Want to know where you can find the most haunted building in London? Opinions differ, but many will tell you that the most haunted is, without a doubt, the infamous Tower of London. There have been numerous stories and unexplained incidents throughout the years that are difficult to brush away as mere coincidence. Before you visit this place, you should have some basic background information that makes it easier to understand the Tower’s purpose and history. Although the structure’s origins date back to the time of King William the Conqueror, whose Norman troops (French descendents of the Vikings) took over England from the native Saxons, the ground was occupied much earlier. Roman troops once built fortifications here.
The Tower of London’s famous moat was not constructed until the 13th century when King Richard the Lionhearted of Crusader fame deemed it important to have this feature. Throughout the centuries, as is common with European structures, different parts and rooms were added until it became the Tower we recognize today. Sketches from as far back as the 16th century show us that very little has been changed architecturally; those of us with English ancestry can imagine any of our forebears walking London’s streets and seeing the exact same scene.
Part of the Roman structure can still be seen if you look hard enough; ruins are scattered about, and the walls bear witness of the older building. If you like ghost stories, make sure to visit Tower Hill. This is where many hapless criminals (and perhaps the innocent as well) were executed after a nasty meeting with the lawmen of the time. It is chilling to stand here and contemplate how many people met their deaths without a fair trial. In the times of the Tower, very little evidence was needed to condemn a person. All a king needed to do was claim his wife had been unfaithful, or was perhaps dabbling in witchcraft, and it was “off with her head.” There did not need to be conclusive evidence, if the general public believed his story.
At one time, animals were a part of the Tower of London, amusements for whomever happened to be king at the time. There was actually a section known as the Lion Tower, which has since been stripped of its title and used for tourist purposes. The Middle and Byward Towers are huge, imposing structures that resemble miniature castles. Anyone walking through these might just feel they’ve been transported to the Middle Ages (and hopefully allowed to keep their heads).
If you like haunted places, the Bell Tower will probably be your favorite part of the Tower complex. Constructed in the Middle Ages, the bell in the ancient tower is used to this day but for a different purpose. This is the place where prisoners languished before justice was meted out. Among those people were Queen Elizabeth I (who fortunately was let out and allowed to continue her reign until her death in the early 1600s) and Sir Thomas More (who fell out of favor with the king and was not so lucky). Another place that may bear some emotion of the past is the Traitors’ Gate, aptly named since it was one of the final “ports of call” for many who arrived there.
Would you want to live in a place called the Bloody Tower? According to ghost enthusiasts, some spirits have made this their permanent home. Most students of English history have heard the story of the “Princes in the Tower,” young boys supposedly killed by a relative who wanted the throne for himself. It is widely thought that some sort of foul deed took place, but the 17th century discovery of bones in the tower was fodder for the imagination. Although the princes’ memory has been honored by a decent burial at Westminster Abbey, there is still a decidedly odd feeling in the area of their death. Sir Walter Raleigh’s fate was also intertwined with this particular tower, since this was his prison for years before his death was ordered.
Perhaps the most beautiful of the towers and buildings that make up the Tower of London is the sturdy White Tower, an edifice still standing proudly from the difficult days of the Middle Ages. This was actually the royal home, and the king took care of business here with his court presiding. This is one of the places where you can see stones from a much older structure, attesting to the age of the grounds.
Be warned that few people visit the Tower of London without either feeling, sensing, or seeing something out of the ordinary. If you don’t believe in supernatural things you’ll still have a good time, but keeping your mind open will definitely enhance the experience.
By Lacie R. Schaeffer