Uncanny UK editor Richard Holland reaches the top of his chart of the most haunted places in Britain.
1. TOWER OF LONDON: City of London
One of the most anciently inhabited sites in Britain and a fortress even before the castle we see today was built by the conquering William I, the Tower has seen a great deal of life and also of death – much of it cruel and bloody. It’s no wonder ghosts are legion here.
The busiest ghost of the Tower of London is unlucky Anne Boleyn, who was beheaded on the orders of her husband King Henry VIII in 1536. Anne haunts the White Tower, the King’s House, Tower Green, and the chapel of St Peter ad Vincula, where she is buried. Sometimes she walks around without her head, as in 1864 when a terrified sentry thrust his bayonet into her headless apparition before passing out with the shock. Many years later, in 1933, another sentry fled from a headless white figure which floated towards him.
Anne Boleyn is just one of a veritable Who’s Who of celebrities said to haunt the Tower. They also include Lady Jane Grey and her equally unfortunate husband the Earl of Dudley, Catherine Howard, the Countess of Salisbury, the Earl of Essex, the Duke of Northumberland, Lord Hastings, Viscountess Rochford, the little Princes of the Tower, Sir Walter Raleigh, St Thomas Becket and Guy Fawkes. Also reported is the floating head of Henry VIII himself, the man who caused so many to be imprisoned or executed at the Tower and created so many ghosts (see also Hampton Court Palace).
Other ghosts include a procession of ‘knights and ladies pacing up and down’ and a group of men seen by a World War One sentry carrying a body with its decapitated head beside it on a stretcher. Then there is the strange, bear-like monster that scared a guard to death before vanishing, and the mysterious glowing column of light that appeared one night in the Jewel House.
Other ghostly phenomena are more nebulous, such as the feeling of suffocation that comes over some visitors passing a certain window; ‘the queer and distasteful atmosphere’ which made Colonel Carkeet James suddenly run away in an uncontrollable panic; a mischievous spook that drags ‘Beefeaters’ out of bed in the Well House; and the force which creates a choking sensation in a room in the Queen’s House on Tower Green (as recently as 1994 the wife of the then governor found herself being pushed out of this room by an unseen presence).
Even this list does not exhaust the ghostly phenomena reported from the Tower of London. I my opinion it well deserves its top spot in this chart of the most haunted places in Britain.
[SOURCE: Haunted Houses by Charles Harper; Ghosts of London by Jack Hallam; Ghosts of Old England by Terence Whitaker]
Text: © Richard Holland 2011. Illustration by Charles Harper, 1909