Fancy a spirit chaser with that pint? These London pubs boast a clientele from the afterlife
We know the feeling - when you find a pub you love, you don't want to leave. But if you've ever been turfed out at closing time by a doorman or a weary landlord, show a little respect for these ladies and gents, who've been sticking around for centuries without any bother.
In fact, it seems all you need to do is die a terrible, gruesome death (or commit a murder or two) and you'll be allowed to stroll about your favourite pub for all of eternity.
THE SPANIARDS INN
Once upon a time, The Spaniards Inn wasn't nestled in the heart of leafy, affluent Hampstead, but was out in the countryside on the long road into London town. It was this position that made it a favourite spot for highwaymen and criminals to meet to plot and even carry out their nefarious deeds.
One of those criminals went on to make quite a name for himself - the infamous Dick Turpin, who was so fond of the place, he still pops back every now and again.
Visitors have seen his ghost wandering the old, wood-panelled rooms and some even claim a mysterious woman dressed in white will join him for a stroll around his old stomping ground, which just goes to show: Even in the afterlife, girls love a bad boy.
Spaniards Rd, London NW3 7JJ, www.spaniardsinnhampstead.co.uk
Across the heath from the Spaniards Inn is The Flask, a 17th Century pub also frequented by the booze-loving Dick Turpin. But there's a strict one-ghost-only rule around these parts and this is the home of a heartbroken young woman who supposedly met a tragic end right inside the building.
Some say that the female phantom one worked in the pub and embarked on an affair with the landlord. But when the romance went pear-shaped, she couldn't bear the rejection and fellow workers found her hanged in the cellar.
Staff know when she's about to make an appearance when the temperature plummets, but she doesn't always show herself to the naked eye. Regulars report seeing their glasses move across the table, others claim the lights begin to flicker and some even report feeling a blowing sensation on the back of their necks. Sounds like she's still terrible at flirting after all this time.
If you're after a more reliable - but equally gruesome - tale to give you the shivers, the first ever autopsies were supposedly carried out in the committee room here on a corpse pinched from the Highgate Cemetery next door. If that isn't enough to warrant a haunting, we don't know what is.
77 Highgate W Hill, London N6 6BU, www.theflaskhighgate.com
Over in West London, The Grenadier is an upmarket gastropub tucked away in a pretty mews called Wilton Row. But if the name wasn't enough oof a giveaway, the wooden sentry box outside and the flashes of blue and red across the white exterior will tell you that this is a building with a proud military history. The upper floors of The Grenadier were used as an officers mess for the nearby barracks and the cellar became an illicit drinking and gambling den for the regular soldiers.
But with high-stakes gambling comes winners, losers and inevitable upset - especially if cheating's involved. One night in September, when two soldiers discovered their opponent had been bending the rules, they gave him a bearing so severe that he died on the floor of The Grenadier's cellar.
Ever since - and especially in September - objects move, tables and chairs rattle, footsteps are heard and mysterious moans fill the air. If you want to help the poor soldier pay off his debts and slope back off to the afterlife, you can join hundreds of other patrons in pinning some cash to the ceiling. Every little helps.
18 Wilton Row, London SW1X 7NR, www.thegrenadierbelgravia.com
picture: The Grenadier | © Martin Belam/Flickr
THE BOW BELLS
Is it a ghost, or a longstanding plumbing problem? Well, seeing as it's Halloween, we're going with the former. This old pub in London's East End has a phantom toilet flusher, who pulls the chain while people are sat atop the throne. In all fairness, that's exactly the sort of daft shenanigans we'd like to take part in if we were offered the chance to pop back as a ghost.
If a shonky flushing system isn't enough to convince you of an otherworldly presence, there's a little more to the story. Fed up with soggy-bottomed locals complaining about the toilets, the landlord decided to call a seance and when they called forth the spirit, the women's toilet door flew open and smashed a mirror.
116 Bow Rd, Bow, London E3 3AA, www.thebowbellspub.co.uk
THE RISING SUN
The Rising Sun sits right next door to Batholomew's Hospital, which is a big tick in the ghost-hunting world. Location, location, location and all that.
Back in the 19th Century, gangs of bodysnatchers would drink and work at The Rising Sun (think of it as a very early WeWork) thanks to its proximity to the medical researchers next door. They'd drug pub-goers before killing them and selling the bodies to the scientists in Barts. Then, presumably, they'd pop back and spend their earnings at the bar.
It's all been kicking off since then, with strange happenings being reported all over the ancient bar - including in the private flats upstairs, where one former landlady reported being interrupted in the shower by a ghostly apparition who whipped back the curtain and placed an icy hand on her back. Other barmaids who lived upstairs would wake up to find a spirit sitting on the end of the bed, slowly tugging their bedcovers off.
38 Cloth Fair, Barbican, London EC1A 7JQ, www.risingsunbarbican.co.uk
THE TEN BELLS
The Ten Bells on Shoreditch's Commercial Street has undergone a modernisation in recent years and is a lovely pub overlooking the equally posh boutiques of Spitalfields Market, so it's hard to imagine it as the dirty backstreet hovel it once was.
The East End pub will always be tied with England's most famous serial killer - Jack the Ripper - who allegedly used to stalk his victims in this street, which at the end of the 1800s was a squalid slum.
All of the Ripper's victims died within a mile or two radius of the Ten Bells but two in particular are linked to the pub. Mary Kelly was last seen in the pub on the night of 9th November 1988, and would have bumped into her killer in the streets outside. And Annie Chapman's body was found in Hanbury Street behind the pub.
Workers and customers have since reported various sightings of a gentleman in Victorian dress strolling through the pub and down the street outside, and some also claim to have seen a ghost who looks curiously similar to Annie Chapman, leading people to believe the Ripper is still tormenting her to this every day.
84 Commercial St, London E1 6LY, www.tenbells.com
THE OLD QUEEN'S HEAD
Now an upmarket gastropub that hosts live music, DJs and comedy acts, there's a dark side to The Old Queen's Head that only shows itself at night.
The current building is a Grade II listed building dating back to the early 1800s, but a pub has stood on this site since the 16th century - and one of its past owners was rumoured to be the legendary Sir Walter Raleigh. Staff have reported seeing him swanning about the place - no doubt lamenting modern music and asking why everything has to be so loud - and disappearing without trace. Others claim to have seen a woman dressed in Tudor clothing and hearing footsteps, laughter and the chatter of young children after the pub has closed its for the evening.
44 Essex Rd, London N1 8LN, www.theoldqueenshead.com
The Viaduct Tavern is opposite the Old Bailey, London's famous court where thousands of criminals have learnt their fates over the centuries. Hundreds of those will have been taken straight to the fountain outside to be hanged in full view of passers by, whereas some might have been sent back to the grim debtors prison whose cells now form part of the cellar of the Viaduct Tavern.
It's not hard to see why there are a fair few tortured souls knocking around the place, but just like in life, most of these guys are confined to the cellar and never seem to make their way up to the Victorian Gin Palace upstairs. They go for the usual temperature-dropping stunts, with the odd moan and groan thrown in for good measure, but these troubled ghosts also have a few innovative tricks up their sleeves.
Back in 1996, the pub manager had to call his wife for help after the heavy cellar door slammed shut and the lights tripped out, leaving hime howling in the dark just like the prisoners of yesteryear. And a few years later, builders reported seeing a roll of carpet lift into the air and slam back down onto the floor for no apparent reason.
126 Newgate St, London EC1A 7AA, www.viaducttavern.co.uk
THE OLD BULL & BUSH
Hampstead is one of our favourite areas of London, largely because it's packed full of an unfair number of incredible pubs. But, with old pubs comes paranormal activity. It's in the rules. And The Old Bull & Bush is no stranger to ghosts.
Just like many of its local rivals, the Old Bull & Bush has changed through time, from an old pub on the edge of the city, to a well established drinking den and finally, as is the way, to an upmarket gastropub to serve the ludicrously wealthy locals.
But one of these renovations might well have answered provided the answer to the pub's paranormal bother.
For many years, workers and regulars have reported hearing strange bumps, moans and screams from various nooks and corners of this old pub. Some claimed to have been followed by strange footsteps and others even say they've seen a strange, Victorian man patrolling the area. But when a 1987 refurbishment required a section of wall to be pulled back, builders discovered the skeleton of a man in Victorian clothes. Even more bizarrely, he was surrounded by surgical equipment, giving rise to the story that Jack the Ripper may have died here while hiding out from the police.
Despite the skeleton being removed and buried in a nearby graveyard, the hauntings continue to this day.
N End Way, London NW3 7HE, www.thebullandbush.co.uk
THE MORPETH ARMS
When will people learn not to build pubs on top of old prisons? It never seems to end well.
The Morpeth Arms in Westminster has made full use of its grimy cellar, offering ghost hunters a live camera feed, with all lenses pointed firmly at a row of damp, dark and filthy arches that used to be holding cells for prisoners. The cellar would once have been linked by underground tunnels to Millbank prison, where convicts were kept until transportation arrived to whisk them off to a life of hard labour in Australia. Unsurprisingly, given they weren't going to be here for long, very little care was taken of the prisoners and scary and cholera ran rife through the inmates. Rumour has it that one prisoner took his own life rather than be deported to the other side of the world, and his tortured soul now swans around the posh pub upstairs, knocking pints out of people's hands and smashing bottles and glasses behind the bar. Exactly the kind of reckless behaviour that'd land him in prison in the first place. Will he ever learn?
58 Millbank, London SW1P 4RW, www.morpetharms.com