The Tulip Staircase Ghost

As far as famous staircases go, the Tulip Staircase at the Queen’s House in Greenwich already had its share of niche fame, without the need for paranormal visitation. It is supposedly the first unsupported spiral staircase in the UK; a mundane fact, but an impressive engineering feat, and a tourist draw for many years.

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The Queen’s House at Greenwich

The Queen’s House itself was built between 1616-1619 and was inhabited by many female royals over the centuries. The house was commissioned by the wife of King James I (Anne of Denmark) as an elaborate apology for him swearing at her in public. If anything, I believe his verbal response to be quite measured, considering his wife had just accidentally shot one of his dogs.

I’m unsure as to the fate of the dog, but it may well have mimicked Anne’s. The queen fell ill and died in 1619. At this point, the first floor was completed and was hastily ‘capped off’.

Later, during the reign of Charles I, he employed the same architect, Inigo Jones, to complete the project for his wife Queen Henrietta Maria. Yet again, it was not to be. Due to the advent of the English Civil War, the house was abandoned and repurposed as a means of holding prisoners of war.

Following the war, repairs recommenced and royalty finally moved in. Later, it was used for housing the orphans of sailors, as a hospital school and finally, as the National Maritime Museum.

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But why is the staircase so prominent in the murky history of ghost photography?

During a visit to the Maritime Museum in June 1966, visiting Canadians, Reverend Ralph Hardy and his wife wanted to document the beautiful building. Hardy’s wife had been quite taken with a magazine photograph of the staircase from beneath and wanted to recreate it as a souvenir. Sadly, he found the staircase to be cordoned off and could only photograph the staircase from behind a barrier. He quickly took the shot and continues his visit to the museum with no thought to what was on his film.

 

As with all the best ghost photograph anecdotes, Hardy returned home and sent his holiday snaps off to be developed. Upon receiving the finished prints, he was shocked at what he saw.

There had been no one near him when the photograph was taken, the staircase was also inaccessible. But on the print and the negative, was the figure of a person clawing themselves up the staircase.

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Hardy’s Original Image

Its reported that Hardy sent both the negatives and the photographs to a series of researchers who then forwarded them to Kodak laboratories. After vigorous testing, Kodak concluded that neither the print nor the negative had been tampered with.

Hardy released the image to the press and speculation began in earnest.  Many believed the image to show two figures, close together, both struggling to ascend the staircase.

Others conducted a séance by the staircase, attempting to contact the spirits Hardy had captured. Later, an attempt was made to recreate Hardy’s photograph in similar conditions, but it was not fully successful.

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Séance held at night by members of The Ghost Club at the Queen’s House on 24th June 1967

 

But Hardy’s spirit was not to steal all the limelight. There have been several other reports of supernatural happenings within the Queens House, ranging from unseen footsteps, to chanting children and several ghostly figures, gliding through the rooms of the building. Tourists have also reported being pinched by invisible hands. The most elaborate reported spectre is that a ghostly maid, seen mopping up blood from the bottom of the staircase. She was said to be dressed in ‘old fashioned clothing’ and very pale. It is said that a maid was thrown fifty feet from the top of the staircase, dying on impact with the bottom landing.

Ghostly visions still occur at the Queens House to this day, although Hardy’s photograph is the only lasting ‘evidence’ of such. In recent years, a gallery assistant reported that on their tea break with colleagues, they saw a woman ‘glide across the balcony, then pass through the wall on the west balcony.’ They said ‘I couldn’t believe what I saw. I went very cold and the hair on my arms and my neck stood on end. We all dashed through to the Queen’s Presents Room and looked down towards the Queen’s Bedroom. Something passed through the ante-room and out through the wall. Then my colleagues all froze too. The lady was dressed in a white-grey colour crinoline type dress’

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For over fifty years, Hardy’s photograph has enthralled and frustrated believers and sceptics alike. But what do you think? I must say, I think the ghost is rather lovely, especially with its very visible sparkly ring (see pictures). As for the Queens House, the Maritime Museum is open 7 days a week, from 10am to 5pm, for all your seafaring and ghost hunting needs. Although I’d check with management before reaching for a Ouija board…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sources / Further Reading

 

http://www.theparanormalguide.com/blog/the-tulip-staircase

https://www.theblackvault.com/casefiles/tulip-staircase-ghost/#

https://ghostwatch.net/paranormal-reports/apparition-disembodied-spirits/report/9-the-queen-s-house-ghost

https://www.americanhauntingsink.com/spirit-photography

http://www.richard-howard.com/photos.html

 

Francis Bacon’s Ghost Chicken

With Christmas behind us, New Year on our minds and the lingering scent of roast poultry clinging to the curtains, I have been racking my mind for a seasonal topic.

While spirit snowmen are a thing of horror fiction, it would seem that ghostly chickens have their claws firmly lodged in the niche echelons of British folklore.

Before I am reminded by a helpful reader that ghost turkeys would arguably be more festive, in the true spirit of a family Christmas dinner, I say to you; ‘you get what you’re given’.

Sir Francis Bacon
Sir Francis Bacon

Sir Francis Bacon (1561-1626) was an English statesman, philosopher and an early purveyor of scientific methods and reasoned scientific thought. According to John Aubrey’s vivid account, Bacon died as a result of failed experiments In preserving meats.

On a particularly cold night in January, Bacon was travelling to Highgate with the King’s Physician, when he was suddenly struck with the thought of using snow to prevent meat perishing.

Bacon and the Dr Winterbourne were so keen to test his theory that they alighted the carriage, and rushed to a ‘poor woman’s cottage at the bottom of Highgate Hill’, where they purchased a chicken. After delightfully commanding the woman to slaughter, pluck and remove the bird’s innards, Bacon went about filling the carcass with snow.

Shortly after his poultry-stuffing efforts, Bacon caught such a severe chill that he was unable to return home and was laid up in nearby Arundel House. Bacon’s sudden ill health was worsened by his hosts lodgings, Aubrey describing his bed as ‘damp’ and unused for some time; resulting in his death from pneumonia in ‘2 or 3 days’.

Aubrey’s accuracy in his accounts has been criticised for many years, by his contemporaries and modern academics alike. However, this is all immaterial; Bacon is a minor character in this feathery tale.

Since Bacon’s untimely death, there have been multiple accounts of a spectral white bird, resembling a plucked chicken, scuttling around Pond Square, Highgate. The chicken appears to run in wild circles before disappearing into the ether.

In 1943, an account given by Aircraftman Terence Long states how, after crossing Pond Square late at night, he was startled to hear the thundering clatter of a horse and carriage. Following this terror, he found the ensuing silence pierced by the shriek of a bird, after which a chicken appeared, racing in circles, before disappearing.  Similarly, another wartime sighting was recorded by a Mrs J Greenhill who reported seeing the chicken on several occasions, describing it as a ‘large whitish bird’.

In the 1960s, a stranded motorist encountered the same plucked vision, as a chicken appeared, winding in circles, before dissipating into the night air. However, in the 1970s, the bird took the form of the ultimate passion-killer by manifesting directly next to an amorous couple who were intertwined on a park bench.

Rather disappointingly, I have failed to find any especially recent accounts of this spectral fowl, but I live in hope. Perhaps the chicken is finally at peace with its fate. Perhaps the human imagination is a wonderful, if bizarre thing.

In the meantime, here’s a festive thanks to you, ghost chicken, for your part in scientific progress and for the future joy the British people experience, knowing our freezers can be filled to the brim with breaded fleshy offcuts every festive season.

 

 

 

 

 

Sources

 

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Francis_Bacon#Biography

 

http://www.haunted-london.com/pond-square-ghost.html

 

https://hauntedpalaceblog.wordpress.com/2013/04/25/the-strange-case-of-sir-francis-bacon-and-the-frozen-chicken/