Even in the paranormal realm however, some hauntings are more bizarre than others.
Here are five such peculiar tales from London, rated in what I consider to be their ascending level of creepiness.
Happy Halloween- and don’t have nightmares!
The Ghost Chicken of Highgate
On a freezing cold morning in January 1626, Sir Francis Bacon- who, as well as being a politician, writer and philosopher, was also scientifically curious- met up with his friend, Dr. Winterbourne.
The pair took a carriage to Highgate Hill where they purchased a live chicken.
The chicken wasn’t bought for dinner– not immediately anyway. Bacon had theorised (correctly of course) that food could be preserved if frozen. And that was what he and Dr Winterbourne were about to try out.
After being promptly slaughtered and gutted, Bacon stuffed the bird’s carcass with snow. The experiment was on.
However, whilst out in the bitter cold, Bacon contracted pneumonia. He ended up in the Earl of Arundel’s House (also in Highgate) where he was provided with a bed. Unfortunately the mattress was damp which worsened Bacon’s condition. He never recovered from the illness and died three months later.
This sequence of events seems to have made a paranormal stamp on Highgate, for it’s said that Pond Square (just off of Highgate High Street) is haunted by the chicken with which Bacon and Winterbourne were experimenting.
Those who claim to have been spooked by the phantom fowl report that it appears from nowhere and proceeds to sprint around in circles, flapping its wings as if in a panic before vanishing.
Most sightings occurred between the 1940s and ’70s; none have been recorded in recent years. Perhaps the chicken has finally accepted its chilly fate?
The Bakerloo Line Electric Chair
Whilst on a day trip to London with her family in the autumn of 1983, Watford resident Karen Collet snapped a photograph of her nephew in the carriage of a Bakerloo line train.
When developed, a sinister image was revealed to be lurking behind the youngster…
The eerie figure behind Karen’s nephew appears to be the wax effigy of Bruno Hauptmann which, at the time, was on display in Madame Tussaud’s Chamber of Horrors; a popular tourist attraction which the Bakerloo line happens to pass close beneath.
Hauptmann was the man found guilty of abducting and murdering Charles Lindbergh’s infant son in 1932.
He received the death penalty for this heinous crime, and was sent to the electric chair at New Jersey State Prison on 3 April 1936.
Hauptmann’s waxwork at Madame Tussaud’s depicted the moment of execution, complete with the prison warden’s announcement, and subsequent power surge as the chair did its work.
What makes Karen’s photo unusual is that she hadn’t set foot in Madame Tussaud’s, let alone take any photographs depicting a gruesome electrocution.
Even if there had been some curious mixup, Haputmann’s waxwork did not have stylised lightning bolts emanating from its wrists.
It would seem the only plausible explanation for the anomaly on Karen’s photo is that she’d captured a poster.
However, Karen took the photo whilst the tube was travelling fast through a tunnel- and neither Madame Tussaud’s nor London Underground have any record of Hauptmann’s effigy ever being used on advertising material.
The photograph and its negative have been subjected to detailed analysis, and no evidence of tampering has been discovered- in fact any manipulation would be practically impossible with the basic 1980s camera used.
In a bizarre twist to the story, Karen accompanied her friend to a reading from a Medium shortly after the photograph was taken. Although Karen chose not to go in, the Psychic made a point of coming out to see her, saying he’d been given a message; “It’s about your photo. I just want you to know that the man said, I’m accused of something I didn’t do, but I did something else.”
Was this chilling message a desperate plea from Hauptmann’s spirit? He’d always protested his innocence, and there are indeed many who believe he was framed…
The Phantom Double Decker
Not all ghosts represent humans or animals. In some cases they can be vehicles. The junction of Cambridge Gardens and St Marks Road, close to Ladbroke Grove, is believed to be the site of one such haunting.
The vehicle in question is the ghostly apparition of an old London double decker bus which was first reported in 1934.
On that occasion, at 1.15 am, a motorist crashed his car into a wall after being startled by the bus, which appeared from nowhere and vanished just as quickly.
There are two versions of this story: the first claims the driver was killed after his car burst into flames, and that an eye-witness reported seeing the bus. In the second, the driver survived, and it was he who blamed the speeding phantom (which no doubt gave his insurance company a considerable headache).
Since 1934 there have been numerous sightings of the ghost bus, all of which share three things in common: they always occur at 1.15am, it is a Number 7 (a route which runs between Acton and Oxford Circus) and, although the lights are blazing, no driver or passengers are visible.
The last recorded sighting was in 1990.
Hampton Court Palace is packed with spooks. Over the years, there have been countless sightings of phantoms, including the ghosts of figures believed to be Jane Seymour and Catherine Howard, both of who of course had the misfortune to be married to Henry VIII.
Perhaps the strangest ghost to haunt the huge complex though is that of an mysterious, caped entity known only as ‘Skeletor’; nicknamed due to his (or her) resemblance to the arch villain from the 1980s children’s cartoon, He-Man & the Masters of the Universe.
This haunting occurred during the winter of 2003 when, one cold night, an alarm was triggered after a set of fire-doors burst open.
However, when security attended the area, they found the doors to be firmly shut, with no sign of any intruder.
The CCTV footage however told a very different story: for there, caught on camera, was the Skeletor figure, dressed in what appeared to be 16th century clothing whilst quickly opening and closing the doors. The entity did not appear on any other camera in the vicinity.
Paranormal activity continued for several days in the wake of this sighting, with the doors once again being flung open the following day (although no figure was spotted in this second instance).
Around the same time, a tourist also noted in the palace guest book that she’d seen a ghostly, hooded, grey figure…
Staff were adamant that Skeletor was not the result of a hoax. What are your thoughts?
The Enfield Poltergeist
In the late 1970s an unassuming house on Green Street, Enfield became the centre of one of Britain’s most infamous paranormal cases when it appeared to fall into the grip of a malevolent poltergeist.
The home in question belonged to single mum, Peggy Hodgson who lived there with her four children, Margaret, Janet, Johnny and Billy.
Strange things first began to occur on the evening of 30 August 1977 when the children felt their beds wobbling. Things worsened the following night when a chest of drawers was seen shuffling forward of its own accord. When she tried to halt it, Peggy felt the unit being pushed by an unknown force.
Then disturbing taps and bangs began to rattle the house…
Other phenomena included furniture being hurled about, small objects materialising and dropping from the ceiling (which were also hot to touch when picked up), pools of water appearing from nowhere, and a number of items- including a pair of oven gloves, a mirror and several one pound notes- self combusting.
These deeply unsettling disturbances, which continued until the autumn of 1978 with a further burst of activity in the summer of 1980, were observed by many outsiders including neighbours, journalists, investigators and police officers.
The Poltergeist stalking the Green Street property seemed to be channelling itself through 11 year old Janet, who would often suffer seizures and, on occasion, apparently levitate or be hurled through the air.
Most disturbingly of all, the grumpy entity occasionally spoke through Janet in a deep, gravelly (and sometimes foul-mouthed) voice.
During one such instance, which was recorded by an investigator, the ethereal being claimed its name was ‘Bill’ and that he’d passed away in the house some years before. “Before I died” came the chilling voice, “I went blind…then I had a haemorrhage and I fell asleep and died in the chair in a corner downstairs.”
You can listen to the original recording of this below…although be warned, it’s not for the faint of heart!
Some years later, a man claiming to be Bill’s son contacted the family. He informed them that his father- full name William Wilkins- had indeed resided at the property some years before, and had suffered the fate described.
The Enfield Poltergeist case would later inspire the notorious BBC drama, Ghostwatch which was broadcast on Halloween night, 1992.
Set in the similar London suburb of Northolt, Ghostwatch was presented as a live-action investigation and caused much upset at the time, with many petrified viewers believing what they were viewing to be real…
Do you have any London-based ghost stories? If so, please feel free to share them in the comments!