Monday, 22 February 2010

Ghost Stories ...

As many of you know, I am currently in the process of writing my second book The Plaguemaker. This one is different from The Dresskeeper in that it is a ghost story. My main character is being haunted by the ghost of a young girl who died during the Plague of 1665, all because her father is unknowingly building on one of London’s many plague pits created at the time. So today, instead of looking at the history behind The Dresskeeper, I thought I would do a post on tales of ghostly happenings in London, all from the 17th century, of course.

This may not be for the faint hearted.

The Volunteer Pub on Baker Street was built over the remains of a 17th century mansion that was inhabited by the fearsome Neville family. Their mansion was burnt down in 1654, ending the “reign of terror” of this ‘mob’ family over the town. Rumour has it that the patriarch, Richard Neville, haunts the original 17th century cellars of this North London pub dressed “in surcoat, breeches and lavish stockings.” The ghost story is a claim to fame of this establishment, where even TV’s ‘Most Haunted’ paid a visit to try and remove this ghost.

The Old Queen’s Head on Essex Road in Islington dates back to the 17th century and is also home to a ghost story or two. One prominent tale involves a woman and a crying girl. Some have heard feet running around while others have witnessed the young girl running up the stairs and slamming doors. She is also often heard weeping. According to The Metro the two women met a very sticky end but I can’t establish what that end was. Feel free to fill me in!

The George pub on The Strand has been linked to a ghost that seems to be from the 17th century. A Cavalier (from the Royalist side of the 17th century civil war) has been wandering the cellar. A funny story dates from the 1970s when the pub was being refurbished. It involves an extremely frightened decorator who came running from the cellar after a man who looked “all ‘istorical like” was staring at him. The landlord gave him a brandy and told him not to worry, because “my wife sees him all the time.”

The Queen’s House in Greenwich was built in 1635. It was commissioned by Anne of Denmark, wife of James I. Apparently it was built for her as an apology after James I swore at her in public because she shot one of his dogs while hunting (as you do!). The Queen’s House ghost was first seen in a photograph taken in 1966 after a retired couple from Canada visited London on holiday. When they returned home and developed their pictures they saw the ghostly figure standing on the bottom of the staircase. Take a look at the picture on the Queen’s house website and you can see a ghostly left hand on the rails.

The Pond Square Ghost is an interesting story. This ghost is not human, but is in fact, a chicken. On morning in January 1626, Sir Francis Bacon (philosopher, author, scientist, lawyer, among other things) was trying to see if refrigeration was a good way of preserving meat. After buying the chicken from Highgate Hill, he killed and plucked the chicken and filled it up with ice. Bacon was the unlucky one as he caught pneumonia from this experiment and died not long later. Since then, Pond Square has been the sight of numerous visits from a ghostly plucked chicken frantically running about.

Well, that’s it for this week. As you may have noticed three of these ghostly sightings seem to take place in pubs, so it is up to you whether or not you believe these tales of the paranormal, given the amount of alcohol that may or may not have been consumed during the sightings! Either way, it provides a little respite from our serious modern lives, doesn’t it?

All the best,


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