50 BERKELEY SQUARE
The Most Haunted House in London.
50 Berkeley Square has a long held reputation as being the "Most Haunted House in London."
According to Charles Harper in his book Haunted Houses, published in 1913:-
The haunted house in Berkeley Square was long, one of those things that no country cousin come up from the provinces to London on sightseeing bent, ever willingly missed.
Harper goes on to say that:-
But truth to tell, its exterior is now a trifle disappointing to the casual seeker after horrors. Viewed in the afternoon sunshine with a milkman delivering the usual half pint, or quart, as the case may be, is just as respectably commonplace as any other house of similar late Georgian period, and even at the weird stroke of 12, when the midnight policeman comes and thrusts a burly shoulder against the front-door, and tries the area-gate or flashes a gleam over the kitchen windows from his bulls-eye, there is nothing at all hair-raising about it.
But there was a time, Harper continues:-
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..."
It should noted, however, that Harper himself, begins his article with the warning that "the house is no longer haunted, nor even empty."
He goes on to say that "there are those who declare it was never haunted, and that the story "...was, indeed, invented by a popular novelist of years ago.."
Harper's dismissal notwithstanding, the house certainly acquired something of a sinister reputation and visitors to London still make the pilgrimage to Berkeley Square to seek out what they often refer to as "the most haunted house in London."
Number 50 Berkeley Square was once the home of George Canning, a former Prime Minister, until his death in 1827. It was then leased by a Miss Curzon, who lived in it up to her death at the ripe old age of 90.
It was then occupied by a Mr Myers and it was with his tenancy that the house's sinister reputation apparently began.
The story goes the was due to be married and had furnished the house in a manner befitting his forthcoming and changing domestic circumstances. But, shortly before the wedding, his bride to be jilted him and the heartbroken Myers became a recluse
he moved into a tiny room at the top of the building where, alone with his memories, he lived day after day never seeing a living soul and only ever coming out at night to walk through the rooms by candlelight.
The flickering flame of the candle cast a dull glow from the house's Windows by night as he drifted from room to room.
In 1873 the local council sued him for failing to pay his rates. He failed to appear in court but the magistrate excused him on account of the fact the house in which he lived was known as "the haunted house."
In 1879 the magazine a Mayfair, published an article about the property stating that the house was in a state of great decay:-
With Windows, caked and blackened by dust, full of silence and emptiness, and yet with no notice about it anywhere that it may be had for renting. This is known as the haunted house in Berkeley Square.
The article goes on to tell several ghost stories about the property, which have, over the years, found their way into countless books and articles about haunted London.
One tells of a man who moved in with his two teenage daughters, the eldest of which immediately complained of a strange musty smell that, she said, was rather like that of the animals cages at the zoo.
Later, the elder girl's fiancÚ, a Captain Kentfield, was due to visit the house and a maid-servant was asked to prepare his room.
No sooner had she gone upstairs to do so than the household heard terrified screams coming from the room.
Rushing to assist, they found her collapsed on the floor, muttering to herself "don't let it touch me." They were unable to ascertain exactly what it was, as the girl died in hospital following day.
Unperturbed by the fate of the servant girl Captain Kentfield announced that he would spend the night in the room.
He duly headed upstairs by candlelight, and the household heard him close the door. 30 minutes later, terrible screams were heard coming from the room, followed by a gunshot.
They rushed to his aid but found him dead on the floor, his face twisted in terror.
Evidently something evil lurked in the ether of this room at number 50, Berkeley Square, and Charles Harper in Haunted Houses whetted his readers appetites by melodramatically describing it as an "unnamed Raw Head and Bloody Bones..."
Harper goes on to tell of a man who was "sceptical and practical", and who before retiring to bed, had given instructions to those who occupied the rest of the house that in the dead of night if he were to ring the bell once they were to take no notice as he might simply be a little nervous without due cause. But if he were to ring twice, then they must come immediately to him.
So saying, he retired to bed. All was quiet at first, but when the clock chimed midnight there was a single ring on the bell. As per his instructions they ignored it, but suddenly the bell began to ring furiously and, racing to his room, they found the man in convulsions of absolute terror.
Like the earlier maidservant he was unable to say what he had seen, and he too died shortly after.