Little Known London – St James and Mayfair

  • Posted on 31st October 2016 by Guest - Emma

  • To get you into the spirit of Hallowe’en, why not go ghost hunting in Mayfair and around the alleyways of the old palace quarter? To get you in the mood for seeking out ghouls, why not start by visiting Green Park at dusk. Enter via the narrow passageway by the rear entrance of the Stafford Hotel. Green Park may look pretty in the day but it is notorious for tales of murder, illegal duelling and even an assassination attempt on Queen Victoria; it is a dark place in both meanings of the word. There are rumours of a leper burial ground and a plague pit but also a haunted Plane tree where no bird or squirrel will play and around which no flowers will grow.  As a Hallowe’en treat why not go in search of this “Tree of Death”. No one will admit to its exact location, so please feel free to claim one that looks appropriately scary. When you have chosen your tree, it might be fun to see if any of the stories are true!
    If you are feeling brave enough, sit by your nominated tree, settle a moment and then listen. Imagine you can you discern rhythmic breathing coming from deep within the trunk. Concentrate and you could start to hear a low and sinister laugh, a laugh that builds into something truly horrendous and hideous. No one knows why these sounds emanate from the tree but once heard, they are enough to make the hairs on your neck stand up. Your first instinct is to get up and run away as fast as possible but if you can hold your ground long enough, take time to look up. Within the branches you may be able to make out the figure of a man. He is climbing the tree, carrying a coil of rope. The rope is then tied carefully around a large branch way up in the tree and then he places a noose around his neck.
    Close your eyes as you imagine him jumping; there is no noise apart from the tree creaking and an occasional twig breaking. Then there is complete silence and as you open your eyes again, there is no one there. Many a young couple who have used the cover of the tree for a romantic moment before being unnerved or frightened off by the noises originating from deep within the trunk. Could this tree have been the site of a man ending his own life or maybe there is a worried father following his daughter when she is out on a first date?!
    50 Berkeley Square, is home to a weird yet compelling monster/ghost. There have been so many tales of this sinister creature that it became known as the Beast of Berkeley Square. It started becoming the talk of the town in the 1840’s when a brave but intoxicated 20 year-old aristocrat took a wager to stay in the house’s most notorious room for a night. He persuaded the landlord to let him in late one evening. Begrudgingly, the landlord allowed him to stay in the room on the top floor but insisted that he take a gun and a bell into the room to be used in case of an emergency. Within a few minutes, the bell was ringing furiously. The landlord ran up the stairs to the room to find a smoking gun on the floor beside the body of the young gentleman. He had backed himself into a corner and had taken a shot at the intruder but there was no trace of the bullet. There were no marks or signs of a struggle; it was as if the man had died of shock. His face was contorted into an expression of abject fear and his wide eyes were nearly out of their sockets as if he had witnessed something unthinkably foul and grotesque.
    The top floor room has allegedly been locked ever since until one night in 1943….
    Even the royal family is not exempt. St James’s and Buckingham Palaces are both rumoured to be haunted, in fact, St James Palace’s seems to have a particularly nasty royal wraith.
    The ghost story involves the Duke of Cumberland, uncle to the future Queen Victoria and his valet, Joseph Sellis. In 1810 the Duke had been attacked in his own bed sustaining cuts to his hands and thigh. The Duke’s valet, who slept in the adjacent room, had seemingly slept through the whole debacle. The Duke called for the doctor and sent for his valet to attend to him. The valet was found in his bed, lying in a pool of his own of blood. He had been murdered. The subsequent inquest returned the surprising verdict of suicide. The reason cited was that he must have attacked the Duke in a fit of pique and had then decided to take his own life. Even a layman would know that this was unlikely as there seemed to be no motive for the attack and his injuries were so severe that they could not have been self-inflicted. Many believed the Duke responsible for his death, covering up the murder by pretending there had been an attempt on his own life. It seems that Sellis’s ghost has been trying to wreak revenge ever since. Maybe he wanted to scare the Duke or even to tell the world of this wrong decision. He is sometimes seen wandering the halls as a bloodstained apparition. Others have the sense that they are being watched even though there is no one in the room; this is often accompanied by the foul and metallic scent of blood. If you wander the alleyways or corridors around the palace, you may catch a glimpse of him or even detect the awful aroma that follows in his wake.
    The Windsors leave Buckingham Palace in December to spend Christmas at their estate in Sandringham, Norfolk. This has been a tradition for many years but maybe there is another reason for wishing to leave at this time. The 25th December is the favoured date of a ghostly manifestation of a monk dressed in a black cowl. There have been many sightings and even a photograph or two of this uninvited guest. The land Buckingham Palace is built on once belonged to the monastery of Westminster Abbey, which may give it some credibility but it does make you wonder if Her Majesty should ensure that her sherry is well and truly locked away at this time! 

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