EPISODE XXXIV: THE NAMELESS HORROR OF BERKELEY SQUARE
This particular UK legend takes us to No. 50 Berkeley Square. A nice, but otherwise ordinary 4 story brick townhouse. For over two centuries it has been one of the marquee areas to live in the whole of the city. It's a place of Lords and ladies, Dukes and other esteemed and wealthy members of London’s upper class. 50 Berkeley was built at the end of the 18th century, designed and constructed by one William Kent, who opened its doors to tenants in a rental style in its early years.
However, as the years worn on and London grew busier and real estate became more and more valuable and coveted in Berkeley Square, the multiple prolonged absence of residents in the home over the years became marked in the neighborhood. Absences caused by suspicious, downright frightening reasons. Whispers abounded in the streets about the ‘ghostesses’ that haunted 50 Berkeley Square, while tales made the rounds in the taverns about the apparitions that had been seen in or around the property, especially from the 1820’s onward.
While the reputation around London and beyond took decades to grow, it was only shortly after the square was erected that residents began occupying the square that people began to talk of “strange residents.” One such case was that of Mr. Dupre and his mysterious brother that was kept locked in the upper reaches of the building. This ‘insane’ brother was kept in isolation except for one unfortunate incident in which a young girl was supposedly locked inside… her fate is unknown, but 1800’s Londoners swear they see her ghostly figure skipping down hallways and in the streets below the building.
In its early years, 50 Berkeley Square had many brushes with tragedy. In another early case, witnesses in the street one evening saw a young girl by the name of Adeline plunge to her death from the top storey window. It is said that she was attempting to escape the advances of her abusive uncle, and after her tragic death residents in the square reported the haunting vision of the young ghost falling from the upper storey window on a regular basis.
“The haunted house in Berkeley Square was long, one of those things that no country cousin come up from the provinces to London on a sightseeing bent, ever willingly missed. [...] number 50 wore an exceedingly uncared for appearance. Soap, paint, and whitewash were unused for years, and grime clung to brickwork and Windows alike. The area was choked with wasted hand-bills, wisps of straw, and all the accumulations that speedily made a derelict London house. The very picture of misery; and every passing stranger stopped the first errand-boy, and asked various questions, to which the answer was, generally, 'aunted 'ouse; or, if the question happened to be "Who lives there?" the obvious reply was ‘Ghostesses...’"
Charles Harper, Haunted Houses (1913)
By the late 1820’s, 50 Berkeley became the home of the British Prime Minister George Canning, who is commemorated by a plaque on outer wall of the house today. Canning was the first long-term resident, and had a long and colorful career in British Politics. He served mostly under King George IV (who disliked canning and tried to thwart his foreign policies to no avail) as a senior cabinet minister under several PM’s until he was chosen to succeed Lord Liverpool who had resigned from his position in April 1827. Canning reigned as Prime Minister for less than four months until his health deteriorated and he died. Canninf holds the record for serving the shortest period of prime ministership in the history of England, a mere 119 days.
According to some sources, Canning was also the first person to experience activity within the house, in the form of inexplicable sounds emanating from various places around the home. Interestingly, many of these sounds seemed to originate from the basement. As well,Canning reported having horrific nightmares repeatedly. The former Prime Minister would later pass away in 1827 in unrelated circumstances of ill health while visiting relatives. Canning is buried at Westminster Abbey.
1840 was the first year the stories really started to spread. One inconspicious evening, a twenty year old nobleman named Sir Robert Warboys was out drinking with his friends, and naturally the young men got down to discussing the tall tales of the town. One of which was the horrific haunting of 50 Berkeley Square, already in the public consciousness at this time. Warboys had heard of the alleged haunting and scoffed at the idea of 'ghosts', however his friends felt otherwise and dared him to spend the night alone in the same room as many of the previous experiences. Sir Robert fatally accepted their challenge. The current landlord of No. 50 was horrified at the idea but finally agreed to the proposal on two conditions. The first, that Sir Robert would take with him a loaded pistol. The second, that he would use the bell that summoned the servants if he required any assistance. The question was, assistance with what?
Sir Robert went upstairs at the end of the evening and, at first, everything was seemingly normal. Perhaps, Warboys was going to prove his friends wrong. However, shortly after midnight, the servants bell began to dingle. After a short pause, the bell began furiously ringing and, as the landlord and the man's friends hurriedly rushed up the stairs, a shot was heard. They dashed to the room and flung open the door. Sir Robert was cowering in a corner, absolutely petrified gripping the pistol in his shaking hand pointing it towards what had to have been something in the room moments before they arrived, his eyes bulging from their sockets.
One version states that he was totally unable speak and died shortly after from shock. In other accounts, the young Lord was already dead by the time they entered the room, his face contorted with fear, and his cold dead fingers gripping the handle of the pistol. The landlord followed Sir Robert’s gaze to a single bullet hole in the opposite wall and speculated that he must have fired at the infamous “Thing,” but, bullet had had no effect on the creature.
The house was later occupied by Miss Elizabeth Curzon, who died in 1859 of supposed uneventful,“peaceful,” natural causes. Shortly after Mrs Curzon’s death, the house then taken over by a mysterious Mr. Myers. Myers was originally an unknown figure during his time and after; many didn’t even know the house was occupied by Myers for the many years he lived the house. For many in London’s west end, he was simply referred to as the ghost of 50 Berkeley.
The story goes that Myers was jilted shortly before he was set to be married. The poor man had even had the house at 50 Berkeley Square fully furnished in preparation for the big event. Not a dime was spared preparing the house for his new wife, all the best furnishings and decor were ordered and arranged in the house. However, on the day of their wedding, he was tossed aside for another man. After this terrible encounter with the opposite sex, Myers would never allow another woman near him.
Myers became a hopeless recluse, forever depressed and locked away in the farthest reaches of the house. He began locking himself in one room during the day and only come out at night when he would pace and wander about the house by candle-light. Myer’s candlelight could be seen from the upper storey windows as he paced the halls at night. It seems that Myers was almost in a trance like state of depression, one that he could not escape, perhaps because of the oppressive presence of the house. Local lore says that after his death, his 'room' had a horrible feel and an overall chilling atmosphere.
Lady Dorothy Nevill, a grand dame of British Aristocracy, wrote a memoir in the yearly 1900’s that detailed her relations with Thomas Myers of 50 Berkeley Square. Until then, the resident had been nameless to many and even fewer knew that it had even been occupied. Some say that Myers was adamant of regaining/recontacting his lost love (or gaining vengeance on her?), so adamant that he engaged in satanic worship and other unsavory practices that could have potentially awoken something demonic.
The local council once issued a summons to the house's owners for failure to pay taxes in 1873, but it is claimed that Myer’s was not prosecuted because of the house's reputation for being the most haunted place in all of London. One article states that Myers and a Viscount named Bearsted, who purchased the house after Curzon’s death and leased it to Myer, were both summoned however neither appeared before the council and it was thought that the house had been abandoned by both.
“In the meantime, neighbours reported unearthly moans and screams, along with the sound furniture being dragged, bells ringing, and windows slamming.” (Occult Museum)
Nobody seems to know the fate of Myers, he faded like a blip into the obscure annals of British history. The house fell into a state of disrepair and disarray during his stay at 50 Berkeley and Myers vanished with no forwarding address.
1879, a new family arrived at 50 Berkeley. The Kentfields, a clean-cut upper class family consisting of a father and his two teenage daughters prepared to move into the home. It was a standard move, much of the original furniture and things were left behind. As they unpacked their belongings, the eldest of the daughters made note of a strange, foul odour in the house, as if it had been filled with a menagerie of animals for some time.
One of the maids of the house was preparing one of the rooms in the attic as a temporary stay before finishing up other rooms on the 2nd and 3rd floors. She was said to be occupying the same room as Lord Lytton had. The story goes that soon after she went upstairs, the family heard desperate, bone chilling screams coming from the attic. They rushed up the stairs and burst into the room to the sight of the young maid cowering in the corner, her eyes bulging with fear, her face completely white. She was pointing out towards what was no longer there, and with what little composure she could muster she uttered, … “please don’t let it touch me.” The maid was then committed to a sanitorium for the remainder of her days, which lasted less than a week.
That would not be the end of the Kentfields’ terrifying encounter with the house. No less than half and hour after Captain Kentfield himself had gone to bed in the house, that “screams and a gunshot were heard before [the captain] was discovered dead of fright” (Occult Museum). Many reference an article written by The Mayfair Magazine in the same year that details the tragic story; however after all attempts we have only been able to find the snippet found on many blogs that is not dated and does not have the whole story (all cut off on the sides, a torn, tattered fragment of the piece in question).
The next tragedy at 50 Berkeley has a murky date, depending on where you look. Some state that it was only three years after the early Warboys encounter of the 1840’s. Several blogs place the night in 1887. While most reference the year 1943, however, all tell of the same setting: it was Christmas Eve. Two young Sailors from Portsmouth, Robert Martin and Edward Blunden, had taken leave from the HMS Penelope. After a night of rowdy drinking on the town, the two men proceeded to break into the residence one night, encouraged by the ‘for let’ sign on the door. 50 Berkeley had stood empty for some time now.
They had been celebrating the holiday and had too much to drink, so naturally the pair wanted to find a cheap place to settle down for the night without wandering around for too long. So they stumbled upon the dilapidated No. 50 Berkeley Square. The story goes that with the house at this time being in some disrepair, the bottom floor bedrooms were damp and stank of must, and so the two men went upstairs to the second floor.
Blunden allegedly made note of a strange feeling in the house but this was ignored by his friend and in their drunken stupor they fell asleep, however, not for very long. In the late hours of the night they awoke to a terrifying sound, and heard a bulking mass coming up the stairs with loud, stomping footsteps as if something was not pleased with them being there. The sound was then followed by a terrible smell. Then the door to the room they had chosen swung open. A black faceless abject mass entered the room, blocking the doorway - their only means of escape!
Martin managed to get run past and get to the stairs, but Blunden was trapped on the side of the window. When the escaped sailor returned with the police together they found the body of his friend. He was impaled on the railings outside the house, his face contorted in fear. He had either tried to escape the 'thing' by climbing outside and had fallen. Or he had jumped from the window in an attempt to avoid the terror. Or he had been thrown to his death by the Nameless Horror.
There are those that believe that the house is haunted, but others think something else is to blame. Something even more bizarre. Could this be a monster living inside the house? Or perhaps beneath it, in the sewers below?
Descriptions of a dark or brownish ‘mist’ are discussed in antiquity and in modern times (the book dealer Julian Wilson of Maggs’ bookshop), is this the medium from which a cthulu-type monster emerges from?
“This unidentifiable monstrosity is said, by some, to be a vile, phantasmagorical killer from beyond the grave… though there is some evidence to suggest that it may be a bizarre, mutant cephalopod, which lurks in the filthy labyrinth of the London sewer system waiting to rise up and kill again.” - Rob Morphy (Cryptopia, The Nameless Horror of Berkeley Square)
When we look at the encounters so far there are elements, especially with the case of the two young sailors, that make us think this entity is possibly something different than a poltergeist manifesting as people's nightmares. This notion has led investigators to believe that there is perhaps a very real creature to blame in all of this. Something even more bizarre than a case of a haunting. Could there be a monster living inside the house? Or perhaps, beneath it, In the sewers below…? Descriptions of a dark / brownish ‘mist’ are discussed both in antiquity (Lyttleton’s account) and in modern times (book dealer Julian Wilson of Maggs’ Bookshop), leading one to ask, is this the medium from which this monstrous entity emerges from?
When we consider the documented encounters there are elements that lead one to think this entity is possibly something different than a poltergeist manifesting as people's nightmares. This notion has led investigators to believe that there is perhaps a very real creature t blame in all of this. Albeit an unknown, and possible ‘not of our world’ type physical entity, not a spectral entity. In fact, some of these descriptions put forth by witnesses have led some researchers to believe that there might be some type of mutated freshwater octopi, or some type semi aquatic cephalopod lurking in the sewers beneath the city!
This would mean that such a creature must have its nest or something alike, in the depths beneath No 50. Berkeley Square. A marine animal that managed to migrate from the Thames into London’s vast subterranean sewer system, where it was able to infiltrate the Berkeley Square home via the plumbing. It can also be speculated that this creature was looking to feed on the rats of the homes basement. A frightening and very bizarre thought.
In 2008, The Daily Mail reported that sewer workers Workers at Southern Water treatment plant in Eastbourne, East Sussex claimed that they were being stalked by an unknown creature that can only be described as the total Abject. Human like, but not at all, living beneath the sewers.
According to the workers, the figure would follow them and make a noise reminiscent of laughing, or some kind of squealing, that was very menacing. This persisted for so long that eventually Paranormal investigators caught word of this, and after spending time testing they turned up no trace evidence, but also saw and felt the presence of things living amongst them down there. Even hearing voice like sounds coming from behind walls where no workers would possibly be. Could this be related to the create of No. 50?
Today, 50 Berkeley lies vacant. A bookshop filled its interior for over 60 years, closing in 2015. While the owner of the shop, an elderly Mr. Maggs, admitted he felt a certain energy in the walls of the building, he never felt intimidated nor threatened. Interestingly, Mr. Maggs likens the energies of 50 Berkeley to that of the residual spirits left behind in many of the first edition texts in his massive book collection containing many first hand accounts from long dead historical figures such as that of Captain Cook among many others. However, there are other employees who experienced things they could not explain. Book Dealer Julian Wilson had one such encounter while working at his upper storey desk in an office space he claims used to be the epicentre for the horrific occurrences. Wilson claims he saw a brown mist move across the room, parallel to where his desk was situated. He saw the mist out of the corner of his eye, but Wilson remains certain of what he saw.
What remains within 50 Berkeley has yet to be explained. New residents continue to report unseemly activities, such as slamming doors, objects being thrown, and a strange, musty smell that lingers in the air. Interestingly, one forum source claims that 50 Berkeley is actually the site of a mass grave for plague victims centuries ago. Whether this true remains to be corroborated, but the idea remains interesting that such a location may have echoes of the masses of suffering that took place years prior. The mysterty of 50 Berkeley remains an enduring one, a legacy that is remembered by many, and forgotten by many more.
Written by Amber Rae Bouchard