“Don’t let it touch me!”
The gruesome legend of 50 Berkely Square is made up of many isolated incidents. One of the most haunting is that of Captain Kentfield.
A guest at the Mayfair house, his visit got off to an uneasy start when a terrified scream ripped through the ceiling. He and his hosts raced upstairs to find a young maid gibbering on the floor of what was to be his bedroom.
'Don't let it touch me,' the maid is reported to have said.
Not wanting to come across a coward, the Captain resolved to stay in that room regardless. In the middle of the night, however, his hosts were awakened by a frightful bellowing. A gunshot. And then, silence.
By the time they reached the bedroom, the Captain's body was twisted and pale.
So spooky, even the taxman's scared
50 Berkely Square may look like an unassuming Georgian house, but its history is full such incidents. Many of its former residents have either died or gone insane. So many, in fact, that it was at one point made exempt from Council Tax.
A legend larger than after-life
The attic in particular is said to be a place of devilish happenings. Legend has it that a young girl threw herself out of its window and her spirit has remained chained to the property ever since. Various eye-witness accounts claim to have seen her ghostly white figure or a strange brown mist.
She is not alone there, however. Two more spirits are said to lurk the attic's rafters. A child believed to have been killed by a servant and the ghost of a young man, locked there and fed through a hole in the door until he evetually succumbed to madness and death.
Many, like Captain Kentfield, have tried to prove their bravery by spending the night amidst 50 Berkely Square's spirits, and just like the Captain, many have paid the price for their foolishness.
Further accounts tell of children experiencing strange zoo-like smells, trespassing sailors tripping and dying mid-flight, and a nobleman bringing a bell up to the attic with him, just to ease his nerves. In the nobleman's case, the house was awoken at midnight by the bell’s frantic ringing. Depending on which version of the story you encounter, he either died of fright or committed suicide 4 years later.
The tales are so wild and frightening that, in his book, ‘Haunted Houses’, published 1913, Charles Harper claimed that 50 Berkeley Square was haunted by an “unnamed Raw Head and Bloody Bones”. A being now better known as ‘The Bogeyman’.
The truth of number 50 is likely less fantastical and more sad.
Between 1859 and the early 1870s, 50 Berkely Square was occupied by a heartbroken Thomas Myers. Having recently been rejected by his former fiance, Thomas began to devolve. He stopped going outside, barely even slept, just roamed the house night and day, muttering strange thoughts.
And, reportedly, he spent most of his time in the attic.
The house fell into disrepair and, when he passed, was left to decay. This, of course, only added to it’s legend: the reclusive Myers whose spirit succumbed to a deep and lonely depression. A classic victim.
After his death, the house stood vacant for a long time.
An 1876 newspaper article states that the London Association of Spiritualists wished to exorcise it of a presence that had dwelt there for fifty years. Although there is no record of this having taken place, it has served to further compound the legend.
Sceptics of the house’s ghostly legend believe that it was Myers’s strange habits that led to its frenzied folklore. They claim that residents of Berkely Square, having watched a lonely, flickering candle slowly move from window to window, night after night, simply let their imaginations run wild.
The legend lives on
This hasn’t stopped its myth being explored to the present day, however. The house has been referenced in television shows, such as Whitechapel, and has even appeared as a point of interest in the videogame Assassin’s Creed Syndicate, in a mission associated with Charles Dickens.
The legend of this humble, half-white, half charcoal house lives on to this day. And, it being surrounded by the beautiful gardens and strange statues of Berkely Square, remains a worthwhile stop-off point in any London ghost-tour.
One More Thing...
50 Berkeley Square was also the residence of George Canning- Britain's shortest serving Prime Minister. This fact is commemorated in the form of a blue plaque stuck to the house's exterior.
Interested in finding more places like this? Try one of our Treasure Hunts in London - untangle cryptic clues as a team, as you are taken on a journey to the most unique, unusual and bizarre corners of London.
Alternatively, find more tales of ghostly happenings in our article on York Ghost Merchants.