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Hampstead Heath Mysteries ~ GHOSTS!

There are very nearly 800 acres of wild and rugged moorland on The Heath and it is steeped in the history of struggle and turmoil.
A playground for generations, not only is it an habitat for wild life but The Heath has its own abundance of AFTER-life tales as well!

In parts it is a sinister place!

There are plenty of shady, forgotten parts of The Heath, where the suggestible and credulous would be easily spooked.

There are eighteen main ponds that imprint upon  The heath and hardy swimmers make use of several of them on a more or less daily basis.

Some of these swimmers complain of hearing phantom footsteps following them along the piers as they prepare to leap into the cold, murky waters.

No explanation has ever been found as to who, or what, might be responsible, although several witnesses believe them to be connected with suicides that, in the past, chose to end their lives in the ponds.

There's a certain flavour of apparition that The Heath is particularly associated with: the shades of highwaymen.

Three centuries ago, transport in and around London came with its own risk of terrorism. In those days, it took the form of highway robbery, and The Heath was an irresistable draw for murderous highwaymen. Chief amongst them, of course, was Dick Turpin.

Rumour has it, even if hard evidence does not, that the notorious rogue was born in 1705 at the Spaniard's Inn.

Certainly, it seems Turpin's father was landlord here in the 18th Century.

The Turpin Bar, upstairs, is said to frequently turn unnaturally cold as the ghostly figure of the highwayman drifts across his erstwhile bedroom.

In the downstairs bar, people have reported phantom tugs at their sleeves.

The culprit is thought to be the spirit of 'Black Dick', an early hit-and-run victim who died outside the pub in the 18th Century.

Sometimes, the Heath light can play strange tricks. On an early August morning, back in 2009, the author noticed that a mysterious face had appeared on one of the photographs he took of Lime Avenue! Look closely at the larger trunk, far right, and you may see the face. Is it A NAIAD OF THE WOODS or just an optical illusion?
The Viaduct Bridge in closeup

As if that wasn't enough, the car park contains a phantom horse and the gardens are haunted by a mysterious woman in white.
From the 17th to the 18th centuries, the rough paths that cross The Heath's untamed wilderness were the haunt of numerous highwaymen.

In September, last year, the author was photographing The Hill Gardens. He often takes pictures early mornings to avoid other visitors. On this occasion, he noticed a strange dark figure standing at the far end of the Garden Wall! A figure or an illusion?
The Viaduct Bridge in closeup

They were called “Gentlemen of the Road,” and they would stop at nothing to relieve travellers of their possessions, and often their lives.

It would seem that one such felon found the lure of The Heath so irresistible, that he is loathe to leave.

Over the years there have been numerous reports of a dark figure on horseback that comes riding from the dense thickets and gallops towards astonished witnesses.

One lady who encountered him, later reported how was so convinced she was about to be trampled to death, that she flung herself to the ground and prepared for the impact.

After a few moments, she looked up to find that the spectral rider and his mount had, apparently, vanished into thin air.

Only then did it dawn on her that, despite the fact that they were coming towards her at great speed, the horse’s hooves had not made a sound upon the hard ground.

On Hampstead’s High Street, the William IV pub is a cosy little place that was, so tradition claims, once the house of a local doctor.

Mist rises from The Highgate Valley in this late March shot, taken from The Stable Fields, Kenwood. One could imagine all sorts of shadowy spectres appearing out of nowhere, although more likely to be a stray pet!
The Viaduct Bridge in closeup

For reasons long since forgotten this medic one day murdered his wife, and bricked her body up in a recess in the house’s basement, which is now the cellar of the pub.

During a search for a section of The Anglo Saxon Ditch, just behind Westfield Gate in Kenwood, the author noticed this peculiar cloud on inspection of his photographs!

Not best pleased by this, her spirit still makes its displeasure known by rattling windows and slamming doors in the dead of night.

Meanwhile, people walking by outside have, from time to time, glimpsed the poignant shade of a young girl who stands on her tip toes and gazes anxiously through the windows of the pub.

She is swathed in a white shroud, and her long plaited hair hangs untidily across her shoulder.

Few people can fail to have sympathy for the plight that left this poor girls spirit earthbound, for she is said to have been a young girl whose parents, having dropped her off at a dentist that once stood opposite the William IV -(various versions of the tale place the date at some stage in the early 20th century) – came over to the pub and left their daughter to endure the ordeal alone.

So traumatic did she find the experience that she killed herself rather than keep her next appointment, and ever since her ghost occasionally peeps in at the windows of the William IV seeking the parents who, not content with leaving her to face the whining terror of the dentists drill alone, have apparently, also abandoned her to face eternity alone as well.

The Holly Bush Inn, in Hampstead, is reputedly haunted by a ghostly waitress who takes orders but never delivers.

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