Continuing our July visits to the haunted open spaces of London we stop at that wild wood of the West End: Green Park. Actually, perhaps not, according to writers on ghosts it is a dark, depressing and dangerous place. Peter Underwood described Green Park’s “stillness, an air of expectancy, and a sensation of sadness” in his book ‘Haunted London’ and James Clark mentions the park’s “subdued atmosphere” in his own ‘Haunted London’.
Flowers do not grow in Green Park because, as folklore has speculated, the park covers the burial ground of St James leper hospital.
The trees that grow in the park can be ghost infested hazards. Fortean London has discussed cursed foliage before and Green Park has had its own ‘Death Tree’ that the local homeless shun and suicides head to. Underwood spoke to two park attendants who swore to hearing a man’s voice around the tree, an agonised groan emanating from the tree and a low, cunning laugh. A figure in black has been seen near the trunk. Luckily when James Clarke spoke to park staff in 2006 had no scary stories to report but, perhaps not too luckily, they did not know where the tree of doom is.
Ghostly suicides linger: the figure of a man in evening clothes and dancing pumps was seen fading into nothing just before the First World War. It was though to be the shade of a man who had poisoned himself. Be careful which seat you take in Green Park as you may find yourself sharing it with the ghost of a “crazed-eyed old man” trying to cut his own throat with a razor.
As well as the Death Tree, Green Park has a Pig Tree too. The story - which strikes us as jarringly misogynistic in some way - goes that a homeless man died of terror under the tree and the cause was a ‘thing’ with the body of a ‘repulsive woman’. (How she is repulsive is not stated so the body may have been scarred, warty, bloated, decaying, wearing grease stained jogging bottoms or perhaps something even more terrible.) It had a pig-like face with a wolf’s mouth and “pale, hate-filled eyes”. Only men died under the Pig Tree, while women, witches that they all are, were drawn to the tree and felt a “cruel hatred” toward men when near it.
There’s another danger in Green Park: Elliot O’Donnell, Fortean London’s most silver-tongued and tree-fearing source, managed to get himself pixie-lead in Green Park. He was roaming the park late at night in the early 1900’s when he heard the distant sound of a fiddle. He followed it, wondering who was playing so late, until he came to a clump of trees and encountered a policeman. O’Donnell was told by the policeman that he could “search all night and never find the fiddler” and recounted a tale he had been told.
An old fiddler had found a tree to sleep under in Green Park safe from pig-ghost things and dark phantoms but not from fiddle-thieves. When he awoke fiddle-less he sank into a depression and spent every moment wandering the park asking passers-by if they knew where his fiddle was. The fiddler was reunited with his beloved instrument but only in death. He hanged himself with his braces from a tree and from then on the clump of trees where the fiddler died had ghostly music emanating from it.
Your Fortean Londoner has actually enjoyed some lovely evening walks and picnics there but just in case you do find yourself in Green Park at night and you’re sleepy, busking, a bit low, arguing with a male companion or hear a voice, music, evil laughter or a sinister ‘oink’ coming from a tree just take care, ok? We care about you.
Dark figure in Green Park captured by Doilum on Flickr