We are headed to London (it’s a city in the UK, in case you haven’t heard of it) to dick-tect the ghost stories surrounding the Tower of London. This medieval castle has a legit dark history, which means a ton of ghosts.
Sadly, we’re a dick down this episode, but Nikki and Tae do their best to be profesh(ish) while they share stories about the mysterious disappearances of the princes, how many wives Henry VIII had beheaded, a bunch of other people that were beheaded… and a ghost bear.
- Listen to the episode
- History of the Tower of London
- Tower of London Ghosts
- Margaret de la Pole
- Lady Jane Grey and her hubby Guilford Dudley
- Lady Arbella Stuart
- Henry VIll’s Armour
- The Ghost Bear
- Visiting the Tower of London
- Did you love this episode? Check these other historic gems out:
Listen to the episode
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History of the Tower of London
The Tower of London, officially Her Majesty’s Royal Palace and Fortress of the Tower of London, is a historic castle on the north bank of the River Thames in London (go figure). It’s infamously the setting for royal tragedy and death. And, while it’s currently closed because COVID, it attracts more than 3 million visitors per year.
It was originally built by William the Conqueror as a “mighty stone tower.” He started the massive fortress sometime in the 1070s to defend and proclaim his royal power—he wanted to “dominate the skyline, and the hearts and minds of defeated Londoners.” It took 20 years to build, and the White Tower was erected in 1078. Over the years it’s been the Royal Mint, the Royal armouries, a zoo and even a prison.
The original complex has been expanded over the years by Henry II between 1216 and 1272 and Edward I in 1272 to 1307. Henry II had the great Keep painted white, which is now called the White Tower. The structure has historically been used in tumultuous times by Kings and Queens to protect themselves and their things. And, until the 1800s, arms and armour was made, tested and stored there.
This is currently the holding place for the crown jewels which are protected by a garrison of soldiers. And it hasn’t always been the safest place, in 1310 during the “Peasants’ Revolt” rebels literally ran through the open gates and attacked.
But enough about the history… let’s get to the good stuff.
Tower of London Ghosts
Murder of the Princes
Edward, 12, and Richard, 9, were the sons of King Edward II. When Edward II died unexpectedly at 41 of a “quick and terrible” illness of which a cause was never confirmed though many think it was an infection, his weight or heart, technically 12-year-old, Edward was the King but due to his young age, his uncle Richard III became the “protector of the throne.”
Richard brought the boys to the Tower of London, it was not uncommon for a monarch-to-be to stay at the Tower before they were crowned, but it was strange that the date of young Edward’s coronation kept changing. It was originally May 4, then June 16, then indefinitely postponed. Richard actually believed he was the “true king” and was attempting to get the parliament to declare his nephews illegitimate. Eventually he was crowned and the boys were locked in the Tower, cast as illegitimate offspring of the former King.
At the time of their lockdown, Dominic Mancini, an Italian friar (basically a monk but of Catholic faith) was staying at the castle and noted that “as time went on, all the attendees who had waited upon the boys were barred access to them. The brothers were withdrawn into the inner apartments of the Tower… and day-by-day they were seen more rarely until, at length, they ceased to be seen altogether.” The boys were last reported alive during the summer of 1483 when they were seen playing together in the garden. They were never seen after that.
It’s theorized that Sir James Tyrell who was one of Richard’s closest friends murdered the boys. A tudor loyalist, Thomas Moore, wrote that Richard ordered the deaths but had Tyrell do the dirty work. He said that the boys were suffocated in bed and were buried at “a stair foot” by Tyrell and two accomplices, John Dighton and Miles Forest. It was reported (but not confirmed) that Tyrell confessed in 1502 when “under sentence of death for treason.”
Most people, including Shakespeare himself, believed that Richard III gave the orders himself but it’s also possible that Henry VII was responsible as he had as much to gain. He had beaten Richard in the Battle of Bosworth in 1485 and “accused Richard of tyranny” but didn’t announce the murders until nearly a year after Richard’s death in July of 1486.
Skeletons suspected of being the boys’ were found in 1674 were found buried in the Tower stairs. King Charles II ordered a royal burial for both at Westminster Abby that year. The ghosts of the boys are seen in the Bloody Tower. The specters are dressed in white nightshirts. They are also seen playing on the battlements and visitors report hearing the laughing of children throughout the castle halls.
The boys’ murder remains unsolved.
Queen Anne Boleyn
Queen Anne Boleyn, mother of Elizabeth I, was the second wife of the dirty and gross King Henry VIII. She was executed on May 19, 1536, after being found guilty of high treason during her trial four days earlier. She had been Queen for three years at the time and was around 35 years old.
Her crime of high treason? She allegedly slept with five dudes who weren’t her grubby little hubby, including her brother, George Bolelyn (AKA Lord Rochford) and the King’s buddy and “groom of the stool” Sir Henry Norris. According to the indictment, she not only got jiggy with the five suspected suitors but she also conspired with them to kill the King.
It’s unlikely that any of this legitimately happened (though could we really blame her since he was gross) because the crimes allegedly took place between October 1533 and January 1536, and historians point out that at many of the alleged encounters she wasn’t at the castle at the time or wasn’t able to actually participate in the affairs.
So, why was she really killed? It’s most likely that Henry who wasn’t that into marriage vows but also was weirdly romantic in that way that he wanted to marry literally every woman he fancied, was in the market for a new wife. He married Jane Seymore shortly after Anne’s beheading, but she died during childbirth. So then he married Anne of Cleaves but had their marriage revoked because she wouldn’t jump into bed with his gross ass. Then he married Catherine Howard and beheaded her… then finally Catherine Parr, who probably only walked away from the marriage unscathed because he died first…
Others believe that Thomas Cromwell, a loyal servant of the King, believed she was a threat and cooked up the evidence of the affairs to get rid of her.
All of the men that Anne allegedly got it on with—George Boleyn, Sir Henry Norris, Sir Frances Weston, Willian Brereton and Mark Smeaton—were executed on Tower Hill on May 17, 1536. Archbishop Thomas Crammer declared Anne and Henry’s marriage annulled on the 17th as well. She was scheduled to be executed on May 18, which is when she had her last confession and took part in church. But at the last minute they decided they wanted to put on a real show, so they pushed it by one day so they could erect scaffolding.
Anne Boleyn’s ghost is usually seen near the site of her execution in a series of rooms called the Queen’s House. One of the guards reportedly saw a “hooded figure” approach him in one of the tower rooms. Despite ordering the figure to stop it advanced. He ran at it at his bayonet which is when he realized the ghost was headless.
If it’s any consolation, Henry VIII died fat, ugly and covered in boils in 1547.
Margaret de la Pole
Anne Boleyn wasn’t the only woman beheaded by Henry VIII who’s still at the castle—honestly, she’s not even the only wife he beheaded but Catherine Howard isn’t still hanging out at the Tower. Margaret de la Pole, the Countess of Salisbury, was imprisoned in the Tower after her son, a cardinal, denounced Henry VIII as the head of the Church of England. He was in France, so Henry decided to take his anger out on his mother, arrested her and sentenced her to death.
Margaret was not willing to play ball on the day of her execution. She refused to kneel saying “so should traitors do, and I am none.” Because of her nobel birth, a crowd of 150 people had gathered and they watched as she ran away when the executioner raised his axe. Apparently he chased her around the raised scaffolding, hacking at her until she was dead.
It’s said that her screams are “frequently heard at the site of the scaffold.” Other lucky visitors have claimed to witness a ghostly reenactment of the event.
Lady Jane Grey and her hubby Guilford Dudley
Lady Jane Grey was the great granddaughter of Henry VII and her misguided family convinced her that she was the rightful Queen of England. Words out on whether or not that little fact was true, but Mary I, the daughter of Henry VIII, didn’t agree. She went on to marry King Phillip II of Spain and after she had herself crowned Queen she sentenced both Lady Jane Grey and her husband, Guilford Dudley, to death.
Lady Jane was only 16 at the time and was executed in 1554 after her dearly departed and other members of her family. When it was her turn she apparently approached the chopping block blindfolded saying “What shall I do? Where is it?”
You can find the ghost of Guilford Dudley sitting and weeping “into the night” in Beauchamp Tower. He’s also allegedly responsible for etching the word “Jane” into the walls… it can still be seen today.
Lady Jane herself was spotted once, according to the record, in 1957. She was a lone figure walking along the battlements.
Lady Arbella Stuart
Lady Arbella Stuart was the second cousin of Queen Elizabeth I, who got on the bad side of King James I by seemingly pure accident and a poorly planned marriage.
Lady Arbella married William Seymour, the second Duke of Somerset and brother of our last victim of beheading, Lady Jane Grey. Naturally, King James I decided this was an act of war and a threat to his reign, so like all of the good kings out there he had them arrested and locked in the Tower of London.
The brave lovebirds staged an escape which apparently saw them take two different ships to what we can assume was some romantic rendezvous point but Arbella’s ship was captured and she was returned to the Tower.
Lady Arbella refused to eat and died probably of starvation in the Tower in 1615. Alongside Anne Boleyn, Lady Arbella haunts the Queen’s house. A former governor of the Tower who lived in these rooms between 1994 and 2006 reported that his wife was “pushed so violently by some unseen force that it propelled her out of the room and into the hallway.” So, she’s not a happy ghost. Others have reported seeing sights of a heartbroken ghost on the grounds of the Tower weeping which they associated with Lady Arbella.
Henry VIII’s Armour
The White Tower is the oldest of all the structures that you can find at the Tower of London and is where Henry VIII’s armour is kept. Visitors report a “horrifying crushing sensation” when they enter the gallery that holds the armour. This sensation reportedly disappears when they exit the building.
Guards have also reported being accosted by an “unseen force.” One reported being “covered and strangled by a heavy cloak” only to realize he was flying solo in the room at the time. A second stopped to rest his feet and remove his shoes when he heard a voice behind him say “there’s only you and I here.” Word’s out on whether or not the ghostly speech came from Henry VIII himself or another ghost lurking in the area.
The Ghost Bear
Perhaps the strangest ghost lurking around the Tower of London isn’t exactly human in origin… in 1210, King John established a “menagerie of animals” at the tower which, because he was such a stand-up guy, he “used in fights” for the spectator’s amusement.
As should not be surprising with humankind, this was an incredibly popular attraction. Eventually it turned into a zoo of sorts where you could visit animals from all around the world, including a polar bear.
The “menagerie” was eventually moved to the London Zoo in 1832 by the Duke of Wellington. But, as it turns out, some of the animals decided to stay put.
Visitors to the Tower report hearing the cries of animals and one guard on duty reported being charged at by a spectral polar bear. But when he tried to stab it with his bayonet it disappeared.
Visiting the Tower of London
You can, of course, visit the Tower of London—though it is currently closed due to COVID (like pretty much everything else). However, when it’s open, you can check out the crown jewels which are usually on display, the Line of Kings AKA the display of old armour in the White Tower and the ravens.
On a terribly sad note, Melina the raven who is one of the seven ravens at the Tower of London left a few days ago and has not returned. They suspect that she may have passed away #RIP girl. For those wondering, the ravens at the Tower serve a ritualistic purpose. There is a legend that says ‘If the ravens leave the Tower, the kingdom will fall…’ so there are always six ravens that live there and they hang out with a legit raven master.
We do think it’s prudent to share that the reviews for tickets purchased through third-party operators are atrocious… most people recommend buying your tickets right through the facility itself. Tickets are £25.00 for adults and need to be pre-booked.
Did you love this episode? Check these other historic gems out:
- The Sloss Furnace: Historic ghosts are lurking in Birmingham, Alabama, here’s their story!
- The Whaley House: This house in San Diego is often touted as the most haunted house in America.
- Sea monsters: Learn about the legends of Ogopogo, Hydra & Abaia.
- The Sallie House Haunting: There’s a creepy little girl that haunts this house in Kansas.
The Lady Dicks did not just magically come up with the information for Ghosts of the Tower of London themselves, they, in fact, did research beyond Wikipedia (thanks jerky iTunes reviewer for your one-star comment), and here are those sources:
- The Princes in the Tower, Ben Johnson, Historic UK.
- Princes in the Tower: An Unsolved Murder in the Tower of London, Exploring Castles.
- The final days of Anne Boleyn: why did she die?, History Extra.
- Heads Will Roll: 8 Restless Ghosts of the Tower of London, The Lineup.
- The Tower of London Ghosts: Headless Haunts, Suffocating Sensations and Wandering White Women, Exploring Castles.
- Tower of London
The Lady Dicks Podcast was created by Tae Haahr. The Lady Dicks are Andrea Campion, Nikki Kipping and Tae Haahr. “Ghosts of the Tower of London” was research, written, edited and produced by Tae Haahr. The Lady Dicks theme music, A Pink Panther, is licenced through AudioJungle.
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