Friday, 28 October 2016

Ghosts on the Underground

To witness otherworldly spirits, look no further than your daily commute, says Catherine Baker...

Tales of ghosts and phantasms bring memories of the past back into the focus of the present day with eerie clarity. The patterns behind such sightings could be considered an intriguing reflection of a mass social psychology; why does every culture seem to have a variation on the myth of white or grey ladies? Headless monks? Vampires and goblins?

It is interesting too, to note how stories of hauntings in the UK at least are evolving with the times. While white ladies and headless monks still seem keen on floating through many of our National Trust properties, untoward sightings of individuals in contemporary dress are becoming far more prevalent.

London's tube system is a peculiar mix of modernity and age, with its construction beginning in the 1800s almost clashing with its current status as a symbol of contemporary life in the Capital City.

It's not ancient, by any stretch, but it certainly has its fair share of ghost-stories.

There have long been suggestions that the London underground system had to plough through plague pits during construction and that this is why the lines are curved; to avoid them where possible. Until very recently the evidence for this has been patchy and accounts often contradictory in nature.

According to ongoing research published as recently as last month, it seems that these rumours are mostly exaggerated, but that is not to say the tube system hasn't been built through stretches of burial ground. For example, remains excavated by the Crossrail dig in 2015 were confirmed to test positive for the bacteria which causes bubonic plague last month.

With these in the public consciousness, the spooky sightings mottling the London underground stations are perhaps unsurprising.

Some are linked to events as recent as the 1980s; a story outlined by the Express describes sightings of a screaming woman in modern dress who appears at King's Cross, suggesting that she may have been a victim of, "a fire... in 1987, which killed 37."

Workers at Covent Garden station are said to have had some strange run-ins with an individual whom they simply label, 'an actor'. Encounters mostly involved him being spotted only to disappear into thin air.

South Kensington is said to have once been visited by a spectral train; Bethnal Green is marked by accounts of screaming.

Elephant and Castle holds rumours of phantom footsteps and a woman who gets on the train but is never seen getting off; Farringdon allegedly rings with the ethereal cries of a women said to have been murdered there.

Bank Station is the apparent haunt of a ghostly nun, not to mention accounts of sudden foul odours pervading the platform. The list goes on, and on, and on...

All these incidents are barely a handful of the many peculiar occurrences that pepper the tube lines beneath the London pavements. It will be very interesting to see how many of these tales persist and how many more have yet to be forged as weary commuters from all over the world continue to tread its platforms and the lines themselves continue to expand into occasionally unexpected territory...

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