This blog is taking us across the pond to jolly old England. Emphasis on "old" and the older a place is, the better chance it has to be mired in mystery, misery, and a haunting presence. Specifically, we'll be discussing some of the myth and mystery behind 50 Berkeley Square in London which has allegedly been haunted for 200+ years.
Haunted Houses by Charles Harper, published in 1913, writes about Berkeley in his book. Although he recognizes that the house has little scare to it in the early 1900s he notes that there was a time "When number 50 wore an exceedingly uncared for appearance. Soap, paint, and whitewash were unused for years, and grime clung to brickwork and Windows alike. The area was choked with wasted hand-bills, wisps of straw, and all the accumulations that speedily made a derelict London house. The very picture of misery; and every passing stranger stopped the first errand-boy, and asked various questions, to which the answer was, generally, " 'aunted 'ouse,"; or, if the question happened to be "Who lives there?" the obvious reply was "Ghostesses..."
(sidenote: "Ghostesses" is my new favorite word)
50 Berkeley Square stands four-stories tall and was construction began in 1740 and lasted through the early 19th centuries. It was created by architect William Kent and is located in the West End of London. The square itself boasts several impressive tenants like Winston Churchill and Robert Clive. Although we don't quite know the ver first tenants of the home, we do know that it was the home of George Canning in the early 1800s until his death in 1827 whereupon it was leased by Miss Curzon, who would live there until her own death at the age of 90 in 1859. It would later be host to dozens of tenants - ranging from hermits to families.
When Canning as living in the house, it was said that he reported strange noises coming from the uppermost floors but never told anyone anything terrified him, nor did he see the brown horror...something the house would eventually become infamous for.
One of the earliest accounts of the haunted home took place in 1840. When Robert Warboys, a 20-year old student, stayed the night as a bet. You see, the house had already acquired a bit of a neighborhood reputation but nothing beyond gossip had been taken seriously until this day. Warboys thought it was just town gossip and eagerly agreed to spend a night alone in the second floor bedroom. He persuaded the landlord to let him stay the night. The landlord was hesitant to relinquish the room, but gave it to Warboys on two conditions:
1. Warboys needed to be armed, preferably with a pistol.
2. At the first sign of anything "unusual", the landlord should be summoned immediately through a cord that hung in the room and linked to a bell n the landlord's room.
Shortly after midnight, Warboys was finally alone in the room and settling into sleep. Not an hour had passed when the landlord heard a frantic ringing. He sprinted upstairs and unlocked the door. At first glance, nothing in the room was amiss. Until the landlord's eyes landed on Warboys. The fearless, strong young man of a few hours ago was now cowering in the corner and wearing an expression of pure terror. A pistol, recently shot, was still smoking. A bullet was embedded in the wall. Warboys did not explain what had happened and left.
30-odd years later in 1872, another brave man stayed the night in the house on a bet. His name was Lord George Lyttelton. He decided to set up a bed in the attic. Although he did not believe the nonsense stories, like Warboys, he did believe just enough to bring with him a shotgun...just for good measure. That night, according to Lyttelton, an apparition appeared in front of him. It was brown, tendrilled, and misty. He took aim at the strange thing...but found nothing when the smoke cleared. Lyttelton would later in life say that 50 Berkeley Square was "supernaturally fatal to body and mind."
In 1879 a new family was due to move in and their maid was cleaning and preparing the rooms. Specifically, she was preparing a guest room in the attic. Soon after she went upstairs desperate screams were heard. When the family ran up to see what was wrong they saw her, on the floor, backed into the corner and whispering "don't let it touch me." We don't know what the maid saw exactly because after her scare she was taken to the hospital where she died the next day.
Seemingly unperturbed the incident, the man for whom the room was being prepared, Captain Kentfield, said he still planned to spend the night in that very room. In the evening, he headed upstairs with a candle and the household reports they heard him close the door. Roughly 30 minutes later, terrible screams came from the room followed by a gunshot. The household rushed upstairs to help but found him dead on the floor his face twisted in terror.
It is believed that the thing shot by Lyttelton is what was also seen by the maid, Kentfield, and Warboys. It is known today as the "Nameless thing of Berkeley Square." According to Cryptopia, "This unidentifiable monstrosity is said, by some, to be a vile, phantasmagorical killer from beyond the grave… though there is some evidence to suggest that it may be a bizarre, mutant cephalopod, which lurks in the filthy labyrinth of the London sewer system waiting to rise up and kill again."
In fact, it would return in 1943...30 years after Harper had claimed the house was no longer haunted. Two sailors from Portsmouth, Edward Blunden and Robert Martin needed a place to stay the night after drinking...however, they had spent most of their lodging money. They noticed a "To Let" sign on the then-abandoned 50 Berkeley Square and decided to break into the basement and stay the night. However, they soon found the basement uncomfortable, damp, and full of rats so they travelled upstairs to find a better spot. Well, that spot just so happens to be the now-notorious room. Blunden apparently expressed to Martin that he felt a presence and distinctly unease, however Martin dismissed this. They started a fire, cracked open a window, and soon fell asleep. Shortly after midnight, like so many of the other stories, Blunden awoke to the floor creaking. This is what followed: "Little by little a sliver of dim, grayish light crept across the wooden floor. Too terrified to move, Blunden managed to wake his accomplice.
The two men sat up as they heard a strange, moist, scraping sound slowly approach them. Later, Martin claimed that it sounded as if something were dragging itself across the floor." The two men leapt to their feat and the creature's tendrils undulated beneath them. Unlike in other stories when Blunden went to grab the rifle, the creature fought back...perhaps it had learned its lesson about guns after all these years. According to Blunden, the creature wrapped itself around the young sailor's throat. Martin, still in a panic, ran from the house and screamed for help and found a police officer. The officer followed him back to the house, however when they went upstairs they found no sign of Blunden. They searched the house and finally made their way to the basement and saw something they were not prepared for. Blunden's dismembered corpse lay in the rock-walled cellar in a heap, with his head turned to the side. The young man's eyes, like so many before him, were filled with terror.
From 1937 to 2015, the house was bought by BP and most recently occupied by Maggs Bros, a firm of antique book dealers. The current owner is not listed. However, as early as 2015 the Maggs Bros were not able to use the uppermost floors of the home. Why? "The police have placed a sign, a warning saying that the upper most rooms are not to be used for anything, not even storage."
The above image is from flickr user Centophobia and is liscensed under Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic (CC BY-SA 2.0).