London’s ghastly history has given rise to many spooky, scary spots which are great running destinations for those seeking chills, thrills – and maybe a ghost sighting or two. London’s been around for over 2,000 years – so we figured a city that old, must have a few skeletons in its closet. Here's Secret London Runs' guide to 13 of the spookiest spots in London to run to, visit as many as you dare – and then maybe a gin or two afterwards to calm your nerves?
1. Tower of London
The most famous spot on our list, the Tower of London was a prison for people particularly disliked by the Royal Family from 1100 to 1952 - and was the scene of grisly, public beheadings, including the deaths of Anne Boleyn, Catherine Howard, Thomas More and (most likely) King Edward V. The Tower has become known as one of the most haunted places in Britain and more than ten individual ghosts are claimed to have been spotted there, including Queen Anne Boleyn herself. Many who claim to have seen Boleyn's spirit say she walks with her head tucked beneath her arm. Others have spotted her from the courtyard, staring out the window of the room in which she was held captive by her maniacal husband.
The ghosts of other historical figures such as Guy Fawkes, Lady Jane Grey, and Henry VI have also been sighted.
2. Hampton Court Palace
Stories persist that two of Henry VIII’s wives haunt Hampton Court Palace: his beloved third wife Jane Seymour who died after giving birth in 1537 and his fifth wife Catherine Howard, who was executed for adultery in 1542. A pale figure dressed in a white robe and carrying a candle - thought to be Jane Seymore - is reported to appear every year on the anniversary of her son Edward’s birth on the Silver stick Stairs, which led up to the room in which Jane gave birth - and died. She has also been seen walking the cobbled grounds of Clock Court.
Catherine Howard was only 19 when she was beheaded. After she was arrested at Hampton Court, the terrified teenager broke free of her guards and ran along what is now called the Haunted Gallery, screaming out to the King for mercy. Guards dragged her away and she never saw Henry again. It is said that her anguished ghost, dressed in white, now repeats this heartbreaking journey, screaming through eternity.
3. Theatre Royal
The Theatre Royal on Drury Lane is one of the world’s most haunted theatres. Supposedly, it is haunted by the ghosts of two clowns and the mysterious Man in Grey. The mortal remains of the Man in Grey ghost were found within a bricked-up passage, deep in the bowels of the theatre in 1848. Dozens of theatre performers have seen the mysterious figures – but no one knows who they are or why they haunt the theatre. The Theatre Royal is also home to the ghost of notorious actor Charles Maklin, who once killed a man in an argument over a wig.
4. Brookside Theatre
Brookside Theatre manager Jai Sepple was locking up for the night when he noticed that one of the chairs in the Brookside Theatre hall was askew – odd, as cleanup for the day’s performance had already finished. He checked the CCTV footage of the hall to check whether anyone had been in; the cameras had caught several specks of light whizzing around the hall, before the chair and nearby table moved of their own accord.
5. Bruce Castle
Historian Henry Hare bought and moved into Bruce Castle sometime in the late 17th century along with his wife Constantia. It’s said that Henry had an affair, and after his wife became angry, he locked Constantia in one of the highest rooms in the house – where she threw herself from a window holding her child in her arms. It’s said that on November 3rd every year – the day of Constantia’s death – it’s possible to see her ghost haunting the grounds.
6. The Ten Bells Pub
This Spitalfields pub was once known as the Jack the Ripper because two of his victims, Annie Chapman and Mary Jane Kelly, are linked to the pub. Annie Chapman may have drunk at the pub shortly before she was murdered; and it has been suggested that the pavement outside of the pub was where Mary Kelly picked up clients as a prostitute. It’s said that Annie Chapman still haunts the pub, and there are many reports of poltergeist activity.
7. 50 Berkeley Square
50 Berkeley Square was dubbed the most haunted house in London in the 1900s. Stories say that the attic is haunted by the tortured spirit of a young woman who committed suicide there: She threw herself from the top floor window after her uncle abused her.
In 1879, a maid went mad after spending the night in the house, dying in an insane asylum the very next day. Eight years later, a sailor tripped and fell to his death after fleeing in terror from an "unknown horror" in the house.
8. Covent Garden
Covent Garden is home to St Paul's Church, also known as the Actor's Church – and is home to several ghosts of actors.
On December 16, 1897, a popular actor named William Terriss was murdered by a deranged fellow actor, Richard Archer Prince. Prince stalked Terriss for some time, before brutally stabbing Terriss in the back five times. His last words were "I will come back", and today his spirit is said to lurk in his former favourite haunts around Covent Garden.
9. Liverpool Street Station
In 2015, Crossrail began an excavation project in the City of London, at the site of a 16th and 17th century burial ground for Bedlam. During this excavation, around 30 bodies were uncovered beneath what is now Liverpool Street Station, and are believed to have been victims of the Great Plague. Many visitors have also reported sightings of a male figure in white overalls standing on the platform - as though he waits for a train which has never arrived.
10. The Clink Prison
This prison was first established in the 12th century, making it one of the country's oldest. It was in operation until 1780, housing all kinds of criminals who underwent gruesome torture. There are many spirits who are believed to still haunt this forsaken building - from a plague-era physician to murderers and thieves.
11. Pond Square, Highgate
In the early 17th century, Sir Francis Bacon conducted an experiment to determine the safety of freezing and then eating a chicken. He slaughtered, plucked and stuffed a chicken with snow, left it for a few days, and found it was edible. Not long after carrying out this test, Bacon fell ill with flu and died. Since then, visitors have reported seeing visions of a ghostly chicken! The animal is said to be half-plucked and frantically pacing the square.
12. Bleeding Heart Yard
It might look pleasant enough, but Bleeding Heart Yard in Farringdon has a horrific history. Legend has it that on January 27, 1626 the mutilated body of society stunner Lady Elizabeth Hatton was found murdered and her limbs strewn across the courtyard, with her heart still pumping blood.
13. City of London Cemetery and Crematorium
Since the mid-1970s locals have complained about a brilliant orange light emanating from one of the tombstones in the western section of the City of London Cemetery in Wanstead. Despite repeated attempts, investigators have been unable to find any light source outside the graveyard that could account for the phenomenon.
Why not join in with some spooky fun and sign up to the Secret London Runs’ Halloween Gin Run - will you be brave enough to run to any of our 13 hot spots above?