Most people have wondered what happens after death, and there is no shortage of questions about what, if anything, follows the cessation of bodily function. Is there an afterlife? Will Elvis be there? Will my pets find me?
If the following list is anything to go by, you can be sure that you will meet little Nemo, Doggo, or Kitty again! Hopefully, they won’t be scary like the black dog of Newgate Prison or run around in circles like the chicken ghost of Pond Square. Whatever happens in the Great Hereafter, pray you don’t meet any of these devilish creatures . . .
The ghost of a bear is said to haunt the Martin Tower at the Tower of London, where the Crown Jewels were once held. One night in 1816, a guard on duty saw a huge bear and lunged at it with his bayonet. At the time, the Tower had its own menagerie that was later moved to the London Zoo and Regent’s Park in the 1830s. He could have thought one of the great bears being held in the menagerie had escaped!
The bayonet went through the bear and was plunged so deep into the wood of the door behind that it took two men to remove it. The apparition faded away after the guard attacked it. The guard fainted from shock and died two days later.
A white horse haunts the back roads of the town of Bryn-y-maen in North Wales. It was seen on two separate occasions by different people, first by a man driving the back roads to avoid being stopped by the police, as his car wasn’t taxed. Dawn had broken, and he was driving toward a dip in the road. Suddenly, a huge white horse came over the hedge, and he thought it would crash through the bonnet of his car: “It filled the windscreen!” The car spun as he slammed on the brakes, but as he did, the horse vanished.
On the second occasion, a young couple were driving the same road and approaching the dip. Again, the white horse came over the hedge but disappeared as they hit the brakes. A possible explanation, or at least a clue, that has been offered is an account of a large horse skull being found when the road was being repaired, but no one has been able to corroborate this.
One extremely cold day in 1626, Sir Francis Bacon was passing Pond Square in his carriage with a friend. Bacon was arguing his new idea of preserving food, whereby instead of salting meat, it might be possible to keep it so cold that it did not deteriorate. His friend, the king’s physician, didn’t agree, but nevertheless, Bacon obtained a chicken at a local Highgate farm, plucked and cleaned it, and packed it with snow, inside and out. Unfortunately for Bacon, his foray into the cold turned into a bout of pneumonia, which finished him off.
Soon after his death, news of a half-plucked chicken running around at Pond Square was reported. The chicken would allegedly vanish when anyone tried to approach it, and sightings continued throughout the years. For example, in World War II, wardens tried to capture it, but it ran through a wall to escape. Around the same time, a passerby heard what sounded like a coach and horses, but nothing was there to be seen except for a chicken running around in circles. It was also seen in the 1970s by a couple stealing a goodnight kiss in a nearby doorway.
A phantom sow and her piglets have been haunting Merripit Hill for 200 years, as the legend goes. On misty nights when walking the roads, you might stumble across them making their way to Cator Gate, starving and searching for food. As legend has it, the sow and piglets knew that if they traveled to Cator Gate, they would find a dead horse to eat, but upon their arrival, the horse had already been picked clean by crows.
The pigs are said to speak, too! The piglets cry out, “Skin an’ bones, skin an’ bones!” to which the sow replies, “Let ‘un lie, let ‘un lie.” Back they go, then, over the moor searching for food, only appearing once more when the night is foggy and dark.
Thetford Warren Lodge was built on the Brecks, an ancient and wild landscape in Norfolk where prehistoric farmers once kept sheep and rabbits. The lodge was built in the 1400s by nearby monks in Cluniac priory as a residence for the warrener, the man in charge of maintaining and catching rabbits on the Brecks for food and their skins. The Brecks are filled with small rabbit burrows.
One enormous white rabbit with glowing red eyes is said to haunt the lodge and is an omen of death to whoever is unlucky enough to see it. Perhaps it has something to do with the old leper hospital of St Margaret close by, which was raided for silver and burned to the ground in 1304.
Newgate Prison once stood by the Old Bailey and was home to a supernatural hound that was an omen of bad luck. A prison inmate first wrote about the hound in 1596 and recounted that during a terrible famine in London, the prison inmates had turned to cannibalism to stay alive. A scholar was imprisoned at this time, having been accused of witchcraft, and no sooner had he arrived than he was overpowered by the stronger men and eaten.
Shortly afterward, the inmates began seeing a large, black dog roaming the dark corridors, and one by one, each man who had eaten the scholar was hunted down and torn apart by the beast. When the number had dwindled to only a handful of remaining men who had eaten the scholar, they were deranged with fear and broke out of the prison to escape. It is said that no man really escaped, however, and those last murderers were found by the dog and met the same fate as their fellow inmates.
The Capitol Building in Washington, DC, has witnessed some incredible history being made, but some might say not so incredible as the demon cat said to walk the halls at night. During the post-Civil War era, the night watchmen began seeing a black cat that would grow in size as it walked toward them. One man said that it grew to be as big as a tiger, and when it leaped at him to attack, he brought up his arms in fear of being savaged. But when he fell down and didn’t feel the weight of the cat, he lowered his arms and realized it had disappeared.
Could such stories be just the drunken ramblings of the night watchmen, who were probably just reprobate friends of powerful men who needed an easy job? You might think so, except that when concrete was poured to replace some flooring after a gas explosion in 1898, six to eight perfect paw prints were found indented in it.
Just outside of Dublin in the Wicklow mountains is the Hellfire Club, a hunting lodge that was placed right on top of an ancient burial mound. It’s said that Speaker Conolly, the builder of the lodge, used the standing stone from the cairn as the lintel. The club itself, founded by Richard Parsons in 1735, was known for Satanism and the members practicing black magic. Cats (and some say servants) were sacrificed to the Devil.
One famous story tells of a local visitor to the area went one night to see the lodge, the place that had such an intriguing and mysterious reputation. He was found dead the next morning, and his host thought with horror that he must have been murdered at the Hellfire Club during the night. He went with the local priest to find out what had happened. When they arrived at the Hellfire Club, they found a great banquet laid out and a black cat stalking the room. It was huge, and its ears were shaped like horns. The priest threw holy water over the cat, an act which tore it into pieces. When the priest went outside, he found the dead man’s host lying on the grass with his neck and face scratched deeply by what could only be powerful claws.
Airth Castle dates back centuries and has an even older graveyard just outside. As if that wasn’t enough, the place is packed full of ghosts! One of the most famous is a dog that will nip at your ankles if you’re not watching out for him. Maybe little Rex belonged to one of the children who burned to death with their nanny in the 1800s, or could he have been the groundsman’s little helper?
Arundel Castle officially opened on Christmas Day in 1067. Home to many royals and noblemen, it has been connected to such famous faces as Richard the Lionheart and King Henry II.
As well as a respectable amount of ghosts of the human variety, one apparition sometimes seen is a white owl that flies around the windows of the castle. Every time it has been seen, someone who lived in the castle or was linked to the building and its inhabitants died under mysterious circumstances. Hedwig never got this kind of press!
Alexa is a writer and lumberjack from Dublin, Ireland.