One of the most popular tourist attractions in London, if not the most popular, is the Tower of London. The Tower of London, currently called Her Majesty’s Royal Palace and Fortress, was built in 1078 by William the Conqueror. Originally a palace, these days it is more known for being a prison, and due to that fact there are plenty of stories of ghosts who inhabit this building, hundreds of years after they died. The Tower of London is a place with many spirits and many stories.
Thomas A. Becket
The first reported ghost within the Tower of London was Thomas A. Becket. Apparently, during a reconstruction of part of the tower, Thomas would appear unhappy about the construction and stories tell of him shaking the wall with a cross and causing it to crumble. The Inner Curtain Wall was being built by Henry III, who was the grandson of the man that was responsible for the death of Thomas Becket. In order to appease the ghost, Henry III built a chapel in the Tower and named it for Becket. After this, the ghost of Becket stopped appearing.
The Two Princes
In 1483, it is believed that two princes, Edward V who was 12, and Richard Duke of York, who was 10, were murdered. Years later, several guards reported that as they walked through the tower two small figures glided down the stairs wearing night shirts and then disappeared at the bottom of the stairs. When they were seen, they were holding hands as they would move back and forth along the stones of the tower. The guards did not know who the ghosts were at the time but in 1674 workers found the remains of the princes in a chest. Both were given a royal burial at this point.
King Henry’s Ghosts
Everyone knows the story of Anne Boleyn, as one of the wives of Henry the VIII. As a wife of King Henry, she was expected to produce him an heir but when he found out that the baby she carried for nine months was a stillborn boy, he accused her of infidelity and she was beheaded in 1536. She is a ghost who apparently still haunts the tower, appearing where her execution happened. Some have even said they saw Queen Anne leading a procession of ghosts down the aisle of the Chapel Royal of St Peter ad Vincula. She will sometimes be seen floating around her final resting place in the Chapel. When she is seen, she is often seen without a head, making her instantly recognizable as the queen who lost her head because she could not produce an heir.
The 70-year-old Countess of Salisbury was executed by King Henry VIII because of political reasons. However, she was not killed with a simple beheading as Anne Boleyn did. The Countess would not put her head down to beheaded as a traitor because she did not feel she was one. When the executioner came towards her with the axe, she ran and was chased by the executioner. Eventually, he caught up with her and hacked her to death with his axe. Today, her ghost is sometimes reliving the act of her death, and a shadow of the axe has been seen falling around where she was murdered.
Catherine Howard was the fifth wife of King Henry the VIII, whom he married shortly after the annulment of his marriage to Anne of Cleeves. After two years of marriage, she was sentenced to death by Henry for apparently being adulterous while married to him, which was considered treason. While Catherine died with composure when she was eventually beheaded, reports have her running down the hallway the day before she died begging for help and mercy. After she was beheaded the next day, her ghost began to appear around the tower, running down the hall, screaming for help.
For a time, the Tower of London was where the Royal Menagerie of animals was housed. These animals would include lions, bears, birds, monkeys, an elephant and leopards. They would be kept on display as an exhibit and eventually when they died, some decided to stay within the Tower of London. According to one report, in January of 1815, a guard was walking around when he saw a bear in a doorway. The bear immediately started to run at him and the guard lunged at the bear with his bayonet but immediately passed through the bear that immediately disappeared. Later that evening, the guard was found to be completely unconscious and he later died of what many people believe was fright over what he saw.
The Salt Tower
The Salt Tower is called the most haunted part of the Tower of London and many people feel that whatever is in the tower is something very frightening. The Salt Tower is a very old part of the tower, and many stories tell of how dogs will not enter this part of the tower, possibly seeing something within the tower that they do not want to face. One of the Yeoman Warders who are a part of the tower, even today, reported being choked by something that was not there. Since that moment, the Yeoman Warders will not enter that part of the tower after the sun goes down.
Another story tells of a soldier who was on guard in 1864 when he saw a ghost appear that looked very real, so real that the guard threatened the individual to leave on the pain of death. When the ghost did not leave, the guard charged at the intruder with his bayonet, but went directly through the figure, much like the other guard who did the same with the ghost bear. He was found unconscious at his post and was court-martialled because it was believed that he was neglecting his post.
The White Tower
The oldest part of the tower is the White Tower, and it is here where the White Lady resides. The White Lady is apparently an apparition that will appear from time to time to those in the tower. One story tells of her standing at a window waving at a group of children who were in an opposite building. As well, there is the smell of a cheap perfume that will hang around the entrance of St. John’s Chapel which has caused many to nearly vomit from the aroma.
In the gallery where Henry VIII suit of armor is on display, guards have reported a sensation of being descended upon and crushed, which only fades as they leave the room. Another guard reported having a cloak put over his head and being choked from behind. When he was able to finally escape he saw there was no one in the room with him, but he had marks on his neck that show he had been the victim of an attack.