Haunted Hampstead

 by Martin Belam, 27 March 2005

At Christmas I bought my wife a book called "Walking Haunted London" by Richard Jones, with the aim of getting to know London a bit better by visiting these haunted places. With spring arriving we made our first trip today - to Hampstead.

We skipped the first pub on the haunted agenda - the William IV - as especially with the clocks changing it was too early to start having a drink. Instead our first main stop was the Parish Church of St John, which has a lovely rambling graveyard attached to it. John Constable is buried there, and some of the graves are so broken up that it wouldn't take much for the dead to reach through. It wasn't spooky though, in fact there were kids playing in it. We had neglected to calculate that visiting churches in the hope of some haunting solitude was not a great idea on Easter Sunday.

The Graveyard at the Parish Church of St John, Hampstead

We stopped at the Holly Bush Inn, which is reputedly haunted by a ghostly waitress who takes orders but never delivers. This was where we had the first of three experiences that could potentially have been paranormal, though most likely weren't. Whilst I was ordering at the bar, the staff rota pinned up behind the till fell down.

The next section of the walk took us across some of the heath, to an old pub called "Jack Straw's Castle". This was where we aimed to have our lunch, but since publication of the book the pub has been closed and is being re-developed into flats. Our second possible spooky experience was here. Whilst we stood outside deciding what to do next, the double doors behind us sounded as if someone was trying to open them at regular intervals.

We then headed up Spaniards Road to the Spaniards Inn. This old building has several ghost stories attached to it, some involving Dick Turpin and the ghostly sounds of the hooves of Black Bess in the car park. It is the first time we have visited anywhere that we had seen featured on "Most Haunted". It also has London's first, and to my knowledge, only, "Doggy Wash". We stayed there for a very large and enjoyable Sunday Roast Dinner - noting that the menu suggested that "DISHES MAY CONTAIN NUTS AND ALL AREAS MAY CONTAIN GHOSTS"

The Spaniards Inn    Dishes May Contain Nuts & All Areas May Contain Ghosts

After that we headed across the heath to work of some of our dinner, and here experienced a third strange event. As we were walking along the path my wife suddenly came to a stop, and asked whether I had heard a whistle. I pointed out that there were some people off in the distance to our left, but Claire maintained that the whistle had been on our right-hand side, and very close to her. We could see nobody there. After a good long walk through the heath, the final strange thing we came across was an abandoned artists easel with unfinished work beside it, but that seemed to be more like the evidence of some unknown abduction rather than anything spiritual.

We finished the walk at a pub called The Flask, which is reputed to be haunted by an ex-landlord who doesn't appreciate the changes made to the building by subsequent owners. Nothing spooky happened to us there, so after our beer we headed home.

Of course, all of the events were no doubt natural phenomena, and we were only tempted to ascribe some sort of supernatural significance to them because we were on a "ghost walk" - but we thoroughly enjoyed it, and I got to take some nice pictures.

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