JON KANEKO-JAMES examines the spookiness that lurks in Greenwich, London’s maritime centre
Greenwich Tunnel Ghosts
If you’ve been down the Greenwich Tunnel you’ll be familiar with the claustrophobic atmosphere and cold, damp air. Only a select few, however have been down the tunnel when they’ve seen the figures of a couple in Victorian clothes. Seemingly the ghosts of a couple out for a nice day’s stroll to Greenwich, the couple approach other tunnel users, fading as they approach. Strangely, this isn’t the only haunted tunnel in the Greenwich area…
Blackwall Tunnel Hitcher
Perhaps the least intimidating but most common ghost is the shade of a young man with longish dark hair who hitchhikes along the road leading to the Blackwall Tunnel: when picked up he says that he’s trying to get to visit his girlfriend, lapsing into silence before disappearing just as the car enters the tunnel itself.
Each of the Hills in the Greenwich area has its own collection of phantoms: Shooter’s Hill has the ghost of a young woman, murdered by her lover in the 1830s, not to mention the dark haired femme fatale who stalks Veremont house, walking the corridors after murdering her second cousin. Vanbrugh Hill is haunted by the speeding ghost carriage of Lord John Angerstein, pulled by four headless horses. Finally, there are strange sounds and lights emanating from underneath Point Hill, where the Chalk Caves are said to be haunted by the ghosts of smugglers and rebels still plotting to overthrow a long-dead James I.
Good Queen Bess
Finally, the Royal Naval College is said to be haunted by a score of Tudor ghosts. It used to be Placentia Palace, sadly now long buried, the favourite palace of Henry VIII, who was born there. They say that even now the site is haunted by the ghost of a red-headed woman with a low-cut corset. Investigators believe this could be the spirit of none other than Elizabeth the First, who was said to walk ‘in a shower of bejewelled pins’ when she disembarked at the Greenwich docks. Her spirit walks the original corridors of the old palace, taking her out into the docks around the Cutty Sark. Perhaps she interacts with the ghost of the Cutty Sark’s Witch, Nanny.
The other figures are sometimes identified as Anne Boleyn, Elizabeth’s mother, but in fact a number of slightly differently dressed Elizabethan women have been sighted as apparitions in the Naval College grounds. This could, indeed, be the ghost of Anne Boleyn, known to be a prolific haunt with a number of sites, but it might also be the ghosts of Elizabeth’s handmaidens, to which she was very attached. It was said that she felt so betrayed when one of them left her to get married, she beat the young woman with a brush.
Ghost of the Great Eastern
Those walking along the Thames path just a little way up from the Cutty Sark might well see a white, ethereal galleon drifting by. This is said to be the phantom of Brunel’s last ship: the Great Eastern. This ghost ship was said to be cursed: the ventilator blew up, killing members of the crew. The ship’s double hull was also said to be haunted, issuing a strange, rhythmic hammering that could be heard during even the heaviest storms (said to be the ghost of a welder, sealed up inside the hull by accident.)
The ship sits, almost rotten, beside the Thames now, just the skeleton of its double hull resting in the mud, but sometimes, when the tide is right, its phantom sets said to re-enact its benighted maiden voyage to America.