With Halloween just around the corner WSM decided to get in the seasonal spirit by going on a ghost walk around Wimbledon. We were led by local historian, Clive, to several locations where we were treated to spine chilling stories.
We began the tour at the New Wimbledon Theatre, which is rumoured to be home to three ghosts, two of which are known as the Grey Lady a cackling, floating head and torso and Mr J B Mulholland, the original owner and manager of the theatre. The Grey Lady has been seen in one of the bedrooms at the theatre and is thought to have turned on the sprinklers, causing the stage to flood. Spookily however, the fire safety curtain remained bone dry. In 1991 the theatre was refurbished and a photograph was taken of the front entrance. Upon it's development the photograph also featured a ghostly grey figure in the window of a store room, which was empty at the time! The ghost of Mr J B Mulholland, who died in 1925, haunts one of the theatre's boxes from which he watches new productions.
The Alexandra pub, a favourite of many staff at WSM, is visited by the ghost of a young boywith blonde hair.He was first sighted in the 1990s by staff who were living upstairs and heard a child crying "Mummy". In the wake of the sightings, photos of the boy began to appear and a trunk of children's clothes was found in the attic. Halfway through the ghost walk, we called in at The Swan Pub, Wimbledon Village, for a quick drink and rest stop. Before entering, we were warned that it too, was a haunted pub and to listen out for any mysterious noises as this is characteristic of their ghost. The interior was fittingly decorated with false cobwebs.
Not only are pubs popular amongst the living but also the dead. The Crooked Billet, a site which has been a pub for over five hundred years, is plagued by the ghost of an Irish woman who has been spotted in the cellar. Next door, the Hand in Hand pub has a ghost who was last sighted by a member of staff in 1985.
The last stop on our tour was Wimbledon Common which reportedly has numerous ghosts. One of whom is the notorious highwayman, Jerry Abershaw. "The Laughing Highwayman" was 17 when he led a gang, based at the Bald Faced Stag Inn, that was feared by many on the roads between London, Kingston and Wimbledon. By killing a constable sent to arrest him,and attempting to shoot another, he was eventually arrested. Consequently,he was convicted and sentenced to death. On Monday 3rd August 1795, he was hanged on Kennington Common. Afterwards, his body was moved to Putney Common and displayed on a set of gallows where it was seen by one hundred thousand people. He was the last hanged highwayman to have his body displayed in this manner. Thieves stole his toes, knuckle bones and hair for they believed that if there was no body in his grave and he was not laid to rest then he would continue to walk on earth. It is said that he can be seen galloping across Wimbledon Common on his horse and that the clattering of hooves can still be heard!
The ghost walk was thoroughly enjoyable and we all learnt a lot. Who knew Wimbledon was home to so many ghosts and had so much history!