Covent Garden and William's Ghost
Last week I promised the letter 'C', and so I'm taking you to Covent Garden for one of London and Britain's many ghost stories.
Who doesn't love a tale o' ghosts?
I've loved them ever since my grandmother used to scare me rigid with ghost stories. I could only have been four years old. She had the knack for telling them too. Right proper creepy. But it’s not just about there being a haunting I like. I love the whole history of the haunting, who they were and why they might not be able to pass; if indeed pass is what we do. They're a story of place and people, of there being something on the edge that we only catch a glimpse of; that in our wisdom, we don't know everything.
Chances are, if you've ever been to London you've visited Covent Garden. If you didn't, you missed out. It's cool. It's trendy. An awesomely large square on the edge of theatreland. It's a place of out of this world market stalls, trippy shops, cosy pubs, and outdoor entertainers who marvel crowds with feats of strength, trickery and wonder. Music too.
There's always lots of people there, but that doesn't matter. In fact it adds to the appeal, unlike the crowds in other parts o' London. You see, the crowds aren't the Rush Hour sort. They mingle, idle, wander and waste time, which is nice in London. Now assuming you’ve been to Covent Garden, my bet is you passed through the Covent Garden Underground?
Nearly everyone does.
It's a great building, distinctive with rounded corners and arched windows, ox-blood tiles on the outside and lifts too tight on the inside. In tunnels underground, tiles are bleached clean, mustard yellow and white, ugly brown, and instead of the lifts you can try the stairs. A never-ending spiral of up and down in dry, dusty air. Don't try them unless you're young and fit. There's only one line at Covent Garden, so you can't get lost, and the platforms are long and skinny.
But did you know the platforms are haunted?
They are walked by the ghost of William Terriss. A Victorian and Shakespearian actor, famed in his own time for swashbuckling roles such as Robin Hood. On his last night performing on this mortal coil in 1897, William Terriss went to enter the Adelphi Theatre whereupon a destitute actor by the name of Richard Archer Prince – a man who'd worked with Terriss and been fired from a role on his word - stabbed him to a bloody death.
Chest, back and side.
A brutal, revenge killing.
Prince showed no sign of remorse. Found insane he was sent to Broadmoor Criminal Lunatic Asylum and stayed there until his death in 1936. But it was not to be the end of William Terris. To this day it is said he haunts the Adelphi Theatre above ground where he was meant to perform, and at night does wander the tunnels and platforms of Covent Garden Station. Perhaps William still thinks to make his way home.
Or catch a train to the other side...
So next time you're in London, do venture Covent Garden way. Keep an eye out for poor old William in his grey Victorian suit and white gloves. Listen for his footsteps in the tunnels, on the spiral stairs that never end. Perhaps you've smelled the blood on his clothes, seen him and didn't realise.
Next week, for the letter 'D', I'm going to take you to my favourite castle...