London may have nearly nine million residents, but on 31 October it’ll turn into one hell of a ghost town. As night falls on Halloween, if you want to chase ghouls then it’s time to explore London’s historic homes, enter creepy museums and embark on spooky tours.
1 – Charlton House
On the eve of Halloween, Haunted Happenings has exclusive access to Charlton House, a Jacobean mansion built in 1607 said to be haunted by former residents. Join a ghost hunt in the dead of night using an ouija board, dowsing rods and EMF meters, and join in vigils and séances. Feeling brave? Explore the mansion alone and carry out your own experiments.
2 – Hampton Court Palace
Tour Hampton Court Palace to experience Henry VIII's state apartments, including deserted palace courtyards and dimly-lit corridors. You'll hear spine-chilling tales about former residents and visit the spot where two bodies of construction workers were discovered in shallow graves in the 1870s – it’s suggested they were murdered. For Halloween, there's a family ghost tour where the guide tells stories of ghostly apparitions and paranormal activity. Look out for the ghostly figure of Jane Seymour, which has been witnessed gliding on a staircase.
3 – Kensington Palace
Death, disease, love and loss – explore 300 years of secrets and tread in the footsteps of kings, queens and courtiers as you tour the shadowy world of Kensington Palace after dark.
4 – Tower of London
Bring a torch for this Walk with a Curator: Death at the Tower tour to explore the burials, murders and mysteries of the Tower of London. Uncover 1,000 years of death at the tower including the Beefeaters’ pet cemetery, execution site of 11 spies, the long-gone chapel graveyard and traitors’ gate. During November and December, Yeoman warders lead Twilight Tours each Sunday evening, telling you about spooky sightings.
5 – Coca-Cola London Eye
Trick or treating is so 1878. These days, cool kids attend Witch Academy to help protect London landmarks from ghastly ghosts and ghouls, then graduate from the London Eye as a witch or wizard. They’ll hop on board a special green pod that's decked out with dangling bats and spiders, and as their cavern rotates they learn magic spells, mind-boggling tricks and frightening facts.
6 – London Dungeon
With its eerie boat ride, spinning ride through sewers and costumed actors jumping out at you, the Dungeon is hair-raising at the best of times. This Halloween, Victorian medium Florence Cook hosts Séance!, set in 1873, where you’re transported to London’s most haunted house at 50 Berkley Square. You are then taken to the séance chamber to witness Cook’s communion with her ghostly spirit guide.
7 – Warner Bros Studio Tour
Over the decade it took to film the Harry Potter series, the production crew saved iconic sets, props and costumes which are now on show in the original studios. One of the tour’s highlights is the dark arts, where you can learn film-making secrets and see part of the grand table in the Great Hall decked with pumpkins, red apples and cauldrons of lollipops ready for the Halloween feast from Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone.
8 – The London Bridge Experience & London Tombs
Where better to spook yourself than on the site of a former plague pit? Take the after-hours Phobophobia: The Freaks, where the sets are transformed into a scare maze for a 30-minute immersive experience (24-31 Oct). In small groups, you’ll then be let loose in the maze chased by the Freaks, a psychopathic family turned into evil semi-humans with a temperamental rage. Can you escape?
9 – The Clink Prison Museum
Starved, beaten and chained at the ankles and feet in the dark, criminals in The Clink – England’s oldest prison – often died a slow, painful death. The prison housed criminals from 1144 until 1780, and was later burned down. Today there’s a museum on the site, where you can see examples of torture devices, with special ghost hunts in the week leading up to Halloween.
10 – Museum of London
Catch a glimpse of the underworld through The Crime Museum Uncovered, an exhibition investigating notorious criminals such as the 15-strong gang behind the 1963 Great Train Robbery, and the gang behind the unsuccessful Millennium Dome diamond heist in 2000. See more than 600 items of evidence from case files such as the briefcase with syringe and poison used by the gangster Krays twins.
11 – Jack the Ripper Museum
Step back to 1888 when London's East End was in fear of a serial killer. Nicknamed Jack the Ripper, he killed five female prostitutes around Whitechapel but was never caught. Explore this four-storey museum in a Victorian house, read original newspaper clippings about the victims, the prime suspect and evidence from the police investigation. In the basement are original autopsy photos of the victims.
12 – Wellcome Collection
Ever seen a shrunken head? When 16th-century Spanish colonialists landed in Latin America they discovered the native Shuar people and their shrunken heads: decapitated adult heads shrunk to the size of a grapefruit. The Shuar believed souls were in the head, and shrunk them by removing the skin and hair, boiling them and sewing the eyes and mouth shut. The heads were collector's items in the West; see one in Medicine Man, one of the Wellcome Collection's permanent exhibitions.
13 – Jack the Ripper tour
Follow in the footsteps of the notorious serial killer on this two-hour tour, brought alive by original photographs of the cobbled alleys of Victorian London. The walk follows a chronological route and the tour is structured like an investigation, so you can step into the shoes of the detectives who worked on the case.
14 – London Ghost Walks
Join Richard Jones, author of many books about haunted England, on his specially curated walk. On the tour he tells ghost stories, with highlights including a hidden courtyard where you hear a strange tale, a medieval palace and a garden where the ramifications of a long ago murder are still said to echo down the centuries.
15 – Ghost Bus Tours
This tour circles London’s key sights including the Houses of Parliament, Westminster Abbey, Downing Street and St Paul's Cathedral – all sites of murder, torture, execution and supernatural activity. It takes place on board an original 19th-century Necropolis bus or ‘carcass coach’ – the last of a fleet from a private funeral bus service that was destroyed by fire in 1967. On-board actors and a creepy conductor provide commentary.
16 – Ragged School
Take a Halloween night ghost hunt filled with apparitions and poltergeist activity. Staff at the 19th-century school have heard tormented cries, laughing and bangs, all of which were recorded on sound devices. Workshops teach you how to use the ghost hunting equipment, including a ouija board, dowsing rods, glass divination and table tipping. Contact the spirits using a sensitive recorder – you might not hear their answer, until you play it back…