(October 2016- as well as the usual schools and tours, I went to Italy to head up the international evening at a storytelling festival in Ispra, I told tales on board the Cutty Sark, in a tudor wool hall in Suffolk, terrifying tales in a cemetery for London Month of the Dead, was the centrepiece of a big corporate party for Lloyds Banking group in Bishopsgate and created a Magic Lantern version of Peter Pan for the Florence Nightingale Museum. I enjoyed all the storytelling but my favourite by miles was a ghost walk in Hampstead commissioned by Hampstead’s very own stately home. Many thanks to Maria Diez from Burgh House.)
So I became engrossed in the research for -what I wanted to be- the best Hampstead ghost walk ever! I grew up in the area and so I’m already familiar with Hampstead’s fascinating history, picturesque old alleyways and dark woodlands. I spoke to friends and family. I delved into my library of battered old books, ancient copies of the Ham and High and pamphlets about London and uncovered some pretty strange stuff… but one of the most disturbing stories came from my own mother!
Here’s the tale: When we first moved to Chalk Farm, my Dad was an engineer in Broadcasting House and my Mum was a newly qualified secretary. I was just a tiny tot, and every morning while I was at playgroup, my Mum would pick up some extra money answering correspondence for our neighbour. He was the vicar of St Saviours which was across the road. His name was Rev Christopher Neil Smith and he was getting a lot of extra letters because he was the only professional exorcist licensed by the Church of England… and it was about the time that the film The Exorcist had come out so there was a surge of interest in such matters….
Anyway every day she’d go across the road to the the vicarage and walk through the hallway into the room at the end of the sprawling vicarage in Chalk Farm. The dining room looked out onto the garden. She would sit down at the typewriter and start answering the many letters he got from frightened, confused and desperate people. And then, one day, something really disturbing happened. At first she thought she could hear a baby crying…
Well I won’t tell you the whole story, you can hear it on the walk (details below) but here’s a video of the man in action!
Some of the stories I researched for the walk are quite well known but still bear repeating… like The phantom chicken of Pond Square and the albino pigs in the Fleet sewers. (Below)
But do you know about the rival vampire hunters operating in the area in the early 1970s? the dentist ghost, the singer Lynsey De Paul‘s bizarre experiences, the horrible history of the New End Theatre, satanic rituals from the late 60s and a rather strange noise coming from a drain in Flask Walk?
Anyway, hauntings are not just for Halloween. Our halloween walk (and a subsequent one at Christmas) sold out so quickly and were so much fun that I’m doing just one more on 24th Feb!