6. Animal Apparitions: Chickens
Yes, chickens. Prepare yourself for a fowl tale.
The strangest of all London’s animal spirits has to be the spectral chicken of Highgate’s Pond Square. This quirky enigma originates from 1626 when philosopher Sir Francis Bacon was travelling with Dr Witherborne, friend and physician to James I. During their journey the gents discussed Bacon’s idea of preserving food by freezing, at which Witherborne scoffed. So, to prove a point Bacon halted the carriage and ran to purchase a hen. Once prepared, he stuffed the chicken with snow, creating the world’s first frozen chicken.
Unfortunately Bacon died shortly afterwards of pneumonia, but it’s not his spirit that haunts the area. Numerous reports have been made of a ghostly chicken wandering the square, its eerie shrieks heard on several occasions.
The most documented cases of the ‘poultrygeist’, as it was to become known, emerged during World War II when air raid wardens often saw the phantom, with one man actually attempting to catch the ghost and eat it!
In 1943 a half-plucked chicken was seen on the road through Pond Square by a British airman, and also in the ‘60s by a motorist who’d broken down and was distracted by the bird, which vanished as he approached. But it seems that the last recorded sighting was in 1970 when a couple, cuddling in a doorway, observed the squawking apparition.
By Neil Arnold
Image adapted from Joseph Robertson's Flickr photostream.