Frightening Presence Lurks in Woolwich Barracks Billiard Room

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The Woolwich Barracks Billiard Room in London is haunted and has spooked many who have entered, says ROBIN WHEELER

Frightening Presence Lurks in Woolwich Barracks Billiard Room

The Woolwich Officers’ Mess in London has a splendid entrance hall, with a massive display case full of mess silver from long gone artillery regiments on its right-hand side in a sort of arcade.

The staircase opposite leads up to a small landing, with two sets of stairs off it, to the right to another landing with a billiard room on the right and a meeting room on the left.

The staircase on the other side leads to a corresponding but higher landing. This has a door to the officers’ rooms on the right and an elegant portico on the left before a corridor containing a steep spiral staircase leading up to the ‘Judge’s Room’, presumably from the days when judges would travel the country ‘on Assize’, setting up court to deal with local cases before returning to London.

This tale mainly concerns the billiard room.

The Haunted Woolwich Barracks Billiard Room

When I was staying in the Mess in 2011 as I commenced a Full Time Reserve job with a Military Intelligence unit, I heard rumours that the Mess was haunted and on asking around was directed to the formidable cleaning ladies who have worked there for years.

One told me her story. She had been cleaning the officers’ rooms one morning and then returned to the upper landing.

As she looked down the stairs, she saw an officer walking up the stairs to the billiard room landing. What made him stand out to her was that although this was the morning, he was wearing the tight striped trousers worn with Mess Kit at formal dinners (known as ‘overalls’), but oddly not the waistcoat or short ‘bumfreezer’ jacket, just a collarless shirt and braces.

He walked slowly up, along the landing and right into the billiard room. Naturally curious, she went quickly down the stairs and up the other side before entering the billiard room. There was nobody there.

I have no evidence whatever for this theory, but my instinctive reaction to this story is that for whatever reason, debts or bad luck in love, he was going into the billiard room to kill himself. 

Another of the cleaning ladies told me she felt that the staircase to the Judge’s Room had a terrible atmosphere, or indeed presence on it.

So much did she feel that she was followed up the stairs by an invisible presence that she could not bear to walk up the stairs facing forward, but only looking back down the stairs and walking awkwardly backwards up them.

This was not at all my experience, but talking to her it was clear that she was genuinely very frightened by the location. 

ROBIN WHEELER: “Educated at Harrow and Cambridge, barrister, cavalry officer in the 4th/7th Royal Dragoon Guards, mature student in theology (BA, MA, PhD) and author of ‘Palmer’s Pilgrimage’ about the life of William Palmer of Magdalen. Military lawyer in the Army Legal Service then Full Time Reserve officer in a number of posts, currently a major and staff officer in the Headquarters of the Royal Armoured Corps. Now living the dream on the Isle of Wight and hoping to achieve ‘caulk-head’ status.

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