by Walter Bissell
Located on the eastern border of the City of London, properly called the “London Borough of Tower Hamlets,” stands the Tower of London on the northern bank of the River Thames. Often referred to as the “White Tower,” this impressive square structure was commissioned by William the Conqueror in 1078 and completed in 1097.
The Tower's primary function was to be a royal palace. In the 12th century King Richard the Lionheart fortified the White Tower, including several other buildings and towers, with a wall surrounded by a moat. In the folllowing century, Edward I built an outer curtain wall, completely enclosing the inner wall and thus creating a “double defence.” He filled in the old moat and built a new one around the new wall. Edward I used this fortification as an armoury and a prison, as well as a place of execution and torture. Thus the phrase "sent to the Tower" took on the meaning “to be imprisoned." Other buildings on the Tower grounds housed a public records office, a treasury, a mint, an observatory and a zoo.
The Colored Towers
The White Tower became the place where “high status and royal prisoners” were held, and outside of it, the Tower Green was reserved for Royal executions. John Baliol, King of Scotland; David II, King of Scotland; John II, King of France; and Henry VI, of England; were prisoners here. Among those beheaded on the Tower Green for treason were William Hastings in 1483, Anne Boleyn in 1536, Margaret Pole in 1541, Catherine Howard and Jane Boleyn in 1542, Lady Jane Grey in 1554 and Robert Devereux in 1601. The German spy Josef Jakobs was the last person to be executed. He was shot, not beheaded, during World War II, on August 15, 1941.
The ghost of Anne Boleyn (second wife of King Henry VIII) is said to walk around the White Tower carrying her head under her arm. “In 1864 a sentry is said to have challenged a headless figure thought to be Ann Boleyn, his bayonet passed straight through her, and he fainted in shock.” Another sentry heard noises coming from within the locked empty Chapel Royal in the White Tower. “He climbed a ladder to peer down into the chapel, and witnessed a procession of people in ancient dress, with an elegant woman walking in front of them. He recognized the slender figure as Ann Boleyn from portraits.”
The Bloody Tower
The Bloody Tower was a place of prison cells and torture chambers and outside of it was Tower Hill that served as the place for the public execution of criminals and all the other traitors. “The Bloody Tower was the scene for the infamous disappearance of the two princes Edward V (12) and Richard Duke of York (10), who are thought to have been murdered in 1483 on the probable command of the Duke of Gloucestershire, who was to be crowned Richard the III. According to one story, guards in the late 15th century, who were passing the stair in the Bloody Tower, spotted the shadows of two small figures gliding down the stairs. These figures were identified as the ghosts of the two princes. In 1674 workmen found a chest that contained the skeletons of two young children, they were thought to be the remains of the princes, and were given a royal burial.”
Sir Walter Raleigh is said to wander the tower grounds as he did when he was imprisoned here. He makes an appearance every now and then. In 1983, a Yeoman Guard on duty in the Bloody Tower saw him. A year or so later, the same apparition was seen in the same area by a different guard.
The Salts Tower
The Salts Tower is reported to be another spot of paranormal activity. It is said that even dogs won’t go into it. Lady Jane Grey, “the 9-day queen,” is also said to appear near the Salts Tower on the anniversary of her death (February 12th.)
Ghosts have been reported re-enacting the death of the Margaret Pole Countess of Salisbury. She refused to put her head on the chopping block like a commoner and was chased around the tower grounds by the executioner chopping bits out of her with his axe. Their ghosts were seen near the spot where she was hacked to death.
Various other apparitions have been seen as the prisoners make their return from the Tower’s bloody past. The ghost of Lord Northumberland who was executed in 1553 and the ghost of a woman called "the gray lady," dressed in mourning attire, a “black void” where her face should be, have been seen. Not only the sightings of people but also of animals have occurred. In January 1815, at midnight, a sentry reported seeing a large bear emerge from a doorway. He “lunged at it with his bayonet, but it passed straight through the apparition.” The sentry is said to have died a couple of months later possibly from the fright of it all.
The traditions of the Tower of London still echo their sentiments within its’ walls, as do the screams of Guy Fawkes just as they did when he was being tortured. They give this magnificent fortress a “Royal” haunting.
Ghost Pictures Taken at the Tower of London:
Tower of London Ghost Picture (none known - please send us your ghost picture!)