On Wednesday 6th December, 1911, The Forres Elgin and Nairn Gazette, Northern Review and Advertiser published the following article about the fear that visitors to London might experience in the streets of London at night.
A COUNTRYMAN’S FEAR IN LONDON
The countryman, accustomed to loneliness, conversant with the cries and noises of various animals, acquainted with his fellow inhabitants, is apt to scoff and ridicule the town man’s fear.
But let him find himself alone in London at say two or three in the morning, when the streets are deserted, save for an occasional policeman or belated pedestrian, and he will experience in another form much the same sensations as the town man in the country.
The endless miles of bricks and mortar, with their hundreds of gaping doorways, dark arches, narrow alleys and sharp turnings, will suggest a hundred unseen dangers to his mind.
CIRCLING ASSASSINS AND CROUCHING HOOLIGANS
He will picture to himself the circling assassin or crouching hooligan, he will remember countless tales of murder and assault, of robbery and of violence, and will in all probability be equally pleased to reach his couch as the town man in the country.
It is the unusualness of their surroundings which causes these fears.
They do not know their ground, and therefore lose much of their self assurance.
THE YELLOW PRESS
Their imaginations have been excited by the Yellow Press, which is always so greedy to exploit with revolting fulness crimes and tragedies of both town and country.
And, in their loneliness, they are apt to forget that the papers give no account of the millions of belated pedestrians who reach their homes without incident, without adventure.
Re-assuring statistics which prove that the percentage of violent deaths is infinitely small are apt to bring no comfort when the nerves of the lonely man have been set quivering by the grim humour of the night.
DARKNESS AND FEAR
It is not at all strange that darkness should set fear in motion, when we realise that when mankind came into being his greatest enemies were the wild animals that stalk by night.
Time, and the progress of man, removed that danger, but replaced it by one even greater; for man became strong enough to turn his hand against his brother man. King fought against king, border baron against border baron, clan against clan.
These were, both great and petty, brought with them their complement of forced marches, of night raids, and of nocturnal surprises. Woods, commons and lonely roads became the happy hunting ground of highwayman and hooligan, and all these things served to intensify man’s terror of darkness.
A HUE AND CRY
Today, king fights against king without physical danger to the civilian. Border barons no longer exist, and the power of the highwayman and the hooligan is discounted and minimised by a well organised police force and modern inventions of rapid inter-communication, by means of which a hue and cry is raised from which the highwayman and hooligan but rarely escape.
THINGS GOING BOOM IN THE NIGHT
At night the temperature becoming considerably cooler causes furniture and wainscoting to contract and emit strange and ghastly noises which have been the foundation of countless ghost stones and innumerable superstition.
So great was the power of this phenomenon in medieval times that a clause was inserted in the Litany which read somewhat as follows:- “From all things that go boom in the night, Good Lord deliver us.”
It is scarcely necessary to add that with the increase of science this clause was removed.”
We often publish photos of London by night on our Facebook page. Come on over and see some of the evocative images we publish.