London’s rich past makes it a must-visit for any world traveler. Yet the city also has a dark side, with plenty of creepy spots for all those interested in history with a macabre twist.
From the ghosts of Westminster Abbey to the bloody trail of Jack the Ripper, join us on a tour of the most haunted places in London. All ten sites can be visited today, so stop by for a chance encounter with the city’s everlasting residents.
1. Westminster Abbey
This grand religious landmark also serves as the burial ground of about 3,000 people, including royalty. Father Benedictus is a spectral monk who announces his presence by floating across the ground in the early evening. He’s been known to have polite conversations with unsuspecting tourists. Meanwhile, over at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, a spirit appears just as guests dissipate for the day. The specter bows his head for a few moments before vanishing into thin air.
2. St. Paul’s Cathedral
This iconic domed cathedral is home to the Whistler ghost. The apparition—an elderly minister with flowing locks and traditional robes—resides in the All Soul’s Chapel in the northwest tower. He whistles a sorrowful tune as he floats across the floor and straight through the wall, following the same path without fail. While renovating the chapel, excavators uncovered a door hidden behind the wall through which the tuneful spirit disappears. The door opened onto a winding staircase that led up to a mysterious room with an unknown purpose.
3. Heathrow Airport
London’s busiest airport is also a hotspot for ghosts. One such specter is Dick Turpin. The notorious highwayman raped, robbed, and murdered throughout the London area in early 1700s. Nowadays, the outlaw haunts the main terminal in Heathrow, sporting a three-cornered hat. Targets of Turpin’s spooky ways report feeling hot breath on their necks or hearing a man howling behind them, only to turn around and find nothing there.
Should your travel itinerary take you near runway 2-8, you may also cross paths with a man in a dark suit and bowler hat. This traveler met his end in 1948 along with numerous others aboard the Sabena Douglas plane tragedy. He first appeared out of the fog and asked a rescue worker if they had found his briefcase.
4. Tower of London
This historic castle sits along the north bank of the River Thames. Its bloody history of imprisonment, torture, and execution makes it a prime (un)resting place for tormented souls. Of the ghostly residents who still haunt the grounds is Ann Boleyn, the famed wife of Henry VIII. She was beheaded in 1536 and has since been spotted roaming the castle carrying her own head. You might also brush elbows with Sir Walter Raleigh, Henry VI, or the horrified spirits of former spectators who were present during the execution of the Countess of Salisbury—they witnessed her struggling upon the chopping block, only to be axed multiple times by an inexperienced executioner.
5. Theatre Royal Drury Lane
Numerous thespians have passed through London’s oldest theatre, but some never left. Showgoers and cast members alike report sightings of various spirits, including the disembodied head of clown Joseph Grimaldi and the lavender-scented phantom of comedian Dan Leno. Actors are especially keen to encounter the charmed spirit known as the Man in Grey—wearing a wig, cloak, and 18th century hat—who only appears before a successful run.
6. Enfield Poltergeist, 284 Green Street, Enfield, North London
This modern London ghost tale involved two young sisters from the late 1970s: 11-year-old Janet Hodgson and 13-year-old Margaret Hodgson. The siblings claimed to have been possessed by a poltergeist who also threw objects across the room, made knocking noises throughout the home, and levitated the girls off the bed. While the veracity of their experience is up for debate, the story caught the attention of news outlets such as and Daily Mirror and was investigated by Maurice Gross of the Society for Psychical Research, the original paranormal research organization. It even inspired the new film The Conjuring 2 , set for release in 2016. Many still in an attempt to witness signs of the infamous haunting.
7. Highgate Cemetery
Part of the “Magnificent Seven,” a network of attractive resting places surrounding central London, this sprawling graveyard houses a veritable who’s who from British history—George Eliot, Douglas Adams, the family of Charles Dickens, and numerous playwrights, thespians, and soldiers. Beginning in 1970, sightings of a mysterious gray figure and rumors of a Highgate Vampire circulated amongst visitors. The hysteria culminated in a vampire hunt on Friday the 13th in 1970. Other sightings include a madwoman running through the graveyard and a levitating nun.
8. Ten Bells Pub
A haunted tour of London would not be complete without a nod to the infamous Jack the Ripper. Many of his victims reportedly frequented this drinking den—on November 9, 1888, Mary Kelly was the last to meet a bloody fate at the hands of the killer. Her mangled body was found up the street from the Ten Bells the following morning. Staff members who reside at the pub complain of an older Victorian man who crawls in bed with them and then vanishes. In 2001, one resident reported hearing laughter outside his door and being pushed down the stairs forcefully on several occasions. A psychic refused to enter one room, sensing a terrible incident involving a baby. Later, a Jack the Ripper researcher found a sack with slashed Victorian baby clothes directly above the same room.
9. Greenwich Foot Tunnel
This eerie underground foot tunnel was opened in 1902 to connect Greenwich in the south to the Isle of Dogs, London’s docks and shipyards. Crossing below the River Thames, the claustrophobic, damp underpass makes pedestrians feel uneasy, as if they’re being followed. Some have encountered a paranormal couple on a stroll in the tunnel, who vanish into thin air soon after passing.
10. The Spaniards Inn
This famed Hampstead Heath pub has been referenced throughout history by literary greats—Bram Stoker’s, Charles Dickens’ . Legend has it John Keats wrote “Ode to a Nightingale” in the oak-lined beer gardens. Legend also states that outlaw Dick Turnpin was born at the pub where he later conducted underground dealings. Some say he continues to haunt the pub—when he’s not stalking Heathrow, that is. In addition, diners have encountered the ghost of Spanish landlord Juan Porero, who was killed at the historic pub in a duel with another landlord over the affections of a woman.
Photos (in order): Justin / Flickr; Alex / Flickr; Nicholas de Camaret / Flickr; Max Froumentin / Flickr; Neil Howard / Flickr; Waldo Pepper / Flickr; Google Maps; Hehaden / Flickr; John Keogh / Flickr; Jason / Flickr; Jacob Surland / Flickr