1. The celebrated spectres of the Tower
It’s history’s favourite torture dungeon and beheading spot, so little wonder the Tower has enough ghosts to make ‘Paranormal Activity’ look about as scary as ‘Casper’. Among the catalogue of apparitions said to roam ‘Britain’s most haunted building’ are Sir Walter Raleigh, Lady Jane Grey, the Princes in the Tower, a giant bear and Anne Boleyn, who’s often seen wandering the place, severed noggin under her arm.
2. The dead maiden of Mayfair
Need yet another reason to avoid Mayfair? How about London’s most haunted house? The plush Georgian dwelling at 50 Berkeley Square boasts an attic that’s infested with ghouls, most notably the spirit of a young woman who committed suicide on the premises in the early nineteenth century. Apparently, several brave souls who have since stayed there did not live to tell the tale, with at least one being – quite literally – scared to death.
3. The black nun of the City
When a fraudulent Bank of England worker was executed in the early nineteenth century, his sister went insane with grief. Thereafter, she’d visit the bank every day, shrouded in a black cloak that made her look like a nun, trying to find her lost sibling. The clerks took pity on her, gave her money and, upon her death, arranged for her to be buried in the company’s private garden. Ever since, her ghost has haunted the area, whimpering to passers-by: ‘Have you seen my brother?’
4. The Enfield poltergeist
Think Enfield is a boring suburb? Think again. In the late ’70s a seemingly ordinary family home was beset by an extreme supernatural episode, when reporters, police and others saw furniture moving on its own, objects flying across the room, the appearance of random pools of liquid and the apparent possession of an 11-year-old girl. Which may explain the puddles.
5. The grey man of Drury Lane
As with most pubs, every theatre worth its salt has a resident ghost. The most famous of these is the Theatre Royal Drury Lane’s ‘man in grey’, the spectre of an eighteenth century nobleman which haunts the upper circle. He is thought to be the soul of a skeleton found in a walledup passage in the 1840s, a dagger still lodged in his ribs. He reputedly only appears during successful shows: a sort of haunting harbinger of a five-star review.
6. The last commuter of Covent Garden
Having disturbed multiple plague pits and provided a quick end for innumerable desparing souls, the Underground should, by rights, be packed with phantoms. Perhaps its most famous otherworldly resident is the Victorian actor William Terriss, who was stabbed to death in 1897 and uttered the prescient last words ‘I’ll be back.’ His ghost has stalked the platforms at Covent Garden station ever since. Though as far as we know, he’s never accosted a commuter with ‘I need your clothes, your boots and your motorcycle.’
7. The unlucky No 7 of Ladbroke Grove
If there’s one thing scarier than a sallow-faced ghoul, it’s a demonic double-decker bus careering towards you at 50mph. Such is the case with west London’s No 7 ghost bus, seen on several occasions over the last 60-odd years, always at 1.15am and always near the junction of Cambridge Gardens and StMark’s Road. Over the decades, numerous motorists have swerved to avoid its crazed veering and one driver died when his car hit a lamppost.
8. The sorry soldier of Belgravia
London’s watering holes are packed with spirits of both the chilled and the chilling sort. But of all the pub phantoms, the tragic spook of the Grenadier in Wilton Row is possibly the most unhappy. Said to be the ghost of a young soldier who was beaten to death for cheating at cards, his presence has been seen, felt and heard on numerous occasions, always in September – the month of the anniversary of his brutal death.
9. The Hampstead highwayman
The legend of the notorious Dick Turpin looms large over Hampstead – a favourite haunt of his in life and death. Walkers have seen him galloping across the heath in the dead of night, and many have felt his chilling presence in the Spaniard’s Inn, where his father was supposedly landlord. Even his horse seems reluctant to move on, for the hooves of Black Bess can sometimes be heard galloping out of the pub car park. Rarely in a straight line, though.
10. The Highgate chicken
No, we’re not kidding: there have been numerous sightings of a deranged, half-plucked phantom fowl running around Pond Square, which is said to be the ghost of the world’s first frozen chicken – bought from a Highgate farm by the seventeenth-century philosopher Francis Bacon. To prove a point to a friend about the virtues of freezing food, Bacon stuffed the bird with snow, but in doing so developed pneumonia and later died. Which leads you to wonder if, perhaps through some spectral mix-up, his ghost has swapped places with the chicken’s and ended up roaming the aisles of Finchley Road Waitrose…
Discover more paranormal activities this Halloween.
Read our other London top tens.