The power of the ghost story has long served us well, but a Christmas ghost story, read by the glow of a crackling fire, can never be bettered. Combining at once a cosyness with eerie quality, generations have huddled inside, sheltered from the wintry moans, to hear the whispers roll off the tongue of the storyteller.
The magic of the festive season would be somewhat lacking if it were not for the annual spook tale to chill the spine, and so, without further ado, I present to you a small collection of ghost stories, but yarns not from the pen of great fictional writers such as MR James and Edgar Allan Poe, but indeed true stories of the spectral kind.
On Christmas Day, long before Buckingham Palace stood its ground in south-west London, a chained monk was often seen to appear. No-one knew as to why the robed figure haunted the area, but also on Christmas Day ghosts are said to appear at Coutts Bank at The Strand.
Eerily it is the sound of children’s gleeful voices which are said to emanate from the location, for it was once a haven for toy sellers and buyers. So, what better time of year than Christmas for these ghostly children to revisit their favourite place of joy? Also, on the rare occasion, deceased actress Lillie Langtry is said to haunt the Cadogan Hotel in the capital. Sightings have been few and far between but when she is sighted it is when the hotel is at its most quiet.
Even on New Year’s Eve, a time when the streets of London are filled with joyous celebration, there are said to be encounters with ghosts. One of the most confused legends pertains to Westminster Bridge, where on December 31 it is said that a darkly-clad figure leaps to its doom. This reoccurring phantom is without identity although some researchers believe it is in fact the spirit of Jack the Ripper plummeting from the bridge.
Although not seen since the early ‘70s, the ghost of a murdered man is said to roam Covent Garden station over the Christmas period. The ghost is fairly recognisable as a very tall, thin man, who in 1897 was stabbed to death. This phantom is said to be a Mr Terriss, once a local theatre manager.
One of the most fascinating Christmas ghost stories comes from Enfield, at Bell Lane. Up until the 1960s, every December signified the time when a spectral coach would appear. The ghostly mode of transport would often be reported as travelling some two-feet off the ground, travelling on the old road.
Ghostly passengers have been viewed staring from the windows and on one occasion a young boy riding through Bell Lane claimed that the apparition passed right through him. Such a phantom coach clearly confuses, for it suggests that inanimate objects do indeed have souls so as to appear again, either that or the paranormal world is more intelligent than we give credit for; just imagine a group of spectral passengers flying through the air without any stage coach? Yet this never happens. Whether it’s ghostly vehicles, houses or objects, it’s without doubt that the ethereal void knows how to present itself.
Now is the time to blow out the candle, and to wish readers of The London Word, a Merry Christmas.
Images by Jude Wright and Mojo courtesy of Flickr