The Tower Of London at St Katharine’s and Wapping, London, is perhaps the most haunted location in a Metropolis steeped in ghosts and weird legends. Strange stories go back several centuries at the Tower, to the extent that it is believled Bran the Blessed was buried beneath the Tower when it was called the White Mount as an apotropaic against invasion, Bran’s head supposedly stolen by none other than King Arthur, who wanted the job of protecting the British Isles all to himself. M J STEEL COLLINS looks at the other unnerving tales associated with the Haunted Tower of London.
1. Beauchamp Tower
A very haunted tower, where there have been reports of mild poltergeist phenomena and gentle gasps. In the battlements, Elizabeth’s Walk boasts a spectral cavalier, whilst the apparition of the Lady Jane Grey’s husband, Lord Guildford Dudley, who was executed at the age of about 19, appears with tears streaming down his face.
2. The Bloody Tower
The Haunted Tower of London’s location of the famous two young princes legend: Edward V, King of England and his brother, Richard of Shrewsbury, Duke of York, aged 12 and 9 respectively, were under the care of their uncle, Richard III, mysterious vanished, supposedly murdered in the tower on his orders circa 1483. The ghosts of the two boys reputedly haunt the Bloody Tower. Guards reported hearing the sound of two children giggling, along with a bouncing noise, just outside the Bloody tower. Their apparitions are also said to be glimpsed walking holding hands. In 1674, a wooden box containing two small human skeletons was uncovered by workmen, and it was believed these were the remains of the young princes. The remains were interred at Westminster Abbey by Charles II. They are in company with the ghost of Sir Walter Raleigh, whose shade lurks in the battlements named after him. One of the Earls of Northumberland was killed in the Blooody Tower – at one point his ghost took a regular nightly constitutionals in the Northumberland Walk battlements. Sentries have had a time of it in the Bloody Tower. One encountered the white form of a headless woman rise from the floor in front of him, which he challenged and stabbed with his bayonet, only for it to disappear. Two sentries on patrol outside the Bloody Tower in 1978 had an eerie experience, both first feeling unpleasantly uncomfortable, before a gust of air sent their capes nearly over their head and almost blew them out the archway. A visitor to the Tower saw the ghost of a woman in a black dress, white cap and wearing a gold pendant standing next to a window before she faded.
3. Council Chamber
The ghostly shrieks of Guy Fawkes could be heard wailing from the room where he was prepared for execution.
4. Main Entrance
During the Second World War, a guard saw a group in old fashioned uniform approach the haunted Tower of London bearing a stretcher with a decapitated body, fading at the point where they would have met the no doubt astonished witness.
5. Martin Tower
A famous incident occurred in January 1816 when the ghost of a bear appeared before a sentry, who tried to stab the animal with his bayonet only for it to pass through. The soldier collapsed and subsequently died of shock. Sir Henry Percy, 9th Earl of Northumberland, was a long term prisoner at the Tower, under James I. Though he was released, his ghost now haunts the battlements of Martin Tower and supposedly tries to push people down the stairs. In October 1817, Edmund Swifte, the Keeper of the Crown Jewels had an utterly bizarre experience when what looked like ghostly liquid passed through their home in the Tower, and attempted to snatch Mrs Swifte as it went by. It vanished after Swifte hurled a chair at it, which went through the apparition and didn’t make contact.
6. Middle Tower
In 1977, footsteps were heard coming from the roof of the tower, empty, apart from two decorators working. A search failed to uncover any intruders.
7. Queen’s House
A Grey Lady makes appearances only to women, whilst during the 1970s a phantom medieval male was seen floating along the upper corridors, and blamed for footsteps heard on a staircase. A witness reported hearing plainsong during the night in 1978, and was the only one to hear it.
8. Sally Port
A soldier of the Scots Guard was left terrified in 1969 after a gaggle of ghosts emerged from the gate and followed him
9. Salt Tower
Whilst Lady Jane Grey was held captive on 12 February 1554 at the Tower, the sixteen year old saw the decapitated body of her husband Lord Dudley Guildford carried past her rooms, exclaiming, “Oh Guildford, Guildford”, after which, she too was taken out and behead for High Treason. She was supposed to haunt the Tower thereafter, her apparition last being seen on the roof of the Salt Tower on 12 February 1957.
10. St Peter ad Vincula Church
Queen Victoria ordered that the bodies of individuals executed during the Tudor period be removed from beneath the flagstones of the church, be identified and laid to rest appropriately. Over 200 corpses were exhumed, but it was not possible to identify them. A patrolling officer shortly after reported seeing several apparitions in old fashioned clothes wander about the church, including one he thought was Anne Boleyn, before vanishing.
11. Wakefield Tower
A seasonal haunting, Henry VI was murdered by the Duke of Gloucester on 21 May 1471; the King’s ghost is supposed to appear briefly at midnight on the anniversary of his death Allowances should be made on the exact date, thanks to the introduction of the Gregorian calendar in 1582, which removed eleven days of the year.
12. White Tower
In St John’s Chapel at the haunted Tower of London, a female ghost drizzled in strong perfume caused people to choke. On 27 May 2013, a tourist felt someone tapping her shoulder, but couldn’t see who it was. A guide said that it may have been the ghost known as ‘Daniel’, whose form has been glimpsed, clad in a cloak. The storage place of Henry VII’s armour is malign, and tales abound of guards either being attacked or feeling under threat from a nameless presence. The armour is now in The White Tower, but whether or not whatever haunts it has flitted remains a mystery.
13. Thomas’s Tower
A legend dating back to the construction has it that the structure collapsed twice on succeeding St George feast days, and that the ghost of Thomas Becket, murdered in 1170, had been seen immediately prior to each collapse. Henry III named the Tower after the former Archbishop of Canterbury to appease his spirit. In modern times, a ghostly monk has been seen and heard about the tower
14. Tower Green
The grisly re-enactment of the execution of Margaret Pole, Countess of Salisbury, has been seen many times on 27 May, the anniversary of her execution in 1541. It was a botched affair, with the 78 year old being chased by the executioner, who hacked away at her instead. One report was that she refused to kneel down for beheading, so was chased by the axeman, another is that an inexperienced boy was brought in to do the job and he chopped her head and shoulder to bits until she was dead. The home at 7 Tower Green is supposedly haunted by the ghost of Sir Walter Raleigh, who audibly roams the property.
15. Water Lane
At sometime in the late 1960s or 1970, a sentry was found insensible and gibbering “Man in cloak” over and over. Once he recovered, he described how a headless figure wearing a cloak came up to him, sending him into a frenzy and running for assistance.
16. Traitor’s Gate
Tales of haunting go back to around about 1240, when a monk said he encountered the ghost of Thomas Beckett clutching a crucifix, slamming the walls and grumbling at the recently built gate. In recent times, a tourist captured the image of a mysterious hand with a lacey cuff in a photograph, whilst a ghostly monk roams the area.