The Ghosts of Senate House is one part of a creative research project led by Sarah Sparkes. It serves as an archive for uncanny, apocryphal stories emanating from Senate House. These stories formed part of "a Magical library for the 21st Century" an archive of writings, recordings, artwork, artefacts, and other contributions, which was first shown at the University of London as part of The Bloomsbury Festival October 2011.

Wednesday 20 August 2014

Bloomsbury - Murder Neighbourhood

Bloomsbury is today one of London's more genteel and pleasant areas, an attractive place that draws tourists from around the world. The numerous Universities give the place a studious, academic atmosphere. Lovers of literature throng its squares, walking in the footsteps of Virginia Woolf, Lytton Strachey and W.B. Yeats. The more esoteric-minded visitor may be drawn to Bloomsbury because of the British Museum, and its consequent associations with Wallis Budge, MacGregor Mathers, Aleister Crowley and (again) W.B. Yeats. A pleasant, scholarly neighbourhood. But one hundred years ago it had a very different reputation. Recent research by Dr Jan Bondeson has found the entire area - from Euston station down to Russell Square tube - was thought of as the 'Murder Neighbourhood' par excellence.
[image:'Debra Arif',]

During the 19th century, Bloomsbury's once well-to-do town houses had fallen into decay and disrepair. Converted into flats, they housed down-at-heel people, criminals, prostitutes - the area became known for its transient population. A series of gruesome murders - some unsolved - gained the area an unenviable reputation. 12 Great Coram Street (now Coram Street), 4 and 12 Burton Crescent (now Cartwright Gardens), 4 Euston Square (now Endsleigh Gardens) were all the sites of gruesome murders of women. (Why the preponderance of the numbers 4 and 12? No doubt a kabbalist might shed some light).

[image LEFT:]
[image BELOW: creative commons]

Just as the name Rillington Place was changed to Ruston Close, in order to spare residents' embarrassment and shame, so too were several of these notorious street names altered.
Some of these addresses are no more, victims of the Euston Station redevelopment or of the expansion of local university buildings. Perhaps this is not a bad thing, since (we are told) "the murder house at 4 Euston Square kept its sinister reputation for decades to come: it was reported to be haunted, and strange groans and screams were heard...The bloodstain on the floorboards in the murder room could not be removed by any amount of scrubbing, and no dog would pass this room of horrors without snarling, whining and giving indications of intense terror."--Fortean Times no.318, Sep.2014 (p.46).

But 3 Bernard Street - where the unsolved murder of a young prostitute, Esther Praeger, too place in 1908 - still stands. It is very near Russell Square station and is now a souvenir, confectionary and tobacconists' shop.

Fortean Times no. 318 (September 2014) features an in-depth article by Dr Bondeson on Bloomsbury murders and their locations, and his book Murder Houses of London (Amberley Publishing) will be published later in 2014.

Thursday 29 May 2014

1980s Memories of a Library Assistant

"For some reason I remembered my time as a library assistant at Senate House today so had a look on the web ... I came across your website. I worked there from 1983 - 1986. I think every library staff member had an experience of some kind - just like those on the blog. The Harry Price library was still there in those days and also Mr Wesencraft.

Here's some of my strange moments:

1. The first time I went to the Harry Price library I was accompanied by another staff member to show me around. Can't remember which book we were looking for but the first one I picked up was one by Harry Lorayne. My name is Lorraine. I told my colleague and she hurriedly found the book we went for and said we should get out! I also was in there once and books dropped on the floor. Everyone mentioned the chair in there that moved but I never saw that happen - Mr Wesencraft said it was only psychic forces and nothing to fear.

[the old HPL - Photograph by Tom Ruffles]
I never minded going to the Harry Price Library when I knew Mr Wesencraft was in there – he was such a calm man and I was never afraid when he was there – used to be petrified going alone when he wasn’t.

2. As I remember - the art books were held on the 7th floor. I went up to 'fetch' (as it was termed) one and a very pleasant man in a grey suit with tidy white hair and beard came along the row I was in and said to me 'I am just going to cross your path'. I got my books and came back down in the lift. I went there later but he had gone. A few days later I was telling my colleagues about the nice man and I asked our boss who had been given a stack pass that day. It turned out that none were issued.

I remember the lift having problems - nobody liked going in that alone."

Mr Alan Wesencraft (1912-2007), or 'Wesey', was Honorary Curator of the Harry Price Library at Senate House. He was known to innumerable researchers as a helpful, kind and extremely knowledgeable man, who would guide people ably around the collection and its contents. He was introduced to later library staff as "the only man now working in the Library who met and worked with Harry Price".

Thursday 25 October 2012

"Helpful" ghost in the stack

The eighth floor on Senate House Library continues to be associated with some strange goings on and we have recorded several uncanny stories emanating from this level.
Here is the latest story, from an anonymous member of staff, proving that once again the lifts of Senate House live up to their other-worldly reputation.

"Members of staff in the Library routinely go to fetch books/periodicals from the closed stack.  The stack is the tower area of the Library occupying floors 8-19.  In order to reach the stack you have to get into an old lift with a slam door.  On this particular day I needed to fetch a book and a periodical on different floors.  I went to the floor for the book first and left the printout for the periodical inside the lift.  I then heard the sound of someone calling the lift so after I had got out on the 8th floor I closed the lift door so that the lift would be free for whoever called it.  After I had fetched the book I called the lift back and was astonished to find the periodical plus printout waiting in the lift.  This is not the sort of thing that another member of staff would do.  I questioned any likely members of staff and no one said they had done it.  I cannot offer any other explanation if this was not the case.   (There was nothing remarkable about either of the titles which were fetched incidentally and the date was not onerous in any way)".

more ghost stories from The Stack:
What's up on the eight floor?
More eight floor weirdness
Sudden temperature drop - utterly discomposed
8th floor ghost?

Monday 22 October 2012

Adventures of a Séance Table

The Slade Table - not as innocent as it looks!

The Thanet Hotel stands at no 8 Great Bedford Street, just around the corner from Senate House. In 1876  a rather singular guest took up lodgings at this address - the notorious slate-writing medium Henry Slade.  
no. 8 Great Bedford Street, 2012
Slade had been a celebrated medium in America, his home country, for at least 15 years and had arrived in London to prove his psychic powers. He gave many sittings at his Great Bedford Street residence and was pronounced  by many of the notable Spirtualists of the day to be psychically gifted.  Sittings took place in bright sunlight around a smallish table. Slade would place a slate underneath this table, later pulling it out into the sunlight to reveal scrawly writing across its surface - alleged communication from spirits of the dead.

Unfortunately Slade was not able to convince everyone of his powers and was eventually put on trial accused of faking the phenomena. For want of a more appropriate law with which to prosecute him, he was sentenced under the Vagrancy Act to three months' imprisonment with hard labour.  After an appeal the conviction was overturned on a technical point and he was released on bail. 

Slade returned to America, but his séance table remained behind where it was later acquired by non other than psychical investigator Harry Price. 

Price describes how "the Slade table" was being used as an ordinary writing table at the offices of the London Spirtualist Alliance when he first came across it.  Price went on to use the table in a series of  so-called "controlled sittings" or séances on "the electric girl",  a young dental nurse and alleged medium named Stella Cranshaw.

In 1925, Price's book reporting the findings  - "Stella C. An Account of Some Original Experiments in Psychical Research"  - was published.  The Slade table's rather violent psychical activity at many of the sittings is documented in detail in this book.  

The table appears to take a particular dislike to a certain Colonel Hardwick, present at many of the sittings, physically attacking him to the point of actual bodily harm.
Here is the Colonel's own report of his encounter with the Slade Table:

"The table tipped towards me as usual...It began to hammer on my knees until the blows became painful and I consequently removed them, expecting the table to crash to the floor.  My knees were red from the blows...To my surprise the table did not go beyond the position where my knees would have been, but it made one or two smart blows as of to ensure that they had been removed."

If anyone knows the whereabouts of the Slade table today, please do get in touch - there are plenty of 'Colonels' in need of correcting!

Wednesday 21 December 2011

Who called the lift?

Mick Lucette is the Building Services Manager at Senate House. 
Mick witnessed a mysterious, cloaked figure, moving on the stairs ahead of him, as he made his way towards  a lift in the building.
The same lift has been linked to sightings of what is assumed to be Sir Edwin Deller’s ghost. 

You can hear Mick recounting his story here: 

Saturday 29 October 2011

Glowing figure in doorway of Senate Room

The photographer was sure that the room was empty at the time; subsequently - examining the resulting image - they realized that a mysterious luminous figure could be seen in the doorway at the far end of room.

Is this the Blue Lady? Or a reappearance of the Time Warrior from the Tom Baker-era Dr Who?

Tuesday 6 September 2011

Enigmatic manifestation in Senate House lavatory

A Senate House member of staff reports the following anomalous experience; they were leaving work and descending a staircase one evening in mid-June 2011:

" ...there's a ladies loo on that floor so I decided to use it. The stairs were quite quiet but you could tell there was a function going on in the vicinity from distant chatter. Not too close like floor below but somewhere in the building or perhaps Stewart House.

When I entered the loo, standing by the window to put my rucksack down I could hear there was some that function going on again which confirmed it for me. Voices were a distant murmur. You could tell they were adjacent to the loo.

As I exited the loo there was a huge, long, loud belly laugh from something in front of me and directly in my face and very close to me like someone standing immediately in front of me. The voice was far louder than the distant voices I heard by the window and far above the flushing sound of the loo as well. I couldn't see anything. It was almost deliberate as if having waited for me to exit the loo. I froze to the spot and was gripped with confusion.

There was clearly an invisible woman laughing loudly. I could even detect an accent as there intermittent mumbling (I feared curses actually). It was accented like the Gypsies that used to sell me flowers as a child. I became very hot as my face was quite red and sweaty from the panic of trying to work out where the voice was coming from and my stomach was in knots. The sound lasted no longer than 15 seconds and died away. I could then only hear the din from the party/conference by the window.

I convinced myself it was just a sound from the party/conference and began to wash my hands. As I was washing my hands the voice started laughing again behind me and then echoed around the room up to the ceiling and into the other toilet. There are two toilet cubicles. The door was open in the other loo so no one can hide in there. It was like someone using the Tannoy system to laugh but not that microphone sound just loudly projecting their voice.

The laugh started with huge volume and died down to tittering echoing around. I ran outside the loo to see if it was one of the cleaners and down to 2nd Floor toilet to see it there were any women or a single woman in there, there was no one around so no one was playing a trick on me. Was definitely odd as it was so close it could only be coming from inside the room.

The next evening around 5.30pm I used the same toilet again and heard a woman laughing. At first I thought it was the same thing happening again but this time I heard a second voice and could tell voices were coming from the floor below. I was then able to compare the sounds which convinces me that the first experience was closer and louder, almost in my ear and the 2nd was distant."

Question: Do Romany spirits haunt the building? And - if so - why?