The initial purpose of the tower was to scare off invaders and to keep local townsfolk in line. Think of it as a stern warning to anyone who would try to do harm to the crown and the ruling class.
The tower holds a legendary and infamous place in English folklore. People love to spin tales about the tower’s occupants, its history as a prison and torture chamber, and even its time functioning as a fully operational zoo. There are stories of ghostly sightings of princes, headless cadavers, and even bears that haunt the compound.
Thomas Becket Made a Fatal Mistake
Thomas becket was a close personal friend of king henry II. He was proclaimed archbishop in 1161.
However, the two men had a falling out when becket sided with the catholic church against the king on whether the crown or the church should have jurisdiction over the members of the clergy.
Friend or not, king henry the ii just couldn’t allow this challenge to his power and attempted to punish becket who fled to France. After living across the channel for a few years, four knights were able to track him down and murder him.
Years later when henry’s grandson henry the iii erected an inner wall for the compound of the tower, workers reported becket’s ghost was spotted destroying the wall with a massive cross. This would happen repeatedly. Workers would rebuild the wall only to have becket’s ghost return and destroy it, finally, it was decided that a chapel would be built in becket’s honor in the hope that this would stop his spirit from returning. Indeed when the chapel was completed, the spirit of Thomas becket never returned.
Princes of the Tower
We move ahead more than 300 years to 1483 when king Edward the IV died unexpectedly leaving behind his sons Richard and Edward the V to inherit the crown. There was a big problem though. The boys were only 9 and 12 respectively and, thus, too young to assume the crown until they came of age.
As was the royal protocol, Edward the iv’s brother Richard the III was crowned king to rule until one of the boys was old enough to ascend the throne of England.
However, instead of looking out for the two boys and protecting them until they were of age, Richard the III had a diabolical plan. He summarily imprisoned both princes in the Tower of London. They were out of sight and out of mind under Richard the III’s complete control. His political opponents, of course, did not like this but were powerless to stop it. By making the princes his prisoners, Richard the III was able to indefinitely delay Edward the IV’s coronation and maintain a stranglehold on the throne and his growing power.
Eventually, he was able to convince his court that both of the princes were illegitimate heirs to the throne. Then one day, the boys just disappeared. Their customary jailers were not informed of their whereabouts. And their bodies were not found at the time.
It was as if the two princes never existed. Members of the royal court were too corrupt or too terrified for their own safety to push back. And so king Richard the iii’s tyrannical and stolen reign continued unchecked.
Decades later during a renovation, two small skeletons were unearthed in a secret stairwell compartment. Many people claim to have seen the ghosts of the two boys wandering the hallways in white nightgowns always appearing to be lost, searching for something, clinging to one another, and shaking with fear.
The two ghostly princes aren’t the only paranormal phenomena that haunt the Tower of London. The tower complex is a historical landmark and has become something of a museum with many objects on display and exhibits for a contemporary audience to appreciate.
One of the more noteworthy and popular items is the armor once worn by King Henry VIII. Not only is the king’s suit of armor a fascinating artifact from a time of knights and kings, war and conquest, but it actually belonged to and was worn by a king, a brutal king known to have had people executed on a whim.
To top it all off, king henry VIII’s suit of armor is thought to be haunted. Tower employees and visitors have reported strange phenomena around the armor. Some have suggested that the temperature around the armor is dramatically cooler than the ambient temperature of the room. Even on hot summer nights, the air surrounding the armor is noticeably frosty.
Multiple guards who’ve been in charge of looking after the suit have said that late at night, they’ve been attacked by psychic forces– a strangling sensation that grips their necks and nearly causes them to lose consciousness.
One guard even said he felt an invisible cloak thrown over his body. It then twisted like he was being strangled, leaving red marks around his neck. In response to the various claims about the armor, the tower management moved it to different areas of the compound hoping that the unexplainable phenomena would subside. But unfortunately, they didn’t. The stories of king henry the viii’s haunted suit of armor continue to this day.
The Most Popular Ghost
Anne Boleyn was the second wife of king henry the viii and is perhaps the most famous ghost that haunts the Tower of London. But despite her famous death, many don’t know the story of how she married the king of England.
Anne Boleyn came to henry’s court as part of his first wife Queen Catherine’s consort. But the king soon fell in love with young Anne, lusting after her with a fiery passion.
However, she refused his advances, saying that she would not become his mistress. So, Henry, had his marriage to Catherine annulled, citing the queen’s inability to bear him a son as the reason. Before anyone knew what was happening, he had wed Anne Boleyn.
Unfortunately for Anne, their marriage was doomed to be short-lived. The king turned on Boleyn for betraying him and committing treasonous acts. He then had her arrested on made-up charges of adultery. She was imprisoned in the tower and not long after, beheaded.
Her execution took place at the chapel of st. Peter ad vincula where her body was buried. But Anne Boleyn’s ghost has been seen haunting nearly every area of the Tower of London. She’s frequently seen walking on the greens late at night holding her head by her side.
Margaret pole’s son Reginald struck the wrong accord with king henry the viii and ended up very much on the wrong side of the king’s wrath. And fear for his life, Reginald fled England.
However, his mother, Margaret Pole, the eighth countess of Salisbury, didn’t get out of England in time. The king sentenced her to a beheading. But when she came face to face with the executioner and his ax, she refused to kneel.
The crowd that had gathered to witness her beheading began to murmur and jeer setting the executioner on edge. And when he swung his ax, he missed Margaret pole’s neck and planted the blade deep into her shoulder. It was not a clean, swift death.
As much in shock, as she was in pain, Margaret pole darted away running around the tower of London’s courtyard screaming and gushing blood. She eventually was put out of her misery. But the images of that desperate bloody day live on in the British consciousness. Many people have claimed to have witnessed her ghost reenacting her horrible demise, screaming out for help, calling to us all from the great beyond.
Lady Jane Gray and Her Husband
During the 1550s, a battle raged for the literal soul of England. It was a civil war over religious doctrine with warring factions attempting to make the country either protestant or catholic. King Edward the VI was devoutly protestant. So as he neared his deathbed, he named jane grey as his successor. She too was a devout protestant.
However, soon after grey was coronated– nine days to be precise– Mary Tudor, Edward’s sister, staked her claim to the throne. Mary Tudor’s claim was successful. And lady grey and her husband were summarily imprisoned in the Tower of London.
They were soon executed to ensure that they would never have a chance to seek revenge. It has since been reported on multiple occasions that the ghostly couple has been seen wandering around the compound hopelessly lost. Their ghosts usually appear in the days leading up to the anniversary of their deaths.
In 1957, a newly employed guard had a harrowing run-in with jane grey’s ghost. Patrolling the main tower’s courtyard late one night, the guard saw her headless body pacing along the top of the tower. The new guard is said to have quit on the spot, went home, and never returned to the Tower of London.
A Guy Named Fawkes
1605 was a rough year in England. A man named guy Fawkes carried out what came to be known as the gunpowder plot, which if you’re unfamiliar, involved Fawkes leading a resistance group against the protestant King James.
Fawkes attempted to blow up the house of lords with large amounts of gunpowder and explosives. His plan was to destroy England’s parliament and install a catholic queen. However, he was apprehended before he could successfully carry out his plan. And in case you’re wondering, yes, he’s the historical figure that inspired V for vendetta.
Ultimately, Fawkes was taken to a prison cell deep within the white tower where he was tortured mercilessly. Eventually, he was hung, then drawn and quartered as an example of what happens when you plot against the crown. His ghostly screams and calls for help are said to be heard by guards and visitors alike.
The Ghosts of the Zoo
Believe it or not, the Tower of London was also used to house exotic animals and pets. This began around the 1230s when henry the III has gifted three lions from the Roman emperor Frederick the II.
Not having any particularly suitable place to keep the savage beasts, henry suggested the Tower of London.
However, the cramped and confined conditions there resulted in many animals dying. But that didn’t stop multiple generations of kings and queens from storing and housing their big game there. Tigers, elephants, and bears were housed in the tower. It was even transformed into a fully functional zoo for an extended period of time.
However, due to the deaths of multiple zookeepers, guards, and visitors, the attraction was shuttered in 1835. But the other stories in this episode, the tragedies and horrible conditions that befell the poor animals at the Tower of London have spawned ghost stories.
One guard patrolling late at night claims he was trampled by a stampeding herd of ghostly horses with glowing red eyes. People walking by the tower at dusk have claimed to hear lions roaring to this very day. Another guard claimed that a shadowy form chased him up a staircase and into an office where he locked the door.
The form squeezed itself onto the door and into the room and then transformed itself into a massive black bear. The guard attempted to stab the bear with his bayonet to no effect. The blade, he said, just slid right through the bear’s body. The sheer terror of the ghostly attack was too much for his body to handle. His heart gave out, and he passed away a few days later.
The tower of London is one of those rare historical landmarks and cultural touchstones that has a long recorded history and a notorious mystique. Its brutal and bloody past is certainly filled with horrifying events, and that begs some questions. Are all these paranormal sightings and unexplainable phenomena humanity’s way of grappling with the untold cruelty that occurred at the tower? or did all that pain, suffering, and fear over the centuries make the Tower of London a portal to the hereafter?
you may just have to see for yourself. So what do you think? is the tower of London actually haunted? or is it just a place where a lot of bad things happened?