The City of Westminster in London has many hauntings to thrill the most concerning paranormal enthusiast, says RICK HALE
The origins of Westminster, the seat of power in Britain, can be found before the Norman conquest of 1066.
The city had humble beginnings and was most used for trade and farming due to its close proximity to the Thames.
Westminster became a place of influence and political power when Edward the Confessor began construction of Westminster Abbey and Westminster Palace. This sealed the city’s fate as a place of both political and religious influence.
In the intervening years between its founding and the 16th century, Westminster rivaled its neighbour London for power.
But then homes were built between the two and smaller villages such as Marylebone and Kensington were absorbed, creating the Greater London we know today.
Today, Westminster is one of the boroughs of Greater London and is home to some of the most significant buildings in all of the United Kingdom.
Both tourists and locals can walk among iconic buildings such as Parliament, Westminster Abbey and the home of the royal family, Buckingham Palace.
But if it’s ghosts you fancy, the City of Westminster is not lacking in that. Here are 5 haunted places in Westminster sure to thrill any ghost enthusiast.
St. James Park
Located on the southernmost tip of Westminster is St. James Park, a lovely respite from the hustle and bustle of London.
Although St. James Park is a wonderful place to enjoy finely manicured gardens and the peace of nature, it does have a dark history. And the ghosts to prove it.
One of the haunted hotspots is Rosamund’s Pond. According to tradition, heartbroken women would walk to the pond and in an act of desperation, throw themselves in and end their lives.
Thankfully this practice ended long ago, nevertheless the echo of those desperate acts affect the pond and its surrounding shoreline.
Visitors have reported a feeling of deep sadness, as well as hearing the sound of women sobbing being carried on the breeze.
Noises and deep, dark feelings aren’t the only supernatural activity in the park.
In 1804, soldiers of the Coldstream Guard reported encounters with the gruesome phantom of a headless woman.
Late one night, while on guard duty a young soldier watched in horror as the vision of a headless woman rose from the murky waters of the pond.
She walked within three feet of the guard before fading away to nothing. Even though he was shaken to the core, the brave guard held his ground and reported the sighting to his commanding officer when his watch ended.
After learning of the sighting other guards came forward to report that while on duty at the Armoury House, they heard a voice call out, “Bring me a light! Bring me a light!”
When they went to investigate they of course found nothing.
Westminster Abbey, a beautiful example of Gothic architecture, is one of the most iconic buildings to grace Westminster, and it is a favorite of tourists from all over the world.
But while admiring the arches and the spiritual power of the building, they don’t realize that it is indeed haunted.
The ghost of long dead Jurist, John Bradshaw has been witnessed lurking in the Abbey.
In life, Bradshaw was Parliamentary President of the commission that oversaw the trial of King Charles I.
While Bradshaw did go to his grave peacefully, it’s what happened after that death that may have caused the restlessness of his spirit.
After coming to power, Charles II had John Bradshaw’s body exhumed and posthumously executed him by cutting off his head.
Gruesome as it may sound, this was not an uncommon practice.
The South Cloister is said to be the domain of a shadowy monk known as Father Benedictus.
Benedictus appears in the cloister and quietly watches people from the shadows as they wander the area.
Joining the good father in the South Cloister is the statue and tomb of Daniel Pulteney.
Visitors have watched in awe as the statue comes to life and turns the pages of the book he has held for centuries.
For more than centuries Buckingham Palace has been the home of the Royal family.
And while tourists are busy either trying to catch a glimpse of a royal or hassling a guard (even I, as an American, know how stupid that is) they fail to look for the palace’s resident spooks.
The ghostly form of a monk wrapped in chains has been seen stalking the grounds as well as the terrace of the palace.
It’s said that if you should catch a glimpse of the monk, he rushes to the gate and angrily shakes his chains before vanishing. But who is this phantom monk? And why is he so angry?
Tradition holds, the monk broke his vows and was punished by being wrapped in chains and thrown in a cell.
While incarcerated, the monk starved and died hungry and thoroughly mad. When not being seen by the curious onlooker, his voice has been heard groaning and demanding a morsel to eat.
While the monk is centuries old the palace’s second resident spectre is of a much later vintage.
In 1910, Major John Gwynne, personal secretary to King Edward VII shot himself with his own revolver.
It would seem that Gwynne was ostracised from friends and family after his wife divorced him due to him committing some indiscretion.
Since that day, staff have reported hearing a single shot ring out in the room where Gwynne killed himself. Followed by the heavy thud of a body falling to the floor.
When they rush to investigate the sound, nothing more than a cold, dark room devoid of life is found.
Birdcage Walk is a road cutting through Westminster, and throughout its history it has served many purposes.
It received its unique name because it was originally the aviary and private menagerie of King James I.
Later it was a private road for the royal family. And then in the 19th century it was a clandestine meeting place for London’s LGBTQ community.
Birdcage Walk is also allegedly haunted by the same headless female apparition that rises from the depths of Rosamund’s Pond.
According to a long told story, the woman was the wife of a Coldstream Guard Sergeant who one day attacked and beheaded her.
He then dragged her headless corpse to the pond and threw the body in.
No matter the time of day, the horrific headless ghost is seen wandering along Birdcage Walk, scaring the hell out of anyone unfortunate enough to encounter her.
10 Downing Street
Coming in at number five on this list of haunted City of Westminster is 10 Downing Street, the home of the Prime Minister.
And if the stories are to be believed, the executive mansion might just be London’s most haunted.
Our first ghost on our whirlwind tour of 10 Downing Street is a gentleman dressed in Regency style attire.
The explanation has been offered that this particular ghost may have been a former Prime Minister who just can’t let go of life. Or his duty to king and country.
In the late 1950s, a series of renovations were begun and several workmen had some hair-raising experiences with the ghost who appeared to take a dislike to the improvements.
The ghost has also been seen walking in the garden. And a large number of people watched in awe as he appeared during a horse guard’s parade and walked through a wall.
A beautiful woman in a long dress and a magnificent pearl necklace haunts the Pilloried Drawing room.
Staff have reported catching a glimpse of her as they pass the room going about their daily work.
The ghost of a little girl plays in the basement and has been known to grab the hand of unsuspecting staffers as they traverse the subterranean corridors.
A man in fancy dining attire and a top hat is regularly seen striding through the lobby.
He appears to be completely oblivious of onlookers as he walks through the front door and disappears from view.
And lastly, the overpowering scent of cigar smoke is smelled wafting through the building even though smoking was banned years ago.
The cigar smoke is of course attributed to none other than Winston Churchill, the Prime Minister who shepherded Britain through the dark days of World War II.
And he still casts a very long shadow over the very foundations of 10 Downing Street.
Westminster, the seat of the British government, is an excellent place for tourists to wander and take in some of Britain’s most iconic buildings.
And if you’re in the right place at the right time, you may just encounter one of its many ghosts.
Have you seen a ghost in the City of Westminster – tell us in the comment section below!