In an exciting development for spook fans, the Tower of London has put one of its famous ghost tours on Periscope, the live-streaming social media site.
We were introduced to Yeoman Clerk Phil Wilson, a white-bearded gentleman in full Tower regalia and with a suitably sonorous voice for tales of the supernatural.
He led us and around 300 other Periscope viewers around the Tower’s grounds, picking sites associated with grisly murders and awful apparitions.
Here are some of our favourite chilling tales. But remember, as Phil Wilson says, they’re called ghost stories for a reason, and there are “so many questions, so few answers”.
1. The men by the fireplace
Our first ghost story was pretty recent – only as far back as the mid 1980s. One young yeoman warder was up in the Byward Tower reading the paper. Suddenly, next to the fireplace, the warder noticed a pair of “spindly medieval-looking men” smoking clay pipes.
As he stared, one of the men turned and stared back. Then the moment was over, the men vanished. In Yeoman Clerk Wilson’s words, the young man wasn’t sure “whether he had seen the past, or the past had seen the future”.
2. St Thomas Beckett disrupts building works
Traitors’ Gate, the Tower’s most infamous entrance, was constructed during the reign of Edward I – and the works went anything but smoothly.
Having erected the arch, the bemused builders returned to find it collapsed the next day. The king was furious, and ordered its them build it anew. But again the archway collapsed.
This time, however, locals reported stories of the ghost of Thomas Beckett (murdered a century before in Canterbury) dressed in his bishop’s regalia, taking the arch apart brick by brick. Acting on this news, Edward I ordered the gate built once more, but this time renaming it “St Thomas’s Gate”. It stands to this day.
3. The Princes in the Tower
Along with Anne Boleyn, the young Edward V and his brother Richard are perhaps the Tower’s most famous (and most tragic) inhabitants.
The rumours are famous. Two princes locked in the Bloody Tower – then more pleasantly named the Garden Tower – before being bumped off by “Good Old Uncle Dickie” as Wilson refers to Richard III. Their bodies, and fate remain a mystery.
There have been sightings of two young boys dressed in white gowns wandering aimlessly around the Tower grounds. Even children of pre-school age, who couldn’t possibly know the history, have reported the two melancholy youths in “funny clothes”.
4. The blood-curdling screams of the Countess of Salisbury
You might be surprised to learn that only six people have been beheaded at the Tower of London. The first was Anne Boleyn, but the second – Margaret Pole, Countess of Salisbury – was far more gruesome.
Margaret was sentenced to death as a Roman Catholic in Henry VIII’s new Protestant England. But she didn’t go quietly to the Tower scaffolding, claiming her treatment was for traitors and she was no such thing.
She broke free of the executioner and ran back towards her lodgings. But the executioner pursued, hacking her with his axe.
On the anniversary of her death – which became seen as martyrdom – her screams are said to still be heard at the Tower. More than that, the shadow of the executioner’s axe has been seen cast against the walls.
5. The tourist who saw ‘so much suffering’
One quiet day a yeoman warder was in one of the Tower’s rooms full of engravings remembering some of the Tower’s many prisoners.
He was approached by a woman and her daughter, who were interested in the room’s sombre decorations. But as he happily explained, the daughter (perhaps 18 or 19 years old) started wailing: “So, so much suffering.”
The warder was concerned, but his mother reassure him that sometimes she just picked up vibes and would be alright soon. They then proceeded to an area around a former altar where other interesting engravings were to be found.
“So, so much suffering,” the teenager wailed once more. The warder tried to reassure her that they were “all gone now”. “Not him,” the woman replied, putting her hand behind her as if touching a man’s shoulder. She pointed to an engraving reading “Thomas Talbot, 1498″.
6. The great smoke bear after the Crown Jewels
The Martin Tower used to hold the Crown Jewels, always under guard. One night the soldier on duty saw smoke creeping out from under the door of the Tower. Going to investigate, he saw the smoke gather into the form of a great, grey bear.
The terrified guard reacted with valour, charging the spectral animal with his bayonet. The weapon dispelled the beast but lodged so deep into the door that it took two men to remove. The soldier died two days after the incident.
The bear story remains unexplained. Some say it was paranormal propaganda, with Britain at war with Russia at the time. Others have speculated the spirit of a dead animal once mistreated in the Tower’s menagerie.
The full tour with Yeoman Clerk Phil Wilson will be available for a short time Periscope here.