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A lot of people like to drink alcohol. A lot of people like to get drunk. And a fair few people claim to have seen ghosts. See where we’re going with this?
Humans + alcohol = loads of bloody ghosts (H+A=GGGGGGGGGG!!)
We began at The Spaniard’s Inn at the peak of Hampstead Heath. Reputedly the home of highwayman Dick Turpin, customers have seen a shadowy figure striding around the pub in a domineering fashion. Black Bess’ haunted hoof beats are heard in the car park, while ghostly tugs at sleeves have been felt in Turpin’s bar.
While it is a fantastic pub, which no doubt has seen a lot of history in its 500+ years, it’s hard to be spooked by it when it’s packed to the rafters with tourists, clumsy waiters and whining children.
We plodded over Hampstead Heath, making sure to avoid any ghostly horsemen and found ourselves in Hampstead village. We recovered from our trek across the heath in The Flask Tavern. This pub is haunted by Monty, a former landlord who likes to pay the occasional visit to his pride and joy. In 1997, some definitely-not-pissed customers saw Monty moving tables and chairs around due to his annoyance at a recent refurbishment. We didn’t see Monty unfortunately, probably because we didn’t stay for long.
The pub benefits from an idyllic location and attractive interior, but on a negative point, all the customers seemed to know each other from a recent bank robbery they’d committed. Monty would not approve.
We re-located to the William IV. Legend has it that a doctor murdered his wife here and concealed her corpse in the pub’s cellar. Her ghost has ever since been a-haunting here. Obviously gagging for a pint. Although, we didn’t see here; she must have had a hangover. We stayed for a few more pints here, waiting for the second of the pub’s spooks to arrive.
The spectre of a young girl in a white shroud has been seen looking up at the pub from the high street. She is supposed to be a suicide victim that killed herself after some particularly atrocious dental treatment in a cunning tactic to avoid her next appointment. Maybe her ghost stands on the pavement thinking “bugger, maybe I should have just got battered here before having my molar done”. We raised a glass or two to her.
A bit of bush
We then stumbled through the back streets of Hampstead to the Holly Bush Inn. We trekked through graveyards, deserted streets and winding alleys, up and down the area’s hilly terrain. The secluded nature of Hampstead really reveals itself when wandering the sparse streets at night.
We finished our night with a few at the Holly Bush Inn, which is frequented by a phantom waitress. She didn’t serve us.
Let’s cut to the chase. We had quite a few drinksssh a we didn’t shee a sshingle bloody ghossshht.
That’ssh becausshhe they don’t exisssht. Right? I’ll tell you another thing, hic… I jusht felt shomething on me leg… What wassh that? Oh no, forget it… I pisshed meshelf again.
Sadly, we ended the day ghost-less. Half cut we flagged down the nearest ghost bus, paid the spectral driver and headed back to LFG HQ to hold each other’s hair as we vomited the night away.
Annoyingly, our paranormal quests often lead us into one of London’s many haunted pubs. Sometimes, if there are two or three haunted boozers in one area, the whole investigation can take on the form of a spectral pub-crawl; hour upon hour spent getting rat-arsed on flagons of ale and leering at attractive barmaids. The things we do for ghosts…
Returning to the City we settled in to the Viaduct Tavern in St Pauls, one of the last remaining examples of a Victorian London Gin Palace. Opposite the Old Bailey court house, the pub’s cellars still contain prison cells from the now demolished Newgate Prison. It is also supposedly home to some pretty frightening poltergeist activity.
Many staff members over the years have been disturbed by a particularly malevolent ghost, including the landlord in 1996 who, when stocking up on supplies, was locked in the cellar after the door slammed shut. Hearing his panicked shouts, his wife came down to let him out and found that the door, impossible to budge from the inside, could be easily opened from the outside. “Ha! Men…” She might have chuckled as her useless husband struggled upstairs with the Bacardi Breezers.
Add to that numerous tales of moving objects and terrified workmen and the Viaduct Tavern has built quite a reputation as one of London’s prime haunted sites.
To find out more Looking For Ghosts accosted a barman, who we figured would be thrilled to have his busy Friday night interrupted by a couple of half-cut ghost hunters.
As he led us down into the cells we were casually informed, with a mixture of sympathy and disdain, that tours of the cells are regularly requested by paranormal enthusiasts. With our social status diminished to the level usually reserved for those with leprosy, our doting guide ushered us inside. But had he ever experienced anything strange down here himself?
Easily the most unsettling place we’ve been so far, these cold, musty cells remain completely unused by anything other than cobwebs and damp. The eerie atmosphere is a huge contrast from the bustling City pub upstairs and provided us with a macabre insight into London’s grim Judiciary system.
Staggering outside after last orders we felt satisfied that our search for ghosts had taken us one step closer. But then again we always get emotional after a couple of Bombay Sapphires…
Churches, churches, churches. You can’t move for churches in London. So it was a relief when we stumbled upon The Old Red Cow; a haunted building in the City that isn’t a bloody church.
Rumour has it that the Barbican pub’s former owner, Dick O’Shea, can be seen in his rocking chair on the establishment’s balcony.
Nothing strange about that surely? Ah, but he died in 1981.
It’s a cosy pub with a suspiciously free jukebox and welcoming staff.
Unfortunately, Dick chose not to appear while we were there. So The Old Red Cow loses points on the hospitality front.
Still, the pub is located in part of London that is spookily quiet at weekends when the financial district is at its quietest. Located nearby are Smithfield market, several weathered graveyards and countless other ancient pubs, giving you a true sense of London’s history.