Travelling on London’s Underground is not unlike being in a rugby scrum. You start off clean and tidy but as soon as you step through those carriage doors you’re ruthlessly tackled for the single remaining seat (covered in something unidentifiable, so actually you’re welcome to it, mate), and then you’re squashed, shoved and elbowed until you stagger out of the carriage at the end of your journey looking like you’ve been mugged. Twice. Welcome to London.
But one thing that may help take your mind off the journey (and even appreciate the company of your fellow rugby players) is the thought of the ghosts that may be watching you as you go about your travels.
When you next pass through Bethnal Green Tube Station, spare a thought for one poor station master who, in 1981, was busy working away in his office late one night when he began to hear the sound of children crying. You can only imagine how he must have felt when the sounds of crying were then accompanied by the shrieks of terrified women. The station master fled his office in terror. 173 people died in 1943 in Bethnal Green Underground Station in a terrible accident. Most of them had been women and children.
As the train trundles on to Bank Station and you find yourself desperately trying to avoid the person in front’s rucksack from smacking you in the face every time they move, you may be lucky (or unlucky) enough to see the ghost known as ‘Sarah’ or ‘the Black Nun’ as she is sometimes called. Sarah’s brother, Phillip Whitehead, was a cashier at the bank but the story goes that he was executed for forgery in 1811. Sarah was grief stricken and, unable to accept that her brother was dead, insisted on waiting for him outside the bank every evening for the next 40 years. Apparently she waits for him still, but her wanderings have taken her down into Bank Station itself where, from time to time, she creeps along the platforms instead. Travellers and workers alike have experienced feelings of sadness and hopelessness (and not just because of the tube service). Also, reports of an unexplainable terrible stench have been reported and there are rumours that the station was dug through one of London’s forgotten plague pits.
Finally, one of my favourite tales of hauntings on the Underground. Liverpool Street Station was built on the site of the first Hospital of the Star of Bethlehem, an asylum for the insane. But the ghost I want to tell you about is not one of the old asylum inmates, although I’m sure they may well haunt the station, too.
2am should be a quiet time at Liverpool Street Station, but in 2000 a Line Controller who was keeping an eye on the deserted platforms via CCTV caught sight of something rather peculiar just outside the entrance of the Central Line eastbound tunnel. The station was closed for the night and no maintenance works had been scheduled, so the sight of a man dressed in white overalls caused the Line Controller some concern. The Line Controller rang the Station Supervisor and asked him to investigate.
The Station Supervisor could find no trace of the man in white overalls and rang the Line Controller back to tell him so. The Line Controller was mystified, telling the Supervisor that the man in white had been standing right next to him, how could he have missed him? A second search was carried out, to no avail, but the Line Controller insisted that the mysterious man had been so close to the Supervisor during his second search that he could have touched him…
I’ve heard the above tale on a couple of occasions and I still can’t help peering out of the tube windows on my way home via Liverpool Street Station, just in case I catch sight of the strange man in white overalls silently watching unwary travellers from the shadows.
©Nicola Kirk and http://www.nicolakirk.wordpress.com 2010