A couple of years ago, my favourite stately home in London, Burgh House commissioned me to come up with a ghost walk as part of their Halloween celebrations. 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 below is a video of the man in action!
The vicarage where Christopher Neil Smith lived, was occupied by another vicar later who was supposedly discovered dead in mysterious circumstances. After that it went on to be occupied by psychedelic psychiatrist RD Laing who was absolutely convinced that the house had a poltergeist. After the ceiling fell down, he hired his own exorcist and reported that the house was much quieter afterwards.
Please note: this is a personal anecdote and I have no idea what really and truly went on there except to say that my mum was scared stiff!
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?
If you want to join us for the next walk, check the Calendar page for dates, details and how to book.
“A wintery walk through Hampstead’s narrow alleyways, picturesque streets and into the pitch dark woodlands. Find out strange, appalling and (probably) true stories of exorcists, dentists, heavy-breathers and vampires plus lots of local history and folklore. Not suitable for under 16s. Dress very warmly.”