RICK HALE brings us on a tour Of London’s three most haunted museums
At the end of the Neo-Babylonian empire in 530 BCE, Princess Ennigaldi, daughter of king Nabonidas is believed to have opened the world’s first museum. The majority of the items in Ennigaldi’s museum were believed to have come from the private collection of Nebuchadnezzar himself. While the rest of the artifacts found in this ancient museum were more than likely excavated by the princess herself. Making this ancient royal the world’s first archaeologist.
Since those days long since passed, museums have become an integral part of knowledge as well as education. The artifacts, be they one and only works of art or broken pottery shards, are exhibited as reminders of other cultures and their historical and scientific significance. The majority of these institutions can be found in any of the large cities around the world. My hometown of Chicago, Illinois has many. One of the large cities of the world, London, England has several. And in many of those museums ghosts can be found walking among the exhibits.
2 And 4 Homerton High Street, Hackney E9 6JQ
In the inner London borough of Hackney, sits our first stop on our haunted London ghost tour, Sutton House. Originally known as ‘Bryck Place’, Sutton House was built in 1535 by Sir Ralph Sadler, Principal Secretary of State for Britain’s most notorious monarch, Henry VIII. The house was built as Sadler’s private residence, and is considered to be oldest residential building in Hackney.
Throughout its long history Sutton House has been occupied by a wide variety of tenant. It was a home to merchants and sea captains, as well as a boy’s school throughout the 18th century. Today, the Grade II listed Tudor Manor is open for those who desire to take a step back in time to the unique architecture of a bygone era. And if you have an interest in the paranormal, Sutton House is well known for being haunted.
Long before it’s time as a museum, Sutton House, has been home to one very active spirit. The apparition of a woman in a white dress has been encountered throughout the building. The spirit is believed to be the wife of John Machell, a member of Parliament during the reign of Charles II. The white lady of Sutton House has been known to stand over people as they sleep with a very disapproving scowl, leading many to believe they are not welcome.
The white lady also has the reputation for having a violent streak. Visitors have reported precipitous drops in temperature as well as the barking of spectral dogs right before the white lady throws an object at their head. Clearly the white lady of Sutton House neither wants or appreciates visitors in her home. If you should visit remember to be quiet and respectful lest you attract the attention of this unwelcoming spirit.
Great Russell Street, London WC1B 3DG
The British Museum located in the Bloomsbury area of London, is considered to be one of the world’s greatest museums. With such artifacts as the Rosetta Stone and the Elgin Stones, the British Museum is one of the great preservers of art, culture and knowledge.
The British Museum opened its doors to the public on a cold January day in 1753. The original donor, Sir Hans Sloane (1660-1753), a personal collector of over 71,000 objects of antiquity left his entire collection to the British people upon his death. Since then, millions of tourists have spent their days admiring the exhibits the museum has to offer. Including one very unique item that may have been responsible for the death of a number of unsuspecting owners.
In 1889, the painted coffin of the high priestess of Amen Ra was donated to the museum by an owner who was all too eager to rid himself of it. This seemingly innocent item possesses a chilling history. Upon viewing the coffin, a psychic warned that whomever owned the coffin would know nothing but horror and death. If there is any truth to what has been called the ‘unlucky mummy’ death followed it wherever it ended up. A string of strange deaths has been left in its wake since its discovery. Some even hold the coffin responsible for the the maritime tragedy of the sinking of the RMS Titanic in 1912.
The story of the unlucky mummy may sound like the plot of a late night horror film. Nevertheless, it is a cautionary tale with a simple moral, perhaps some things are better left buried.
Ragged School Museum
46-50 Copperfield Road, London E3 4RR
In 1870s London, the borough of Tower Hamlets in the city’s East End, was well known for crime, crippling poverty and a complete lack of education for its youngest citizens. In 1877, Thomas John Barnardo, an Irish philanthropist, took the necessary actions to remedy this lack of education for children. Barnardo, purchased three canalside warehouses on Copperfield Road and opened The Ragged School for Poor Children.
During its time of operation in 1877, to the day it closed its doors in the early 20th century, the Ragged School gave a quality education to the poor children of the East end. On weekdays the school had a 1,000 pupils and over twice as many for Sunday school. In 1908, the London County council established a sufficient school system for the children of London and the Ragged School closed its doors.
In the 1980s, the building that housed the Ragged School was saved from the wrecking ball when local citizens set up a trust. In 1990, the Ragged School Museum was set up by volunteers who set out to recreate a Victorian era school. A classroom as well as a typical kitchen from the early twentieth century was recreated in the museum. The Ragged School may be a reminder of a kind man who set out to do a wonderful thing for the less fortunate. The Ragged School does have another reminder of the school’s past in the form of supernatural entities. And some of those entities just may reveal a shocking secret.
A common sensation reported in hauntings is the uncomfortable feeling of being watched. Since opening its doors as a museum, both staff and visitors have reported this unnerving feeling of being watched. While others have reported the sounds of phantom footsteps on the buildings hardwood floors. However, the most disturbing part of the haunting was experienced by a visiting psychic.
According to a medium that spent some time at the Ragged School, she came into contact with a cruelly strict headmaster that may have been hiding a secret. The medium claimed the headmaster sexually molested some of the children before the school closed. This suspicion has never been confirmed or denied.
Over the years many ghost hunters have conducted investigations in the museum with interesting results. The sounds of children’s voices and screaming have been captured in EVPS, electronic voice phenomena throughout the museum. And the shadow of a woman has been seen following people from room to room. If you are looking for a museum in London to have an experience with the otherworldly, the Ragged School Museum may just be your best bet.
Museums are educational institutions that deserve to be protected and preserved for all time. Future generations need to have a reminder that we still live in a very large world with discoveries being made every day.