This first appeared in , Volume 2 issue3 (May & June 2001

The Mansion House in twilight by Judy Farncombe

Carol, a Psychic Tymes reader, told the London Pagan Yahoo group in April about a ghost tour she had arranged. Your reporter duly snatched up her tape recorder and headed out into the dark British streets. I hope you will enjoy it too!

Richard Jones, author of "Walking Haunted London" and "Haunted Britain and Ireland", has been running Ghost Tours through the City of London for fifteen years and tells his ghostly tales with vivacity, interspersing the stories with 'psychic experiments' that have their roots in conjuring skills.

The author, and our guide, Richard Jones by Judy Farncombe

We started our walk opposite the Bank of London and the Mansion House (address; #1, London). Richard was dressed in a suit reminiscent of a turn of the century banker, his collar turned up and a black ribbon tied around his neck masquerading as a cravat. The final touch to his costume was a watch-chain across his stomach, setting the mood of the walk nicely.

Sarah Whitehead, who haunts the Bank of England, was the subject of his first detailed story. Her brother worked there during the early part of the nineteenth century, and she visited him every day. Unfortunately, Philip Whitehead took to forging bank notes to support a lifestyle he could not legally afford. When he was found out he was hanged for treason in 1812. Sarah never noticed that he had gone missing. She continued to turn up to the Bank looking for her brother up to three times a day! The bank workers, for some reason only known to themselves, chose not to tell her about her brother's death. One day someone who was not involved in the secret spilled the beans, saying that 'oh, he was hanged two years ago for treason!'. Needless to say Sarah was shocked and her mind turned towards madness. She continued to come to the Bank every day asking after her brother's whereabouts and she no longer bathed. Finally the Bank workers decided to try and get Sarah to leave them alone as she was offending the customers with her noisome presence. They got Philip's best friend and colleague to talk to her, offering a draft of 50 to stay away from the Bank. In modern days terms that amount comes to 42,500 ! She signed the offered contract and never came to the Bank during her lifetime. However, once she had passed away she started to haunt the Bank. She has been seen in black clothing and draped in a black veil, softly asking people in the area if they have seen her brother, then fading away when turned to talk to!

Our guide then lead us to a haunted spot near the Royal Exchange called Popes Head Alley, renamed during Henry VIII's reign as Kings Head Alley. It was then a practicing Catholic area of the City where the powerful Lombard's lived and worked, a group of bankers even the King of England could not afford to offend. He gave them dispensation to continue practicing their faith. Their priest decided to indulge in a little bit of propaganda and started to tell the tale of the time he did battle with the 'great adversary' Satan in that alleyway. The tale took hold and the alley was renamed back to Popes Head Alley during Bloody Mary's reign and a catholic symbol placed high on the wall. We all looked up and saw in the fading light a bust recognisable as a pope from the mitre upon his head. Meanwhile, the ghostly tale recounts that if you stand in the alley during the hours of darkness and feel a light breeze on the back of your neck, it isn't the wind, but the Devil himself close behind you!

St Micheal's Church, intwilight and rain by Judy FarncombeWe moved on into a warren of small alleyways. I have lived in London for many years but I have never walked these small walkways throughout the City! Richard told us they were made for the messengers to take expensive items and money orders between businesses - the information superhighway of the 18th century. We walked through them until we reached St. Michael's Church. There he told us the ghostly tale of Hugo Crough, son of the Rev. Sebastian Crough. Hugo was unique in the nineteenth century as he had a full set of pearly white teeth. Most people in those days did not, losing them through sugary foods if they were rich, or to scurvy if they were poor. Young Hugo died during the Cholera epidemic of 1815. He was put into the vault of St. Michael's church in deference to his father's position. Once his body was laid out in the vault his father had a dream of Hugo calling to him saying that he was being hurt. Sebastian woke up and went to leave the bed. His wife told him it was only a dream and he should stay in bed. He did so and soon had another dream about his son. Hugo, now with blood dripping from his mouth saying, 'father come quick and help for how they hurt me'. Again his wife dissuaded Sebastian from leaving his bed. As he slept once more a third dream visitation was made by Hugo. This time his jaw was hanging and blood streaming, he could barely speak. His father was not to be dissuaded this time from acting and he went to the Church. When he got there he saw his poor sons body had be defiled. The jaw was ripped away from his face and all the teeth had been removed. Somewhere a dentist had appropriated the pearly teeth through the agencies of body snatchers to make a new set of dentures. A rich person somewhere in the City of London now owned poor Hugo's teeth. Those responsible to the desecration of poor Hugo's body were never found or brought to justice.

Outside Simpson's in the City, by Judy FarncombeOur next stop was in an alleyway where we huddled together under umbrellas. Rain had set in as the walk proceeded to follow its torturous route through the hidden places of London. After another of our guide's paranormal sleight of hand interludes, he went on to tell us about the spectral waiter of Simpson's in the City, noted for its pork chops, mutton chops, or steak and oyster pie. It still functions as an eating house in this day and age. If you give your order of a meal to an elderly gentleman with grey hair and a white linen apron, do not be too surprised if the order does not turn up! As the resident ghost, he is well known to the management, although no one knows who he is and why he continues to work in death as well as in life.

After that interlude we wandered around the alleyways towards Cornhill and a tale of architectural rather than spectoral revenge, then back to Bank underground station, where we had all originally met up for the start of the tour. I thought that it was coming to an end, but no, we were told about the haunting of the underground station itself. Apparently one of the passageways is haunted by a nasty odour. Many of the maintenance workers have been known to stagger out of it retching from the vile smell. No one knows for certain what causes it, our guide hazards a guess that it might have something to do with a plague pit that was found whilst the underground system was being dug.

Once a prison, now a Vinter's shop and store, by Judy FarncombeOne of the prettier spots we were taken to was a small courtyard where a prison dating back to the 1520's still exists. There he told us about one of the less salubrious characters of the Eighteenth Century called Jonathon Wild, the self-styled 'Thief-taker General'. He ran the criminals of that time, rather like an Eighteenth Century Godfather. Finally, after being top of the criminal tree for twenty years he was caught with one shilling's worth of stolen lace. That was enough for him to be imprisoned in the little prison featured in the photographs and later hanged at Tyburn. The prison now acts as a wine tasting venue for the vintner that owns the building above. The prison is not known to be haunted (though it may well be so due to its age) but it gave our guide a chance to tell us details regarding Tyburn Tree and its public executions.
The dreaded orbs appear by Judy FarncombeFrom there we wandered through a few more alleyways and passed a tree featured in a poem by William Wordsworth called the 'Reveries of poor Susan'. The poem is not very good and has had the added cachet of holding up development due to a preservation order on the tree. That is why there is a seventeenth century building still on the spot rather than one of the growing number of high-rise buildings in the city of London. This was also where I have taken my only photograph of an orb! I believe it is the result of rain on the lens (it had been raining gently throughout the walk) rather than any ghostly presences. However, I am including it for your delectation. I know many of our readers believe that orbs in pictures are the result of ghosts rather than moisture on the lens!

St Mary le Bow at night, by Judy FarncombeFrom there we went onto our last stop, St. Mary-le-Bow. To be a true cockney you must be born within sound of its bells. During medieval times that church was believed to be cursed, because the steeple kept falling down and killing people. It was also supposed to be a venue for black masses. The curse is believed to have been lifted by Sir Christopher Wren, who rebuilt the church after the Great Fire of London in 1666.

Richard Jones is a marvellous story-teller and guide, and he knows this part of London very well. If you want to go on this ghostly tour you will have to contact him through his website to see if an arranged tour is available. So if you are part of a group coming to London you could pre-arrange to have a tour, and if not take pot-luck and hope you can join someone else's! It is well worth two hours of your time walking the streets and alleyways of London.

Meanwhile, the next issue of Psychic Tymes features a ghost walk taken by your intrepid reporter in a much more modern city - Boston, Massachusetts.

© 2001 Judy Farncombe


Richard Jones, writer and guide of the City of London Ghost Tour:

Judy's Ghost Archive