|Photo by Haris Krikelis, CC|
imposing ones. Here people have been imprisoned, tortured, executed and murdered: it's history written in blood and horrors, which have seeped into the ancient stones that make up its walls and floors. The Tower was founded around 1066, so it's had a lot to time to accumulate quite a lot of ghosts, some of them innocent and some of them not. Some of them human and some of them not. My aim with this blog post is to provide a brief but info packed run down of all of the phantoms lurking within those old walls, so that any of you paranormal loving wanderers out there know exactly what you're looking for.
The Two Princes.
These two little heartbreakers are allegedly the spirits of Edward (12 years old) and Richard (9 years old), sons of King Edward IV and his wife, Elizabeth. After the death of their father in 1483, their care was entrusted to their Uncle Richard, who promptly sent the two to stay in the tower, since this was not a prison at the time but the traditional home of those members of the royal family who were awaiting coronation. Poor little Edward never reached his throne. While they were in the tower, Parliament declared the boys to be illegitimate and their Uncle Richard took the throne. Although they were initially seen playing in the Tower gardens, the children were seen less and less until they disappeared completely. Rumors spread, saying that the two boys had been murdered, and unfortunately it's highly likely, although there is no firm evidence. The blame fell on the boys Uncle, Richard III. It is one of the things he is remembered for the most, even though he had no need to harm the boys as the throne was his and most of the "evidence" seems to come from the play written about him by William Shakespeare's, during the reign of his successor, Henry Tudor. During this time there was a lot of anti-Richard III propaganda, this is no surprise as history is written by the victors.
Their cause of death unknown, there was no sign of the boys until 1674, when some workers found a large wooden box while doing some work on the tower. Opening it they found the skeletal remains of two children with the remains of velvet clothing around them. It's believed by many that these are the bodies of the two princes, but these weren't the only bodies of children found at the tower. Some time previously a bricked up room had been discovered and inside were the skeletons of two children. Either the remains in the room or the remains in the box could be the two princes, but the box is the most well known story.
Since then the two boys have made their presence known about the tower. Sometimes the only thing heard is the sound of laughter, but sometimes two little spirits in white night shirts have been spotted playing in the grounds around the tower, on the battlements or wandering down the stairs. Sometimes the poor things have even been spotted huddled and weeping in the rooms they lived in, only to fade away when approached. Keep an eye out and maybe you might see these tragic and harmless spirits for yourself.
The second wife of Henry VIII, poor Anne only lasted three years as his Queen. While she gave birth to a daughter, she was unable to give the tyrant the son he desperately craved, suffering a miscarriage and then later giving birth to a stillborn baby boy. It was around this time that Henry had started to court Jane Seymour, who was to become his third wife and in 1536 Anne found herself banished to the Tower, and was executed under false charges of incest, adultery and treason. In death her ghost is quite active and has been seen walking the tower and it's gardens, sometimes intact, but other times carrying her head tucked under one arm. She has also been spotted walking around St Peter's Chapel, near the Tower, where her body was originally laid to rest under the altar. The most famous sighting of her occurred in 1864, when a guard mistook her for a living trespasser and, when she failed to stop walking towards him, attempted to run her through with his bayonet. This of course failed miserably and the poor man just ended up running straight through the ghostly queen. He promptly fainted upon realising what had happened and narrowly avoided a court marshall.
The White Lady
What old English building would be complete without a White Lady? With so many deaths having occured at the Tower of London, this soul has no identity. She's very active, having been sighted by guards and members of the public alike, as she wanders around the rooms and corridors of the White Tower. Once she was even sighted at a window, waving to a group of visiting school children outside. While her presence is mostly benign, her perfume is not. Smelt most often at the entrance to St John's Chapel, her perfume carries a noxious odor that has been known to turn stomachs.
Lady Margaret Pole, Countess of Salisbury
Lady Margaret was yet another victim if Henry VIII's infamous bad temper. Her son had somehow offended the King, but was out of the country at the time and well out of Henry's reach. So Henry tuned his spite on the other mans mother instead, having the dignified older lady falsely charged with Treason (I'm beginning to see a pattern her, Henry.) and sent to the executioners block with not trial. In 1541, the Countess approached the scaffold. She was 70 years old, quite an accomplishment in Tudor times, and she was about to prove to the King, the executioner and the audience of over 100 spectators that she had plenty of life left in her, even if it was to be cruelly cut short. Facing the executioner she refused to lower her head for him, if he was to kill her then he would have to do so where she stood. Eventually guards forced her to kneel, but the executioner was rattled by the encounter and his aim was off. Instead of her neck, his axe met with her shoulder. Lady Margaret let out a blood curdling scream and, tearing herself from the block and the grasp of the guards, RAN. The poor woman fled around the execution site, trailing blood behind her, while the executioner chased after her trying to cut her down. When he caught up with her, probably due to her being slowed by blood loss and shock, it took him 11 blows to end the Countesses suffering.
Now on the anniversary of her death the whole horrid spectacle plays itself out again. It is said that the blood soaked spirit of Lady Margaret Pole can be seen re-enacting her desperate flight from the block, being pursued by a spectral executioner, franticly swinging his axe to bring the Lady down. Whether this is a residual spirit or a case of Stone Tape Theory is unknown, but if you are able to visit the Tower on the evening of the 27th of May, maybe you'll see this saddening sight for yourself.
King Henry VIII's Armour
King Henry was bad tempered, a cruel man and a couple of scones short of a cream tea. While he doesn't haunt the Tower himself, it would seem like some of his bad vibes have seeped into his armour and stayed there. Guards patrolling the gallery where it is kept have reported a horrific crushing sensation descending upon them when they get near it. One even felt as if a heavy blanket had been thrown over his head before it was pulled tight around his neck. He managed to escape but was left with marks on his neck to prove his story to the other guards. This nightmarish feeling is said to lift when the sufferer escapes the room and seems to be a nocturnal phenomenon, as I could find no reports of it effecting people during the day.
Henry VIII wasn't the healthiest of people. Knocked unconscious at a jousting tournament, when he awoke his personality had done a complete 360 from being a relatively pleasant man to being the foul, bad tempered, spiteful despot he is known as today. A recent theory has been put forward that the blow that knocked him unconscious may have resulted in brain damaged, which would explain the personality change. Whatever the reason, from that moment on his health spiraled out of control, as Henry began to rapidly gain weight and developed leg ulcers, which could not be healed and were instead kept open. On top of this, wearing heavy armour would have felt unbearable. I believe it's possible that the vibes given off by the armour are a type of stone tape effect, likely to be how Henry felt when he squeezed himself into it.
King Henry VI
Henry VI was not the strongest of monarchs, but he neither expected or deserved to be killed. He was imprisoned by the House of York, with Edward IV taking the throne the very day after his untimely death. While the first reports of his death state that he died of a broken heart, he was actually stabbed to death while praying at a small window altar in his prison cell in the Wakefield Tower. He died not long before midnight and on the anniversary of his death, on the 21st of May, he has been sighted pacing his room until he fades away to nothing at the strike of midnight.
Lady Jane Grey
King Edward VI had declared Jane his successor upon his death, much to the annoyance of his own sister, Mary. Abandoned by her Father, who chose to side with Mary to save his own hide, Jane found herself left to the mercy of the woman who would become known as Bloody Mary. Jane lasted only 9 days before Queen Mary seized the throne and started as she meant to go on, with Lady Jane and her husband being her first victims. Jane's father was pardoned, but Jane and her husband were charged with Treason. Jane was forced to watch the execution of the man she loved from the window of her cell, before being lead to her own death. She was only 16 years old.
In death she is seen as a floating, shimmering figure that walks the green and the battlements, eventually fading into nothing.
Jane is not alone. Her husband, Lord Guildford Dudley, has been sited around the Beauchamp Tower with tears running down his face.
First seen 1241, Thomas Beckett is one of the first recorded ghosts at the Tower and one of the few to have been put to rest. Henry III was responsible for the Inner Circle of the Tower having been built, but his Grandfather, Henry II, was responsible for Beckett's murder and it seems the former Archbishop of Canterbury had neither forgotten nor forgiven. So when builders tried to build the wall, Thomas Beckett manifested himself and reduced it to rubble with one strike of his cross. This, allegedly, happened twice before Henry III had a tower named after Beckett. This seemed to please the spirit and he wasn't seen again.
Interestingly, in more recent times the spirit of a monk has been sighted in the same areas that the ghost of Thomas Beckett was. But is this really just a random monk? Or has Thomas Beckett returned to haunt the Tower once more?
Sir Walter Raleigh
In 1618 this great explorer lost his head to the Executioner after upsetting James I, being charged with treason and being imprisoned at the Tower. It wasn't the first time he'd been locked up there and had a relatively good life there, living in luxury with his family being allowed to visit. He was known to grow exotic plants in his rooms and his second son was even conceived there.
His spirit has been seen and heard walking the battlements and one of the homes on Tower Green.
Henry had a rather dangerous occupation. He was a Jesuit Priest during the 16th century. When he was captured and imprisoned in the Tower he suffered many tortures, including the rack. Between torture and sentencing, he managed to carve his own name and that of Saints into the walls of his prison. Eventually this poor man was executed. His carvings remain, but it would seem that some trace of Henry does too. Lone visitors in this room have heard the low murmurs of a man praying and a golden yellow glow which grows to fill the room before it vanishes.
This poor soul is heard rather than seen. In 1605, Guy was involved in a failed plot to assassinate King James I and his government. As you may already know, this assassination attempt involved rather a lot of gunpowder. After his capture, Guy Fawkes was horrifically tortured to get his to reveal the names of his co-conspirators and their plan. He resisted at first but couldn't hold out forever. Put on trial and sentenced to be executed by being hung, drawn and quartered, Guy Fawkes was so weak from the tortures he had undergone that he never got past the hanging part. His neck broke, killing him instantly. Despite being dead, he was still drawn and quartered.
These days we remember him with Guy Fawkes night and by his terrifying, pain filled screams that have been heard echoing around the rooms where he was held captive and tortured.
The Mysterious and the Inhuman
In 1977, two workmen in the Middle Tower heard heavy footsteps walking around on the floor above them. With some help they searched for the source of the sounds, but nothing was found. There was nobody there, nobody visible anyway.
In the 1960's a guard was found in shock after having witnessed a cloaked and headless figure which approached him.
In the Tudor Times the Tower was used as a zoo and it's said that even now the roars of Lions can sometimes still be heard. But when it comes to animal spirits, the Towers Bear is the first thing most people think of. In the 1800's a guard at the Martin Tower was alarmed to see the figure of a bear emerging from a doorway. In a panic he attempted to run the beast through with his bayonet, but this had no effect as it just passed clean through the spirit and got stuck in a door. The poor guard fainted from the shock and is said to have died three days later.
In the 1800's, the Keeper of the Crown Jewels had a ghostly encounter in the Martin Tower, where he lived with his family. Edmund Swifte reported that a liquid-like column floated through the room where he was sitting with his family. It eventually floated behind his wife and the distressed lady swore that it had tried to grab her. Edmund jumped to her defence, throwing a chair at the thing, but the chair went straight through it and the thing floated to the window and vanished.
In the 1980's a Yeoman Warder was astonished to come across two Beefeaters chatting to each other as they sat by a fireplace. This wouldn't have been unusual, but their uniforms were older one, very much out of date. When the two spirits spotted him, they faded into thin air.
|Photo by Thorsten Hansen, CC|
And if you intend to visit the Tower and are not 100% sure where to go, I've included a map to get you on the right path.