As you finish our Jack the Ripper tour in Mitre Square, chances are you will walk back towards Aldgate Underground Station, passing the church of St Botolph on the way. According to Daniel Defoe in his Journal of the Plague Year (1722), the land next to the church, where Aldgate Station now sits, was the site of a vast plague pit, one of many that were dug beyond the City walls to accommodate the bodies of thousands who died during the great plague of 1665-66. Traces of this pit were found during building work on the station which was opened in 1876.
Perhaps as a result of this, people using the station, especially staff, have reported ghostly footsteps and other unexplained phenomena and such is the regularity of these eerie goings-on that the station has its own journal to record any unusual occurrences. Perhaps the most well-known of these happened in the latter part of the 20th century when a London Underground maintenance man was working on the rails. Unfortunately, he was not aware that the power had not yet been switched off and he received a massive electric shock, believed to be in the region of 20,000 volts! He should have died instantly, but apart from knocking himself unconscious as he fell to the ground, the man survived to tell the tale.
It wasn’t until his colleagues were being questioned about the incident that a most unusual occurrence came to light. According to the witnesses, moments before the accident, they swore blind they had seen the almost transparent figure of an old woman stroking the man’s hair. The identity of the phantom remains a mystery, but did she have any part in saving the engineer?
So, if you are standing on the quiet platforms of Aldgate Underground Station on these cold nights, maybe – just maybe – the echoing footsteps of other passengers walking the platforms may not be all they seem…