The Tower of London Ghosts and Hauntings

by JoHarrington

For nearly 1000 years people have lived in the Tower of London. Many were tortured and killed there. Things like that leave their mark.

Kings, queens and commoners have lost their heads on Tower Hill. Many more were hanged, broken on the rack or suffered any number of grisly Fates.

Since the White Tower was built by William the Conqueror, it has been the scene of torture and execution. Men, women and children have been incarcerated at the whim of the State. Some never came out; and some are seen there still.

At any one time, 100 people live in the twenty-seven buildings of the Tower of London. They appear to be out-numbered by their predecessors, whose ghostly forms are often glimpsed in the passages, rooms and battlements.

This is, after all, the most haunted place in England.

Ghosts of the Tower of London

Geoffrey Abbott is a retired Beefeater. Not a natural story-teller, but his history and haunting tales were collected on the job.

Ghostly Goings on Inside the Homes of Beefeaters

Yeoman Guards (commonly called Beefeaters) actually do live within the Tower of London. They often have uninvited guests.

Beefeaters live and work within the Tower of London.

It's a difficult position to secure, so it's all the more startling when one resigns. But when you consider what they might encounter inside those dark precincts, maybe it's not so shocking after all.

Take the Yeoman Guard who lived with his wife in an apartment there. One night they were sitting watching television, when something arrived.

It was a dark mass, floating through the wall and seeming sentient as it approached their settee. It was intent upon the lady. She screamed and reeled back. It felt to her like something threatening and evil.

Her husband was a military man (all Beefeaters are), so he was used to springing into action. But how do you fight something like that? Basic training never included a ghostly mass.

He grabbed a chair and flung it into the center of that dark cloud. It passed right through it, but seemed to arrest its progress.

The shadowy mass changed direction and headed instead for the outer door.  Without anyone opening it, the cloud passed right through and was never seen again.

In a different building, on a different day, another Beefeater lived with his wife and two young sons. The little ones couldn't possibly be expected to grasp the enormity of where they lived. To them it was like an adventure playground. They got to play in their own castle!

From modern home to converted 13th century cells, it had been a bit of a transition period for the family.  But now they were settled and all was as comfortable as they could make it. The Beefeater released a huge sigh of relief, as his wife proclaimed herself at home here.

"How about you boys?"  Their father asked.  "Do you like it here?"

The kids gushed out their excited consent. They'd had plenty of time to explore and they loved it too.  Except for one thing.  "We don't like those nasty boys."

It took some prompting to work out who the 'nasty boys' were.  Tourists?  Local residents?  Children of other Beefeater families?  (There would be words if it was!)  But no, these were the 'nasty boys' who entered their bedroom at night. They apparently didn't like these interlopers into their domain.

The guard and his wife grew cold.  What their sons could not have known was that this building is infamous in British history.  It was where the Princes in the Tower were presumed killed.

Ghost Stories: The Tower of London

A collection of some of the most famous ghostly tales associated with the site. The history is a bit dodgy though.

Books About the Ghosts of the Tower of London

Read these stories to uncover more hauntings and other grisly tales from England's most long-standing prison.

The Tragic Princes in the Tower

Edward should have been king. He was taken to the Tower of London with his little brother. It was supposed to be for his own protection.

The two boys, aged twelve and nine, were terrified. Tiny whimpers of fright sounded from both lips. They clung to one another.

The Beefeater wanted to console them.  He wanted to protect them.  He moved forward with all the compassion of his soul; and the training of his military career. If anyone could keep them safe, then he should.

But for one key fact. They were long past saving.  Edward and Richard had been dead over six hundred years.

As the Beefeater reached out, they scurried backwards and faded from view again.

When Edward IV died suddenly, on April 9th 1483, his will named his eldest son as heir.

Unfortunately Edward V was only twelve years old. His father had been prepared for this. He directed that his own brother, Richard Duke of Gloucester, rule the country, until Edward was old enough to take over.

Richard immediately ordered the execution of Edward V's whole retinue, on charges of treason, and placed the boy in the Tower of London. It was for his own protection, claimed his uncle.

The coronation kept being postponed. Then, on June 16th 1483, Edward's nine year old brother (and heir), Richard of Shrewsbury, Duke of York, was brought to join him in the Tower. The two boys appeared happy enough. They were frequently spotted playing together on the battlements.

But six days later, Parliament made a shocking announcement. The marriage of the deceased Edward IV to Elizabeth Woodward was declared null and void. The erstwhile child king and his brother were instantly rendered illegitimate. They could not take the throne.

From this moment on, neither boy was seen much. It is widely believed that they were suffocated in their beds, on July 29th 1483.  Their uncle became Richard III.

The most frequent sightings of these ghostly children are in the chambers where they lived. They are spied clutching each other in terror, cowering back from anyone who approaches.

At other times, they are spotted walking hand in hand through the passageways outside.  They never speak, never get too close. They appear to be trying to find a way out. 

In both of those situations, the boys are wearing the long, white night gowns, in which they would have been murdered.  But that isn't all.

On very rare occasions, there is a happier haunting involving the two.  This one can be seen from outside the Tower too.  They are dressed in rich outdoor clothes, and they are playing on the battlements. Witnesses tend to look up at their giggles.  There is just a glimpse of their fun, before the phantoms fade.

Perhaps they just wanted to relive the moment of grace, before it all went so horrifically wrong.

Buy The Princes in the Tower by Alison Weir

Two young royal boys disappeared in the Tower of London. But before we can speculate on the mystery, we need to know the history.
It's an enduring Medieval mystery, which has intrigued historians for centuries. But what is really known about the disappearance of the boy king Edward V and his little brother?
Ask anyone with a passing interest who killed the Princes in the Tower. The likely answer is that it was Richard III. But did he do it?

More Medieval Ghosts in the Tower of London

One guardsman encountered more than he'd bargained for at the Tower's main entrance.

In 1940, it wasn't ancient troubles which were concerning London. Those living in the Tower of London had more to worry about in the present day.

This was the Blitz.  Bombs were falling all over the capital, with German planes following the Thames right into its heart.

Across the river were the docklands. They were all ablaze. Inside one of London's most famous landmarks, extra guards had been posted.

(It should be noted that the Tower of London isn't just an ancient prison and tourist attraction. It's also the headquarters of the Royal Regiment of Fusiliers. The Crown Jewels are kept there. It had held the Royal Mint too. During the Second World War, the Tower was also used to house high-ranking prisoners of war, like Rudolf Hess; and it did receive some bomb damage accordingly.)

The guard on duty at the main entrance was not a Beefeater. They had more pressing duties in the heart of the buildings. This man was an ordinary private, conscripted for service and knowing nothing about the ghosts.

Which was a pity, considering the terrifying encounter that was about to ensue.

When the figures started moving from within the fire-lit shadows near to the gate, the guard fixed his bayonet.  "Halt!" He yelled. "Who goes there?"

He was expecting soldiers, but none in these uniforms. The four men were wearing historical costumes, which were later identified as belonging to Sheriff's Officers circa the 14th century. But they looked real enough.

This was a strange hour and time for re-enactors, but nevertheless he had a job to do.  "Halt!" He began, but by now they were closer and he could see precisely what they carried.

It was a litter upon which was a body. It was covered over with a blanket, one end of which was saturated with dripping blood.  The shape of the person beneath was easily discerned. It had no head.

Freezing in terror, the soldier stood his ground as they came straight towards him.  He only turned away when it seemed they would walk right through him. He watched, petrified, as the party conveyed the corpse across to Tower's Chapel of St Peter ad Vincula.

It took an historian to explain later that this was the route taken, when executions had been carried out on Tower Hill.  The beheaded victims were buried in arrow chests beneath the flagstones of the church.

But this is not the most famous Tower of London haunting involving that!

Anne Boleyn's Execution Scene from 'The Tudors'

Natalie Dormer plays Anne Boleyn in this dramatization of her final moments.

Watch The Tudors on DVD Box Set

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Anne Boleyn was the second wife of Henry VIII and the first to be beheaded. She started with such a promising life in the Netherland and then France.
Mark Smeaton confessed to an affair with Anne Boleyn but how much of that confession is true? While it is possible he was guilty, I believe that he was somehow coerced into it.
History is an on-going tale, which directly affects the modern day. Each event is part of a domino effect causing ripples across the world.

The Tower of London and Anne Boleyn's Ghost

Once queen of England, she was decapitated in controversial circumstances on Tower Hill. She's still there.

One night, long after the tourists had gone home, a Beefeater was performing one of his lengthy patrols. 

His route took him past the Chapel of St Peter ad Vincula, which is within the grounds of the Tower of London. He was slightly alarmed to note that it was lit from within. There was nothing on the schedule for this.

The Beefeater naturally hurried across the green and peered through the windows. Inside was a lady and her entourage. Her face was familiar. You don't stay long in the Tower without seeing a myriad of posters, books and exhibitions about one of its most famous prisoners.

Anne Boleyn was looking right back at him.

As impossible and disturbing as this was, he still had to deal with the situation. The Yeoman Guard raced around the side of the building to its great, ancient doors. They were firmly locked, as they should be.

He hurriedly found the key on his huge fob and, probably in a great deal of agitation, opened the door. The Chapel was empty; all lights extinguished. It remained as quiet as the grave.

As spine-chilling as this experience may have been, it was mild compared with most of the sightings of this famous lady.

In one corner of the Tower of London is The Queen's House, a half-timber Tudor construction, comparable in splendor to any stately home of the time. Said Queen is, of course, Anne Boleyn. These were her quarters between her arrest and execution on May 19th 1536. It is also where she is most often seen.

Image:  The Queen's House in the Tower of London (built 1530).
Image: The Queen's House in the Tower of London (built 1530).

Look very carefully through the windows, in the image above, and you will spot one or two 21st century items. This is because the Queen's House now is home to Tower of London staff and their families.

However, doing that at the location is fraught with spookiness. Anne Boleyn's ghost is often spotted at the upper windows, peering out.

More sinister are encounters with her inside.  Yeoman guards and their families have been known to surprise her in her rooms. They will walk through the door to find a woman standing there. She's wearing Tudor clothes, very like those worn by Anne.

But is it her? It's hard to tell, because beneath her transparent veil there is no head.

Those confronted with the apparition swear that it has to be. Everything else about her matches.  She stands for a while turned as if staring right back at her intruder. Then imperiously walks away.

Anne Boleyn has also been seen across the courtyard, inside the eldest of all the buildings - the White Tower.  When that occurs, it's in precisely the same way as those spotting her in the Queen's House.

If this is her ghost, then she is not alone in either building.

Books About the Tower of London

Learn more about this famous London landmark and its grisly history.

Ghostly Danger for Ladies in the Queen's House

Could the spirit of Arbella Stuart be trying to tell us something? Like, for example, she was strangled there.

On June 22nd 1610, Arbella Stuart secretly married her lover, William Seymour, Lord Beauchamp.

In terms of status, they were well matched.  A little too well matched for the liking of King James I (or VI of Scotland).

They were fourth and sixth in line to his throne respectively. Distant enough relations for the marriage to be legal, but any children would be a definite threat to his own security.

As neither had asked his permission to marry, King James ordered their arrest and separation. Both managed to escape their captivity, planning a rendezvous in France. But James's men overtook Arbella's ship just off the coast of Calais. She was taken to the Tower of London.

Housed in the Queen's House, the official cause of death for Arbella Stuart is starvation. She went on a hunger strike as soon as she was there. But those encountering her ghost doubt that very much.

Between 1994-2006, the Governor of the Tower of London was Major General Geoffrey Field. He lived with his family in the Queen's House. It became his house rule that no woman was to sleep overnight in a room alone.

The reason was most definitely for their own safety and peace of mind. Way too many ladies had awoken in the night to find ghostly hands around their necks. Was this what happened to Arbella too?

She has been seen and it's never a pleasant experience. Major General Field's own wife was shoved in the back and propelled out of the room.

Arbella has never touched a man.  But for the females in the vicinity, a meeting with this specter can leave bruises.  Many fear that it could one day be even worse.

Incidentally, the Queen's House is also the place where Guy Fawkes was tortured almost to death. He signed his confession to treason in a room on the ground floor.  His screams on the rack are often still heard by those living there.

More Books About the Tower of London

Uncover the terrible Fate of some of those incarcerated in this ancient castle.

A Violent Ghost in the White Tower

Beefeaters have been known to resign rather than work in this room again.

Arbella Stuart (if indeed that was her) isn't the only angry ghost in the Tower of London.

Over in the White Tower, there is another, which seems intent upon removing intruders at any cost.

The White Tower was the first building built by the Norman conquerors on Tower Hill. It still contains many of the greatest treasures of England, including the Crown Jewels.

If we believe the English (we don't), the animated and sentient head of Bran the Blessed is hidden here somewhere. It was taken from Harlech in order to prevent the Welsh God protecting the coastline there.

Amongst some of the more tangible of the priceless items on show in the White Tower is the armor of Henry VIII. It is exhibited, in all its over-sized and manly exaggeration, in a long room named The Gallery. And this is where a sentry ghost attacks visitors at night.

Of course, the only people entering the place after dark are the Beefeaters. It is part of their patrol duties to ensure that all is secure. Therefore, all of these stories come from them.

One night, a Yeomen Guard careered in through the guardroom doorway. He was obviously traumatized. His neck was raw with welts and ripening bruises.  He looked like he'd been hanged.

His colleagues were naturally a bit perturbed. They questioned him; and eventually, after he'd got his breath, the story was gushed out. 

He had been in the Gallery, walking alongside the Henry VIII armor exhibition, when it felt like a heavy cape was draped over him from behind. He struggled under it, plainly able to see that there was nothing there.

The evidence of his eyes was surely lacking, because the cape's cord was being pulled tightly around his neck. Eyes bulging and unable to breathe, the Beefeater tried to fight his invisible assailant.

Then common sense (if such a thing can apply to this situation) kicked in. He staggered towards the exit, carrying his weight and in fear of losing consciousness. Stars filled his vision. He used the last of his strength to get to the door and stepped out.

It was over.  It always is.  When the Gallery ghost attacks, it can be with blows or thumps or any other physical means, but it's always over at the threshold.  The phantom only wants them to leave.

The Tower of London on Wikipedia

Her Majesty's Royal Palace and Fortress, more commonly known as the Tower of London, is a historic castle on the north bank of the River Thames in central London, England. It lies within the London Borough of Tower Hamlets, separated from the eastern edge of the City of London by the open space known as Tower Hill. It was founded towards the end of 1066 as part of the Norman Conquest of England....

Yeoman Warden at the Tower of London

The Haunted Tower of London

There were over 2900 recorded prisoners in the Tower of London.  Many of them suffered there. A large number were tortured and killed there.

So many go on as ghosts that whole books could be written about them (and have been). I hope that you've enjoyed being scared to death by the sample that I've included here.

One last one from the White Tower comes from Beefeater Arthur Crick.  He was on patrol in the deserted castle, but decided to stop for a little rest. He sat down on a bench and took his shoe off to rub his throbbing foot.

Mid-massage, he heard a voice speaking right into his ear.  "There's only you and I here."

With calm wit, the fearless guard replied, "Give me a moment to put my shoe back on and it'll only be you."

Good luck with sleeping tonight!

More Ghostly Tales on Wizzley

Are there Hungry Fields in Ireland waiting to trap unwary walkers? And if so, what ghosts lurk within? True Irish hauntings as recounted to me.
Haunted Sudbury Hall in Derbyshire, England, was the seat of the Vernon Family. Are some of them trapped there still?
Since before Titanic sank, on April 15th 1912, there have been strange stories connected with it. Prepare for a voyage into the unknown.
On April 16th 1746, the last pitched battle on British land took place on Drummossie Moor. Up to 2000 Jacobites lay dead, or injured and dying, in the heather. It was never over.

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Updated: 02/10/2014, JoHarrington
Thank you! Would you like to post a comment now?


JoHarrington on 07/16/2012

Indeed, I know it! But yes, I'm glad too that we have no executions here now.

AngelaJohnson on 07/16/2012

What a bloody history! I'm glad those times are over even though I live in the U.S. Of course, the U.S. has its own share of violent times.

JoHarrington on 07/16/2012

You're not planning on becoming a Beefeater any time soon then? :)

Kate on 07/16/2012

Super creepy

JoHarrington on 07/15/2012

Me too! I was alone researching all of this! Though Mr Crick at the end made me laugh.

Ragtimelil on 07/15/2012

ohhhh creepy. I got goosebumps.

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