Wednesday, August 4, 2010


Number 50 Berkeley Square is a house in a fashionable part of London. It was built in the late 18th century. For a long time, people thought it was the most dangerous haunted house in England. The building acquired its dreadful reputation in the 1830s. That’s when a maid went insane in her bedroom. The story goes that her madness was caused by fright. One magazine said she was “found standing in the middle of her room.” She was as “rigid as a corpse, with hideously glaring eyes, unable to speak.” Supposedly, she died the next day in an insane asylum. Never again did the family go in the maid’s room. One day, though, a visitor challenged the family. He vowed to sleep in the “haunted” room. But that night, the Deadly Addresses family heard him screaming. They rushed into the room and found him dead. The coroner’s report said the visitor had been “frightened to death.” In 1859, Mr. Myers rented the place. The story goes that Myers was about to be married. He planned to bring his bride to 50 Berkeley Square. Just before the wedding, though, his fiancée broke off the engagement. And Myers went insane. He let the building fall into disrepair and never went outside. He stayed in one small room and wouldn’t answer the door—except for a servant bringing him food or water. People said Myers walked the house at night, holding a candle. He wept and called out the name of his lost fiancée. For a long time, no one lived in the house. Then, in 1887, two sailors from the frigate HMS Penelope were in town. They were looking for a place to stay for the appeared to be empty, they let themselves in and went to sleep. In the middle of the night, the sailors heard footsteps outside their room. Then a “thing” entered the room and attacked them. The “thing” was later described as a white-faced man with a gaping mouth. One of the sailors tried to fight the intruder off with a curtain rod. The other man raced outside. He found a police officer and dragged him back to the house. Just outside, they found the other sailor—dead. It looked as if he had fallen out the bedroom window. Or had he been pushed? A look of horror was frozen on his face. In the 1870s and 1880s the house was far from quiet. Neighbors reported hearing loud noises, cries, and moans. They also heard bells ringing and something like stones and books being thrown around. In the early 1900s, the house was supposedly exorcised. Since then it’s been fairly quiet. In 1938, the building became the Maggs Brothers bookstore. The owner, John Maggs, hasn’t had any experience with ghosts. But his staff, and even Mrs. Maggs, make no such claim. They say that every now and then something too weird to be explained happens in the store. THE TOWER OF LONDON The Tower of London has been used as a prison, an arsenal, a zoo, a treasury, and a mint! It has also been a place to die. Hundreds—perhaps even thousands—of people have been executed there. Some say the spirits of these dead people are still roaming the tower. The Tower was built about 900 years ago. Over the years, many buildings have been added. These days the tower is more like a castle or fortress. Horse thieves and smugglers were sometimes executed at the tower. And so were royalty. Usually, ordinary people died in public. They were executed in front of a noisy crowd. Royalty, though, were executed in private. Often they had committed no crime. fri most cases, an enemy in the royal family just wanted to get rid of them! This was the case for two young princes. Richard, Duke of York, was ten years old. His brother, twelve-year-old Edward V. was heir to the throne. In 1483, the boys were imprisoned in the tower. They were murdered in secret. Most people believe that their uncle was behind the crime. Why? With both boys gone, the uncle became King Richard III. Many people say they’ve seen the ghosts of the two young boys. They usually appear standing together, hand in hand. Reports say they have sad, lost looks on their faces. Anne Boleyn was another famous prisoner of the tower. Henry VIII had divorced his first wife to marry Anne. The divorce, however, hurt the king’s reputation. But three years after marrying Anne, he grew tired of her. Not wanting to go through another divorce, he imprisoned Anne in the tower. Then she was executed—while Henry went on to marry four more wives! The ghost of Anne Boleyn has been seen many, many times. One sighting happened in 1864. The Captain of the Guard was making his rounds when he spotted one of his men on the ground, unconscious. Underneath him lay his rifle, with its bayonet in place. When the man woke up, he said he’d seen a figure in white. She’d come out of the room where Anne Boleyn had spent her last night. The ghostly figure had glided up to him. Frightened, he ordered it to stop— but it kept on coming. In a panic, he stabbed at the figure with his bayonet— but the weapon went straight through the spirit’s body! The guard fainted. The captain didn’t believe the guard’s story. He claimed the guard had been sleeping while on duty, so he courtmartialed him. But several other guards came forward during the trial. They, too, said they’d seen the ghostly woman. The guard was set free. Catherine Howard was Henry Viii’s fifth wife. Like Anne Boleyn, she was executed in the tower. But just before her death, she escaped from her cell. She ran down a corridor, frantically looking for a way out. But there was no way out and no one to help her. She was caught, returned to her cell, and executed. People say that her ghost is always seen running in a panic down that corridor. Lady Jane Gray was only 16 when she became queen in 1553. She ruled for nine short days before her cousin, Mary Tudor, overthrew her. Mary ordered Gray and her husband to be executed. Lady Jane’s ghost has been seen many times—most often on the anniversary of her death. Her husband’s weeping figure has also been seen standing beside her. Most of the Tower of London ghosts are spirits of those who died there. But more than one sighting is related to the Crown Jewels. Owned by the royal family, they include crowns, scepters, and other items that were once worn by monarchs and their children. One crown, called the Imperial State Crown, is set with 2,868 diamonds, 17 sapphires, 11 emeralds, 5 rubies, and 273 pearls. The Crown Jewels are kept in the Jewel Tower and guarded around the clock. It is said that in the year 1800, about midnight, a guard in the Jewel Tower sensed something behind him. He turned and saw an enormous black bear. The bear reared up on its hind legs, snarling. What happened next was similar to the sighting of Anne Boleyn’s ghost. The guard struck at the bear with his bayonet. Then, when the bayonet passed through the ghostly body, the terrified guard fainted dead away. The guard was taken to the hospital. Unfortunately, he never recovered from the shock. He died a few days later. Today, the tower is one of Britain’s most popular tourist attractions. People come to admire the Crown Jewels. And they walk the steps that Anne Boleyn, Catherine Howard, and many others walked—to their doom. No doubt some visitors hope to see one of these restless spirits as they take the tour!


Post a Comment