In some cultures spirits are given a great deal of recognition and, in some instances, even a special day to celebrate their existence for example El Dia de los Muertos (The Day of The Dead) in Mexico. In the UK however there is generally a less open minded view about the supernatural, which many refusing to believe in the existence of ghosts, let alone their importance in our everyday lives!
Luckily things began to change in 2008 as the London Ghost Festival was born. The festival gave Londoners, as well as people from the wider UK and tourists in the city, the opportunity to revel in the paranormal in the run up to the spookiest day of the year, Hallows Eve.
The London Ghost Festival ran from mid October to late early November, with ghostly events taking place across all areas of the city. Events included activities such as ghostly boat rides on the Thames, overnight ghost watching at a haunted house, assorted vigils, storytelling and candlelit walks etc.
Often the London Ghost Festival would kick off at the gruesome London Dungeons where festival participants were privy to supernatural experiments from trained mediums. Festivities also took place at the allegedly haunted Old Operating Theatre museum in Southwark, one of the oldest surviving operating theatres in the world. A ghostly Woman in White (not to be mistaken with the Andrew Lloyd Webber musical of the same name) is said to stalk the corridors of the former hospital. Also on the festive agenda were organised walks around old East London, which has the most ghost sightings and abnormal goings on than anywhere else in London. Festival goers were also dared to take a trip on board London’s Ghost Bus, invited to have a stiff drink at one of London’s many haunted pubs and also welcomed into discussions involving the legend of the Highgate Vampire! All in all the London Ghost Festival brought macabre merriment for all those involved!
Check back for further information about upcoming London Ghost Festivals
The Phantom Bus
Where: Cambridge Gardens, Ladbroke Grove, W10
Who: Not who but what. The “what” in this spooky instance is that of a ghostly number 7 bus!
When: Whilst the bus has not been spotted in recent years, it was seen a lot in the first half of the 20th Century. The bus always appears at the same time of night at around 1.15am and tends to drive fast down the middle of the road, alarming drivers. In 1934 one poor chap (according to witnesses) swerved to avoid the phantom bus and was killed as his car veered off the road.
Why: This is very strange indeed as there are no reported historical issues with the No 7 bus and 1.15 am is a peculiar time of night for the bus to have emerged. There must have been some unknown foul play aboard the bus in the past that has left the No 7 with unresolved issues.
Weird Rating: 8/10 – Something strange is afoot. A Phantom bus is pretty out of the ordinary!
Spooky Rating: 7/10 – Call the Ghost BUS-ters. A bus hurtling toward you at speed is terrifying at any time, especially when it is a bus from beyond the grave. Although the bus has not been seen in a good 50 years…
Where: Victoria Palace Theatre, Victoria, SW1E
Who: A hair loving poltergeist? One angry wig? No one is exactly sure who or what is haunting the wig room of the theatre, but one things is for sure, they do not like a bad hair day.
When: Regularly. Dressers and other staff at the Victoria Palace theatre have seen wigs flying through the air unaided on many occasions. The door to the wig room also locks and unlocks of its own accord…
Why: Who knows! There are some suggestions it could be a former shy Ballerina who is unhappy that a statue of her that once stood in the building has been lost, although this does not really seem to fit the bill. Perhaps it is from the person the hair to make the wig was taken?
Weird Rating: 10/10 – Taunting toupees? Poltergeist pony tales? Horrid hair pieces? Definitely weird.
Spooky Rating: 6/10 Hair Raising! This mane loving maniac is pretty out of the ordinary and I think everyone would be pretty freaked out of a flying ball of hair came hurling in their direction, however the haunted hairballs don’t seem to have any malicious intent.
The Angry Silver Mirror
Where: Muswell Hill, N10
Who: Harmful spirits inside a walnut mirror.
When: The Mirror started causing trouble for fellow flatmates, Sotiris Charalambous and Joseph Birch when they plucked it out of a skip and took it home. The pair painted the mirror silver and hung it in their house in Muswell Hill, London. The pair began having excruciating night terrors and found they often woke with scratches on their bodies even though they had short nails. The pair also experienced stabbing pains in their bodies as well as often seeing shadows or strange reflections in the mirror. The boys were so distressed they decided to get rid of the mirror on ebay…
Why: The tenants think that somebody was murdered in front of the mirror once upon a time. Others believe that mirrors are a window to an alternative and often spiritual world. There are also plenty of superstitions surrounding mirrors including one which warns that people should never look into a mirror at night or by candle light as they may see ghosts demond or omens of death. One thing is for sure though; this spooky mirror did not like being painted silver!
Weird Rating: 8/10 – There is certainly something strange in this neighbourhood!
Spooky Rating: 10/10 – Run far far away! I would suggest a séance, but this appears to be one angry mirror that ought not be messed with. I would be very concerned if a saw a mirror that fits this description on eBay.
Humans are not the only species to leave a spiritual presence in the world of the living when they pass. Animal ghosts are often reported to have shared their ethereal presence across the world. As one of the oldest historical settlements, it will come as no surprise that London has its fair share of other worldly creatures.
The Wailing Dolphins
Where: The Peacock Theatre, Kingsway, WC2A
Who: A pair of performing dolphins.
When: The dolphins have been heard wailing by stage hands and staff when they are below the stage of the Peacock Theatre. Many audience members have also reported hearing a baby like wail.
Why: As part of Paul Raymond’s raunchy review shows in London in the 1970’s, dolphins were trained to take part in the performance, often in order to remove ladies underwear. The Dolphins were kept under the stage in a tank that would be then lifted on to the stage for performances. Sadly the Dolphins died from neglect in their under stage tank, or prison as it would become. The dolphins must have died in distress, a distress that would be channelled long after their death.
Weird Rating: 8/10 – Pretty strange! Ghost Dolphins? Who would have thunk it?
Spooky Rating: 7/10 – Ladies hold on to your undies!
The Half Plucked Chicken
Where: Pond Square, Highgate, N6
Who: Possibly the chicken that was the demise of Sir Francis Bacon. It is said that Sir Francis caught pneumonia whilst attempting to stuff a chicken with snow in the street in order to experiment with the concept of frozen food. Both Sir Francis and the unlucky chicken died as a result of the experiment and bird is said to sill be seen running half plucked around Pond Square in Highgate before disappearing.
When: The ill-fated chicken experiment took place in the 17th Century, however the chicken has been seen a number of times throughout history, most notably by a smooching couple in the 1970’s. The canoodling pair thought they were drunk on love when they saw a wild chicken running around and eventually disappearing into a wall.
Why: The chicken must have died in relative distress and the hands of batty Sir Francis Bacon, one can only assume that its distress left a spiritual imprint in the area.
Weird Rating: 10/10 There is certainly something strange in the neighbourhood! The ghost of a half plucked frozen chicken… like ….what on earth?!
Spooky Rating: 6/10 Very freaky, only a little spooky! There is no sign that the chicken is out to harm the living, but it is still pretty darn weird!
The Scary Bear
Where: The Martin Tower of The Tower of London, a medieval castle that was used as a prison for centuries, EC3N
Who: A mysterious but vicious bear.
When: Night guards have seen or often heard a bear whilst on duty. On security guard was scared so badly by the phantom bear that he dropped dead of fright.
Why: Two bears have lived at the tower in the past. Henry III was given a bear as a gift by the King of Norway in the 13th Century. The other was part of the menagerie kept at the tower until 1835, when the animals were moved to what is now London Zoo in Regents Park.
Weird Rating: 6/10 I saw a bear! Where? There on the Stair. Where on the stair? Right there! A ghostly bear is weird at the best of times, but I suspect the bear has it’s reasons.
Spooky Rating: 10/10 run far, far away! The scary bear already scared one person to death, this is one angry ghost with claws and teeth worth steering clear of.