More than two centuries old, and once home to a string of eccentric aristocrats and their servants, The Chesterfield Mayfair is the perfect place to immerse yourself in London’s rich history. Fortunately, for those that can’t resist a ghost story, London has plenty of ghoulish tales to tell, from mysterious murderers and medieval torture to royal beheadings. Give yourself a real Halloween fright with a visit to one of these eerie areas of London.
50 Berkeley Square
Widely known as “the most haunted house in London”, you’ll find this 18th century residence just a few minutes’ walk from The Chesterfield Mayfair. For hundreds of years, visitors have told of a brown mist creeping across the attic; legend has it, the spectre of a young woman who threw herself from its windows to escape her wicked uncle. In the late 1800s, there were reports of a sailor hurtling to a similarly tragic death after the room in which he squatted for the night filled with a terrifying dark vapour. Number 50 can only be viewed from the street, but this glimpse into its chilling history should be enough to make you glad you can’t go inside.
The Tower of London
On the north bank of the River Thames, the turreted grandeur of the Tower of London conceals a rather grisly past. From as early as 1100, it was an infamous prison and some of its most notorious inmates are said to haunt the castle walls to this day. Anne Boleyn, the executed second wife of King Henry VIII, has been seen passing headless through its corridors, while others have described a pair of boys in ghostly white nightgowns, thought to be the child princes whose tiny skeletons were found in the castle some two hundred years after their mysterious disappearance. Visit the Tower Torture exhibition, or spook yourself silly on an after-hours Twilight Tour.
The Ten Bells
Stop by this old candlelit pub in London’s East End for a fright. The Ten Bells is closely connected to infamous Victorian serial killer, Jack the Ripper. One his victims, Annie Chapman, was last sighted there mere hours before her gruesome murder, and his final casualty, Mary Kelly, worked just outside the establishment. On Halloween, there’s a True Crime quiz night special, but every day of the year the pub’s authentic 19th century murals and the board listing The Ripper murders are enough to evoke its disturbing past.
The Old Operating Theatre
Wind your way up the creaking spiral staircase to the attic of St. Thomas’ Church in Southwark and you’ll be plunged into a dark world far from the suited crowds on the street below. This is the inconspicuous setting for Europe’s oldest surviving operating theatre. Beneath the heavy beamed ceiling stand cabinets filled with knives, skeletons and stacks of dusty glass vials stuffed with long-faded dried herbs. In the room next door, the old wooden table is an unsettling reminder of the amputations performed here from 1822 – a time before anaesthetic. Every Saturday afternoon, visitors can assume the role of a 19th century medical student and watch mock demonstrations of these excruciating Victorian surgical techniques.
With more than 170,000 bodies buried there, it’s no wonder this North London cemetery has an eerie air about it. It was after the early Victorian graveyard was abandoned during the Second World War that gossip began about disturbing activity within its gates. Rumours about cults using the ruins for rituals were followed by reported sightings of piercing-eyed apparitions, fierce vanishing creatures and even a vampire. The oldest section can only be explored on a guided tour; keep an eye out for the Red-Eyed Ghoul stalking the intricately carved tombs.
Providing an incredible vantage point over the city, Hampstead Heath is 790 acres of ancient parkland just west of Highgate Cemetery. Once home to great writers and artists like Charles Dickens and John Constable, the Heath and the adjacent town of Hampstead are also thought to possess some more macabre inhabitants. Amongst others are the cloaked ghost of violent highwayman Dick Turpin, sometimes seen in the 16th century Spaniards Inn, and the strange man on horseback who charges silently from the park’s dense woodland towards flustered walkers.
Image Credits: Lead image © iStock/mango2friendly. Old mansion corridor © iStock/epicurean. Tower of London © Tower of London. The Ten Bells © Dan Weill Photography. The Old Operating Theatre © The Old Operating Theatre. High Cemetery, as before. Hampstead Heath © iStock/oversnap.