Human Interest

Hidden London: Exploring its haunting history with Richard Jones.

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Dense fog, cobbled streets, and a knife-wielding man in a top hat beneath a gas lit streetlamp. These visions are the most commonly imagined whenever anyone hears, or sees, the words “Victorian London.” If you journey to exit three of Bank underground station on a winter’s night, though—when the Bank of England sleeps and the streets are deserted—you’ll be given the chance to discover the London behind the clichés.

You’ll be met by master storyteller, and first rate London historian, Richard Jones. Richard, attired in the traditional clothing of a Victorian undertaker, will guide you through the narrow alleyways and haunted churchyards surrounding the iconic Bank of England and St Paul’s Cathedral. With tremendous charm, excellent good humour, crystal-clear enunciation, perfect pace, and enthralling narration style, he will tell of spectres, incantations, and modern-day, ghostly encounters while leading you around the historic City of London.

I’ve personally attended this tour twice. I attended the first time because I was intrigued by what Richard would have to say about the Bank of England. Those familiar with my book, The Case of The Curious Client¸ will know that institution is visited by Bow Street Society member, Mr Percy Locke. Despite having already conducted my own research into the Bank of England, Richard was still able to surprise me with facts and stories about it. Furthermore, I was so impressed by his storytelling skills, breadth of knowledge, and charm, I attended the walk for a second time—this time taking my friends along. They were as enthralled by Richard as I was.

Richard is a holder of the Institute of Tourist Guiding’s highest accolade—the Blue Badge Tourist Guide qualification. The aforementioned institute being the official governing body for tour guides in England. In order to gain his qualification, Richard had to pass eleven rigorous exams which tested both his knowledge and competency when guiding in London. Blue Badge Tourist Guide qualification holders are the only external guides permitted to guide groups within Westminster Abbey, Windsor Castle, St Paul’s Cathedral, the Houses of Parliament, and the Tower of London.

In addition to the accolade above, Richard has published over twenty, bestselling books, including Uncovering Jack the Ripper’s London and Walking Haunted London. He’s also made frequent television appearances worldwide to discuss a variety of topics including, Charles Dickens, the history of Halloween, hidden and secret London, and even Harry Potter’s London. For over thirty years, Richard has devised and conducted ghost walks and history tours. In 1988, he was the first guide to offer tours of Beatles London and, today, his walks include the Dickens Southwark Tour, the Jack the Ripper Tour, Haunted Horrors Ghost Walk, and The Inns of Court Tour.

Recently, I was very fortunate to speak to Richard about his tours, his interest in the paranormal, and his own ghostly experience.

Q: Tell us a little about the ghost walks/history tours you offer and what people can expect from one.
My walks take in the less well known parts of London and my aim is to introduce people to locations they might not otherwise encounter. On the ghost walks I try to feature locations that have atmosphere, whereas on the history walks I like to feature locations that have interesting information I can reveal to people. It is my hope that people joining me on my tours will leave having discovered places they didn’t know existed, or, if they did know they were there, they will leave having discovered new facts and stories about them

Q: In addition to your walks, you have also written several bestselling books covering the ghosts of Britain and Ireland. You’ve also appeared on BBC Breakfast and ITV’s This Morning discussing the Hampton Court Palace ghost. Clearly the paranormal is of great interest to you—why? I enjoy the storytelling element of the paranormal. I think ghost stories are an important part of our literary heritage and, given the nature of the stories, I enjoy building a narrative around locations and events. I also like the fact that people, whether they believe in ghosts or not, at least have an opinion on them and are willing to discuss the paranormal

Q: There are plenty of anecdotes on your website about people who’ve seen/experienced ghosts while on your walks. Have you ever seen a ghost yourself, either on a walk or elsewhere? The strangest thing that ever happened to me was at Moore Hall in Ireland. I was there on a lovely summer’s day at around 11am (I’d love to say it was a dark and stormy night, but that wasn’t the case) Anyway, as I was exploring the interior of a house which was little more than a ruin in the middle of thick woodland, I suddenly heard children laughing in one of the rooms. I went in to have a look and the place was completely empty. However, no sooner had I done so than I heard the laughter in the room I had just left! To this day I cannot explain that particular experience.

Q: What is the strangest story you’ve ever read/been told, either during your research or during one of your walks? I think the strangest story is the tale of the haunted elevator at St Bartholomew’s Hospital in the City of London. This lift has been nicknamed “the coffin lift” and it has an unnerving habit of if people get into it in the early hours of the morning, it sometimes takes them straight down to the basement, the lights go out and it will not move. They then get out and start to walk up, whereupon they find the lift waiting on their required floor, gates open and lights on. I say it is the strangest because I’ve heard this story from so many different people, doctors, nurses, students etc. Nobody knows why it happens just that it does happen.

Q: As everyone knows, London is a vast city with hundreds of years’ worth of history. Which part of London is your favourite and why? I love the historic heart of the City, simply because you can just sense the history oozing out of every pore of the surrounding buildings. I am also very fond of the Inns of Court, because they are such a timeless enclave and are so historic and picturesque.

Q: How may our readers find out more about your walks and/or contact you with ghostly London tales of their own? They can reach me via the contact form on my website They can also get in touch via my Facebook page

Photographs’ copyright © Richard Jones

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