary shrieked in alarm and the character fled. Hearing her calls for help several local men appeared but though they searched, they couldn’t find Mary’s attacker. However, that wasn’t the end of it. This strange character was next seen landing from the sky in front of a carriage and panicked the driver and his horses before jumping off again, allegedly leaping easily over a nine foot wall, while laughing hysterically.

This report caught the public’s imagination and stories of the weird Spring-Heeled Jack circulated in local newspapers and penny dreadfuls. It may also be true that certain mischievous people deliberately dressed up as monsters to scare maids and unwitting travellers on foggy London nights. That reminds me of the Killer Clown craze of 2016.

Jane Alsop

There are many accounts of these monsters and ghosts but none really resembles Jack until 19 February 1838 at Bearbinder Lane (now gone, but apparently in 1589 ‘a place of no great account’). The lane ran into St Swithin’s Lane at Bow in East London. On the night in question at quarter to nine, Jane was at home when there came a violent ringing at the gate outside the house. She went to see who was there and saw a man who said he was a policeman and this man told Jane “ For Heaven’s sake, bring me a light for we have caught Spring-heeled Jack here in the lane.’ Jane fetched a candle while the so-called policeman waited and saw by its light this man wore a large cloak. Nothing suspicious so far, he was a policeman after all and in those days they wore cloaks.

She followed him into the alley and there was no one there. Still not suspicious, she gave him the candle and at that instant, he threw off his cloak and he vomited blue and white flames into her face. His eyes glowed like red fire and he wore a tight fitting oilskin suit and a large helmet. He started to rip at her clothes with his metallic claws, which were like Mary Stevens described, as cold as ice. Jane screamed and ran and he pursued her but her sisters came out of the house and between them, managed to rescue her from Jack and he fled. They dragged Jane into the house and the man stood outside banging the gate until the sister shouted from an upstairs for the police.

Lucy Scales

Only eight days after the attack on Jane Alsop, an eighteen year old girl called Lucy Scales was walking with her sister not far from the previous attack in East London. They’d been to see their brother who was a butcher and who lived in Narrow Street, Limehouse, just west of the Isle of Dogs. As they passed Green Dragon Alley (yes, I know Bearbinder Lane and Green Dragon Alley sound right out of Harry Potter, what can I say?) she chanced to see a cloaked figure lurking up there. As she came up, he spurted blue flame into her face, blinding her. She fell to the ground in seizures. Her brother, whose house they’d only just left, heard their screams and ran out of his house. He found Lucy on the floor fitting with her sister holding onto her. The brother didn’t get the full story till both sisters accompanied him home. Lucy said this man was tall and thin, with a large cloak and carrying a bullseye lantern such as used by the police. She said he appeared to be a gentleman in social standing and that she didn’t remember him laying a hand on her. A search was made by the police, but they found no one.

A report of this attack appeared in the London Times of 2 March 1838 and one foolish man called Thomas Millbank was in the Morgan’s Arms pub and boasted he was Spring Heeled Jack. He was arrested but set free when he couldn’t breathe blue flame.

There were lots of alarms and hysteria about Jack and sightings were reported across England, but none to my mind are particularly convincing. Then, forty years later, in November 1872 ,the south London borough of Peckham was terrified by the Peckham Ghost that some said was Spring-heeled Jack returned.

This seemed to stir Jack up and he was seen again and again until a group of soldiers on sentry duty at Aldershot Barracks in Hampshire, thirty miles south west of London, reported a visitation. A sentry at North Camp saw a shadowy figure coming towards him and issued a challenge, at which point the figure came up beside him and slapped him repeatedly in the face. The guard shot him but the bullets did not good. Then he disappeared into the darkness ‘with astonishing bounds’. His last sighting was in Liverpool , but I know of no further sightings in London.

The Terror of London

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The Highgate Vampire, London

highgate-cemetery

 

Haunted London’s Gothic Necropolis

In 1969, people started reporting seeing a tall figure in black hanging around the disused and locked-up Victorian cemetary at Highgate.

Highgate was once a village sitting on top of a hill overlooking London, and as London grew it was thought a healthy and ultimately fashionable place to have a retreat away from the city.  Probably for that reason it was chosen as a site for one of the large Victorian cemetaries that were planned just outside the city proper.

Highgate was a place for those with money. It was opened in 1839. An extension – the East Cemetary was opened in 1856. Amongst others, Karl Marx is buried there.

There are 53,000 graves at Highgate.

The tombs and funeral monuments were lavish and ornate, and in many cases of great artistic accomplishment.  It was during the Victorian period with its love of decoration and what we might consider now overelaboration, both in words (think of the wordy Victorian novels) and in building (think of Victorian Gothic architecture). And of course the Victorians loved the Gothic. They also loved ancient Egypt and the middle of the West cemetery there is the Egyptian.

The Cemetery grew wild and Overgrown

As the Victorian period faded, so did the fashionability of Highgate.  It was still kept in immaculate order but then during World War I,  the army of gardeners were called up to fight.   By the 1930s the cemetery was in decline and the Cemetery Company went bankrupt in 1960.  The gates were locked and the place began to get overgrown.  This was a good development for wildlife, with foxes and other animals abounding.  Roots grew into the graves. Tombs were shadowed by ivy. The pathways were overgrown and almost impassable.

First Reports of the Vampire

In 1969, 9 years after the cemetery had locked its gates,  various reports came in from people who were walking near the cemetery that a tall dark figure had been seen lurking around the tombs.  Highgate cemetery covers a big area and now that it’s overgrown, it resembles a dense wood. There are a number of gates that you can see into when you walk down Swain’s Lane and they just show paths receding into the woods.   There is a main gate of course that has been reopened for tourists, but in 1960 this was locked up too.

As you can imagine, there was a great deal of interest in this figure, who petrified those who saw him while they wandered down the lane, peering into the cemetery through the iron gates.  Most of the reports melted away, people were unwilling to come forward, or they were exaggerating.

Thornton gets Hypnotised

Inevitably also, people didn’t respect the locked gates and would climb the walls just to “look around.”   One of these was a man known only now as Thornton, who was an accountant – read for that “grounded, not given to flights of fancy”.

Thornton claimed to have been around one late afternoon and decided to leave as the light faded.  He walked towards the gate. He wasn’t a believer in ghosts but suddenly became aware of an evil presence and when he turned round saw a black thing hovering  just above the ground. This thing apparently forced him to stand still and he lost all sense of his surroundings until it vanished and he was free to leave.

An investigator called David Farrant took up the case. He interviewed several more people and then a woman who had been walking her dog who’d seen a tall black man, hovering once again, just inside the cemetery gates.

When Farrant went into the cemetery to investigate himself, he found a lot of vandalism of the tombs.  Vaults had been broken open and coffins even set alight.  In some cases, skeletons had been wrenched from the coffins.  He found a dead fox, newly killed lying on one of the paths.

Farrant decided to return on 21 December 1969, the Winter Solstice at 11pm. It was a bitterly cold night he says.  He climbed the wall and got the impression that he wasn’t alone.  Looking around, he saw a dark shape some 5 yards inside the gate.  It was not fully human and he saw two red eyes boring into him with evil intent.  Then it vanished.

An Occult Temple

When Farrant did his research in January 1970, he discovered that there were tales of odd things and potential vampiric presences going way back into the Victorian period.  One of these tales was of a tall man dressed in black who could pass through the cemetary walls.   He also discovered that during the period the cemetery had been locked up, since 1960, satanic rituals had taken place there,  from the signs he found.  One of the tombs in the middle of the cemetery had been converted into an occult temple.

Farrant put a letter in the local paper which resulted in a flood of responses, reporting sightings of the figure in the cemetary.

A TV documentary was made with live filming on 13 March 1970 and the cameraman mysteriously passed out.   There was a mass vampire hunt led by a man called Alan Blood. This is apparently the same man who generally calls himself Sean Manchester.  It can be imagined that the authorities charged with looking after the cemetery were not pleased by these developments and the increase in trespass and vandalism that followed them. In August 1970, the corpse of a woman buried at Highgate was dragged out, staked through the heart and left in the middle of a path.

There is a lot more detail in Farrant’s account here.

There was a famous fall out among occultists and the other chap,  Bishop Sean Manchester, also did his own investigation and provided further details.  Bishop Manchester, is bishop in a relatively small, independent church and apparently a descendent of Lord Byron.

Manchester’s book is “The Highgate Vampire” while Farrant’s is Beyond the Highgate Vampire.   They are both really fascinating and I own copies, though they are becoming quite valuable now.

Manchester found a young woman who claimed to have become a victim of the vampire who continued to prey on her in her flat in Highgate.  Apparently after the “attack” is Swain’s lane it was investigated by the police but no progress was made.  Well what do you expect? We’ve seen the movies. No point involving the police in this kind of caper.

Manchester believed that a King Vampire had come to London from Wallachia in Romania by his servants. He’d come in a coffin and had been set up in a house in London.  Sounds a bit like Dracula…

An interesting comment is that David Farrant apparently claimed that ley lines meet in the cemetery, thus allowing the vampire to materialise in the Circle of Lebanon- which is the heart of the cemetery. As noted above, it looks more Egyptian than Assyrian/Hebrew to me.

My Own Experiences at Highgate

There’s lots to say about Highgate. It’s well worth an (accompanied) visit. I’ve been many times.  I went in 2003 with a group of American tourists.  It was a really hot summer’s day.  Our guide was a volunteer who happened to be an albino chap so white eyelashes and red eyes.  He was very knowledgeable and quickly sussed that we were a group of wanna-be vampire hunters. We dissociated ourselves from the vandalism and disrespect that had occurred of course.

He watched the group and was very anxious to round up stragglers. I kid you not.  Some of our group were a tad eccentric and wanted to collect grave dirt. He didn’t like that but when they wandered off, he quickly went to fetch them.  At one point we stood above the catacombs, where Manchester claims to have staked the vampire, from memory.  There were glass bricks in the ground to give light below.  One of our group asked if we would be allowed to go down there.  He laughed and said he wasn’t even allowed down there. Only select members of the society were allowed entry. Then he wanted to get us the hell out of there before the daylight faded.  This is true.  I am sure there are reasonable explanations to his behaviour

It’s Not a Place I’d Want to Be Alone in

I went again in 2009 with my daughters. Once again it was a bright summer day. Our guide was pretty normal and told us about the architecture and sculpture and the interesting history of those buried there.  She didn’t mention anything about no vampires, and I didn’t bring it up apart from nudging the kids and pointing at places I remembered reading about.

We came to the Circle of Lebanon.  It was there that Farrant found the tomb converted to an occult temple. I noticed that one of the tombs was actually bricked up and wondered whether this was it.  It was at that point, as we stood in the sunshine, with the guide explaining about the fashions and architecture that I began to feel quite unwell and had a sense of terrible malevolence.  That faded as we moved onto different parts of the cemetery and certainly had faded by the time we went for an Italian meal later.  But Highgate Cemetery is  not a place I’d want to be alone in. Especially at night.

 

Highgate Cemetary

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

***

The British Museum

British Museum

The Mummy’s Curse

London is full of ghosts, but the best supernatural story hereabouts concerns a mummy’s curse. On the first floor of the British Museum are various rooms devoted to artefacts from ancient Egypt. There are a number of mummies and sarcophagi on display but the one in question is numbered 22542 and listed as a mummy case for an unknown singer to the god Amon Ra. The case is covered in hieroglyphs and has a portrait of a very beautiful young girl.

The story begins in the 1880s when some English tourists in Egypt bought the case in Thebes from a local trader. He didn’t say where he’d got it but grave robbing was very common in those times to supply demand from Westerners keen to have something of Egypt’s history. From the day the mummy case was purchased, accidents started to happen. The new owner was injured in a hunting accident the next day. After that, one of the Englishmen in the party mysteriously vanished, never to be seen again. The owner of the mummy case had to have his arm amputated after the accident and believing his bad luck to have come from the mummy case he sold it to a dealer in Cairo. Three people bought it after that and all of them died shortly afterwards, but not before it had been shipped to London. It was bought by a collector, but a friend of the collector was psychic and felt great evil emanating from the coffin. He warned the man to get rid of it or it would kill him. The collector took heed of this and sold it on. The new owner decided to have it photographed professionally, but the photographer unexpectedly died the day afterwards. Once the pictures were developed, instead of the beautiful girl on the case, they showed an ugly old woman – her eyes filled with evil. The owner sold it to a lady and on its first night in the house, all of her pet animals died and every piece of glass was smashed. She herself fell into a strange sleeping sickness that couldn’t be diagnosed by her doctor. When she gave the case away, she, just as suddenly, got well again.

The British Museum obtained the case in 1889, and as the porters carried it in, one of them fell and broke his leg and the other died a few days afterwards. The mummy case got certain notoriety and people came from far and wide. However, nobody was able to sketch it accurately. The security men became terrified to patrol the room at night and claimed that they were followed by an invisible and horrible presence. One of them actually saw it – a thing with a wrinkled yellow-green face. A photographer allegedly killed himself after seeing the photographs of the mummy case develop. All together, thirteen people were supposed to have been killed by the cursed mummy case.
J A Brooks recounts that in 1921 two young men took part in a secret exorcism of the case. They said that the spirit had the face of a jellyfish as it leered at them out of the case. They said that the spirit was a guardian of the case that had been evoked by powerful magical hieroglyphs on the mummy case because the body had been defiled. Luckily, the exorcism worked and the evil spirit was banished.

 ***

Royal Geographical Society, Kensington


I collected this story from a wonderful woman called Cicely Blaylock who used to work at the Royal Geographical Society in Kensington London. I took it down as she spoke to me, so forgive any grammatical infelicities If anyone has anything to say about this extraordinary story, I’d like to know.
Cicley is an atheist: she doesn’t believe in things like God and thinks that when you’re gone your dust and that’s it. She has however had experiences with ghosts, or at least with apparitions of the past.
She lived at Charnbrook in Bedfordshire with her American husband, now passed away. At that time, she worked at Unilever and was appalled at the way they treated their animals so she reported them to the Animal Liberation Front. On the tide of local rage that provoked she had to leave and her and her husband fled to London.

She got a job as a telephonist at the Royal Geographic Society on Kensington Gore. The job came with a flat in a building opposite the Society’s Headquarters. She was overjoyed to be in London, starting a new life in the midst of such history.

Her flat was on the first floor. She and her husband had a lot of furniture so they ended up putting up their bed for the first few days in the flat’s large living room. The first night they went to bed she fell asleep quickly, tired after the exertions of moving. In the middle of the night, she doesn’t know why, she suddenly woke up to see the figure of a monk standing over her. She describes him very clearly: “He was a tall thin man, quite nasty looking and he was wearing a dirty white canvas gown. He had a cap on one shoulder that hung down over one shoulder and had a tassel on the end. He had piercing blue eyes and was pointing a bony finger straight at me; I could even see the dirt under the nail.”

She screamed, waking her husband up, and the monk disappeared. The next night, they moved the bed round to see if that would make a difference. She says the second night she wasn’t quite sleeping, just in the half sleep half wake state that precedes it. Then she opened her eyes and looked out into the room. All the modern furniture was gone and instead the place was strewn with straw. On the floor sat a small dwarfish man in a coloured satin costume like a jockey. He had a snub nose and ruddy complexion and was pushing a date into Cicely’s mouth. She jerked back and suddenly the modern room came rushing into being. She says that the corner table reappeared so fast that its corner hit her in the eye. Once again, her husband was awakened and a little disgruntled.
Two things she learnt later were that the horses had once been kept on the first floor so that they wouldn’t be stolen and that dates were often given to horses as a treat. A little later, the librarian, Francis, took her into a room where he showed her a picture of a carriage with a man in a jockey’s costume at the reigns. It was the same man she had seen.

The third night she was a little anxious. She had a cup of cocoa and went to bed. She woke up again to see a large man standing next to the bed. She says he had thick white legs with red hairs all over them. He was wearing canvas boots with laces, dirty blue shorts and a shirt that looked like a safari suit. He had an Australian style slouch hat on his head, also a faded blue, and he had an enormous red beard. He kept looking at the wall as if it wasn’t there. She just stared at him for a while and then with a sob turned to her sleeping husband and cuddled in.

Other experiences at the Royal Geographic Society came later. On one occasion, it was her daughter’s birthday party and the family were round at the flat. They’d run out of wine and she walked over to the door to get some more. She opened the door and saw a tall man in black cloak; she immediately shut the door. Her daughter was standing behind her and said, “Why did you shut the door in that man’s face?”

When the daughter opened the door there was no one there and the door below to the outside was locked.

One day she was sitting at work but things were a bit slack. Strangely, she felt her hand begin to write of its own accord. She watched her own hand spell out in beautiful copperplate handwriting the name: Edmund S Knight 1882. Though she and Mr Holland looked through the list of fellows, she never found an Edmund Knight.

Another time it was a beautiful sunny Saturday and she was alone in the flat doing the post. Her husband was ill in bed upstairs. Suddenly she heard a noise that sounded to her like rushing water. She looked outside; it was still sunny. The noise got louder and louder and suddenly, she realised what it was: it was the sound of a sledge rushing over the snow. In a panic, she rushed out of the door, scattering the post everywhere. Of course, the Royal Geographical Society keeps Captain Robert Scott’s sledge.

She spoke to Leon who said when he’d been a young man, the housekeeper at the RGS had seen things as well, but he didn’t know exactly what…