The Tower of London ghosts are perhaps the scariest ghosts on record. Known for numerous paranormal events, the tower has had a long history of the wandering spirits of those executed there.
Sir Thomas Becket: First Ghost at the Tower of London
Sir Thomas Becket, once a close friend of Henry II, was made the Archbishop of Canterbury. Later, Henry, furious that Beckett wouldn’t play by his rules, made his anger known. Several loyal knights, thinking that Henry wanted Becket dead, murdered Archbishop Beckett at the Canterbury Cathedral in 1170. Although killed at Canterbury, his specter is reportedly one of the first Tower of London ghosts. It was speculated that his ghost haunted the tower because, at one time, he’d held the title of Constable of the Tower.
The next King, King Henry III, commissioned an inner circle wall. It’s claimed that Becket’s ghost appeared twice during the construction. Allegedly, on both occasions, he touched the newly constructed wall with his cross, causing it to crumble. Becoming one of the scariest ghosts of the tower, men almost refused to work there and finish the wall.
Incredibly, more sightings of Becket’s apparition are reportedly seen near his tomb in the eastern crypt of the cathedral. Supposedly, to appease this troublesome ghost, King Henry had a new chapel built in the Tower and named it after Thomas Becket. After this, his vengeful spirit ceased appearing at the new wall.
History of The Bloody Tower
The Tower of London is perhaps the oldest historic site in the city of London, England. The Tower of London is conspicuous for its ghostly activity because of many executions, torture, and imprisonment that happened there. Not surprising, residing there are some of the scariest ghosts that haunt the tower to this day.
Separated from the eastern edge of the square mile of the City of London, the tower was erected towards the end of 1066. Built as a stronghold by the usurper William the Conqueror, it was never intended to be a prison.
The long and bloody history of the Tower earned its nickname as the “Bloody Tower.” However, in later centuries, the formidable stone structure became the perfect prison for kings to house political prisoners, religious dissidents, and traitors awaiting execution. Imagine languishing in a stark and cold stone cell awaiting a terrible death.
Ghosts of the Tower of London at Execution Sites
Two dismal sites were the places of executions for many notable figures in British History including, Anne Boleyn, Sir Walter Raleigh, Guy Fawkes, George Plantagenet, First Duke of Clarence, the Duke of Northumberland, Cardinal Wolsey, and Lady Jane Grey. Additionally, traitors and those who displeased kings had their own special places of gruesome executions.
Notably, a succession of monarchs added additional towers within its confines. In the inner part of the Tower is a grassy area designated for the beheading executions of high nobility.
As befitting their station, executions inside the Tower were a privilege reserved for those of high rank to keep them away from the gawking crowds. Notably, just outside the Tower of London is the notorious Tower Hill located on slightly higher ground just north of the Tower of London moat. Today, a small brick-paved memorial marks the site of the notorious blood-soaked scaffold at Tower Hill.
Tower Hill executions were reserved for the lesser nobility, political prisoners, religious heretics, and traitors. This place is undoubtedly the most infamous of the two execution sites. Moreover, in its heyday, executions were open to the public.
The beautiful surrounding gardens of today belie the blood-soaked ground and the original purpose of the spot. Beefeater guides love to show these areas to tourists and regale them with gruesome tales of executions and more stories of the Tower of London ghosts.
A Beautiful Garden and Monument Stands Where Once Bloody Executions Took Place on London’s Tower Hill Next to The Tower of London
One of the most famous of these prisoners was King Henry the VIII’s second wife, Anne Boleyn. Having failed to give Henry a son, he got tired of Anne and wanted to be free of her to marry his new flame, the lovely Jane Seymour. So, he had his advisors cook up all sorts of foul charges, including an incestuous relationship with her brother, to arrest Anne. Of course, she was found guilty.
In the early hours of May 19, 1536, Anne was led to the scaffolding and beheaded. Afterward, Anne Boleyn was ignominiously buried in a communal grave beneath the chancel pavement along with other people executed at the Tower.
Anne Boleyn, Ill-fated Wife of Henry VIII. She was lucky to have a long neck.
The Most Famous of the Tower of London Ghosts
The unfortunate Ann Boleyn has become the most famous of the Tower of London ghosts through the ages. Her ghost has been seen and recognized numerous times. Her specter is said to haunt not only her place of execution at the Tower Green, but also in several places inside the Tower. One such place is the Queen’s House facing the Tower Green. However, sources can’t seem to agree about this. All in all, the unfortunate Anne became one of the most famous of the Tower of London ghosts.
It’s claimed that in 1817, a sentry suffered a heart attack after encountering the apparition of Anne Boleyn on a staircase.
Restless Ghosts of the Tower of London: Unfortunate Ghostly Encounter
A similar account is even stranger. One evening, in 1864, a sentry standing guard at the Towers’ Queen’s House noticed the misty white figure of a woman approaching him. She was wearing a Tudor era dress and, over that, a cloak with a hood. However, where her face should have been, there was only an empty dark space. So, as sentries are supposed to do, he challenged the figure. When it did not respond to his calls and eerily continued moving towards him, the sentry thrust at the figure with his bayonet. What happened next caused him to lose consciousness. The bayonet passed right through the person to his horror, and then a fiery flash moved up his rifle.
Found in this collapsed state, the sentry was court-martialed for falling asleep on his watch. However, he was deemed not guilty when several eyewitnesses told the court that they had also seen the headless woman on Tower Green that night.
One witness, an officer stationed in the Bloody Tower, saw the incident from a window upon hearing the commotion. The officer testified that he saw the sentry thrust his bayonet into the apparition and then saw the figure pass not only through the bayonet but right through the sentry. His chilling testimony saved the sentry from a court-martial.
The Ghost of Queen Catherine Howard
The fifth wife of Henry VIII, Catherine Howard, eventually became a prisoner at the Tower of London as well. Conducting an affair behind Henry’s back, she was found out and locked up in her private chambers at Henry’s Hampton Court Palace. Making a desperate attempt to save her life, she escaped her rooms. Racing through what is now known as the Haunted Gallery, Katherine screamed for Henry to grant her an audience. An immovable Henry ignored her cries and ordered her moved to the Tower of London, where she was subsequently beheaded.
Although not actually haunting the Tower of London, the ghost of Catherine Howard is said to haunt Hampton Court in what’s now called the haunted gallery. Visitors to the palace often hear the screams of a woman.
People claim that the screams are from Catherine’s ghost as she attempts to beg for her life. As visitors enter the gallery, many people claim to feel an eerie presence, icy cold spots, and an unaccountable sadness. Some reports claim that Catherine Howard’s ghost can be seen racing toward the chapel in a white dress with long flowing hair.
Haunted Gallery where it’s claimed that the Ghost of Catherine Howard races through it. Screams of a woman have been heard here.
An Artist’s Paranormal Experience
As a side note, when the gallery was finally opened to the public by Queen Victoria, an artist was allowed to sketch the period tapestry. Suddenly, he saw a ghostly female hand wearing an intricate ring move in front of the tapestry. Not knowing what else to do, the artist immediately sketched the hand. Later he matched the ring to a portrait of Catherine Howard wearing the exact ring.
The Sad Tale of the Two Princes
In 1483, orphans Edward V, 12, and his younger brother Richard, aged 10, were in line for the English throne. Their uncle, the Duke of Gloucester and Lord Protector of the boys, claimed that Edward, the eldest, needed “watching over” until he was old enough to rule. So, he had them placed in the Tower of London. The two princes were often seen playing together in the garden at the Tower and along tower walls.
Not long after, the boys mysteriously vanished from the tower. Rumors circulated that their uncle, who had himself crowned King Richard III, had them murdered.
The story doesn’t end there. In 1674, workers found two small skeletons inside a wooden chest. The assumption was that skeletons belonged to the missing princes. “Restoration King,” Charles II had them reburied in Westminster Abby. In 1933, reexamination of the bones proved that the skeletons were of two boys aged 12 and 10.
Ghostly Sightings of the Princes
Undoubtedly the most tragic of the Tower Ghosts, eyewitnesses commonly report seeing two boys playing on the battlements. Even more chilling is the frequent sound of children giggling in the area where the princes were once held. But, perhaps the most heartbreaking, are stories about apparitions of two young boys wearing nightshirts and holding hands in many rooms of the White Tower. Were the frightened boys holding hands for comfort in the terror in their last moments?
The Tower White Lady
A wispy figure of a woman in white, appropriately called “The White Lady,” haunts the White Tower. No one is sure who the White Lady is, but an overwhelming smell of a pungent perfume usually announces her presence. Incredibly, the odor is so strong; it has made more than one Tower visitor sick. Also, visitors report being tapped on the shoulder, only to turn around and see nothing but fleeting a wisp of white. Adding to this, some visitors have described a feeling of claustrophobia and chills running down their spine.
Tower of London Ghosts at the “Queen’s House”
(The Queens House was built in 1530 under a different name for the King; however, it was named the Queen’s House during the reign of Victoria.)
A Lady Arabella Stuart was imprisoned in The Queen’s House for defying King
James I by marrying her great love, William Seymour. Arrested and put in the
Tower, a heartbroken Lady Arabella died there in 1615, never seeing her husband
Centuries later, Major General Geoffrey Field was appointed Governor of the Tower in 1994. He relates this story about his wife’s paranormal experience right after moving into The Queen’s House.
“Soon after we’d arrived, my wife Janice was making up the bed in the Lennox room when she felt a violent push in her back, which propelled her right out of the room!”
Of specific interest, almost every resident of the Queen’s House has experienced something scary or even life-threatening in that particular room. Several women who’ve slept there have reported being awakened at night with the awful feeling of being strangled. However, no ghostly apparition accompanies the events.
The Royal Zoo
Perhaps the scariest of ghosts came from the Royal Zoo. Not many people know this, but at one time, the Tower was home to many exotic animals and birds. As gifts to various monarchs, these animals were eventually housed in a large secure area called the Royal Menagerie. For some years, a dangerous grizzly bear named Martin even ambled the grounds with courtiers keeping a safe distance. Although gone now, mysterious animal noises have been heard over the years, including cries of monkeys, growls of lions, and neighing of horses. Still, only one animal has reportedly been seen.
In 1816, a Yeomen Warder on night duty saw a bear near the Martin Tower. Before dying, he claimed the bear charged him. Much like the incident involving the ghost of Anne Boleyn, the guard attempted to spear the bear, which kept coming at him. To his horror, the spear went right through the animal. This was too much for the guard, who promptly fainted and was carried to his quarters. Fatefully, the Yeomen died of shock two days later.
Demon Possessed Amor?
When I was fifteen, I visited London. While there I had the opportunity to visit the Tower of London. I remember vividly seeing the armor of King Henry VIII. Although it said do not touch, I couldn’t help myself and did. Feeling smug that I had gotten away with the little defiant act, little did I know then, that the Amor was said to be possessed by a malevolent spirit.
Henry VIII, Field Armor, Tower of London, Source: Pinterest
Frighteningly, numerous guards have reported horrible feelings when patrolling the Tower of London at night. Specifically, within the tower, people have described the feelings of deep dread or chills running down their spine when entering a particular chamber.
Some guards in times past told of genuinely horrific experiences concerning the ancient armor. Some even felt like they were being crushed alive after walking into a particular room. It was like a demon had jumped from overhead, wrapping its arms tight around their middle, and attempted to cut off their air. For several seconds they could not breathe. At times people felt the horrifying sensations of being strangled. They reported that it felt like the tight grip of huge hands around their neck, and for a short while, they could not breathe.
There’s another frightful account of a guard being assaulted by a ghost wielding a visible cloak. Again, the guard struggled as he felt the cloak wrap right around his neck. Luckily, he managed to escape the room, and for a time, showed-off red finger marks around his neck.
Perhaps the most alarming of all was that every time the King’s Amor was moved to another location in the Tower, similar dreadful experiences happened to visitors and guards alike.
Does a malicious, suffocating demon inhabit King Henry’s armor? Does it also try and strangle people? Regardless, all these stories of suffocation and strangulation have one thing in common: they occurred in the room holding Henry VIII’s armor. As mentioned, nowadays, the armor is on actually on display, and in recent decades, no stories of terrifying events have been attributed to the haunted amor as far as I know.
Crown Jewels Spooky Light
Edmund Lenthal Swifte was the trusted Keeper of the Crown Jewels between 1814 and 1852. He lived inside the Tower of London with his family, as did many caretakers. Here’s a startling account of a truly supernatural experience in the Jewel House (now the Martin Tower). That evening, the windows were closed; the curtains were pulled over, and the room was lighted by a couple of candles. His family were seated around a table. Suddenly, something very odd and frightening happened. Swifte’s own account of the entire event in my book, Is it a Ghost or Swamp Lights?
It’s not surprising that countless ghost sightings have occurred over the centuries due to the ancient and bloody history of the Tower of London. Restless spirits roam near the sites of bloody scaffolds, the prisoner’s cells, to White Tower, The Queen’s House, and the Martin Tower. If you are ever in London, the Tower of London is a must-visit place, especially if you want to see a ghost. If you are wondering if I became possessed after touching King Henry VIII’s armor, thankfully no.
»Tower of London Ghosts-real-british-ghosts.com
»Tower Green Scaffold Site
»Exploring British Castles
»The Ghost of Catherine Howard at Hampton Court Palace
»The Ghost of Anne Boleyn
»The Murdered Princes
»The Ghost of Arabella Stuart