Ghost Myths and Legends

Ghost Myths I have defined as well known accounts of hauntings that may very well contain some element of truth. However, the tales appear to me to have been embellished and are now more 'folklore' than accurate descriptions of real British ghosts.

Ghost Legends on the other hand, are true, 'ghost stories', but where the phantom is not quite what it appears to be!


50 Berkeley Square, London
One of the most enduring British ghost myths, concerns not a castle or battlefield but an unimposing house in the centre of London that is home to a respectable antiquarian book-sellers. If the stories about 50 Berkeley Square are to be believed then something very evil can, or at one time could, be found there.

Highgate Vampire, London
Although not strictly a ghost, reports of the Highgate Vampire in the 1980's, made this one of London's most famous alleged hauntings. But was the ghoul the capital city's answer to the Count Dracula or was the Highgate Vampire, as a court suggested, nothing more than a man dressed up in fancy clothes?
Whatever the truth of the vampire's origin, the actions of those seeking it would not be out of place in a Hammer Horror film.

Unlucky Mummy!, British Museum, London
With all the many mummies and religious and ceremonial items housed within its walls, you would be forgiven for assuming that the British Museum was associated with many ghost myths. But you would be wrong.
There used to be reports of a ghost of an ancient Egyptian, dressed in loincloth and headdress, who was to be seen in the, long since closed, British Museum underground station.
But the most famous British Museum ghost legend is associated with a 3,500 year old coffin lid from a haunted mummy-case of a Theban priestess of the Egyptian sun-god, Amen-Ra.

Okehampton Castle, Devon
The ghost legend attached to the ruined castle of Oakhampton is of another 'Green Lady'. The story is that every night, Lady Frances Howard is condemned to pick a single blade of grass from the castle grounds and then to be driven by a headless coachman in a coach made of the bones her four husbands whom she outlived to her old home in Tavistock. Once she has picked all the grass, so the story goes, then she will find peace. Of course, the suggestion is that her spouses met an untimely end at her hands but there is not the slightest evidence that she had anything to do with their deaths.
So much for the ghost legend. Much more reliable are the numerous reports of a spectral black dog that has been seen.


Hammersmith Ghost, London
If there weren't legal accounts of this event, it would probably be thought of as being the plot for a film.
But, not only is the Hammersmith Ghost a historical event it led to the genuine haunting of a pub.

Cripplegate Ghost, London
Here is another 'ghost legend' that is named after the place in London where it took place. The tale of the Cripplegate Ghost has passed into folklore, the events being associated in the retellings with many different women, including Sir Walter Scott's mother. As far as I know, the name of the lady concerned is not known although the church where it happened is.

Phantom Butterfly, Bath

tortoiseshell butterfly

It may be a phantom in name only, but according to the site of the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB), the tortoiseshell butterfly can be seen in Britain, 'between March and October'.

So there is something definitely very peculiar about the fairly regular, and most definitely welcome, appearance of the phantom butterfly at the Theatre Royal, Bath around Christmas time.

Return from Ghost Myths and Legends to Real British Ghosts
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