JAY HOLLIS takes a look at the most haunted places to visit in the North London Borough of Barnet…
After the publication of Haunted Enfield (The History Press, 2013) I turned my attention to ghostly activity in the neighbouring borough of Barnet, for a follow-up book.
That second book has been close to completion for a couple of years, so my early new year’s resolution for 2022 is to finish it and put it out there, either through a publisher or via self-publication.
In the meantime, here are 10 haunted locations within the London Borough of Barnet to whet your whistle.
1. Monken Hadley
The village of Monken Hadley sits so close to the north of the town of Barnet that you’d be forgiven for thinking it was part of the same town, but it is a separate village – just.
There are a number of villages around the country that claim to be England’s most haunted and that distinction usually goes to either Prestbury in Gloucestershire or Pluckley in Kent, depending on who you talk to. If they are the most haunted villages in the country, Monken Hadley would surely win a runners up prize.
Jennie Lee Cobban lists eleven haunted locations in her excellent book, Geoffrey de Mandeville and London’s Camelot: Ghosts, Mysteries and the Occult in Barnet (1997) and I suspect there are even more than that. Its ghosts mainly inhabit the Georgian and Victorian houses overlooking Monken Hadley Common and include an indistinct grey figure, a nun climbing a staircase carrying a bowl, a lady shrouded in white, a blue lady and at least two grey ladies.
A phantom monk has been seen on a number of occasions inside the 15th century church, while a sinister black clad figure lurks in the churchyard. A Victorian man and woman have been seen walking arm in arm along the road that borders the common, once by a motorist who drove straight through them.
2. Old Bull Theatre, Barnet
This former pub on the High Street was saved from demolition and transformed into The Old Bull Theatre and Arts Centre in 1975.
It is now home to the Susi Earnshaw Theatre School and therefore not open to the public, unless you have bought a ticket to attend one of their shows.
Should you do just that and find yourself seated in D6, try not to be surprised if you see a blurry figure running across the back of the auditorium. This curious apparition has been reported a number of times but only ever by people seated in D6.
David and Susi Earnshaw treated me to an exclusive tour of the theatre five years ago and gave me a very detailed account of all the strange things that have occurred there.
3. The Black Horse, Barnet
Dominating the corner of Wood Street and Union Street, this pub dates back to 1720 and is today both a pub and an independent brewery.
It is haunted by the ghost of an old woman who has been seen slowly walking from one end of the pub to the other.
On one occasion, a member of the bar staff had just locked up at the end of the night when a movement inside the pub caught her eye. She peered through the window into the empty bar area and found that her gaze was met by the old woman staring back at her.
4. Ye Olde Mitre Inn, Barnet
This pub is the oldest of Barnet’s former coaching inns and much of its original character has been retained. Perhaps it’s little surprise then that the place is haunted.
In 2016, the landlord told me that he had heard loud and heavy footsteps stomping along the loft above the living quarters. This happened on his first three days at the pub and always at six o’clock in the morning. The footsteps were too loud, distinct and deliberate to have been caused by an animal or by contracting or expanding timbers.
Whoever or whatever was walking above, it sounded as if the footsteps were made by hob-nailed boots.
5. The Red Lion, Barnet
The Red Lion, currently a Stonehouse Pizza & Carvery restaurant, is older than it looks. Beyond the 1930’s facelift and more recent interior renovations lie an eighteenth century coaching inn, and that was built on the site of a much older inn.
The ghost that haunts here is believed to be that of a young woman who, when caught eavesdropping on two men staying at the inn, was chased down the stairs where she lost her footing, or perhaps was pushed, and fell to her death.
In 1986, the staff had just finished tidying the pub after closing time and were sitting down for a coffee before going home, when one of them saw a young woman in a long white dress walk across the bar area towards the main entrance.
Assuming that she must have been in the ladies toilet, although all the toilets had been checked, the member of staff got up to let the woman out as the door was locked. However, she was nowhere to be seen and a search of the pub confirmed that only the four members of staff were inside the building.
6. Oak Hill Park, East Barnet
It is said that the ghost of Sir Geoffrey de Mandeville, a Norman knight killed in 1144, haunts this area.
A number of encounters with him were claimed in the local press during the 1920s and 30s which created such a stir that 700 people descended on the park on Christmas Eve 1932 in an effort to see the ghost.
I’m not convinced by any of the claims but there are far more credible encounters with the supernatural here that were recorded by Jennie Lee Cobban (see Monken Hadley, above).
Late night encounters include a man in a wide-brimmed hat, sitting on a bench who suddenly vanished ‘as if a light had been turned off’, the sound of an unseen galloping horse approaching so close that the ground was felt to vibrate, and a terrifying headless figure seen hovering above the ground.
The area is so haunted that Oak Hill Road, which runs along the southern edge of the park, has been dubbed ‘the ghost’s promenade’.
7. Avenue House, a.k.a. Stephen’s House, Finchley
The ghost of a middle-aged woman wearing dark clothes with a long, high-waisted skirt has often been seen here, usually in what was once a school room or the adjacent room which is now used as a kitchen.
Staff at Avenue House have nick-named her ‘Dora’ and her apparent association with the school room has led to the assumption that she must be a former governess, but there is no evidence to actually support that theory.
The house is not open to the public, although it is a venue used by ghost hunting events companies, but the gardens are well worth a visit.
8. Nan Clark’s Lane, Mill Hill
This rural lane is named after the ghost that is said to haunt it.
Nan Clark was the beautiful and vivacious landlady of a pub that once stood on the corner at the top of the lane.
Versions of the story differ but she was dragged to the pond further down the lane and drowned there by either her husband or an enraged jealous lover and her ghost has haunted the lane ever since.
9. The Royal Airforce Museum, formerly RAF Hendon
There have been rumours of paranormal activity at the museum for years.
According to Military Ghosts by Alan C. Wood (Amberley Publishing 2010), two phantom pilots have been reported; one a Second World War Spitfire pilot and the other a pilot from the First World War.
Strange sounds have been heard within the museum’s exhibition halls at night after the visitors have left; disembodied footsteps, the sound of engine cowlings being lifted, as if being serviced or repaired, and the throb of running aircraft engines have all been reported. One of the museum’s star attractions, the Avro Lancaster bomber ‘S for Sugar’ is even said to be haunted.
The sounds of crewmen at work have been heard coming from within the bomber late at night and a figure has been seen manning one of the gun turrets.
10. The Spaniard’s Inn
Built in 1585, the Spaniard’s Inn stands on the north-western edge of Hampstead Heath, just within the London Borough of Barnet border – If you were to step out of the main entrance and cross the narrow road you would be in the London Borough of Camden.
It is one of my favourite pubs, although it’s been a while since my last visit.
On one visit I had the distinct sensation of someone running their fingers through and playing with the hair at the back of my head. I had shoulder-length hair at the time, so there was plenty to play with. I turned around a number of times to see who it was but each time I looked it was evident that nobody was doing it.
Poltergeist activity and cold spots have been recorded at The Spaniard’s Inn, and a shadowy figure is often seen striding across the bar before walking through a wall at the other end.
Some believe it is the ghost of the highwayman Dick Turpin who often used the inn as a bolt hole when evading capture, but he’s not the only ghost at The Spaniard’s.
A grey lady has been seen on the staircase and another lady haunts the beer garden. She wears a white dress in the fashion of the mid-eighteenth century, which curiously turns blue as she approaches the building, whereupon she vanishes.
Was it one of these ladies that found my hair so fascinating?
This is just a selection of the haunted places within the London Borough of Barnet.
If anyone reading this has had their own ghostly encounter in the same borough, I’d love to hear from you in the comments.