Berkeley Square is prestigious address, which from the 1930’s until recent years was the premises of the antiquarian booksellers ‘Maggs Brothers’. Back in the Victorain era, however, it had the reputation as the most sinister house in London.
The story stared when a jilted elderly man who lived there became increasingly deranged. Reputedly, he did not go out during the day, though the house was lit up at night, with extaordinary noises coming from it.
After his death, the house was taken by a fashionable family for the London season. One of the daughters was engaged, and the fiance was inited to stay.
Reportedly, a maid went up to prepare the his room on the upper floor. Suddenly, the household was roused by terrified screams and they rushed upstairs to find the maid had been driven mad by somehting, now standng, staring wildly at the corner. She was taken to St Georges’ Hospital, but later died. She was reputedly unable to describe what she had seen, save saying that it was too horrible for words
The finace did not stay in the room. Still, refusing to believe in the ghost, he is related to have taken up a vigil there to see what might happen. The family agreed, on condition that he ring if he saw anything alarming, and stay there only until midnight. He too, rang the bell violently at midnight.
The family on rushing up, found him stretched upon the floor in convulsions. He survived, but would not talk of what he had seen.
There is also a story that another man set up watch in the attic and fired when he saw an alarming vision.
Supposedly, also, a couple of sailors from HMS Penelope spent the night in the house after it had stood empty for some years. One fell to his death, becoming impaled on the front railings of the house when trying to escape from an apparition, said to be the threatening ghost of Mr. Myers. The other supposedly was insane from then on.
There are varients on these accounts. Another is of a mysterious tenant who used to visit the house and was noted by its caretakers to stay in the locked attic room for hours at a time.
How far all, or any of these tragic stories is based on fact, is hard to ascertain. There seems to be little concrete evidence for much of it, as various researchers have decided.
There are certainly many questions that are not answered in these stories dating back over a hundred years. For instance, even given the lesser medical knowledge ofthe Victorian era, how was the death of the unlucky maidservant recorded? What was the name of the fiance? Why, in a sizable house, was he only offered accomodation on the attic floor (traditionally used to house the staff). Then again, are there any existing statements about these events surviving from before? Has it been verified that the HMS Penelope had recently docked in London at the time that one sailor fell to his death? Where the names of these sailors ever ascertained? And so on.
Those seeking to for this sort of evidence seem to have come by no hard facts.
In her 1905 biography, Lady Dorothy Nevill related that the mad Mr Myers was a relative of hers whose odd behaviour had given rise to ghost stories. A 2010 investigation by the writer Steve Roud in his work ‘London Lore: the Legends and Traditions of the World’s Most Vibrant City’ concluded that the story of the two sailors was made up by the author of supernatural tales Elliott O’Donnell (it is certainly a good one!).
Overall this a disappointing conclusion to a spine chilling story, the more alarming for being vague.
However, the writer Alan Baker in his book ‘True Life Encounters’ (1998) argues that it is possible that the strange tenant who used to visit the attic room might have created a sinister thought form – what the Buddhist monks call a ‘tulpa’ -to guard the room.
Also, after my own experience of living in a haunted house, I would not care to spend the night in that attic alone.
Finally, in this post, I would like to wish all readers Season’s Greetings and a Happy Christmas. Anyway, I wish all readers as good a one as can be enjoyed in the current pandemic.