GHOST STORIES FROM LONDON
The Tower of London
The Most Haunted Building in England?
Grim, grey and awe-inspiring, the Tower of London has dominated the London landscape, and the pages of history, since its construction by William the Conqueror in 1078. It is, perhaps, the most haunted building in England.
The Wakefield Tower is haunted by that most tragic of English monarchs, Henry VI, whose weak and ineffectual reign ended here with his murder "in the hour before midnight" on 21st May 1471, as he knelt at prayer.
Tradition asserts that the knife with which he was "stikk’d full of deadly holes" was wielded by the Duke of Gloucester (later the infamous Richard 111).
On the anniversary of his murder, Henry’s mournful wraith is said to appear as the clock ticks towards midnight, and pace fitfully around the interior of the Wakefield Tower until, upon the last stroke of midnight, he fades slowly into the stone and rests peacefully for another year.
The massive White Tower is the oldest and most forbidding of all the Tower of London’s buildings and its winding stone corridors are the eerie haunt of a "White Lady" who once stood at a window waving to a group of children in the building opposite.
It may well be her "cheap perfume" that impregnates the air around the entrance to St John’s Chapel, and which has caused many a Guard to retch upon inhaling its pungent aroma.
In the gallery where Henry VIII’s impressive and exaggerating suit of armour is exhibited, several Guards have spoken of a terrible crushing sensation that suddenly descends upon them as they enter but which lifts, the moment they stagger, shaking from the room.
A guard patrolling through here one stormy night got the sudden and unnerving sensation that someone had thrown a heavy cloak over him. As he struggled to free himself, the garment was seized from behind and pulled tight around his throat by his phantom attacker. Managing to break free from its sinister grasp, he rushed back to the guardroom where the marks upon his neck bore vivid testimony to his brush with the unseen assailant.
A memorial on Tower Green remembers all those unfortunate souls who have been executed here over the centuries.
Anne Boleyn and Lady Jane Grey are both said to return to the vicinity, whilst the ghost of Margaret Pole, Countess of Salisbury returns here in a truly dramatic and alarming fashion.
At the age of seventy-two she became an unwitting and undeserving target for Henry VIII’s petty vengeance. Her son, Cardinal Pole had vilified the King’s claim as head of the Church in England.
But he was safely ensconced in France and so Henry had his mother brought to the block on 27th May 1541. When told by the executioner to kneel, the spirited old lady refused. "So should traitors do and I am none," she sneered.
The executioner raised his axe, took a swing at her and then chased the screaming Countess around the scaffold where he, literally, hacked her to death.
The shameful spectacle has been repeated several times on the anniversary of her death, as her screaming phantom continues to be chased throughout eternity by a ghostly executioner.
The Bloody Tower, the very name of which conjures up all manner of gruesome images, is home to the most poignant shades that drift through this dreadful fortress.
When Edward IV died suddenly in April 1483, his twelve year old son was destined to succeed him as Edward V.
However, before his coronation could take place, both he and his younger brother, Richard, had been declared illegitimate by Parliament and it was their uncle, the Duke of Gloucester who ascended the throne as Richard 111.
The boys, meanwhile, had been sent to the Tower of London, ostensibly in preparation for Edward’s Coronation, and were often seen playing happily around the grounds.
But then, around June 1483, they mysteriously vanished, and were never seen alive again. It was always assumed, that they had been murdered on Richard’s instructions and their bodies buried, somewhere within the grounds of The Tower.
When two skeletons were uncovered beneath a staircase of the White Tower in 1674, they were presumed to be the remains of the two little princes and afforded Royal burial in Westminster Abbey.
The whimpering wraiths of the two children, dressed in white nightgowns, and clutching each other in terror have frequently been seen in the dimly lit rooms of their imprisonment. Witnesses are moved to pity and long to reach out and console the pathetic spectres. But, should they do so, the trembling revenants back slowly against the wall and fade into the fabric.
Returning to the White Tower, and the fearless Custody Guards who wander its interior in the dead of night, there is the eerie occasion when Mr Arthur Crick, decided to rest as he made his rounds. Sitting on a ledge, he slipped off his right shoe and was in the process of massaging his foot, when a voice behind him whispered, "There’s only you and I here." This elicited from Arthur the very earthly response "Just let me get this bloody shoe on and there’ll only be you!"