October 31, 2010

The Tower of London Ghost Stories

The Grounds

While the Tower is composed of many different Towers used to hold prisoners, the grounds themselves are large and used to execute many of these unfortunates. It is therefore home to many spirits.
The most horrible execution and haunting is that of Margaret de la Pole, Countess of Salisbury. She and her sons were the last of the Plantagenets, the ruling family before the Tudors. Despite the Countess’s age of 72 years, she was imprisoned in 1541 due to her son, Cardinal Pole’s denouncement of Henry VIII’s claim as head of the Church in England. However, he was safely hidden in France, so Henry settled for his mother. On 27th May she was taken to be executed as a traitor to the crown. However, upon the scaffold she refused to kneel, saying “So should traitors do and I am none.” The executioner raised his axe, taking a swing at her and she ran in hysterics, pursued by him with his axe. He chased her around the scaffold, hacking at her until she died. Her ghost has been seen re-enecting this shamefully gruesome act. Her screaming phantom continues to be chased throughout the grounds by a ghostly executioner.

Another famously executed lady, Anne Boleyn, is said to haunt several areas of the Tower.
Anne is usually seen near the Queen’s House, close to the site of her execution. She has also been seen leading a ghostly procession of Lords and Ladies down the aisle of the Chapel Royal of St. Peter ad Vincula, ending at the altar where he body lays below.

Her headless body has also been seen walking the corridors of the Tower. The most famous story of Anne’s ghost ended with a guard almost being court marshaled! One early morning while on guard duty, he saw a figure in a brown velvet gown emerge from the mist and move toward him.  He challenged the figure several times and received no reply.  The guard approached with bayonet fixed, and as he did, he noticed that the figure’s bonnet appeared completely empty.  The figure did not stop advancing, and the soldier ran it through with his bayonet. Later that morning, his superiors found him and accused him of sleeping on duty. Luckily, several other guards said they had seen the mysterious lady and the man was found innocent. The men concluded that it must have been Anne Boleyn’s spirit, as legend has her ghost occasionally appearing outside the little chapel where she spent her last night before execution.
Another ill-fated Queen, Lady Jane Grey, has been seen floating around the grounds. Her ghost was last seen by two Guardsmen on February 12, 1957, the 403rd anniversary of her execution. She was described as a “white shape shaping itself on the battlements.”
The Tower was once home to the Royal Menagerie. Occasional sounds of animals, including lion, monkeys, and bears have been heard but not seen. One guard at the Tower even claimed to have seen a spectral bear who charged at him only to disappear when the man thrust his bayonet at it.
A group of phantom soldiers have also been seen marching about the grounds.

The White Tower

The White Tower is the oldest of all the Tower of London’s buildings, and its winding stone corridors are the spooky haunt of several ghosts. The most famous is the “White Lady” who once stood at a window waving to a group of children. The strong smell of a cheap perfume around the entrance to St John’s Chapel has caused many guards to gag upon inhaling it is also attributed to her.

In the gallery where Henry VIII’s armor is displayed several guards have spoken of a horrible, crushing sensation that suddenly descends on them as they enter, but disappears the moment they stagger from the room. A guard patrolling through here one stormy night got the sudden and unnerving sensation that someone had thrown a heavy cloak over him. Struggling to free himself, the garment was grabbed from behind and pulled tight around his throat by his invisible attacker. Managing to break free from its grasp, he rushed back to the guardroom where the marks upon his neck were still visible.

Another incident occurred when a guard stopped to rest as he made his nightly rounds. Sitting on a window ledge, he slipped off his shoe and began rubbing his foot. A voice behind him whispered, “There’s only you and I here.” The guard responded, “Just let me get this bloody shoe on and there’ll only be you!”

The Salt Tower

The Salt Tower has a very ominous presence about it. According to legend, dogs refuse to enter the Tower. Another legend has one of the Yeoman Warders being nearly strangled by a unseen presence. No one will go in the area after dark, for fear of the evil presence that haunts the Tower.

The Beauchamp Tower

Lady Jane Grey’s husband Guildford Dudley has been seen in Beauchamp Tower, sobbing. He was held here before his execution. Many think that he carved “Jane” into the Tower’s wall. It can still be seen there today.

The Bloody Tower

The Bloody Tower is reputably haunted by the young “Princes of the Tower,” Edward V (12) and Richard, Duke of York (10). They were thought to have been murdered in 1483, possibly on the command of their uncle Richard III.

According to legend, their ghosts have been seen as early as the 15th century, shortly after their deaths. They are generally seen as two small figures gliding down the stairs, still in the white night shirts they had on when they were killed in their sleep.They have also been seen “playing” on the battlements and around the grounds. Sometimes childrens’ laughter can be heard, and has been attributed to the Princes.

In 1674, workmen discovered a chest containing the skeletons of two young children behind the staircase the young boys are seen descending. The bones were given a royal burial.

Sir Walter Raleigh was held in the Bloody Tower by James I, and eventually executed. According to legend, he has been seen looking exactly as he does in his portrait hanging in the Bloody Tower where he was kept. His ghost is also said to wander the Tower as he did when he was imprisoned.

The Wakefield Tower

The Wakefield Tower is reputedly haunted by the weak and ineffectual King Henry VI. After his defeat and imprisonment by Edward IV, he was stabbed to death around 11pm on 21st May 1471, as he knelt at prayer in the Wakefield Tower. On the anniversary of his murder, Henry’s sad specter is said to appear as the clock ticks towards midnight, pacing around the interior of the Wakefield Tower. Upon the last stroke of midnight, he dissolves gradually into the stone.