I’ve just landed in jolly old England for an 18-day excursion through Great Britain! There are castles, history, royalty, ghosts… and (possibly my favorite) pubs.
There are a lot of pubs in Britain (that’s the understatement of the century). In fact, there are over 50,000 pubs in England alone (the oldest one supposedly dating back to 560). I’ll only be in England for 10 out of the 18 days I’m exploring Britain, so I can’t possibly make it to all the pubs in England (but I sure am going to try).
My first stop is London (shock shock), filled with incredible amounts of history, food, and drinks. With two-thousand years of human history encapsulated in a single city, of course, you’ll find a few ghosts lingering in the shadows. And let’s be honest: if any of us were a ghost, we’d haunt a pub, right?
Check out these 10 haunted pubs in London, and place your bets to see just how many I’ll make it to!
Centrally located in Belgravia, the Grenadier dates back to 1720 and formerly served London as a home to the First Royal Regiment of Foot Guards (later known as Grenadier Guards after fighting off the French Grenadiers at the Battle of Waterloo). The basement is where our ghost story begins, where low ranking soldiers would drink and gamble. One young man (nowadays known as Cedric) was caught cheating by his comrades. As punishment, he was beaten so severely, he died.
The haunting is at its strongest in September when most people believe he died. Patrons and staff report objects moving and disappearing. People hear moaning coming from the basement. And according to stories, a chief superintendent from Scotland Yard was branded by a ghostly cigarette during his visit to the pub.
Today, the ceiling of the pub is covered in banknotes and dollar bills. Guests offer the money in the hopes of paying off Cedric’s debt so he can finally rest in peace. So far, it hasn’t worked.
The Viaduct Tavern
This historic pub now sits where a former jail once stood across from the Old Bailey. Dating back to 1875, the Viaduct once acted as a gin palace, but today, it is a Fuller’s pub with four cask ales and eight beers of draught.
Two specific paranormal encounters have solidified the Viaduct’s claims of ghostly activity. In 1996, a manager was in the basement when the lights cut out, and the door slammed shut. No matter how hard he tried, he couldn’t unlock the door. When his wife finally arrived, she told him that the door wasn’t locked at all and that it opened with ease. In 1999, two electricians were working upstairs when they found the carpet they had rolled up levitating behind them.
The Flask Tavern
Yet another Fuller’s pub, the Flask is much older than the Viaduct Tavern, with parts of it dating back to 1663. Located near Highgate Cemetery, the pub has a few grisly tales of its own, from graverobbing to suicide. According to tales, the Flask was the sight of one of the very first autopsies performed on a body stolen from the nearby cemetery. The famous highwayman, Dick Turpin, supposedly hid in the wine cellar while running from the authorities (though as far as we know, he’s not haunting the Flask).
Aside from the Flask’s dark history, several ghosts have taken up residence in the old pub. A young Spanish barmaid hanged herself in the basement (now a seating area) over a failed love affair. She likes to move glasses and breathe down the back of patrons’ necks. There is also a young Cavalier seen walking through the main bar area before vanishing into a pillar.
In recent years, it acted as a recruiting station during World War II (hence the name), but the Volunteer can trace its history back centuries. The pub (which dates to the 1800s) is built on the site of the 17th Century Neville family home. In 1654, the house burned to the ground, killing the entire Neville family. Supposedly, all that remains of the original structure is the cellar. Staff report seeing the full-bodied apparition of a well-dressed man pacing through the basement. Many believe that this is the restless spirit of the man of the house: Rupert Neville.
The Rising Sun
This Sam Smith’s pub isn’t just plagued by paranormal activity but a dark and twisted past. Nestled next to St. Bartholemew’s Hospital, during the 19th century it was the stomping grounds of the nastiest of body snatchers. Instead of robbing graves in the local cemeteries, some took things one step further and committed murder to collect bodies. This is the history of the Rising Sun. These murderous individuals would find their targets at the Rising Sun and drug them at the pub. They would then murder their victims before selling the bodies to the hospital all in the name of medical research and science.
The spirits lurking in the Rising Sun don’t seem to understand the concept of personal space. Former bartenders who lived upstairs, reported someone pulling the blankets off of them as they slept, and a former landlady was touched while in the shower (no me gusta).
The Ten Bells
The Ten Bells has the most (in)famous history of the bunch. Erected in 1752, it has gone relatively unchanged over the years, suffering only from a brief tacky name change. From 1976-1988, it was known as “The Jack the Ripper.” Why you say? Well, I’m glad you asked! There are reports that at least one of the Ripper’s victims was a patron at the Ten Bells. Annie Chapman (Ripper victim #2) was actually seen at the pub on the day of her murder–one of the last times anyone saw her alive.
The pub has returned to its original name and, luckily, other than that, not much has changed. The dark mark of the Ripper murders does nothing but help business. As if direct ties to the Jack the Ripper mystery isn’t good enough, the pub is supposedly haunted too.
Mysterious noises. People being touched. Objects moving. All of the tell-tale signs of a haunting have led the people of The Ten Bells to think that perhaps Annie Chapman is still lingering in the last place she had any sense of joy.
Who let all of the Cavaliers out of the afterlife? We’ve got one at The Flask and now one at The George! Despite its antique facade, the building, itself, only dates back to the 1930s. However, the foundation is much older, so that could help to explain the young Cavalier wandering around. The most famous tale surrounding the handsome young man and The George pub comes from the 1970s. During renovations, a painter spotted the ghostly apparition, and when he told the landlord, the man informed the frightened painter, “My wife sees him all the time.”
The Old Bull and Bush
What was once a farmhouse in 1645, eventually became a pub when they got a liquor license in 1721. Since then, the Old Bull and Bush has been quenching people’s thirst and offering them a bit of fright. There have been paranormal claims made about the establishment for centuries now. Activity ranges from bumps and chills to a full-bodied apparition in the bar. During renovations in the 1980s, a skeleton was discovered behind a cellar wall, surrounded by surgical equipment. The skeleton has since been buried, but the haunting continues, leading many to think that the human remains weren’t the sole cause of the haunted happenings.
One of the more wild claims about the pub and mystery skeleton is that the bones belonged to Jack the Ripper. The stories claim that he was hiding in the cellar when the wall was built and died down there. There is, of course, absolutely no evidence of this, but it helps to add to the ghost story.
The Bow Bells
With all these tales of murder, suicide, and body snatching, it’s nice to find a more light-hearted haunting at The Bow Bells. You see, this ghost has a sense of humor… potty humor to be precise.
Apparently, the resident spirit likes to flush the toilets in the ladies bathroom when women are using them. This has been a problem since the 1970s right up until recent years. The height of the activity was in 1974 when the landlord at the time tried to rid the pub of its ghost with a seance. When they asked the spirit to make itself known, the door to the ladies’ restroom swung open with such force, it smashed a pane of glass.
You know how much it sucks when you’re sitting on an automatic toilet and it keeps flushing on you? Now imagine someone is doing it intentionally just to watch you squirm…
The Spaniards Inn
You may remember the Spaniards Inn from Charles Dickens’ The Pickwick Papers. But over the centuries, the pub has managed to make a name for itself outside of the literary world. There are three pretty impressive ghosts haunting the Spaniards Inn, making it a must-visit on my trip (if I can convince everyone in my group to go with me). The building dates back to the 1500s and is preserved so well, it’s no surprise that some famous ghosts are haunting the pub.
Dick Turpin (you remember, from The Flask) supposedly haunts the Spaniards Inn. According to stories, his father was the landlord in the 18th Century. This claim isn’t valid, but it helps fuel the ghost story. Turpin is seen on the upper floors while his horse, Black Bess, is out in the parking lot. People have reported hearing horse hooves and whinnies for years.
The spirit of a moneylender named Black Dick is seen in the bar area. Sadly, Black Dick was run over by a horse outside of the pub long ago, but today he makes himself known by tugging on beer drinkers’ sleeves.
What is your favorite haunted pub? Did we miss any on this list? Let us know, and maybe we’ll stop by for a visit!
Cheers and here’s to many adventures through Great Britain!
If you own a haunted bar, cafe, hotel, or restaurant, and you’d like us to check it out, reach out to us on Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter. If you have a favorite haunted hot spot with great food and atmosphere and you’d like to share it with us, hit us up on social media or leave a comment below! We’d love to hear from you… Thanks for joining us, and Happy Haunting!