Sunday, December 20, 2020

The Nameless Thing of 50 Berkeley Square

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"For a man's house is his castle and each man's home is his safest refuge." - Sir Edward Coke.

As the old saying goes, home is meant to be a sanctuary, a refuge from the outside world and the troubles it may bring. Unfortunately, for a long time, for those who dwelt there, 50 Berkeley Square was anything but a safe haven.
A terraced townhouse, with four storeys and a basement, 50 Berkeley Square was built in the 1750s and is located in Mayfair, London. Due to its age, it's a Grade II listed building. It's a pretty enough building, unassuming and built in the same style as it's attached neighbours. It's the story I'm about to tell you that makes it stand out as anything other than a lovely old building, for it seems that something terrible lurks behind its well-kept exterior. Something straight out of a gothic horror novel.

The Nameless Thing of Berkeley Square

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At first things were quiet in Berkeley Square. People lived seemingly happy lives and nothing seemed amiss. Then the stories started. One tells of a child brutally murdered by a servant. Another that a boy who lived there went mad and was locked in the attic by his family, fed through a hole in the door until he finally died. The most well-known story is that of the girl who flung herself to her death from the houses highest window, desperate to escape her abusive uncle and seeing no other way out. Although there was no proof that any of these things had happened, the stories spread like wildfire and the building became known as the neighbourhoods haunted house. Whichever tale was told, it always ended with the dead child, boy or girl returning as a shadowy figure or brown mist that haunted anyone who lived there.
It wasn't until 1840 that these stories became anything other than that, just stories told around the fireplace on dark, cold nights. That year Sir Robert Warboys met some of his friends at their local pub. Stories about 50 Berkely Square had been doing the rounds and the boys were fascinated by them, but Robert thought them to be little more than fairy tales. Pint followed pint, their talk about the house continued and, eventually, someone dared Sir Robert to stay the night in the house to prove that it wasn't haunted. Not one to back down from a challenge, he headed straight to the old building from the pub, more than a little worse for wear. Despite this, he still somehow managed to persuade the Landlord of the house to allow him to stay the night. It's possible that the Landlord didn't want a drunken Sir Robert making a scene on his doorstep, or that perhaps he was concerned about the young man getting hurt out on the streets while he was so vulnerable. Why he allowed it, we'll never know, but the little sleepover came with two conditions; if Robert saw anything at all he was to ring the servants bell which would summon the Landlord, and he was to keep a pistol on him at all times. Robert, no doubt, thought this was an attempt to unnerve him, but the Landlord supplied the pistol himself, to ensure that Robert would stick to their agreement. He headed to his room on the second floor, armed with the firearm and a candle. I'd like to think that the Landlord didn't have an inkling about the events to come, that he really did give Robert the pistol just to scare him. Not long past midnight, the bell began to ring. The frantic chiming stopped, only to be followed by a single gunshot. The Landlord found poor Sir Robert huddled in the corner of his room, his face twisted in fear and his lifeless hand still clutching the pistol. There was no sign of whatever had scared him to death, but there was a bullet hole in the wall where he'd fired at it.
In 1874 the house was bought by a Mr Myres. Due to get married, he intended for the house to be a family home, despite its reputation. Sadly, his fiance jilted him at the altar and all of his grand plans for the house came crashing down around his ears. Heartbroken, his behaviour became increasingly eccentric. Mr Myres became a complete recluse, seeing nobody except for a small handful of servants. He would lock himself in the attic and sleep there all day. At night he would leave his hidey-hole, to stalk the rooms of his home, shouting and wailing, with only a single candle to light his way. This erratic behaviour continued for years until his death in 1874. During this time the house began to fall into disrepair, resembling the haunted house everyone believed it to be. We don't have any personal accounts from Mr Myres, if any diaries were kept over this time period then his family most likely got rid of them. They probably considered them the ramblings of a madman. As this story continues, you'll see that there was a method behind the madness of Mr Myres. Whatever haunts 50 Berkely Square only seems to be active at night. 
In 1872, we got our first description of the horror that lurked within the home. It's not clear whether Mr Myres was in the property at the time, or if he chose to accept a very rare visitor. Whatever the situation, Lord George Lyttelton came to stay the night. Fascinated with the story and determined to solve this mystery, he was given the same room that Sir Robert Warboys had slept in. While tucked up in bed, he heard something shuffling about in the shadows and further inspection revealed the intruder to be what looked like a grotesque, shadowy ball with grasping tentacles. And it was heading straight for him. Fortunately, George had taken a leaf out of Lord Roberts book, although he had upgraded from a small pistol to a rifle. Before the creeping menace could get any closer to him, he opened fire on it. By all rights, he should have hit it. There was no earthly way he could have missed, but there was nothing earthly about the Nameless Thing. To his dismay, Lord George discovered that bullets don't work on ghosts. Investigating the room, all George found was bullet holes, used cartridges and little* else. What he saw that night could not be explained and only added to the buildings terrifying reputation.
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You'd think with everything that had happened, people would stay away from 50 Berkeley Square and its Lovecraftian occupant. No such luck. People continued to live there, raise their children there, despite being aware of the stories. In 1879, Mayfair Magazine posted an article about another incident that had allegedly occurred at the residence, this time costing two lives. The family living in the house at that time had been preparing for a visit from their eldest daughters fiance, a man known as Captain Kentfield. Everything was going smoothly, until the maid tasked with preparing a room for the gentleman started to scream. The family hurried to her aid, but found her huddled on the floor, hysterical and repeating "Don't let it touch me! Don't let it touch me!" Unable to bring her to her senses and seeing nothing that could have caused such a breakdown, they sent her away to a hospital or asylum. She was dead by the following afternoon, presumably from shock. An attempt was made to put off Captain Kentfield's visit, but he insisted on staying anyway. If there was something dangerous lurking in the home of his beloved fiance, then he was going to find it and dispose of it. History chose to repeat itself and the Captain went the same way as Sir Warboys. Shortly after everyone had retired for the night, the household was woken by screaming and gunshots. Poor Captain Kentfield was found sprawled on the floor, his face a contorted in fear, dead as a doornail.
With this tragedy, everything seemed to go quiet until 1887. At this point the house had been empty for some time and, if any terrifying paranormal activity had occurred, there had been nobody there to witness it. Still known as the streets haunted house, it was locked up and shuttered, keeping its secrets to itself until that fateful Christmas Eve when two unsuspecting sailors broke in, looking for shelter.
Edward Blunden and Robert Martin were on shore leave and had been enjoying a good evening out at the local pubs. Such a good evening that they were more than a little tipsy and had managed to spend the money they'd put away to pay for their lodgings that night. By chance, they eventually found themselves in Berkeley Square. Number 50 had a To Let sign outside of it. It appeared to be empty. It was far from ideal, but they'd been wandering around all night. Cold, tired and desperate, Blunden and Martin broke in via a basement window. Their plan was to stay in the house and sneak out in the morning. Choosing a room on the second floor, they made themselves comfortable and drifted off to sleep. The sound of footsteps awoke them. They echoed down the hallway, approaching their room and the two men assumed they'd made a mistake, that the house wasn't empty after all. As the door creaked open, they were already scrambling to their feet with excuses at the ready. What entered the room sent them into mindless panic. Not a human, but a slimy, slithering, tentacled monstrosity. As they scrambled to escape, Blunden and Martin were separated. Martin managed to get out the door and fled into the night, seeking help. Blunden was not so lucky, as the advancing creature was between him and the door. Running screaming through the streets, it didn't take Martin long to find a policeman. Together they returned to the house, to find and rescue the man left behind. As you can guess, they were too late. Edward Blunden lay dead outside of the house, on the pavement below the broken window that he had jumped from in his terror. Some versions of this story tell of a more gruesome fate for the poor sailor. That he'd jumped from the window and landed on the iron railings instead. Or that his body was found in the damp, dark basement, torn to shreds.

The Theories
The story of 50 Berkeley Square is one of England's most infamous haunts, but, let's be honest, it would have been a lot easier to work out what was going on if it wasn't for the fact that so many of the witnesses were drunk, dead, or an awkward mixture of the two. Unable to classify the Nameless Thing as a ghost, it's now considered to be a Cryptid. Thankfully it hasn't shown its slimy face for decades. Realistically, if it were a living thing, then it's most likely dead. Despite its Cryptid status, many theories have been put forward as to what it could have been; a malevolent spirit, some demonic thing conjured through dark magic, even a rogue octopus mutated by the terrible pollution in the River Thames and ye olde London's putrid sewers. The enraged octopus theory is easily ruled out. Octopi are brilliant creatures, but you don't often find them dragging themselves onto land to terrorise us, let alone dragging themselves up three sets of stairs to target only one room of a house. They also lack the ability to dodge the amount of bullets that the Nameless Thing did, and they certainly couldn't dismember a fully grown man. The theory of some evil spirit being summoned has often been blamed on Mr Myres or some other nameless resident. However, I think we can all agree that while Myres was a troubled man, he wasn't some kind of demon summoning occultist. The possibility that it was just some evil spirit that had moved into the house, perhaps lured there by its early tragedies? Very possible. Famous paranormal investigator, Harry Price, was convinced that the haunting was caused by an extremely malevolent poltergeist. Given the right environment, a strong enough poltergeist may well be able to cause that amount of havoc.
Allegedly not much has happened in the house since Edward Blunden's unfortunate demise, however rumours persist. There are some reports that during more recent decades, certain rooms on the second floor were closed off, unusable for unnamed reasons. Sadly, I don't think there's any evidence proving these true or false, but I'd love to see it if there is. If it's just a hoax, then it's very long-lived and has fooled a lot of people that aren't easily fooled, but then so did the Cottingley Fairies. And, before you wonder, we can rule out anyone being influenced by H.P Lovecraft. His stories weren't published until 1923, so it's more likely that the story of 50 Berkeley Square could have influenced him, had he heard it.
Cryptid, spirit or rogue cephalopod; we will never really know what haunts (or haunted) the dark corners of 50 Berkeley Square. Perhaps that's for the best.

What do you think, readers? Have you heard any other stories about this haunting that I haven't covered? What do you think caused the haunting? Let me know by tagging me in a Tweet or in the comments below!

*"Lyttel" else. Hehe.