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Strange Tales from the Haunted London Underground

There are few subway systems in the world as extensive, labyrinthine, and old as London’s Underground. Over 140 years old, covering 253 miles of track and meandering through some of the city’s most beloved historic sites, this is a place steeped in history and is also a modern marvel, servicing millions of people a day. Yet beneath the veneer of the bustling crowds and sightseers this is also a place imbued with a dark history, and as is often the case with places with long histories and a cloud of death hanging over them the dim tunnels of this network of tracks and stations has become known as a very haunted place. Here we will take a tour of some of the London Underground’s most haunted stations where commuters and ghosts coexist in a dark realm beneath the city streets above.

We start with Covent Garden Station, located in the center of London’s West End, which since the 1950s has been said to harbor a mysterious roaming specter, usually described as a tall, thin figure in an old fashioned grey suit, a high collar, and frock coat or cloak who paces aimlessly along the platforms and corridors of the station after dark. This apparition is said to be the restless ghost of a 19th century actor by the name of William Terriss, who was a prominent performer of Shakespeare and was also well-known for portraying Robin Hood and other swashbuckling heroes. The story goes that Terriss regularly frequented the bakery that once stood where the present Covent Station in now, that is up until he was stabbed to death outside the Adelphi Theatre in 1897 by fellow actor Richard Archer Prince in a fit of rage, insanely jealous of his success. Underground workers at the station have seen the ghost prowling the station since 1955, when it was first seen by Jack Hayden, the foreman of Covent Garden station at the time. Hayden did not know at this time who the ghost was, only later identifying it when he saw a picture of Terriss. After that, Teriss’s spirit would often be seen wandering around both the station and the theater where he met his end, to the point that some station workers apparently refused to come back to work there.

The London Underground

Murder is behind another haunting in the Underground, this time at Farringdon Station, which was built over the hat shop where a 13-year-old apprentice hat maker by the name of Anne Naylor once worked, and died. By all accounts Naylor was not happy with her life with mentor and adopted mother Sarah Metyard, who along with her daughter was allegedly incredibly cruel to the girl. In 1758, Metyard is said to have murdered the poor apprentice, and disposed of her body down in the dank sewers below. When the body was found, Metyard was arrested and accused of murder, but this is not the end of the story for Naylor. Her ghost would often be seen prowling the sewers, and had the unsettling habit of issuing a bloodcurdling, banshee-like scream, earning her the nickname “The Screaming Specter.” In later years Farringdon Station would be built through the site, and the ghost would make her home there as well. Right up into modern times there have been numerous reports from tube passengers and employees of hearing the anguished moans and screams of the restless spirit, as well as seeing her stumbling around in the dark.

A similarly chilling spook can apparently be found at Bank Station, in this case taking the form of a sinister nun dressed all in black with a veil over her face and followed about by a cloud of putrid stench. The origins of the “Black Nun” go back to the 19th century, with an employee of the Bank of England by the name of Philip Whitehead. In 1811, Whitehead was convicted of forgery, and they apparently had no sense of humor about that sort of thing in the era because the punishment for forgery turns out to have been death. Whitehead was executed, and this was not told to his sister, Sarah Whitehead, with whom he had been very close. She began coming to the bank every day looking for him, but employees did not let her know what had happened for fear of upsetting her.

Sarah would eventually find out the truth, after which she then spiraled into depression and madness, and began dressing in the long black dress of a nun, covering her face with a black shawl to lurk around the bank where her brother had worked. In a state of insanity and denial, she took to constantly pestering bank employees and passerby if they had seen her brother, and looking thin, gaunt, pale, and with her macabre black clothing at this point she was already almost like a specter. When Sarah died after decades of this, it was thought that that would be the end of her constant bothering of ban customers, but death seems to have not stopped her, as her menacing, black clothed apparition was often seen wandering about, still asking people if they had seen her brother.

When Bank Station was built, she apparently took to haunting its dim tunnels and corridors, most often reported as emanating a hideous stench about her, as well as surrounded by an unbearable aura of crushing sadness and loneliness, and still asking people if they had seen her brother before vanishing. Bank Station has become well known for the ghost of the Black Nun, and the atmosphere of this place has the added dark history of having once been the site of a mass burial grave for plague victims in the 17th century. It is a sobering thing to remember if you are ever commuting through Bank Station.

A similar screaming ghost can supposedly be found at King’s Cross station, and has a similarly tragic back story. The station itself is perhaps one of the most famous in London, but it is also the stage for a terrible tragedy. On November 18, 1987, a wild blaze broke out here, and when the smoke cleared there were 31 dead and 100 more injured in one of the worst London Underground disasters in history. It is perhaps this dark history that has contributed to the ghostly activity reported from here, in particular the apparition of a young woman in jeans and a t-shirt, who smells of smoke and is sometimes described as looking to be burned. On occasion reports tell of a haze of smoke permeating the air around her as well. The woman apparently runs through the station with arms outstretched screaming in agony, and looks so real that witnesses report going to her to try and help her, only to have her disappear before their startled eyes.

Moving on we come to Bethnal Green Station, at London’s East End, whose grim history makes it ripe for hauntings. During World War II, the station was used as an air raid shelter due to its being among the deepest tunnel systems in the city, and in March of 1943 tragedy would strike here. On the evening of March 3, 1943, an air raid alarm blared out across the city to send scores of panicked residents scrambling for shelter down in those dank tunnels, but as the enemy closed in for the kill an anti-aircraft gun nearby went off and sent the citizens into a mad panic. In the ensuing chaos 173 people, among them 62 children, would be crushed to death by the stampede or die of asphyxiation in a terrible loss of civilian life. You see where this is going, right? That’s right, Bethnal Green Station has supposedly been haunted by these poor souls ever since, with the most common phenomenon reported from here being a cacophony of terrified screams that is said to begin quietly and then build in intensity to a raucous crescendo before stopped to bring silence crushing down again. Adding to this are the numerous reports of Underground workers hearing the disembodied sobbing or wailing of women and children in the gloom of the tunnels, and it certainly seems to be a place you do not want to find yourself in alone after dark.

Some of the haunted stations of the London Underground are tied to the area’s grim history of harboring “plague pits,” which is where the bodies of those cut down by the great Black Death plague outbreak of the 17th century were dumped into mass graves. Many of them are lost and forgotten, often discovered by accident right up into modern times. One of these pits once lay where one of London’s busiest stations, Liverpool Street, now stands, which was rather gruesomely discovered when over three thousand skeletons were unearthed there in 2015. It may come as no surprise that the station is said to be intensely haunted, with shadow figures seen roaming about both in the corridors and on the trains themselves, and sometimes even captured on CCTV cameras. The most famous ghost of the station is that of a man in old fashioned white coveralls, who stands at the platform as if waiting for a train, sometimes right next to other passengers, only to vanish into thin air.

Another plague pit supposedly once existed where Aldgate Station is, and here there is purportedly a very benevolent ghost. The story goes that in 1876 an electrician working on the newly built station accidentally fell of the live track to be badly electrocuted by over 20,000 volts. He should by all estimates have died, but somehow he pulled through. The reason is because, according to some other workers who were with him, the semi-transparent, luminous figure of an old lady was seen kneeling next to the fallen electrician stroking his hair, coaxing him back to health before vanishing.

The origins behind hauntings in the London Underground do not always hold such a clear reason for why they should be haunted, but haunted they are nevertheless. One example of this is Elephant & Castle Station, which has become rather well-known for a ghostly passenger who will walk along the platform or get onto trains but never get off. The specter is said to be a young woman who looks quite real and might even be mistaken for a living person if it weren’t for her disturbing habit of walking through walls or vanishing into thin air. One train driver has given an account of encountering the ghostly woman as follows:

At around 6 pm at a Bakerloo line Underground Station, I was in pursuit of my duties as an employee of London Underground. I join the train at the terminus at Elephant and Castle and walk forward to the front of the train with a view to travelling with the driver. At this point the driver has not arrived so I put my bag down and move to the rear door to wait for him. While I am waiting a girl gets into the carriage – she walks straight through the carriage and I have to move aside making some muttered apology – I sort of have to do this since I was in uniform!

 

A minute or so later the driver turns up, and we move toward the front of the train. I notice that the girl is not in the carriage and this is a rather immediate cause for concern – she could not have left the train without passing me – I had full view of the carriage and platform at the time. My reaction was to inform the driver – the only place she could have gone was to have walked down the tunnel – not really what we want! The driver’s response was unusual: ‘Oh, her. We hear about her all the time – she’s even been in the papers.’

There has been other miscellaneous paranormal activity reported from around the station, including disembodied footsteps, shadow figures, and people being tapped or pushed by unseen hands, which is all a bit strange considering that there appears to have never been any particular tragedy here. Even so, Elephant & Castle is a name that often comes up in any discussion on the London Underground’s most haunted stations.

One of the spookier tales of a haunting in the Underground revolves around a station that is no longer even in service. At one time there once existed a station at the iconic British Museum, which closed on September, 25, 1933, and has been abandoned for decades. The station was and still is said to be haunted by none other than the spirit of an Egyptian mummy housed at the museum, who appears as an Egyptian princess in complete regalia including a loincloth and headdress. This ghost is said to also be seen at the neighboring Holborn station to which a secret tunnel supposedly leads from the museum, and a dark rumor is that the spirit was responsible for the disappearance of two women from the Holborn station platform in 1935. Whether there really is an angry ghost from an ancient Egyptian wandering the murk here or not, it is a pretty eerie tale all the same.

There are plenty of other miscellaneous hauntings in the London Underground in addition to the ones we have looked at so far. Along one a long section of track where empty Northern line trains change direction, called The Kennington Loop, train staff and drivers persistently report the doors between the carriages opening and slamming shut and the sound of disembodied voices even though the trains are empty of passengers at this place. Highgate Station and South Kensington Station have reports of whole phantom trains barreling through, complete with a spectral driver in an old fashioned uniform. Becontree station is the haunt of the apparition of a faceless woman who follows people around and is linked to the tragedy of the Dagenham train collision of 1958, which killed 10 people. This list goes on and on, and the London Underground remains a mysterious place brimming with history, darkness, and possibly ghosts.

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About Minh Hiếu

Le Minh Hieu is a national-level weightlifter and a Singapore Weightlifting sports performance coach. Hieu's biggest passion is helping everyone find confidence, happiness, and health through fitness.

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