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Little Known London – The East End at Hallowe’en

Tuesday, 25th October 2016, Written By Guest - Emma

The great thing about ghosts is that they seem to loiter in the most interesting places. A walk around the East End will reveal not only some truly terrifying tales of ghostly encounters but also some secret sites where you can really scare yourself.
The East End starts immediately where the City of London ends. This was clearly marked by the long since gone city walls. It seems to be the place that attracted some very nasty occurrences. Just outside the city limits by the Andaz hotel, there is a navy plaque dedicated to the Priory of St Mary of Bethlehem. This is a reminder of the former asylum that was founded here in 1247. This asylum is more commonly known as Bedlam. The site of the hospital was on the land now managed by Network Rail and forms part of Liverpool Street station. Since the nineteenth century, there have been reports of phantom screams in the area and within the station itself. These have been attributed to a former patient of Bedlam called Rebecca Griffiths. According to local legend, Rebecca liked to play with an old penny, in fact, she was never without it in her hands. However, when she died, the coin was prised from her fingers and she was buried without it. Were these protest screams for the return of her penny or just the sounds of general madness in this very busy part of town? Who really knows!
The Central line also seems to have been haunted by a lady in white. Again, could this be Rebecca? If you are feeling brave, why don’t you stand near the mouth of the Eastbound Central line and stare into the darkness? You may be able to see a young woman wearing a white nightgown, searching for her old penny in the shadows of the tunnel.
Still at the edge of the City, there is a church called St Botolph without Bishopsgate. Walk into the church on a busy weekday, close the door and you will leave the noise and mayhem of the city behind you. This attractive church has become quite famous for a ghostly photograph taken back in the 1980’s. The photographer seemed to have inadvertently taken a snap of a spectre. It was not until he was developing the film in his dark room that he saw a figure on the balcony in one of his photographs. He looked closer and saw that this figure came in full medieval costume and a jaunty hat. Although you could put this down to double exposure or a trick of the light, it was a strange coincidence a few years later that made him think that he had captured a spirit on celluloid. By chance, a builder who had been working in the crypt of the church loosened some bricks causing them to fall onto the top of a crypt. The crypt lid was badly damaged and needed repair. When the builder looked inside the damaged coffin, he saw a well-preserved body. This body bore an uncanny resemblance to the image he had seen in the now-infamous photograph. Take your camera at your peril!
Jack the Ripper has been the subject of many a local ghost story. There are some fabulous atmospheric alleyways that were possibly rat runs for the murderer as he escaped from his heinous crimes. Nip down the skinny Catherine Wheel Alley and hope that you do not meet anyone coming the opposite way and walk over to Artillery Passage. This is an atmospheric reminder of the cramped conditions of the East End. Spook yourself by walking down Parliament court and just hope that you do not feel the hot breath of a ghostly Jack who still scares people along such streets.
The beautiful Fournier, Princelet and Wilkes Streets are the legacy of the French Huguenots who were living here from the late seventeenth century. It is amazing to think how the stunning town houses survived two world wars as well as the city developers of the 1970s. These houses would have seen some interesting and sometimes terrifying activities relating to the most famous murderer in London. The Ten Bells pub at the end of Fournier Street seems to be chocker block with ghosts that you wonder how the punters fit in. Two of the victims of Jack the Ripper were drinking here on the nights they were murdered and it seems likely that Jack himself would have popped in for a beer or two.
For many years, there was accommodation upstairs used by the bar staff. One of the bedrooms was known as “Jack’s room”. It was rented out on a regular basis – sometimes it seems that the bed was hardly slept in before the tenant had fled wide-eyed and terrified. The ghost of Jack’s room seems to prey mostly on women. Some claim to have woken up to find a man in bed with them with his arm around them. Understandably, this was a little alarming and as they screamed and turned on the light to see their unwanted bed partner, they are more shocked when they discover they are actually alone. Is this amorous wraith the ghost of Jack The Ripper or do these women all have the same bad dream?
There is plenty to see in the East End and many of opportunities to scare yourself – a quick look in an estate agent’s window should do the trick but if you fancy something a little darker, head to Spital Square and stand on the site of the Spitalfields’ Charnel house. Simply put, this was a bone deposit for medieval bones. The area was also a burial site for the Romans. Sit on one of the nearby benches in the dead of night and wait. Will you be able to hear the menacing, marching feet of a Roman garrison returning from Camulodunum or will you become aware of the rush of Boudicca’s chariots heading to the City to raze it to the ground?