The Tower of London is one of the most historic places in England; it's also considered one of the most haunted. As the site of numerous executions, torture, and imprisonment, the bloody Tower of London story makes it an obvious site for ghost sightings. It may appear on every tourist's "must see" list, but for paranormal enthusiasts, especially those who love history, the Tower of London should be at the very top.
The first tower of the fortress was built by William the Conqueror sometime around 1066, and numerous walls and other towers were added in the years that followed. Originally constructed as a way to keep local folk in line and scare off foreigners, the bloody history of the Tower eventually included functioning as a prison, an execution site for horrific beheadings, and a zoo. Many of the unfortunate people who spent time within its walls were victims of political and religious differences, sent there by powerful people fighting over the throne. Several prisoners were even believed to have been murdered, leaving behind queens, princes, and bears as the resident ghosts in the Tower of London.
King Edward IV died unexpectedly in 1483, leaving behind sons Edward and Richard. Since Edward was only about 12 years old, the King's brother, Richard III, assumed the throne in the meantime. He placed the boys in the Tower of London, postponed Edward's coronation indefinitely, and convinced Parliament to declare the boys illegitimate sons. Richard was officially crowned king while the brothers lived in the Tower of London and played on its grounds, happy enough until they suddenly disappeared in 1483. No one knew what happened to them until two skeletons believed to be young men were discovered buried under a staircase in the White Tower many years later.
Many people claim to have seen apparitions of two boys holding hands and wandering throughout the Tower's different buildings. They are dressed in period nightgowns and appear to be lost, clutching at each other in fear. One woman visiting the exhibits in the White Tower took a picture of a display case and discovered the face of a young boy in the reflection when the film was developed. She claimed no one else was there, and a person would have been unable to fit behind the case like the figure in the photo.
The Tower of London is a historical landmark, complete with museum exhibits and displays of English artifacts. Among the pieces of history on view is a set of armor once owned and worn by King Henry VIII. The item is one of the Tower's most viewed displays but is also thought to be haunted.
Night guards have claimed to experience chills, eerie sensations, and feelings of dread when entering the room containing the armor. They've told stories about feeling as if they were being strangled or crushed by some evil entity from above. One guard even claimed to have experienced an invisible cloak thrown over his head and twisted until he was unable to breathe. He managed to escape, but the attack left red marks on his neck. If these accounts aren't creepy enough, even when the armor has been moved to a different room, stories of people experiencing strange sensations have followed.
Probably the most famous and often-seen ghost is Anne Boleyn, second wife of King Henry VIII and mother of Elizabeth I. Boleyn came to Henry's court as part of Queen Catherine's consort, and the king soon fell in love with her. When she refused to become his mistress, King Henry VIII had his marriage to Queen Catherine annulled, citing the queen's inability to bear a male son as the cause, and married Boleyn. However, Boleyn was also unable to bear him a son, so Henry VIII had Boleyn arrested under made up charges of incest and adultery. She was imprisoned in the Tower of London and executed.
Boleyn's ghost has been sighted in various castles around England, but she is often witnessed at Tower Green, where she was beheaded, and the Chapel of Saint Peter ad Vincula, where her body is buried. One guard told the story of noticing a flickering light in the Chapel Royal although the doors were locked. He used a ladder to look in the windows and saw a ghostly procession of knights and ladies in period dress gathering around Boleyn before the group suddenly disappeared. While some of his co-workers looked on, another guard attempted to stab a white figure he believed to be Boleyn, only to have his bayonet pass right through her body.
In 1541, the son of the 8th Countess of Salisbury, Margaret Pole, got on King Henry VIII's bad side. He fled to safety in another country but left his senior citizen mother behind. Pole was expected to receive the beheading punishment for her son's crimes but refused to kneel on the execution stand. The commotion bothered the executioner, who brought his axe down on Pole's shoulder rather than her neck, allowing her to get up, run around, and scream as blood spurted.
The executioner chased her with his axe, trying to finish the job but took more than several swings before Pole finally died. Many people have witnessed Pole's gruesome ghost appearing on Tower Green on the anniversary of her death, re-enacting the horrific last moments. Some visitors have even claimed to witness the giant shadow of an axe falling across the area.