A haunted city

By faye kelly, visitor services manager on 7 Nov 2014

West-India-Docks-1900-crop

The people who live in this ever expanding metropolis walk busily from place to place, sometimes without so much as a passing thought for the environment they find themselves in. It’s particularly easy to do this within East London’s vibrant docklands. This modern area with its towering architecture is a financial centre for the city and home to a workforce of over 90,000 people. The once imposing warehouses of London’s past can easily go unnoticed by those hard at work in the surrounding towers.

And yet, the echo of the past is still there (for those who wish to see it) and equally for some who might rather not! Here at the Museum of London Docklands, we’re exploring unexplained activity with a winter season of ghost tours. There are many apparitions described by the guides, and a few in particular that stand out…

Step inside Sailor town, a reconstruction of Victorian Wapping and brave this notoriously spooky area of the museum after dark. Visitors and staff alike have had unexplained experiences when walking through this area alone. Do you dare?

Step inside Sailor town, a reconstruction of Victorian Wapping and brave this notoriously spooky area of the museum after dark. Visitors and staff alike have had unexplained experiences when walking through this area alone. Do you dare?

One chilling event dates back to World War II. A young girl, placed in bed by her mother after songs for sweet dreams would inexplicably appear on streets in East London, always as air raid sirens blared. The bombs would drop, the bricks would fall and she would stand there in the rubble and dust, lost to the world but unharmed. Her mother, frantic with worry after finding her missing, would be reunited with her daughter who had no recollection of events.

Some of dangerous condition in West India Docks in 1900. This image shows sugar being hoisted into warehouses, an activity that caused many injuries and fatalities. © PLA collection/ Museum of London.

Some of dangerous condition in West India Docks in 1900. This image shows sugar being hoisted into warehouses, an activity that caused many injuries and fatalities. © PLA collection/ Museum of London.

The child earned the name The Devil’s Daughter by local residents, who feared her arriving on their doorstep as the sirens went off, signalling the imminent and unavoidable destruction. It has been said that on misty nights, on the docks of West India Quay, a little girl no older than 12 has been seen standing, deadly still in the distance; just long enough to catch the eye. A child possessed or a portal to the next world? Be careful to avoid her, lest she should foretell the next disaster.

Take a seat in The Three Mariners and see what you can sense from your surroundings. This is just one of the many areas in the museum that visitors have had strange experiences, from taps on the shoulder to ghostly faces in photographs.

Take a seat in The Three Mariners and see what you can sense from your surroundings. This is just one of the many areas in the museum that visitors have had strange experiences, from taps on the shoulder to ghostly faces in photographs.

Inside the museum itself, staff and visitors alike have shared their experiences of playful, and not so playful, other worldly encounters. When built, these Grade I listed warehouses were dangerous and unwelcoming spaces, vast in size, cold, damp and dark. Men and children lost their lives in gruesome ways – is it any wonder that they lament their passing within the walls that caused them suffering? It is clear that whatever or whoever occupies this building merely tolerates the presence of our modern souls during the day. Now it’s your opportunity to discover how they respond to us when the lights are off and the building becomes theirs for the night.

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