In January 1863 London saw the opening of the World’s first Underground Railway. Since then billions of people have travelled on the network, and some of them have found the experience so alluring that they have felt compelled to return time and again, despite the fact that they have been dead for many years!
Indeed, London’s Underground system is not just the oldest in the world, it is also the most haunted.
The first line, the Metropolitan Railway (now the Metropolitan Line) ran between Paddington and Farringdon and opened to the public on 10th January 1863.
As mentioned in the previous blog, if you travel to our Jack the Ripper guided tour on the Hammersmith and City Line from Paddington, Baker Street, or King’s Cross, you will be travelling along this original Underground Line.
As your train passes through Farringdon Station keep an ear cocked to see if you hear the horrific ghostly screams that have been known to echo trough the station at all times of the day or night.
Prior to the construction of the Metropolitan Railway the area around Farringdon Station had been an area of slums and gambling dens.
In 1758 thirteen-year-old Anne Naylor and her sister were apprenticed to the Sarahs Metyard, a mother and daughter who ran a milliner’s on Bruton Street in West London.
The mother and daughter were both hot tempered and were known to mistreat any apprentices who had the misfortune to be entrusted to their care. Beatings were common, whilst torture and starvation were everyday occurrences. It was following one particularly savage beating that the unfortunate Anne Naylor died.
Her employers attempted to conceal her demise from the other apprentices by carrying her up to an attic room and taking food up there to keep up the pretence that she was still alive.
But, realising that the longer they kept her the greater the danger of their crime being discovered they attempted to dispose of the body by cutting it into small chunks and burning it in their fireplace.
However, this gave off a foul smell so they, instead, took the remains to an open sewer in Chick Lane, near the site of Farringdon Station and dumped them.
They were found by the night watchman who reported his grisly discovery to the Parish Constable who duly informed the Coroner Mr Umfreville. He, however, presumed them to be the remains of a corpse that had been dissected by the Surgeons and, therefore, declined to summon a jury for an inquest.
The dastardly duo would have got away with the crime but for the fact that, four years later, they argued and the daughter revealed their crime in a fit of rage.
They were duly tried at the Old Bailey, sentenced to death and executed on the 19th July 1768, after which their bodies were given over to the surgeons for dissection.
Within a hundred years of their execution Farringdon Station had opened on the site close to where they had dumped the remains of the unfortunate Annie Naylor whose ghostly screams were soon being heard by those standing on the platforms late at night or by those passing along the street above the station platforms.
There are other ghosts on London’s Underground System.
The ghost of Sarah Whitehead, whose brother Philip was executed for forgery in 1812, haunts Bank Station and its surrounding streets where she asks bemused late night wanderers “have you seen my brother?”
Bank Station is also haunted by a dreadful stench, sometimes been compared to the smell of an open grave, that drifts through its tunnels in the dead of night and which causes much consternation amongst the maintenance workers whose nostrils are the most common recipients of its foul odour.
Covent Garden Underground Station is haunted by the ghost of the Victorian actor William Terris, who was stabbed to death outside the nearby Adelphi Theatre on 16th December 1897 and whose last words “I will be back” have proved to be extremely prophetic!
So next time you’re travelling on the Underground be sure to pay close attention to your fellow passengers since, you never can tell which of them are living, breathing humans and which are ghosts!