5 London ghost stories that will haunt you for life

The Enfield Poltergeist
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Tales of ghostly goings-on are not uncommon. Here we take a look at just some of the better known and other not so well-known hauntings across the capital. From haunted semis, to the resident spooks of grand mansions, to spooky buses, we’ve unearthed a few terrifying tales to get you started.

The Enfield Haunting (Enfield Poltergeist)

The Enfield Poltergeist
The Enfield Poltergeist

The Enfield Haunting is often said to be one of the best examples of poltergeist activity ever recorded. The events took place in an unassuming council house in Enfield North London in the 1970s.

Such was the extent of the activity the there was concern for the safety of the Hodgson family who were resident in the property at the time.

Events began to unfold on the summer evening of August 1977, when single mother Peggy Hodgson telephoned police to report loud knocking sounds coming from the walls of her house and the movement of items of furniture across the floor. Initially, the terrified family had sought refuge in a neighbour’s house. Seeing how terrified the family were, the neighbour went next door to investigate for himself and upon entering the property, he too reported clearly hearing loud banging on the walls all around the house. Finding no explanation and beginning to feel very frightened himself, he returned to his home and the police were called. Two police officers arrived and accompanied the family into their house, where they too witnessed the banging, in the middle of the discussion the woman Police Constable noted that she saw a chair lift up and move across the floor. Unable to believe what she was seeing, the WPC went to check the chair for wires or some explanation for its movement but she could find none. In fact, she signed a sworn affidavit describing what she had witnessed.

As no law had been broken and no explanation could be found, the officers informed the family that there was nothing more they could do and paranormal investigators were subsequently called to the house.

When Morris Grosse and Guy Lyon Playfair of the Society for Psychical Research came to investigate, the activity increased further.

Lego pieces were reported to be flung with force through the air, hitting some of those in the room in the face. Furniture continued to apparently move of its accord and chairs would be overturned, graffiti appeared on the walls and spoons were found bent. Most disturbingly though, a demonic voice began to come from one of the children, 11-year-old Janet and at times her sister Margaret, 13 as well. It was also reported that Janet was thrown across her bedroom by something unseen and passers-by reported seeing the child levitating in mid-air in front of an upstairs window.  She was also said to have been found sleeping atop a chest of drawers at a strange, twisted angle on a radio, apparently put there by some force. On one occasion, the voice; which sounded like that of an elderly man, said it had lived in the house and had gone blind and later died in a chair as the result of a brain haemorrhage in a downstairs room. Later, the son of one previous tenant verified that his father had died in just such a way in the house, and had indeed lost his sight prior to his death.

Such was the extent of the happenings the press took up the story, with The Daily Mirror sending photographer Graham Morris and reporters to the house, some of whom said their equipment ceased to work properly in the property. Morris also claimed the events he witnessed were genuine, although some have said it was merely the children of the family misbehaving. The activities ceased to a great extent in 1979 but the family all continue to insist that the events were genuine and that the ordeal had a traumatic effect on them. Mrs Hodgson remained in the house until her death but said she always felt a presence there. Subsequent tenants have since reported sensing a presence there too.

The Ladbroke Grove Ghost Bus

Routemaster 7
Routemaster

Reports of a number 7 bus hurtling down the road at speed at the junction of Cambridge Gardens and St Mark’s Road in West London, first began in the mid-1930s.

Motorists reported having to veer off the road to avoid a speeding old Routemaster, always in the early hours of the morning, long after the last bus of the night was scheduled. Many drivers said they had crashed their vehicles in a terrifying attempt to avoid the bus. One police report of the time said that a motorist had turned at the junction, where he witnessed a number 7 speeding toward him, headlights at full beam with no sight of any passengers or crew on the top or bottom decks. The driver went on to say that he had to veer his car to avoid it, mounting the pavement, where he then saw the bus simply vanish.

Following a fatal collision at the scene, a passer-by who had witnessed the event told a coroner’s inquest that the unfortunate motorist had veered sharply to avoid a speeding number 7 bus, crashing into a wall head on. The coroner was unconvinced but his cynicism prompted hundreds of local residents to write to their local press, informing them that they too had seen the phantom bus and were willing to testify as much.

Finally, after a local transport official reported seeing the ghostly bus at a standstill, engine purring at a bus stop on the road, only to then vanish, the local authority straightened the road and the accident rate was greatly reduced. There have been no further reports of the phantom ghost bus now for many years.

Borley Rectory

Borley Rectory
Borley Rectory – Photo credit: Wikipedia

Borley Rectory in Essex is thought by many to be England’s most haunted house. Build on the sight of an old monastery in 1863, the property was said to be the site of numerous strange occurrences pre-dating the rectory. The earliest sighting was that of a nun, which is odd since it was a monastery that first occupied the sight and not a convent but according to folklore, a nun was said to have fallen in love with a monk from the monastery and their intention was to elope. Legend has it however, that the pair were caught and each was sentenced to death. The monk was hanged and the nun was said to have been sealed within the walls of the monastery and left to die and it is thought that it is she who walks the grounds in search of her lover. The sister’s activities seem to have been at their height when one Reverend Harry Bull was living at the rectory.

However, the first recorded activity began in the early part of the 1900s. In 1928 the Reverend Guy Eric Smith and his wife brought the happenings to the attention of the public when they contacted the Daily Mirror. They reported hearing unnerving footsteps, witnessing numerous poltergeist activities and doorbells ringing. The newspaper brought in the assistance of Harry Price, a paranormal investigator, who stayed at the house for over a year during his investigations. Price insisted he too witnessed the activities and claimed he had made contact with the previous tenant Rev Harry Bull, who had died in the property.

There were many attempts to exorcise the rectory but to no avail and The rev Smith and his wife left for good in 1930 when the situation became intolerable for them.

The Reverend Foyster and his wife Marianne were the next tenants to take up residence in the house and both said they experienced the same occurrences whilst living there on an even heightened scale. The couple reported an increase in poltergeist activity, with Marianne being hurled from her bed by an unseen entity, windows being smashed and ghostly messages scrawled on the walls. The couple could take no more and vacated the house after five years.

Harry Price took up residence once again to continue his research but he was to be disappointed, as the activity appeared to have waned. Price went on to pen a book about his experiences at Borley Rectory called ‘The Most Haunted House in England’.

Sceptics have tried to explain the activities as nothing more than misinterpreted natural phenomena but we shall leave you to decide.

In 1939 the house was burned down when an oil lamp toppled over. It was left in ruins until 1944, when it was finally completely demolished.

Across the way in the picturesque Borley Church; which still stands, the hauntings are said to continue with footsteps and creaking sounds being reported. Perhaps most telling of all though, are the reported sightings of a solitary nun.

Ham House

Ham House
Ham House – Photo credit www.nationaltrust.org.uk

Located in Richmond-upon Thames, Ham House is said to be incredibly haunted. However, its history alone is of interest and relevant to the said hauntings that occur there. Built in 1610, this grand residence was initially the home of Sir Thomas Vavasour. Upon his death in 1620, the Earl of Holdernesse occupied the property for a time before it passed to one William Murray; a friend of King Charles I, who in 1626 would become the Earl of Dysart for his loyalty to the king. Upon his death the house passed to his eldest daughter Elizabeth. Elizabeth was said to be beautiful, as well as intelligent but she was also said to be a greedy and callous woman. At the time of her first marriage to Sir Lionel Tollemache, she was thought to be already involved in an illicit love affair with John Maitland, the 1stDuke of Lauderdale, who would go on to become her second husband following the death of Sir Tollemache, after which the pair oversaw renovations to the house. After the death of her Duke however, Elizabeth sold off a deal of her belongings before her own demise in 1698.

Being Elizabeth’s eldest son, Lionel Tollemache 3rd Earl of Dysart, inherited the house after his mother’s death, and subsequently his son the 4th Earl, who remodelled it again in the 1740s. The gardens were landscaped to the liking of the 5th Earl and so it continued as is the custom with such grand estates. The once grand residence fell into disrepair down the years and in 1948 it was handed over to The National Trust, who now offer the opportunity to hire the house out for events, grand occasions and guided tours, including a ghost tour.

The first mention any haunting came in 1879, when the writer and raconteur Augustus Hare documented that he believed there to be a ghost at Ham House. He wrote that the daughter of a Butler employed at the house at the time, had been awoken in the night by a noise and found an aged woman standing by the fireplace, scratching at the wall. As the child sat up; not frightened to begin with, the woman turned and approached the foot of her bed and taking a hold of the bedrail gazed long and hard at the six-year-old. By now terrified, the girl screamed out, prompting others to rush to the room. Upon hearing the child’s tale, they examined the fireplace, where it is said they discovered concealed papers indicating the room had been the scene of the murder by Elizabeth of her first husband,Sir Lionel Tollemache.

Other sightings have since been reported at the house over the years. Staff have described hearing and seeing footprints close to the fireplace and around the bed of the same room and on the grand staircase, the aroma of pipe tobacco in the dining hall has also been reported.

Elizabeth was known to have employed the use of a cane when walking, and it is said this can be heard tapping along the corridors during the night. Others have reported seeing a ghostly dog. The King Charles Spaniel has been seen around the grounds of the house.

It may be possible to experience for yourself the ghostly happenings at Ham House, as tours are on offer to those who dare.

50 Berkeley Square

50 Berkeley Square

Constructed in the late 18th/early 19th century, this grand Mayfair townhouse was once described as London’s most haunted house. British Prime minister George Canning was a famous occupant of the house up until his death in 1827, although he did not die there. The Tory PM had told of strange goings-on in his home, telling tales of odd noises and strange, inexplicable phenomena over the course of his residency. A wall plaque on the outside of the building commemorates his time there.

Viscount Bearsted later purchased the property renting it to a Mr Myers, who having been jilted by his intended, would reportedly lock himself in the attic rooms, until eventually he was overtaken by madness, the house falling into disrepair around him.

Later still, the house would be bought by the company BP (British Petroleum). An antique bookseller has subsequently rented the building from 1937-2015.

The property appears to have had a devastating impact on the sanity of some who have stayed there.

The ghostly tales relate to the attic of the house, with several theories being offered. A common one is that of a young woman who committed suicide by hurling herself from the window of the roof space following a history of abuse at the hands of an uncle. It is said she appears in the form of a brown haze, or at times as a white figure and has the capacity to scare anyone seeing her to their own death. Another version pertains to a youth who was said to have been locked in the attic and nourished via a hole in the door. Eventually he is said to have lost his sanity and died in the room. Another offering is the tale of a young girl who met her demise in the room when she was killed there by a villainous servant of the house.

During Victorian times, two deaths were said to have occurred at the address of individuals who were guests at the property and stayed in the attic rooms but other terrifying incidences are said to have also occurred there.

In 1872 one Lord Lyttleton took up the challenge to stay overnight in the attic of number 50 Berkeley Square. Hoping to cash in on a wager, he brought with him a shotgun. He later told of firing the weapon at an apparition during the night and in the morning wishing to do the same again, only to find his cartridges were gone.

The Mayfair Magazine reported in 1879 the sad tale of a maid who was found to have lost her mind after a short stay in the attic, going on to meet her end in an asylum the day after she was discovered crazed in the loft room.  A nobleman then spent the night there after the maid was taken away, he was to be discovered dead the following morning, the coroner having concluded he had died of fright. His is the first documented death at the house.

Another man spending the night there was said to have lost the power of speech afterwards, so terrified had he been.

Two seaman were later to spend a night in the rooms, with one of them meeting his end as he tripped whilst attempting to flee from the building in utter terror. The second documented death at the residence. The second sailor reported that they had seen the spirit of Mr Myers angrily approaching them, prompting his companion to dart from the room to his untimely death.

Since the house was purchased by the Maggs Brothers in the 1930s, reports of ghostly happenings have all but ceased.

CONTRIBUTE TO HISTORIFC

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