Haunted Holborn

 by Martin Belam, 28 April 2005

I've mentioned before that at Christmas I bought my wife a book called "Walking Haunted London" by Richard Jones, hoping we could learn more about London, and maybe capture a spooky experience at the same time. It also turns out that most of the haunted locations in London seem to be in pubs, so it is quite a pleasant way to pass the time.

Last week, before heading to Malta on holiday, my wife and I did the walk in the book called "Lincoln's Inn Fields to Bloomsbury", although we actually did it in the reverse order of how it is described in the book.

This made our first point of call the Atlantis Occult Book Shop [Warning: Link forces a full-screen Flash pop-up] on Museum Street. It is well worth a visit to just see the amazing array of books on display. It isn't at all creepy, having a friendly atmosphere, and when we visited, a shop assistant who was happily nattering away on the phone about all kinds of domesticity. There is a great section for card adverts for people offering to make all sorts of occult paraphenalia. It was fascinating actually. Next we were due to visit The Plough pub - haunt (in life anyway) of Aleister Crowley - but as we'd started so early it wasn't yet open, so we skipped it.

Atlantis Occult Bookshop    The Plough, Little Russell Street

The British Museum was next on our agenda, to look at some cursed mummies. Unfortunately BP had other ideas, as we think their current special exhibition on Mummy: The Inside Story means all the corpses have been hived off into an area where you have to pay for timed admission. We certainly couldn't find them anyway. Unwilling to hang around we contented ourselves with a quick look at the Egyptian relics that were on display in the free area, and popped in to say hello to the British Museum's Moai.

Mummy: The Inside Story Publicity at the British Museum    Moai at the British Museum

We then headed to Red Lion Square, which is alledgedly haunted by the ghosts of Oliver Cromwell and other leading parliamentarians, who walk across the square. They were stashed nearby prior to their frankly ludicrous posthumous beheading, following an astonishing trial of their corpses for treason. The square is also notable for the statue of Fenner Brockway, who ended up in prison during the First World War for oppossing conscription.

Fenner Brockway Statue in Red Lion Square

Our next stop was The Dolphin Tavern. It was still far too early for alcohol - well, not for the old boys already in the pub - but for us at least, so we did the decidedly touristy thing of sitting in the pub with two small soft drinks. The attraction to this pub is in the clock that hangs on the wall, its hand frozen at the time the original pub was destroyed by a bomb in 1915. The clock survived intact, and remains on the wall of the rebuilt pub as a reminder of the people killed.

The Dolphin Tavern    The Old Clock Inside The Dolphin Tavern

The next part of the walk took us to Lincoln's Inn Fields, where there are scary stories involving the ghosts of traitors hanged in the fields, and one or two mysterious tales associated with the buildings that border the open space.

Our final destination was The Ship Tavern. I don't know about the friendly ghost that is meant to play tricks in the pub, but for a very long time The Ship was mostly haunted by the BBC Search team when we all worked in the MWB building above Holborn Tube Station. Many a functional spec or work-flow chart got finished off sitting around the tables in this particular establishment. It's a lovely pub, despite having some of the worst toilets in London, and the food is good and not too pricey considering the location. In fact the reason we had done the walk in reverse order was to time it to arrive in The Ship Tavern just before the lunch-time rush, ensuring we got a nice booth to eat our food in.

The Ship Tavern, Holborn    The Ship Tavern Stained Glass

I have to report that not even one slightly spooky thing happened to us during the whole of the walk - but then we didn't mind too much, since we had chosen to do it that day just to fill in time before our evening flight to Malta.

1 Comment

Was there much into the details of the hauntings in the books or more just guides of these places..?

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