Ghosts of Royal Arsenal, Woolwich


Royal Arsenal, Woolwich, has a long dark history of war and violence, leading to many paranormal experiences in the South London area, RICK HALE reports…

For nearly three centuries, the most dangerous place to be in London was on the south bank of the River Thames.

It was there in Woolwich, the government had a facility that manufactured and tested ordnance used in combat.

It wasn’t at all uncommon to hear great explosions of extraordinary magnitude at all hours of the day.

The explosions that once rocked London went silent in the 1960s.

But according to visitors, the things that used to go boom in the night, has been replaced by things that go bump.

Royal Arsenal Woolwich

History of Royal Arsenal, Woolwich

Long before the first ordnance was ignited, a Tudor mansion called Tower Place occupied the land in the 1540s.

The mansion was the home of Martin Bowes, a wealthy merchant, goldsmith and Lord Mayor of London.

A century later in 1651, the owners of the mansion granted the Board of Ordnance, permission to test it’s guns on the land.

In 1667, the building was enlarged in response to the Raid on Medway. A naval skirmish where the Dutch successfully attacked English battleships in Chatham dockyard.

To ensure such an attack never happened again, Prince Rupert’s Battery was built on the grounds. Never again would the English navy suffer such a defeat.

Further expansion of the complex came in 1805, by order of George III.  The expansion was in response to the aggression of Napoleon.

Along with more guns came a carriage factory. And the complex became a center for mechanical engineering. Some of the finest minds of the day came to work at the Royal Arsenal.

As the 20th century began, the arsenal was enlarged once again. And when World War I broke out the arsenal employed over 80,000 people, making it the largest employer in England.

In 1940, the arsenal saw extensive damage when German bombers attacked England in the Blitz.

Several workers were killed and a number of buildings were destroyed in the aerial assault.

The once massive complex built for designing and testing weapons of war was closed in 1969.

The Royal Arsenal is being redeveloped in the ambitious, Thames Gateway Zone.  Buildings once used to make things go boom are being converted into residential and commercial space.

And if there is any truth to the stories told about the complex, it may very well be the most haunted place in the whole of England.

The Haunting of Royal Arsenal, Woolwich

If haunted locations are judged by its number of ghosts, the Royal Arsenal could easily claim victory in the competition.

It has been estimated the arsenal is home to over 50 ghosts. So many ghosts haunt this complex, it can be a daunting task in keeping track of them all.

Thankfully, researchers have done their best to tally up the spirits who died by accident, murder and even suicide.

Phantoms of Building 41

Building 41 will be our first stop on our tour of the arsenal.  According to eyewitnesses, two very active phantoms call this building home.

The first ghost is an unusually aggressive one that throws chairs at whoever walks into the building. A small number of people have been injured by the spirit.

The curious sound of a kettle drum playing has been heard followed by maniacal laughter sure to frighten even the bravest away.

The second spirit lives in the basement and is believed to be a prostitute who was killed in its shadowy depths.

According to a number of soldiers, the ghostly prostitute delights in stroking their hair and whispering sexually charged things in their ears.

Despite the attention of the lady of the night, soldiers actually fear encountering the ghost.

A Boy Named Piggy

In its heyday, Royal Arsenal, Woolwich was arguably a dangerous place. Hardly the place to bring one’s children

Unfortunately, the laws of the day were somewhat lax on children in the workplace. And that’s how a little boy named, Piggy, came to haunt the arsenal.

Piggy, being the ever curious lad, wandered away from his father and began playing with live ordnance.

It didn’t take long for the unthinkable to occur. The ordnance exploded  killing the little boy instantly.

Piggy, reportedly pulls the pigtails of little girls, hence his name, and runs away giggling.

The Factory Manager

Sadly, accidents in the workplace is something to be expected, but in a place like an arsenal it is downright destructive.

During World War II, a factory manager took a knife and cut his own throat after watching his brother die while testing mortar shells.

His angry ghost is known to slam doors and violently shove visitors to the ground.

The Old Gatehouse

The old Gatehouse is allegedly haunted by the ghost of a Sargeant who hates foreigners.

He has been known to stand behind non-English visitors and breathe down the back of their necks until they leave.

Royal Woolwich Arsenal

The Attention Seeker

An employee of the museum had a run in with a ghost while locking up late one night.

Just as he was about to set the alarm, a chair came flying out of the darkness narrowly missing him.

The staff member thought that someone was playing a prank, but when he demanded his assailant show themselves, no one obliged.

It’s widely believed the ghost is a young man who went mad after years of working with Mercury. He has never hurt anyone, but he does like the attention.

This is just a small sampling of the many ghosts said to haunt the Royal Arsenal in Woolwich.

Although, the buildings are now residential and commercial space, the ghosts of the arsenal are still very much active.

Rick Hale, is a native of Chicago, Illinois and first became interested in the paranormal after having a positive interaction with an apparition at a young age. Rick is the author of The Geek's Guide To The Strange and Unusual: Poltergeists, Ghosts and Demons. Behold! Shocking True Tales of Terror...and Some Other Spooky Stuff. And Bullets, Booze and Babes: The Haunted History of Chicago and Illinois. Rick is the co-host of The Shadow Initiative Paranormal Talk. Rick was featured in the documentary Ghost Tapes 2. Rick is a featured writer for Spooky Isles and Rick has also been published by Haunted Times, Paranormal Underground, The Supernatural Magazine and Legends Magazine.


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