The first of my London Ghost Stories hunts/walks has been completed, albeit alone. Apparently giving people about 16 hours notice isn’t enough to get somebody to come along with you on a jaunty ghost walk.
I shall still collectively refer to myself as we, despite the fact that it was just me. It makes me less lonely.
We started out at St John’s Square. I ride past this place every day on the bus to work, often getting off one stop early to walk along the lovely cobblestone square. It’s now the home of St John’s Ambulance and across the road is the impressive St John’s Gate. I wish St John’s Gate was haunted, as it would make it far more impressive. However, I haven’t found any evidence. I blame the offices either side for giving it bad mojo.
St John’s Square is also the site of the old St John’s Church. The remains of the church are within the St John’s ambulance building, and you can see them if you peer through the gate. We did, indeed peer through the gate, looking like we were ‘casing the joint’ (that’s criminal lingo for ‘having a look at the place I’m going to rob later’ for those who haven’t seen Home Alone), as this is the site of our first ghost story, ‘Scratching Fanny of Cock Lane’.
Once again, this name is not a joke.
St John’s isn’t on Cock Lane. Basically, Fanny was convinced her house was haunted by her dead sister and publicised it widely, which made her house in Cock Lane a bit of a tourist attraction. She then died of smallpox. She was then found knocking on the lid of her casket where she was buried in St John’s Church. That’s the story, albeit slightly abridged. The most interesting thing is the name, really.
We figured that the darker the photographs I took were, the creepier they would look. Turns it it just makes them look dark.
we moved on and up Jerusalem Passage towards the House of Detention and St James’. Jerusalem Passage is another place that should be haunted. it’s a tiny little alleyway with poor lighting and cobblestones. There’s a strange Austrian pub/burger house that probably serves human meat a la Sweeney Todd. We saw many strange shadows up this alleyway. It turns out I just needed to put my glasses on.
As we were walking toward the infamous House of Detention, we passed St James’ church. It is only mentioned in passing in my book, but I noticed this sign posted on it’s gates:
What was that? Many of the 200 martyred Islington protestors? Buried underneath this pretty church? It’s a nice side note and to me suggests that the church MUST be haunted. we took a peek around the grounds and found no strange blurry shapes, although there was a man in a cloak/coat. It turns out he wasn’t a reincarnation of Jack the Ripper. I asked, just in case. Apparently, we were in the wrong part of town. On the ghosts, perhaps you can’t be a ghost if you were martyred. Anybody have any official word on this?
The next stop was the House of Detention.
According to my book, there has been a prison on this site since 1616, but all that is left of it today is a series of tunnels and passageways underneath. These are said to be incredibly haunted and have been open to the public since 1993. Unluckily for me, public access was stopped in 2000 and they instead built a series of swank looking apartments and offices. We took a walk around the perimeter, trying to find a gate inside, but it seems all access is via the security booth at the front. I don’t understand why people are trying to deter a friendly ghost hunt, but they were. As we neared the back of the building, I heard screams and shouts of children. It is well known that there are a number of child ghosts that haunt the passagways of the House of Detention. One such has been reported many times wandering the tunnels and has apparently suffered a great deal.
I heard some children playing in a playground.
Intriguingly, there was an entrance towards the back for ‘special girls’. This was, by far, the most sinister thing we had seen so far.
We moved on and attempted to find Clerk’s Well. Somehow I got lost and ended up in a carpark. It was a spooky carpark, but my book makes no mention of a haunted Victorian carpark, so we moved on.
We eventually found Clerk’s Well, no thanks to a non-helpful map, and was suitably disappointed. Not only was Clerk’s Well a well that was only viewable by appointment, but on a second glance of my book, isn’t actually haunted. Why then is it in my book? We weren’t exactly sure. I shall create a story and submit it to the council so they can provide some literature on the haunting of Clerk’s Well and justify it’s existence in my book. The haunting shall involve a cow that fell down the well. You can still hear his mooing if you listen really carefully.
It seems here we deviated from the book, and boy were we glad we did. By far the most enjoyable part of my journey was up a trendy looking warehouse street called Herbal Hill. Why was it enjoyable?
Because of THESE CREEPY SIGNS!!??
We looked behind us…
There was a wall. A blurry wall.
Well, the signs were creepy at least. They were strewn all the way up the street. The office opposite the signs seemed to not take any notice of them even though they were threatening them with their life!
We moved on back to the actual ghost walk at Saffron Hill.
Saffron Hill is not a scary street. In my books, any street that is associated with the musical Oliver is not scary. Yes, ladies and gentlemen, Saffron Hill (according to my book) is the basis for Fagin’s Lair from Oliver. The Musical… and apparently some book written by some Dickens guy. Again, this street isn’t haunted, yet earns a place amongst the pages of ‘Walking Haunted London’. Why, Mr Richard Jones? However, we did find a rather creepy door in Lily Lane. Probably not haunted, but at least the sight of one or two murders I’m sure…
This is where the ghost hunt gets quite cool though…
We had finally made it to Bleeding Heart Yard.
This is by far my favourite story from the Clerkenwell walk. Bleeding Heart Yard stands on the land once occupied by Hatton House. The story goes that Lady Hatton sold her soul to the devil, and one night the devil came to collect. A great ball was in progress at Hatton House, a man robed in black with his head covered led Lady Hatton from the room. The next morning her body was found in the cobblestone courtyard torn limb from limb, with her heart still pumping blood onto the cobblestones.
Sorry, were you eating?
Bleeding Heart Yard today is a quite cobblestone courtyard, surrounded by the Bleeding Heart restaurants, who actively tell the story of Bleeding Heart Yard, with the Bleeding Heart Tavern on the other end of the narrow alleyway leading to the courtyard. We were there during rush hour commute, yet the yard itself has an extremely still and quiet feeling to it. Due to the history, or perhaps the lack of people, this was definitely the place I felt the most uncomfortable. At the same time, it’s the one I find the most interesting. I shall be returning to sample the wares of the tavern and the restaurants at a later date. I wonder if they serve fresh heart…
Finally, we concluded my ghost hunt at Farringdon tube station.
Farringdon Tube Station stands on the site of an old Milliner’s where thirteen-year old Anne Naylor was murdered by the milliner and her daughter in 1758. Her terrified screams are often heard echoing through the station, and are so loud that staff have dubbed her ‘The Screaming Spectre’. We did hear screaming while at Farringdon Station, but it wasn’t anything unusual during peak hour on the London Underground. I wonder if there’s a second ghost called ‘The Screaming Commuter’.
That concluded our ghost hunt. We took one more walk up the Fagin’s Lair street to get back to the bus. I wonder if the ghosts of failed actors who have ruined their career doing Oliver still haunt this very spot? I suppose I shall never know…
My next London Ghost Story shall be soon. I will be asking on Twitter which one I shall do next, so keep an eye out. If you want to come along, then let me know. It’s always better to be scared in a group larger than one.
Posted on February 19, 2010
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