Fortean London: A Ghost In Every Borough: Greenwich to Kingston

By Scott Wood Last edited 99 months ago
Fortean London: A Ghost In Every Borough: Greenwich to Kingston

Shadow man by LiamCH.jpg
Shadow man by LiamCH
The hooves of Halloween’s headless mare are thundering toward us as we consider cowering under a bramble bush. But instead Fortean London has decided to saddle the mare and ride it all the way to All Soul's Day by marking a ghost in every London borough.

Last week we covered Barking to Enfield, and this week we’re going from Greenwich to Kingston upon Thames. Did you know that there are seven boroughs that start with the letter H? Rome has seven hills but London has seven H’s.

Greenwich’s most famous ghost is probably the Tulip Staircase photograph of a ghost ascending the stairs in the Queen’s House. The Greenwich Phantom blog has gathered a few Greenwich ghost stories too, including another photograph of something strange around the Queen’s House. It looks like a small, melted old man hobbling toward the park with a stick. “I guess a possibility could be a Greenwich Pensioner,” speculates the Phantom, “several of them are supposed to haunt the area” or perhaps it’s the Gouty Goblin of Greenwich caught on film?

Has Iain Sinclair scared all the ghosts out of Hackney for fear he writes something interesting about them? The best we can find is the ghost of a little old lady in a grey shawl who was removed from the Nag’s Head pub on Hackney Road sometime before Peter Underwood’s Haunted London was published. A warning to those who would remove a building’s spirit occupants: the Nag’s Head has since shut?

Perhaps London’s most ironic ghost haunts the Black Lion pub in Hammersmith. In 1804 the area was in the grip of the 'Hammersmith ghost'; a trickster who dressed up in a sheet scaring the good people of west London. One Francis Smith ‘filled his blunderbuss with shot and himself with ale’ and went out looking for the ghost. In this state Smith shot dead a bricklayer who was on his way home dressed in his white work gear. The brocklayers body was taken to the Black Lion and Smith was sentenced to death for murder, though this was commuted to one year's hard labour. But is it murder if you think you’re shooting a ghost? It’s a question that was only settled in 1984. The book Haunted London Pubs wonders whether it’s Francis Smith’s own ghostly footsteps pacing in an upstairs room of the pub

According to Wikipedia, the Parkland Walk, a woodland track that follows the path of an old railway line across Haringey, is haunted by the rumbling of trains near the Highgate tunnel and the ghost of a railway workmen who threw himself under a train near Highgate.

Roxeth School on Roxeth Hill, Harrow, is said to be haunted by a ginger cat. In 1986 Jennifer May, a former teacher from the school, told the Harrow Observer that two staff saw the ghostly ginger feline in their office, a converted house on school grounds. They believed the cat was the ghost of a teacher who had lived in the house many years before. Which makes sense; if one can’t reincarnate as a cat, why not just have an afterlife as a ghost cat?

Do museums have the most ghosts, or do pubs? Probably pubs, as they trade on any available heritage feature they have and a real live ghostie is a very heritage-y thing to have. Musuems, too, can’t resist offering the opportunity of interacting with an actual piece of the past. Take the example of the ball on display at Havering Museum with a creepy smiling child's face on it. It was found under the floor boards of a house in Emerson Park and a few days after it’s discovery a ghostly young girl in Edwardian dress appeared to ask “’scuse me but can I have my ball back please? Much obliged.”

Ickenham station, Hillingdon, is a haunted tube station with the ghost of a woman in a bright red scarf who first appeared in the Fifties. It's thought that she is the ghost of someone who died falling on the electric rail and now she occasionally seen at the end of the platform waving to catch people’s attention before disappearing. This one strikes us as impossibly sad, for some reason.

What could say ‘twenty-first century suburban ghost’ better than a haunted car park in Hounslow? The car park is on School Road and a “concentration of energy” is described there by a member of the Ghosts UK forum who also glimpsed “a shadowy figure running away before vanishing”. Investigating another time the correspondent saw a figure that “looked like an Indian man - he had dark skin and was wearing a beige jacket."

"I have a feeling that this man may have been murdered in this car park" they reported. "It's not a nice place - it has been neglected and run-down for as long as I can remember. The ghost didn't react to me, and it seems like this is a "recording" rather than a true spirit.”

The Old Queen’s Head pub on Essex Road, Islington, is one of London’s famously haunted pubs, not to mention a pretty good drinking hole. There’s plenty of royal ghosts in London, royalty, suicides and murderers seem to make up a huge amount of ghost sightings. The Queen’s Head is thought to be haunted, according to various ghost books, by a woman in Tudor dress who may, or may not be, Liz the First whose saddler resided here or would visit the Earl of Essex who had his summer residence here back when Londoners took holidays out in leafy Islington. Perhaps she liked it so much she decided to stay.

One of the first ghost cases investigated by the Society for Psychical Research was in an artist’s studio in Kensington and Chelsea. The artist had been haunted by the grisly vision of a young man, around 25, with his right arm torn away at the shoulder. The ghost also had a ‘mournful, pleading expression’ in his eyes, which isn't really surprising for a ghost with a limb ripped off. The SPR were given a drawing of the ghost by the artist and declared it a bona fide case as apparently there was a ‘distressing suicide’ forty years before the ghost was seen. However the next occupant of the studio, interviewed with the SPR, has not seeing anything of this ghost.

Afraid your area hasn’t got any ghosts? One blogger in Worcester Park, Kingston upon Thames, said he was and bemoaned the lack of spectres in his area. He was then bombarded by local stories, including the ghost of a cinema projectionist so upset with the closure of his beloved cinema on Windsor Road that he killed himself in his projection room. The cinema was converted into a supermarket and the projection room into a storeroom which was always icy cold and had stock moving about in it when the shop was empty. The supermarket, in turn, closed down, and became a Pizza Express. Which, perhaps, cheered the morose phantom projectionist up no end. Antther ghosts of the area amuses himself in other ways, there is a spectral bottom-pincher in the wine cellar of the Old Rectory in Cheam Village. That's what they say, anyway.

Last Updated 22 October 2010