Th East End of London was a teeming mass of humanity, and, with so many people crammed into the district, it is inevitable that a huge number of ghostly tales should, over the years, have emerged from its courts and alleyways.
The Barbados Agricultural Reporter, on Wednesday the 23rd of March, 1898 reprinted the following article which had previously appeared in Cassell’s Saturday Journal:-
GHOSTS OF LONDON SLUMS
Some districts are rich in ghosts – plebeian ghosts, you understand.
In Houndsditch, says a writer in Cassell’s Saturday Journal, I came across the traces of two that were firmly believed in by the inhabitants of the locality.
One had her home in a blind alley in a very low quarter, and chose as the place of her apparition a disused pump which stood up in the east corner.
THE BURIED PLUNDER
Tradition ran that in days of yore a German Jew ordered illegal plunder near the spot.
He came back from one of his frequent absences to find that his beautiful inamorata had betrayed his secrets to her Gentile lover.
Blind with fury, he chased her from her home into the corner by the pump, where he mercilessly murdered her.
From that time to the present day, if a German Jew takes up his abode in this alley, she can be seen on certain nights in a kneeling attitude on the spot where she was killed, while eerie noises are supposed to be her sobs and shrieks for help.
Be this as it may, no German Jew will live there by choice – the moment she is seen, by man, woman, or child, he is made to take up his household goods and depart.
THE SAILOR GHOST
The other spiritual celebrity of the Houndsditch region is not so methodical in his habits, and the meaning of his visits cannot be traced.
He has no head, and his trunk is swathed in gloom rather than in anything more distinctive. He appears at erratic intervals, and follows whom he chooses. He will follow for a long distance, not only in the street but into your very house; and from his slouching gait he is known as the “sailor ghost.”
It is useless to try to put an end to his peripatetic rambles with gunpowder. You shoot through space, and he walks on just the same.
He never overtakes you, and has an exasperating trick of vanishing if one attempts to touch him. He has left no legend, and can be identified with nothing. He may be looking for his bead, or he may have lost his way in Spirit-land.
Anyhow, he is, the most melancholy, unsatisfactory ghost that ever trod this earth.
ONE SATISFACTORY HAUNTING
It is next to impossible to follow link by link any clue if you get hold of it; the population changes so quickly, and the inclination being to scoff at the marvellous, details receive little attention.
I only met with one case that had a beginning nd an end.
My informant was a local policeman, whose beat included the spot where the haunted house had stood.
The locale was Spitalfields, and the dwelling two-storeyed and tumble-down.
Formerly it had been a tavern, but as newer ones sprang up in the vicinity it became what would be called now a shelter for tramps.
THE GHOST IN THE GARRET
At the top of the house was a garret, which, as the roof lets in rain, was only used when there was an overflow of guests.
Gradually it came to be whispered that the garret was haunted
Sleepers there were reticent about what they saw exactly, but, coming down with bloodshot eyes and haggard face, refused to spend another night at any cost in the same quarters.
At length two bold and roistering fellows undertook to pierce the mystery.
Provided with plenty of liquor and a revolver each, they merrily started their night’s watch.
THE HEADLESS HORROR
In the morning one was found in a fit, while the other had a wondrous tale to tell of a creature, half woman, half ape, that came at midnight poking and peering about the floor as if in search of something.
Their description of the weird figure, with its hairless head and skinny claws, was uncanny indeed, and from that night the chamber was shunned by the inmates, even, with a shrinking terror.
A NEW OWNER
As the tale was repeated, custom gradually failed, and the house changed owners.
The new proprietor was of up-to-date ideas, and logically concluded that, if the creature was in search of something, there was something to be found.
With imagination full of a hidden treasure he waited for her appearance, and was found at dawn stretched on the hearth, dead, with one long, red hair twined round his left hand.
That finished the house: its reputation became such that it had to be pulled down, and in digging foundations for the present erection, a copper vessel was found containing coins and a chevelure of red-gold hair.
A GHASTLY TALE FROM A COURT
Even more ghastly is the tale attached to a certain court, where an old woman once lived who received babies that nobody owned.
It was an understood thing that they were to die or disappear within a given time.
Her infamous trade prospered almost to inconvenience for it became difficult to dispose of the infants so quickly without exciting suspicion.
So she conceived the fiendish idea of setting fire to her house, and getting rid of a batch at once.
The plan succeeded. The house was burned, the children too; and the criminal vanished, no doubt to continue her crimes somewhere else.
THE CRIES OF THE BABIES
But, to this day, so it is asserted, on the anniversary, the cries of those babies can be heard far and near by those gifted with an occult sense; and I have questioned many who are firm in their testimony that they have heard the sounds themselves, though when pressed they own that they could not swear as to children crying – it was more like a smothered choke.
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