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The Tower of London

The first structure on the site was a motte-and-bailey castle, which was started not long after William the Conqueror became king in 1066, the castle was built on the old Roman walls, which once formed the corner of Londinium. The first stone building on the site was the White Tower, which was commissioned by William the Conqueror in 1078 and completed in 1097. Gundulf, who was made bishop of Rochester in 1077, oversaw the building of the tower to its completion. It was a bastion of Norman power, towering 90 feet over the capital city. The White Tower has changed surprisingly little from that time, but other buildings and towers have grown around it, so that there are now around 20 towers, and a mix of different buildings dating from different periods of history.

Many of the towers once held prison cells, and the White Tower once held torture chambers within its crypt. Tower Green outside the White Tower was reserved for Royal executions, while Tower Hill served as the public execution place for all the other traitors. Over the centuries the tower has performed diverse royal functions, it has been a prison, palace, observatory, menagerie, place of capital punishment and a museum.

Ghosts and Hauntings
With all the blood, death and intrigue the Tower of London has been involved with in its 900-year history, there is little wonder that it has the reputation as one of the most haunted places in Britain. There have been literally hundreds of executions on Tower Hill, from claimants to the throne, political activists and petty criminals. Many of the towers have also served as prisons, and places of misery for people on the wrong side of powerful people. If anywhere could lay claim to a host of tortured souls it would be the Tower.

E. L. Swifte, who was a keeper of the Crown Jewels in the 19th century, recorded one of the most interesting and fullest descriptions of a haunting within the tower. He and his family were sitting at a candlelit dinner in his room in the Martin Tower in 1817, when his wife spotted something on the other side of the room. She cried out in alarm and Swifte turned round to see a cylindrical object resembling a glass tube, filled with bubbling blue fluid. The strange apparition started to move and came round behind his wife, who was still sitting at the table. She cried out that it had tried to grab her, and Swifte let fly at it with a chair, which passed straight through the object. The cylinder then receded backwards and disappeared.

Swifte was also a confidant in another ghostly oft quoted sighting; apparently a sentry on guard in what is now the Martin Tower, witnessed the apparition of a bear coming from out of the Jewel Room. He stabbed at it with his bayonet, which passed through the apparition and embedded in a door, whereupon the bear promptly disappeared. The sentry died a few days later, possibly of shock, but he had already confided in Swifte and another sentry who verified his story. The sighting has been dated to January in the year 1815 or 1816.

The Bloody Tower was the scene for the infamous disappearance of the two princes; Edward V (12) and Richard Duke of York (10), who are thought to have been murdered in 1483 on the probable command of the Duke of Gloucestershire, who was to be crowned Richard the III. According to one story, guards in the late 15th century, who were passing the stair in the Bloody Tower, spotted the shadows of two small figures gliding down the stairs. These figures were identified as the ghosts of the two princes. In 1674 workmen found a chest that contained the skeletons of two young children, they were thought to be the remains of the princess, and were given a royal burial not long afterwards.

Ann Boleyn is said to be one of the most enduring ghosts of the Tower, she haunts the vicinity of the White Tower, the King's House, Tower Green, and the chapel of St Peter ad Vincula, where her headless body was interred in an arrow case under the floor. She was executed in 1536, after Henry VIII had become tired of her.

In 1864 a sentry is said to have challenged a headless figure thought to be Ann Boleyn, his bayonet passed straight through her, and he fainted in shock. He was saved from court martial for being asleep at his post, on the word of other guards, who said they had witnessed a similar occurrence. In another account a Captain of the Guard is said to have seen a light source coming from within the locked empty Chapel Royal in the White Tower. He climbed a ladder to peer down into the chapel, and witnessed a procession of people in ancient dress, with an elegant woman walking in front of them. He recognised the slender figure as Ann Boleyn from portraits that he had seen.

Sir Walter Raleigh makes an appearance now and again, and has been seen as recently as 1983 by a Yeoman Guard on duty in the Byward Tower. The same apparition was also seen a year and a half later by a different sentry in the same area. Sir Walter is said to wander the tower as he did when he was imprisoned, he was not as restricted in movements as some of the other prisoners during his incarceration.

The bungled execution of Lady Salisbury is said to be enacted on Tower Green, on the anniversary of her execution in 1541. She ran from the block in hysterics with the axe man chasing behind her. She was finally felled with a number of heavy blows from behind, the whole bloody scene is said to be replayed in full.

Lady Jane Grey, the 9-day queen, is also said to appear on the anniversary of her death on the 12th February 1554. She has been seen on the Salts Tower, although it is difficult to reason how you would recognise one royal figure from the next.

Other ghostly traditions include the screams of Guy Fawkes echoing through the tower, as they did when he was tortured before being hung drawn and quartered, the ghost of Lord Northumberland who was executed in 1553, and various other apparitions and shades from its bloody history.

There are many more intriguing stories and legends about the tower, which we will explore at a later date.

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Simon Topham & Alison Topham
Daniel Parkinson

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Ian Topham
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Re: The Tower of London

According to The Haunted Homes and Family Traditions of Great Britain by John Ingram (1897):

There is no place in the kingdom one would deem more likely to be haunted than that strange conglomeration of rooms, castles, and dungeons, known as the Tower of London. For many centuries it has been the scene of numberless deaths by violence, some by public execution and others by private murder, until it is scarcely metaphorical language to declare that its walls have been built out of human bones and cemented by human blood. That ghosts and spectres have haunted its weird precincts no believer in the supernatural can doubt; and, if we may credit all that has been told Df it of late years, its apparitions are not yet quite beings of the past. In Notes and Queries for 1860, the late Edmund Lenthal Swifte, Keeper of the Crown Jewels, published a remarkable account of a spectral illusion witnessed by himself in the time-honoured fortress ; and his account, together with such additions and explanations as a subsequent correspondence invoked, shall now be presented to the reader:

"I have often purposed to leave behind me a faithful record of all that I personally know of this sirauge story," writes Mr. Swifte, in response to an inquiry as to particulars of the ghost in the Tower of London. " Forty-three years have passed, and its impression is as
vividly before me as on the moment of its occurrence . . . but there are yet survivors who can testify that I have not at any time either amplified or abridged my ghostly experiences.

"In 1814 I was appointed Keeper of the Crown Jewels in the Tower, where I resided with my family till my retirement in 1852. One Saturday night in October, 1817, about ' the witching hour/ I was at supper with my wife, her sister, and our little boy, in the sitting-
room of the Jewel House, which then comparatively modernised is said to have been the ' doleful prison ' of Anne Boleyn, and of the ten bishops whom Oliver Cromwell piously accommodated therein. . . .

"The room was as it still is irregularly shaped, having three doors and two windows, which last are cut nearly nine feet deep into the outer wall ; between these ;s a chimney-piece, projecting far into the room, and (then) surmounted with a large oil-painting. On the night in question the doors were all closed, heavy and dark cloth curtains were let down over the windows, and the only light in the room was that of two candles on the table ; I sate at the foot of the table, my son on my right hand, his mother fronting the chimney-piece, and her sister on the opposite side. I had offered a glass of wine and water to my wife, when, on putting it to her lips, she paused, and exclaimed, ' Good God ! what is that? ' I looked up, and saw a cylindrical figure, like a glass-tube, seemingly about the thickness of my arm, and hovering between the ceiling and the table ; its contents appeared to be a dense fluid, white and pale azure, like to the gathering of a summer-cloud, and incessantly mingling within the cylinder This lasted about two minutes, when it began slowly to move before my sister-in-law ; then, following the oblong shape of the table, before my son and myself; passing behind my wife, it paused for a moment over her right shoulder [observe, there was no mirror opposite to her in which she could there behold it]. Instantly she crouched down, and with both hands covering her shoulder, she shrieked out, '0 Christ! It has seized me!' Even now, while writing, I feel the fresh horror of that moment. I caught up my chair, struck at the wainscot behind her, rushed up- stairs to the other children's room, and told the terrified nurse what I had seen. Meanwhile, the other domestics had hurried into the parlour, where their mistress recounted to them the scene, even as I was detailing it above stairs.

"The marvel," adds Mr. Swifte, " of all this is enhanced by the fact that neither my sister-in-law nor my son beheld this 'appearance? When I the next morning related the night's horror to our chaplain, after the service in the Tower church, he asked me, might not one person have his natural senses deceived ? And if one, why might not two ? My answer was, if two, why not two thousand ? an argument which would reduce history, secular or sacred, to a fable."

Our chaplain," remarked Mr. Swifte in a subsequent communication to Notes and Queries, "suggested the possibilities of some foolery having been intromitted at my windows, and proposed the visit of a scientific friend, who minutely inspected the parlour, and made the closest investigation, but could not in any way solve the mystery."

In reply to further communications later on, the Jewel Keeper stated that his wife did not perceive any form in the cylindrical tube, hut only the cloud or vapour which both of them at once described. Her health was not affected, nor was her life terminated, as had been suggested, by the apparition which both had seen ; nor could it have been, as Mr. Swifte pertinently pointed out, a fog or vapour that seized his wife by the shoulder. Finally, replying to the suggestion of f< phantasmagoric agency," Mr. Swifte not only made it clear that no optical action from outside could have produced any manifestation within, through the thick curtains, but also, that the most skilful operator could not produce an appearance visible to only half the persons present, and that could bodily lay hold of one individual among them. The mystery remains unsolved.

A more tragical incident, following hard on the visitation to his own habitation, is thus alluded to by Mr. Swifte ; and although the tale has been told by many, and in many different ways, as he was so closely connected with it, it is but just that the Keeper's version should be the one accepted.

"One of the night-sentries at the Jewel Office," records our authority, " was alarmed by a figure like a huge bear issuing from underneath the jewel-room door," as ghostly a door as ever was opened to or closed on a doomed man. " He thrust at it with his bayonet, which stuck in the door, even as my chair dinted the wainscot ; he dropped in a fit, and was carried senseless to the guard-room.

"When on the morrow I saw the unfortunate soldier in the main guard-room," continues Mr. Swifte, " his fellow-sentinel was also there, and testified to having seen him on his post just before the alarm, awake and alert, and even spoken to him. Moreover, I then heard the poor man tell his own story. ... I saw him once again on the following day, but changed beyond my recognition ; in another day or two the brave and steady soldier, who would have mounted a breach or led a forlorn hope with unshaken nerves, died at the presence of a shadow."

Mr. George Offor, referring to this tragedy, speaks of strange noises having also been heard when the figure resembling a bear was seen by the doomed soldier.

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Re: The Tower of London

The following is taken from the Historic Royal Palaces website.

Legend has it that many years ago a huge ghostly bear appeared by the Martin Tower, scaring a guard so badly that he dropped dead of shock!

Other than the original incident reported near the Martin Tower, no further sightings - or fatalities -have been reported…

Is there any evidence to support the story of a grizzly ghost?  At least two bears have lived at the Tower, and both were the first of their kind to be seen in England.  Henry III was given a polar bear in 1251 as a gift from the king of Norway. The bear was given a long chain so that it could fish in the Thames.  In 1811, the Hudson Bay Company gave a grizzly bear to George III. The bear was called ‘Old Martin’ and after many years at the Tower he moved to the new London Zoo in Regent’s Park, where he eventually died in 1838.

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Re: The Tower of London

The following is taken from the Historic Royal Palaces website.

Arbella Stuart, James I's cousin was imprisoned and possibly murdered at the Tower and she reputedly resides in The Queen's House, considered one of the most haunted buildings at the Tower of London.

Major General Geoffrey Field the Governor of the Tower from 1994 to 2006 who lived in The Queen's House tells of some strange occurrences at night.

‘Soon after we’d arrived in 1994, my wife Janice was making up the bed in the Lennox room when she felt a violent push in her back which propelled her right out of the room!

No one had warned us that the house was haunted – but we then discovered that every resident has experienced something strange in that room!

The story goes that the ghost is that of Arbella Stuart, a cousin of James I, who was imprisoned and then possibly murdered in that bedroom.

Several women who slept there since have reported waking in terror the middle of the night feeling they were being strangled, so just in case we made it a house rule not to give unaccompanied female guests the Lennox room.’

Records show that Arbella Stuart married William Seymour (Lady Jane Grey’s nephew) in 1610, without King James I’s permission.

This marriage of heirs to the throne was regarded as a threat; Arbella was put under house arrest in Lambeth, while William was sent to the Tower.

Arbella, spirited and rebellious, escaped, and disguised as a man plotted to get William released too so that they could travel to France. William was smuggled out of the Tower, but unfortunately missed their rendevous.

Poor Arbella had to set sail alone, but she was recognised and sent back, this time to the Tower. William made it to France, and freedom, but he never saw Arbella again.

She died at the Tower in what is now The Queen’s House, in 1615.

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Re: The Tower of London

Reverting to old religious buildings, the church of St. Peter ad Vincula, near the north-west of the White Tower of the Tower of London, is, at times, haunted by a phantom procession. Quoting from a work, the authority of which is guaranteed by the editor, an Oxford graduate, 1 the author says :

An old friend of mine, Capt. of the regiment, was one evening going the rounds with the sentry, when he saw a light burning in the chapel. He pointed it out to the sentry and asked what it meant.

' I don't know what it means, sir,' was the reply, ' but I have often seen that and stranger things here of nights.'

Again and again my friend looked at the window, and each time the light gleamed through the darkness. Determined to ascertain the cause, Capt. procured a ladder, placed it against the chapel wall, mounted it and gazed in on a scene that thrilled his every nerve. Slowly down the aisle moved a stately procession of knights and ladies, attired in ancient costumes ; and in front walked an elegant female, whose face was averted from him, but whose figure greatly resembled the one he had seen in reputed portraits of Anne Boleyn. After having repeatedly paced the chapel, the entire procession, together with the light, disappeared.

So deeply was my friend impressed with the seeming reality of the scene, that not till then did he discover he had been gazing in on a phantom crowd.

Capt. was evidently made of sterner stuff than the sentries who have seen a ghost, also believed to be that of the same Anne, outside the White Tower, and been very badly scared.

Perhaps, however, the sentries have had more reason to have been frightened, because the ghost they have seen has generally been headless. The latest published account of its appearance was three or four years ago. The sentry who was doing night duty outside the White Tower suddenly became aware of a white figure that seemed to rise from nowhere and was coming in his direction. As it drew nearer he perceived it was a woman clad in white. He could not see her face owing, so he thought, to the gloom. Wondering who she could be to be out so late — it was past midnight — he called out " Who goes there ? " There was no reply, and no other sounds save the tap, tapping of her high heels, which rang

out with remarkable clearness amid the sepulchral silence of the Tower. On she came, and he was debating what to do next, for he had never had to challenge a woman, when she emerged from the gloom and came into bright moonlight. He then received a shock, for the figure he had taken to be a woman had no head. He could have faced one of his country's enemies or any human being, but to face a thing that looked like a woman and was only part of one, that could walk and yet had no head, was asking altogether too much of him, and, panic-stricken, he fled. For a sentry to desert his post is a serious offence, but as he was by no means the first sentry who had been badly scared when doing duty at that particular spot, the authorities were lenient, and he got off with a reprimand. As a matter of fact, the same apparition has repeatedly appeared to sentries at the Tower.

The spot from which it always seems to rise, and which is nearly opposite the door of St. Peter's church, is where Anne Boleyn, Lady Jane Grey and Essex were all beheaded. Small wonder is it, therefore, that it is haunted. On one occasion, when a sentry was too scared even to run, he saw the phantom pass into the church through the closed door.



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