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.

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!