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Locked in the Tower: Historic hauntings in the Tower of London
For close to 1,000 years, the Tower of London has stood proudly on the bank of the Thames. It has been a place of residence to countless inhabitants throughout history and most famously the home of the Crown Jewels.
First built by William the Conqueror following his conquest at the Battle of Hastings, many popular historical figures have walked the Tower’s halls. With its deep ditches and heavily fortified walls, the Tower of London was built to protect the British monarchy from even the most determined invaders. It’s no surprise, then, that a building designed to keep people out was also good at keeping people inside as well.
Throughout its 925 years, the Tower of London has played host to various historical figures. Whether they were guests staying there for pleasure, or held against their will, not everyone managed to find their way out.
Here are some famous ghosts that are said to haunt the Tower of London.
Despite its dark and grim reputation, only 22 recorded executions have taken place inside the Tower’s walls. . Perhaps one of the most well-known and tragic execution was that of Anne Boleyn – the ill-fated second wife of Henry VIII.
Anne’s first visit to the Tower of London was during a time of happiness. In the days leading up to her coronation as queen, Anne and her new husband stayed at the Royal apartments in the Tower. In preparation for her coronation, Anne was showered with gifts and given a personal tour by Henry himself.
Sadly, less than 1,000 days later, Anne was staying in the Tower’s royal apartments once again, this time against her will. Found guilty of treason against the King, her husband, Anne was executed in the courtyard on 19th May 1536.
While her body may have left the Tower that day, it’s believed that Anne’s spirit chose to stay around just a little longer. Whether she is reliving the bliss of a queen-to-be or the terror of her final days - no one knows for sure. Often spotted taking a turn through the courtyard, Anne Boleyn’s ghost is the spirit, most reportedly spotted by visitors.
Records only show that 48 prisoners at the Tower were subjected to physical torture, though many more likely experienced psychological torments such as starvation or isolation.
During the darkest years in the history of the Tower, at a time when Britain was under increasing religious and political turmoil, torture was reserved for gathering information from people who posed the biggest threat to the stability of the Crown. One of these unfortunate souls was Guy Fawkes.
Imprisoned in the Tower following his failed attempt at assassinating James I at Parliament, Fawkes was subjected to intense torture to compel him to give up the co-conspirators in the Gunpowder Plot.
Most likely tortured in the dungeons below the White Tower, it seems that Guy's real punishment for his treason was to relive his torture over and over again. Some have claimed to hear his pained cries of anguish as he begs for mercy long after his execution.
Held prisoner throughout the tumultuous War of the Roses, Henry was no stranger to the hallways of the Tower of London. Having just lost his son and heir at the Battle of Tewkesbury, Henry was once again a visitor to the Tower, only this time, he would never leave.
While there is no record of his death, many believed that it was the heartbreak at having lost both his crown and his heir that hastened his death. Many others, however, believe that the king was murdered by King Edward IV to clear his way to the throne.
Whether he died from murder or melancholy, Henry’s spirit has been cursed to relive that fateful night. As the clock edges closer to midnight on the anniversary of his death, it is said that his ghost is seen restlessly pacing through the Wakefield Tower and in the chapel as though awaiting his ill fate just one more time.
Other notable inhabitants at the Tower of London…
- The Kray Twins: The last two people to be held in the Tower of London were infamous East End gangsters, Ronnie, and Reggie Kray. The pair were held within the Tower for a few days in 1952 for failing to report for National Service.
- William Wallace: Before his brutal execution in 1305, legendary Scottish hero William Wallace was held in the Tower of London.
- Rudolf Hess: When Rudolf Hess parachuted into Scotland in May 1941, he probably didn’t expect to be the last state prisoner in the Tower of London. Doubtful of Hess’ true motives, Churchill ordered he be held in the Tower and questioned. He was later released and returned to Germany to stand in the 1946 Nuremberg trials.