Are These London’s Most Haunted Pubs?

Ben Norum
By Ben Norum Last edited 11 months ago
Are These London’s Most Haunted Pubs?

London is known as one of the most haunted cities in the world, thanks largely to our layers of long and varied history. It makes sense, then, that some of the capital's most ghost-ridden places are also the oldest and most frequented: our pubs. If you like your pint with a spirit or your gastro grub with a ghoul, then these 10 pubs will be right up your street.

The Grenadier.

The Black Cap, Camden (RIP)

Before The Black Cap closed in 2016, this pub had been licensed since the 18th century, and it's often suggested) its first landlady was a 'witch' (although as with ghosts, you may be skeptical about that). Alongside brewing and serving ale she was apparently partial to knocking up the odd potion or two, and had a reputation for killing off ex-lovers as well as the occasional customer. It seemingly ran in the family, with both her parents being hanged for killing children using black magic. Rumour has it that her spirit lives on, and that early on Sunday mornings you can see strange shadows in the windows which don't show up in photos. Whatever this building becomes in future years, this place will always have an aura about it.

171 Camden High Street, NW1 7JY

The Bow Bells, Bow

A ghost with a penchant for toilet humour is believed to be in residence at this Mile End boozer. He or she makes themselves known by flushing the toilet in the women's loo when someone is on it — that should be enough to make you jump. The prankster has apparently struck on many occasions from the 70s right up to the present day. At the height of the problem in 1974 the pub's then landlord attempted to rid the ghost with a séance. At the point when the spirit was asked to make itself known, the door of the women's toilets swung open with such force it smashed a pane of glass. No one knows who the perpetrator is or why they are there, but for ladies in need, it's certainly a bit of a bummer.

The Bow Bells, 116 Bow Road, E3 3AA

The Flask.

The Flask, Highgate

This leaf-flanked Fuller's pub next to Highgate Cemetery is not as peaceful as it might look. One spirit who likes to make herself known from time-to-time is reputedly the ghost of a Spanish barmaid who hanged herself in the pub's cellar — where you can now sit — over a failed romance with the publican of the time. She's been known to move glasses and blow down the backs of customers' necks, while the pub's lights have also been seen to sway and temperatures noticeably drop when she's around. As if that's not enough, there are also reports of a man in a Cavalier uniform seen crossing the room and disappearing into a pillar.

The Flask, 77 Highgate West Hill, N6 6BU

The George, Temple

Another Cavalier has been repeatedly seen in the basement of this pub opposite the Royal Courts of Justice. Although the current building — complete with black and white timber frontage — dates back only as far as the 1930s, its foundations are much older, explaining the association. The most publicised sighting of this unknown cavalier came in the 70s when painters and decorators were carrying out refurbishment work. After seeing the figure, fleeing upstairs and explaining this to the landlord, he told them: "I shouldn’t worry about him… my wife sees him all the time".

The George, 213 Strand, WC2R 1AP


The Old Bull & Bush.

The Old Bull & Bush, Golders Green

A farmhouse was built on the site of this Hampstead Heath-side pub in 1645 and it gained a licence to sell ale in 1721. For centuries there has been local talk of it being haunted, with strange bangs and bumps being heard and a shrouded Victorian-style figure seen wandering through it. A potential explanation was uncovered during refurbishment in the 1980s: behind one of the cellar walls, a skeleton was found surrounded by Victorian surgical equipment. The skeleton has now been buried, but the haunting is said to remain. Though it's highly unfounded, the discovery led to claims at the time that the body could be that of Jack The Ripper, who — the story goes — was in hiding in the cellar when the wall was built.

The Old Bull & Bush, North End Way, NW3 7HE

The Grenadier, Belgravia

The building that now houses this delightfully quaint-looking pub just off Hyde Park Corner roundabout dates back to 1720. It was originally built to house the First Royal Regiment Of Foot Guards, later known as the Grenadier Guards, for the heroism they showed fighting off the French Grenadiers at the Battle of Waterloo in 1815. While the upper floors of the building were used as an Officer's Mess and frequented by King George IV, the cellar was used as a place to drink and gamble for the lower ranking soldiers. The story goes that one of these soldiers — now affectionately known as Cedric — was caught cheating at cards by his comrades. His punishment was a beating so aggressive that he died and many believe he still haunts the pub to this day. The timing of his death is not known, but it's believed that it happened in September; it's in this month each year that the haunting is most severe. Many objects in the pub have been said to either disappear or move without explanation, while others have reported long-lasting icy chills. Both drinkers and landlords have heard footsteps wandering around empty rooms, and pained moans coming from the cellar. In one particular instance it is said that a chief superintendent from New Scotland Yard was having a drink in the pub when he noticed smoke start to waft around him. As he reached into the smoke, he was seen to shout in pain and pull his hand back quickly revealing a burn from an invisible cigarette. The pub's ceiling is covered with money notes, put there by visitors hoping to rid the ghost by paying off Cedric’s cards debt. It doesn’t seem to have worked.

The Grenadier, 18 Wilton Row, SW1X 7NR

The Spaniards.

The Rising Sun, Smithfield

Legend has it that this Sam Smith's pub set next to St Bartholomew’s Hospital was, in the early 19th century, the preying ground of so-called body snatchers. These gangs would drug drinkers at the pub and later murder them to sell their bodies to the hospital for medical research. This grisly past has seemingly left its mark, with numerous barmen and women experiencing ghostly goings-on. Two barmaids who lived above the pub in 1989 claimed they were often woken in the night by a presence that would sit on the end of their beds and slowly pull the duvet off them. Many others have heard footsteps in the upstairs bar while cleaning away downstairs late at night, but when investigating have found no one was there. In 1990, the then landlady was showering in the staff bathroom when she heard the door open and close again. She then saw the shower curtain pulled to one side and felt an icy-cold hand run down her back — again, there was no one to be seen.

The Rising Sun, 38 Cloth Fair, EC1A 7JQ

The Spaniard’s Inn, Hampstead

Spirits come in triple measures at this pub by the Heath, which was immortalised in Charles Dickens’s The Pickwick Papers. The first is Dick Turpin, infamous for highway robbery, whose father was the pub's landlord for much of the 18th century. His spirit is said to roam the upstairs rooms, causing intermittent bangs and clangs. Downstairs, a moneylender by the name of Black Dick, who was run over by a horse and cart outside the pub, presides over the bar area and has frequently been felt pulling on the sleeves of drinkers. Outside, Dick Turpin’s faithful horse — affectionately known as Black Bess — apparently haunts the car park, with neighs and hooves having been heard by many over the years.

The Spaniard’s Inn, Spaniards Road, NW3 7JJ

The Viaduct Tavern.

The Viaduct Tavern, St Paul’s

This Fuller's pub opposite the Old Bailey dates back to 1875 and occupies the site of a former jail. Indeed, there are still a number of cells visible in the basement. It was previously a thriving gin palace, and is the last example of one that remains within the City boundaries. Aside from knocks, footsteps and the odd shiver, two particular stories cement its haunted reputation. In 1996, a manager was tidying the cellar when the door suddenly slammed shut and the lights went out. After feeling his way to the door, he found that no matter how hard he tried, it refused to open. Hearing his cries for help, his wife came and opened the door, claiming it was unlocked and easy to open. On another occasion in 1999, two electricians were working in one of the pub's upstairs rooms. They had rolled the carpet up to get to the floorboards when one worker felt a couple of taps on his shoulder; shortly afterwards, both men apparently saw the rolled-up carpet lifted and then heavily dropped back onto the floor.

The Viaduct Tavern, 126 Newgate Street, EC1A 7AA

The Volunteer, Baker Street

This pub close to Regent's Park is so-named as it was a recruiting station during the war, but its haunted history goes much further back. It is built on the site of a large 17th century house which belonged to the wealthy Neville family. When it caught fire in 1654, it burned to the ground taking the entire family with it. In the past 50 or so years, there have been many reported sightings of a well-dressed man in surcoat and breeches wandering through the pub's cellar — believed to be former man of the house, Rupert Neville. Footsteps have also been heard, and on occasion the pub's lights have mysteriously flickered on and off. The pub's cellar is believed to be the original one that was built for the house, the only part of it which remains after the fire.

The Volunteer, 247 Baker Street, NW1 6XE

Last Updated 27 October 2017