The Creepy Ghosts Of London Underground
The London Underground has been at the center of city's transport infrastructure for almost one and half century. During that time, this underground has played host to many historical events. From sheltering civilians from the bombings in the Second World War, to being a target of the 2005 London terrorist attacks, numerous people have lost their lives in these tunnels. Can their souls remain as ghosts of the London tunnels?
Encounter with the Liverpool Street Ghost
Work had been fairly relaxed for Steve Coates. His shift had started at 10 p.m., and besides the inevitable rush of commuters in the last stretch before the tube station closed, the early hours of this midweek morning had been quiet. As the supervisor of Liverpool Street Station in Central London, he now busied himself in a ticket office, cashing up the tills and carrying out any number of other mundane administrative tasks. Steve much preferred the relative peace and quiet of the night shifts compared to the hustle and bustle of the daytime, even if they did seem to pass by more slowly.
There was a strange sense of priviness in having such a large public space all to himself; a tranquility he otherwise rarely got to experience. On the desk in front of him, the phone began to ring, shattering the silence. Picking up the receiver, the familiar voice of the line controller- who was stationed offsite-told Steve that he was looking at the CCTV feed from the eastbound platform of Liverpool Street and that he could see a man down there standing near to the tunnel entrance. The station supervisor checked his watch, it was just after 2:00 a.m. The gates to the station had been closed and padlocked almost three hours beforehand, so there shouldn't have been anyone besides him inside the station itself. He told the line controller that he would go down and check, and then hung up.
Taking the escalator down to the platform in question, Steve did a thorough scan of the area. As he reached the eastbound tunnel entrance, he took out his torch and shone it along the tracks receding into the pitch-dark of the subway. He also checked the line immediately below the platform as he made his way back, but there was no one there. The platform itself was completely empty. At the bottom of the escalators, there was a public phone, which Steve used to call the light controller back and tell him that he had carried out a thorough search and that the platform was secure.
But the line controller's response didn't make any sense. "I can see on the monitor right now. I can see the tunnel entrance; he is standing right there. He is wearing white overalls." Confused, Steve agreed to take another look, leaving the phone hanging with the controller on the other end of the line. He went off and performed another search. But still the platform was completely empty. "There's no one else here," he said to his colleague when he got back to the phone, but the line controller was having none of it.
"How did you not see him? He was standing right next to you. He was wearing white overalls. You shone your torch right at him for several seconds. There's no way you couldn't have seen him!" "Either, you're winding me up or there is a glitch on your screen," Steve replied. "I've done two sweeps now and I'm telling you there is no one else here!" With that, he put the phone down and turned to go back up the escalators, when something made him stop in his tracks.
On the bench opposite, he saw a set of white overalls draped over the seat and arm rest, which were definitely not there before. A sudden chill went up his spine as he quickened his pace and made his way back up to the ticket office. He wasn't to know it at the time, but he had just had a run-in with a famous Liverpool Street Ghost.
History of the London Underground
Opened in 1890, the London Underground is the oldest subway system in the world. Each year, 1.3 billion people pass through its 270 stations, which are collectively manned by nearly 6,000 members of staff. Most of the passengers who take the subway do so without a second thought, completely oblivious to the history which surrounds them. The ground in which this system is built has been settled upon for the Millenia. From the underground's initial inception right up to the present day, there have been thousands of accidental deaths, suicides and tragic events.
Not to mention the amount of graveyards, cemeteries, plague pits and church crypts which have been disrupted or relocated during its construction. Add all of these things together and the number of potentially disturbed souls begins to soar. For the average commuter, the day-to-day experience of riding the tube is one of overcrowded chaos, especially in the headache-inducing rush hour. But if they were able to visit any one of the many stations during the midnight hours, long after closing, they would discover an entirely different world, one which is mostly peaceful, but can also be unnerving, haunting and downright eerie. What follows is just some of the stories told by those who work on the London Underground?
The blonde lady of Becontree
In the summer of 1992, the supervisor of Becontree Station, Tariq Rana, was working a late shift at the closing down for the night. He was just finishing off some final paperwork and then planned to head home. On the right side of the office in which he was sitting, there was a door which led up to the overground District Line platform. In the relative silence, this door began to rattle, but Tariq thought nothing of it.
Rattling doors were a frequent occurrence, due to the updrafts and downdrafts created by passing trains. He simply assumed that a train was approaching on the District Line. A few minutes later, when the door rattled a second time, he was sure he would soon hear the rumble of carriages passing above and to the right of him, but that sound never materialized. Confused, he made his way through the door and up onto the District Line platform to see what was going on. But looking up and down the tracks, he could see that no trains were approaching from either the left or right.
Even though he could feel no breeze on the night air, he reasoned that the rattling must have been caused by the wind and headed back down to the office to finish up, but no sooner had he closed the door behind him when it rattled a third time. Now, however, it was much more sustained. Unnerved by this bizarre occurrence, he decided to head up to the station foyer, where another member of staff was working. As he stepped out onto the disused subway platform and began to make his way up the steps, he suddenly experienced an intense feeling that someone was standing behind him.
Turning his head, he saw the terrifying image of a woman a few steps further down from where he was. She had long blond hair, but no face. It was completely blank where her features should have been. Utterly shaken, Tariq turned and ran up to the station foyer, taking three steps at a time. When they met, his colleague remarked how he looked as if he had seen a ghost and went Tariq replied saying "I think I just have", his co-workers response was "Did you see the blonde woman with no face?" Apparently in 1958, there was a train collision at this station on the District Line, which killed 10 people and Tariq was not the only person to have seen the blonde lady of Becontree.
12 miles west of Becontree, you will find the station at Hyde Park Corner, one of the most central stops on the network. Back in November of 1978, Berry Oakley was working the night shift, long after the last train had left. He and a colleague had shut the escalators down by removing the corresponding circuit breakers in the control room. They had then returned to the supervisor's office to continue their administrative tasks. At around 2:30 in the morning, they heard an almighty commotion outside, which sounded like grinding gears, mixed in with a rhythmic knocking. Running out to the foyer, they were surprised to see that one of the escalators they had previously shutdown was now running again, but making a hell of a racket in the process.
This came as a complete shock to the two men, because as far as they were aware, once the circuit breakers had been removed, it was impossible for the escalators to run, as there was no power going to them. Not only that, but it would require a special key to start back up again. After a brief investigation, in which they found that the circuit breaker was still removed, they managed to shut the escalator down once more and then returned to the office. Barry would later say that during this whole time, he had a strong sense that someone else was there in the station with them besides himself and his colleague.
After settling back into his paperwork, he happened to glance across to his coworker and saw that he was now standing with his back flat against the office wall, pale-faced and clearly in some sort of trance. Barry's initial thought was that the man was having a seizure, as he was completely unresponsive. After several minutes, he came back to his senses and with a haunted look, he said, "Did you see the face?"
Apparently, as the two of them had been sitting there working away, a hideous face had appeared at the office window and stared at both of them. His colleague went shortly afterwards and never returned to that particular station.
Perhaps one of the most unenviable jobs on the London Underground is known as track walking. Track Walkers are required to patrol the tunnels at night, long after the trains have stopped, usually moving from one station to another. They do this alone and completely in the dark, with only a battery-powered torch to light their way.
The Track Walker's Experience
During the early two thousands, Bill McCown was a veteran track walker, having been in the job for more than 20 years. On one particular occasion, he was walking the Jubilee Line between the Stations of Finchley and Charing Cross, a distance of about 8 Miles. He decided to take a quick break on a stretch of track which ran between Baker Street and St. John's Wood. He had been sitting down for about 2 minutes when he heard a strange sound off to his right. Shining his torch in that direction, he couldn't see anything, but then he suddenly noticed that the ballast between the tracks was moving.
As the commotion moved closer to him, he could hear footsteps walking past and, in the torchlight, he could see the ballast sinking down with each step.
Dumfounded by what he was witnessing, Bill later reported that he felt the tingling sensation, like static all through his body as it drew level with him. It carried on past him for about 10 meters and then stopped. Sitting in complete silence once more, Bill now contemplated that he had to carry on walking in that same direction in order to finish his patrol, which he did, with no small amount of trepidation.
Upon reaching Charing Cross Station, his supervisor had marked on how pale he looked and when Bill responded saying, "You're not going to believe what's just happened!" His supervisor quickly cut him off and said, "Don't tell me you've seen footprints in the ballast." Bill was not the first person to have witnessed the phenomenon and he wouldn't be the last. Records show that a Track Walker suffered a fatal heart attack whilst patrolling that same stretch of the Jubilee Line many years before.
Kennington is allegedly one of the most haunted stations on the network, with more unexplained phenomena being reported there than anywhere else, thanks to a section of track known as Kennington Loop. The loop exists to allow southbound trains to turn around and head north again. Passengers are cleared out at Kennington station, before the empty trains are sent into the loop, where they will often have to wait for up to 20 minutes in a hundred and fifty year old tunnels. And whilst they are waiting, there is no way anyone can get on or off the train.
Bob Cairn and Larry de Larrabeiti both work on the Northern Line. Bob was a driver and Larry was a guard. Larry describes how many years ago he was working on a train that have been sent into the loop. There had been an incident further up the line, which meant that he and his driver was stuck there for about 10 minutes. Sitting in the rearmost carriage, he heard the unmistakable sound further up the train of the interconnecting doors between each car opening.
It was getting closer and closer, until finally, the doors to his carriage opened and he turned expecting to see his driver, but there was nobody there. Similarly, Bob also heard the sound of the doors opening at the front end of the train and he turned expecting to see his colleague, but was greeted by dead air. The twist in this tale is that Bob and Larry were on different trains: Their experiences took place four years apart from each other, and the two men have never met. The story goes that a passenger had been killed at Kennington fifty years beforehand whilst trying to board the train between carriages. His body was dragged into the loop.
It seems the London Underground is utterly steeped in stories of the unexplained. Almost every station appears to exhibit some form of strange phenomena or has its own resident ghost sometimes several. There is so much more to tell, from the accounts regarding the Nun of Bank Monument Station, to the phantom maintenance man of South Island Place, from the crying children of Bethnal Green to the demonic presence which stalks a disused tunnel at Embankment.
Not to mention the strange activity often witnessed at the 15 abandoned stations still attached to the network. This is most definitely a subject we would like to revisit in the near future. But in the meantime, is there any explanation for what people are experiencing? Unfortunately, very little exists in the way of proof. Over the years, some interesting images have been captured, but like so many pictures of so-called ghosts, they are inconclusive. What we are left with is mostly anecdotal accounts.
A study carried out by Coventry University within the last decade has uncovered high levels of infrasound in many of the alleged hotspots. But whist this might account for feelings of unease or auditory anomalies, it would rarely, if ever, result in hallucinations of full-bodied apparitions. Whatever the case may be, whether the people really are seeing the spirits of those who have tragically lost their lives in these tunnels or are simply repeating well-established ghost stories for their 15 minutes of fame, it is probably best to approach the London Underground with an open mind.