Have you heard about the Tower of London ghosts? I have. And they intrigue the heck out of me.
The haunted Tower of London, also known as His Majesty’s Royal Palace and Fortress, was first built by William the Conqueror about a thousand years ago. It has played a significant role in British monarchical history ever since.
But did you know that the Tower is haunted? Not surprising, owing to the fact that for centuries it has served as the stage for royal life, beheadings, scandals, and political upheaval.
Keep reading to learn about the ghostly encounters experienced by the castle guards and visitors alike.
The Tower of London
In the heart of the English capital, on the north bank of the River Thames, you will find the iconic Tower of London – a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1988.
William the Conqueror built this famous tower in 1078 after his successful invasion of England at Pevensey Bay in 1066.
The Tower of London has served as a fortification, royal house, prison, and the permanent home of the United Kingdom’s Crown Jewels throughout the nearly one thousand years since its creation.
It is said that many ghosts and phantoms inhabit the castle’s towers and walls due to the many tragic events that took place there.
If you believe the legends, the Tower of London is undoubtedly England’s most haunted structure.
The Tower of London Ghosts
So, who, exactly, are the restless spirits who haunt this castle’s nearly millennia-long history? Scroll down to find out!
Some of the following names are well-known, and they all have interesting backstories.
1. Lady Anne Boleyn
The spirit of Anne Boleyn has been spotted wandering through the Tower of London on various occasions. Her ghost supposedly still lingers at the scene of her death. On May 19, 1536, she was executed inside the Tower of London.
The Captain of the Guard supposedly witnessed a light flickering in the closed and sealed Chapel Royal late at night. To discover the source of the light, he climbed a ladder, only to be greeted by a surreal sight: a parade of knights and ladies in period garb pacing the chapel. Their commander was a beautiful woman whose face he could not make out, but whose stature reminded him of depictions of Anne Boleyn he had seen. The people dissipated after several seconds.
A soldier stationed near the Lieutenant’s quarters saw Anne again in 1864. It was reported that he had challenged a white figure, and when he received no response, he stabbed him with his bayonet. The weapon, to his utter dismay, passed completely through the woman.
The conventional account describes how an officer staying in the Bloody Tower witnessed the entire affair from his window.
2. Thomas Becket (Saint Thomas of Canterbury)
Thomas Becket likely was one of the first ghosts encountered in the tower.
For ten years, from 1155 to 1162, he was the Lord Chancellor of England, and from 1162 until his murder in 1170, he was the most prominent English nobleman as the Archbishop of Canterbury.
In the late 1270s, during Edward I’s reign, the notorious Traitors’ Gate to the Tower was built, and the process was fraught with difficulty. After erecting the arch, the builders went back the following day to find it had fallen.
The king was enraged and issued an order to rebuild it. The archway nevertheless gave way once more. This time, however, residents supposedly saw the ghost of Thomas Beckett, fully garbed as a bishop, dismantling the arch.
After hearing this, Edward I ordered the gate to be reconstructed. However, this time the arch has a new name “St. Thomas’ Gate,” which remains to this day.
3. Henry VIII’s Armor
Keep your wits about you if you plan on checking out the Tower’s most famous display, the ancient armor of Henry VIII.
This is rumored to be haunted by a particularly evil ghost.
For context, numerous nighttime guards at the Tower of London have complained of unpleasant feelings throughout the years.
Many people, both male and female, have reported feeling uneasy or even frightened while entering a specific room.
Some security personnel, though, have recounted terrifying incidents. In some cases, people report feeling physically threatened simply by entering a room.
According to some, the sensation is similar to having the “arms of a demon wrapped tightly around your chest and trying to suffocate you” as the demon leaps down from the ceiling.
Others have described the sensation as that of having a monster choking them from the shadows. Having felt a firm hand clamp down on their neck, they staggered into another room, gasping for air.
A guard was once attacked by a ghost with an open cloak, according to legend. Once again, the guard fought as the cloak tightened over his neck. Despite his attacker’s invisibility, he was left with brilliant red markings on his neck.
All of these accounts of death by suffocation or strangulation share a common setting: Henry VIII’s armory.
When terrifying things occurred at the Tower of London, it never mattered where the armor was kept.
The Tower now proudly displays the armor for all to see.
Visits there should be made with caution since they seem to be frequented by one of the most dangerous of the Tower of London’s specters.
4. The White Lady in the Stronghold
Here’s a trivia about old English structures: A female spirit, in either white or black garments, has been reported to haunt the keep of nearly every castle in England.
Stories revolving around these “white women” or “black women” abound. They’ve been spotted in castles of all shapes and sizes.
No one knows for sure who she is, but the White Woman in the Tower of London is, as you can guess, scarier than the rest.
Guests may catch a fleeting glimpse of a white person out of the corner of their eye. Then, all of a sudden, they detect the acrid, overwhelming scent of stale perfume. After that, some guests say they have chills down their spines and feel as though the world is closing in on them.
Visitors to the tower in recent years have even claimed to have felt a tap on the shoulder from an unseen presence. Then they turn around and see nothing but a speck of white that quickly fades out of their peripheral vision.
5. Old Martin
The Yeoman Warders, who keep watch above the Tower, have a story that tops them all.
The menagerie in the Tower of London dates back to at least 1210 when wild animals were first housed there.
Elephants, leopards, lions, and even a bear, who liked to go fishing in the Thames, have all been documented as having lived within the Tower’s walls.
A Yeoman Warder on night watch in 1816 allegedly saw the apparition of a massive black bear near the Martin Tower. The startled guard swung his bayonet at the figure, but it passed right past him and entered the tower’s entrance. A few hours later, the guard supposedly died of shock.
The bear, now known as “Old Martin,” had his skin and skull on display at London’s Natural History Museum before being loaned back to the Tower.
6. Margaret Pole
Margaret Pole, Countess of Salisbury, was executed on Tower Green, just like Anne Boleyn and Lady Jane Grey.
The Countess was brought to the scaffold by King Henry VIII at the age of 67. Her crime? Being the mother of Reginald Pole, the Cardinal Archbishop of Canterbury who was against the king’s self-made designation as Supreme Head of the Church of England.
Margaret Pole was beheaded by a young executioner who couldn’t perform a clean execution with his axe, instead hacking at Pole’s head and shoulders. It is said that her scream from that fatedul day in 1541 echoes through the towers to this day.
7. The Tower Princes
The little bodies of the “princes in the Tower” have also reportedly been seen by ghost hunters.
King Edward IV’s sons were the young monarchs in question. Their uncle, King Richard III (then the Duke of Gloucester and Lord Protector), had been accused of ordering their deaths so that he may ascend to the throne.
Skeletons of two children were discovered in a box under a staircase in the Tower during the time of King Charles II.
In the belief that they were the princes, the bones were interred at Westminster Abbey on the king’s orders, even though their bodies have never been officially recognized.
They’re still there, even now.
Guards and visitors alike have reported seeing two young boys dressed in medieval garb playing on the lawn in front of the White Tower.
After perusing the showcases, some visitors were certain they had captured images of the young apparitions.
8. Lady Jane Grey
Known as the “Nine Days’ Queen,” Lady Jane Grey was the queen with the shortest reign in the British history.
Jane became queen after the death of her cousin, King Edward VI, and was imprisoned by her cousin, Mary Tudor aka the Bloody Mary, who had claimed the throne as rightfully hers.
Lady Jane Grey was executed at only 17, on the infamous Green Tower.
Up to this day, her ghost is still said to haunt the battlements of the Tower of London.
9. Lady Arbella Stuart
Another famous Tower of London ghost includes a woman named Arbella Stuart.
Historically, Arbella Stuart was considered a viable choice to succeed Elizabeth I as monarch. The Queen’s House on Tower Green is supposed to be where her spirit lingers.
Arbella Stuart wed Lady Jane Grey’s nephew William Seymour, as documented history shows.
King James I did not approve of the marriage because he saw it as a potential danger to his throne.
At Lambeth, Arbella was placed under house arrest while her husband, William, was taken to the tower for questioning. William was eventually arrested and taken to France.
Arbella made plans to have him released. However, after setting sail on her own, Arbella was discovered and transported back to the Tower. On the other hand, William managed to escape and find safety.
Arbella remained a resident of the Queen’s House until her untimely death there in 1615. She is said to have been killed somewhere in the castle.
10. Sir Walter Raleigh
Accused of conspiracy to commit treason against the Crown by attempting to establish Arabella Stuart as Queen of England in 1603, Sir Walter Raleigh was imprisoned in the Tower of London until 1616.
Upon release, he was allowed a second attempt to find the legendary El Dorado in South America.
Although ordered by King James I to not attack any Spanish settlements in order to establish good relations between two nations, Raleigh’s men did anyway.
While he was not directly involved in the attack, Spain demanded his death and on his return to England after failing to find El Dorado, Sir Walter Raleigh was beheaded at Westminster in October of 1618.
Since then, numerous guards in the Tower of London have claimed seeing Sir Walter’s ghost.
There are records supporting the strange sightings of Sir Walter holding his head in his hand.
His ghost is said to continue to haunt the halls of the Tower of London to this day.
Visiting the Tower of London
Do you want to see if you can spot any of the Tower of London ghosts?
A ghost tour is interesting, but they are usually conducted during the day. I recommend purchasing a ticket to see the daily Ceremony of the Keys, which begins around 9:30 pm.
As you make your way to the mighty battlements, you get to tour the grounds, experience an ancient ceremony, and maybe even glimpse a ghost or two.