Crimson Peak is released in UK cinemas tomorrow, and to celebrate the release of Guillermo del Toro’s latest ghost story, we took to the streets of London to learn about its haunted history.
When it comes to ghosts, del Toro is most definitely a believer, and he tells us that just because he makes films about them, doesn’t mean he’s not scared of them.
“Actually they do scare me!” he laughs. “And I’ve had a couple of experiences in real life and I was completely scared! But I always answer what scares me in real life is people. Politicians, corporations, people that are as remote and spectral as ghosts with an equally unfathomable power, to rule over our lives. That scares me much more than, very very rich people that say global warming is not happening! That scares me a lot!”
While we didn’t come across any global warming-denying politicians on our tour of the West End with guide Liam Clarke, we were treated to some bone-chilling stories about some of the area’s most iconic locations. From Cleopatra’s Needle, where a policeman was urged to save a drowning woman by a figure who uncannily resembled the victim, to Coutts bank, where the sister of a hanged banker arrived every day without fail even after she was dead, our nation’s capital is filled with uncanny stories and creepy tales.
So the next time you duck down a side alley in Theatreland, it might be worth looking out for the murdered actor who still hurries towards the Adelphi Theatre stage door that has been long since bricked up, or if you find yourself near St Paul’s, remember that there have been spirits there long before its reconstruction after the fire of London. Or stop by Newgate prison to listen for the footsteps of an escaping convict across the rooftops. He didn’t get far, mind…
From Newgate we went to visit The Plume Of Feathers, a Greenwich pub which claims to be haunted. While we can’t claim to have witnessed the exploding glasses or felt the cold hands of its resident spirit, we didn’t want to spend any more time in the spirits cellar than we absolutely had to.
Finally, we headed to Charlton House for a ghost hunt experience. Our scepticism held up fairly well in spite of the old dark house, although the arrival of a pair of presences calling themselves Fred and Heather was certainly a little unsettling, especially when the former claimed to have died there several centuries before in unnatural circumstances. The ouija board’s planchette was moving, the temperature was changing, the Ghostbusters-style detectors were lighting up…
Was it Fred causing the creaking in the other room, or was it just an old house making old house noises? Interesting fact, two out of three of our taxi drivers on the day would have told you it was the spirit. The third claimed to have witnessed an exorcism at the age of 11 and dismissed it as “bollocks,” so some healthy scepticism is probably a good idea.
Whether there are really ghosts in Charlton House or not, we can definitely recommend that you go and see the supernatural spectacular that is Crimson Peak. The unquiet dead will certainly send a shiver down your spine.