The Tower of London has stood for over 900 years. It is considered the most haunted spot in Britain. The tower’s history includes: beheadings, murders, torture and hangings. It has served as a prison for several nobles.
The first ghost to be spotted at the tower was that of Thomas A. Beckett. While an inner curtain wall was being constructed it is said Beckett appeared to show his disfavor. Legend states he reduced this wall to rubble with one single stroke from his cross. In order to appease Beckett’s ghost Henry II named a chapel after the archbishop. This worked for the construction proceeded without another incident.
Two of the most tragic ghosts seen at the tower are of the two young princes, Edward V age 12 and Richard Duke of York age 10. These two were murdered in 1843. No one knows for sure who ordered their murder but some feel it was the Duke of Gloucestershire who was crowned Richard the III after their deaths. In the late 15th century two guards saw these two princes in the Bloody Tower. * They still wore the white nightshirts that they were last seen in. They were observed gliding down the stairs and then standing hand in hand. They then just faded back into the stones of the Bloody Tower. In 1674 the skeletal remains of these two young men were discovered in a chest—they were then given a proper burial.
The most active ghost at the tower is Henry VIII's second wife Queen Anne Boleyn. After she gave birth to a stillborn son, Henry accused Boleyn of infidelity. She was taken to the Tower Green and beheaded on May 19, 1536. Anne’s ghost appears by the Queen’s House near where she was executed. She has been seen leading a procession of Lords and Ladies down the aisle at the Chapel Royal of St. Peter ad Vincula. She is seen floating down to where she was buried under the chapel’s altar. Her headless body has also been seen walking through the tower’s corridors.
Sir Walter Raleigh was also imprisoned and executed at the tower by order of James I. While imprisoned in the tower he occupied two comfortable rooms, which can be seen on a tour of the tower today. People who have witnessed his ghost state he looks just like his portrait that hangs in the tower.
Henry VIII had the Countess of Salisbury imprisoned in the tower for treason. The story of her execution is by far the most grisly. It is said the countess who was high-spirited refused to place her head upon the chopping block and instead ran. Her executioner pursued her with his axe. He hacked her to death as she ran. Her ghost has been seen reliving this gruesome experience. An axe has also been seen falling at the scene where she died.
At one time a menagerie of royal animals were kept at the tower. This collection of animals included: bears, lions, leopards, birds, monkeys and an elephant. At midnight in January of 1815 a sentry saw a bear emerge from a doorway. He lunged at it with his bayonet, which passed right through the apparition. This sentry was found unconscious and it was said he died of fright.
The oldest part of the tower is called the Salt Tower. It is said to be the most haunted area of the entire tower complex. It seems dogs will not enter this ancient building. After one Yeoman Warden** was struck by an unseen force—guards for years afterwards would not enter this area after dark.
In 1864 a soldier whose post was to guard the Queen’s House saw an apparition so real he charged the intruder with his bayonet only to see his blade go right through the figure. He was found unconscious and tried for neglect of duty. Two witnesses came forward to corroborate his story so he was acquitted.
Another ghost that is seen at the Tower of London is Lady Jane Grey but I will leave this story for another post…
* The Bloody Tower was originally called the Garden Tower and was a royal home.
** Yeoman Wardens today are former soldiers who give tours of the Tower of London, they are known as Beefeaters, they live at the tower. Below is a video of one of these tours—warning these tours are very funny but they are not politically correct.