Thursday 24 August 2023

The Ghosts of Baker Street

Say the name ‘’Baker Street’ to most people and their immediate thoughts will turn to Sherlock Holmes, the seemingly infallible detective of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s extraordinary (if occasionally flawed) imagination. Ask them to name anything else connected with this street and many (including me) will mention the haunting and poignant autobiographical song by Gerry Rafferty.

Baker Street is in Marylebone in the heart if the bustling city. It has a busy, major underground station (on the Bakerloo line) and, right around the corner stands Madame Tussaud’s and the London Planetarium, but Baker Street itself is an unprepossessing thoroughfare, with seemingly little but legend to recommend it.

Named after the builder, William Baker, who laid out the street in the eighteenth century, it started life as a high-class residential area but is now comprised mainly of commercial premises; oh, and the Sherlock Holmes Museum, situated at – you guessed it – 221B (which isn’t even a real address!). Confusingly, the museum is actually located between numbers 237 and 241.

A number of famous real people have lived in Baker Street –and some appear not to want to leave it. The eighteenth-century actress, Sarah Siddons, is one of them. Her house was where number 228 stands today. She is seen walking through walls on the first floor.

Meanwhile, nearby, the (now closed) two-hundred-year-old Kenwood House Hotel, not only had sightings of an apparition dressed as a Cavalier gentleman, but it also possessed that most fascinating of supernatural entities - haunted furniture. Specifically, the drawers opened and closed by themselves, and the mirror…poltergeist activity has been reported. With no guests to tease or terrify, it is not known if the ghosts still haunt.

At 245-247, the Volunteer Gastropub not only feeds and refreshes its visitors, but guests can also look out for the ghost of Rupert Nevill, whose family owned a large manor house on that site which burned down in 1654. He is said to appear in the cellar – indeed, the cellars are the originals so would be familiar to him. Eerie noises and unexplained, scary sightings have been a feature as far back as when the pub was used as a recruiting station during World War Two. They certainly seem to serve up spirits of a different kind at The Volunteer.

Deep underground isn’t free of apparitions either. Travellers on the Bakerloo line have reported seeing the reflection of a ghostly figure in the window, sitting next to them. But there is no one there… And after dark, track workers have reported a ghostly workman. One worker heard footsteps approaching him as he sat having his break. They crunched the gravel, growing closer and closer until they stopped around thirty feet away from him. But their owner was nowhere to be seen.

Spooky stuff - and enough to make the spiritualist Conan Doyle salivate. So, if you're brave enough, why not don your deerstalker, cram your pipe in your mouth, take a trip to Baker Street and walk with the midnight. Go on, I dare you!

You should also take care if you see a sign to Canonbury Ducis. I would avoid it if I were you. Alli Sinclair didn’t – and look what happened…

The After-Death of Caroline Rand

At a weekend house-party at ancient Canonbury Manor, Alli is caught between fantasy and reality, past and present, in the life of Caroline Rand, a famous singer from the late Sixties, who reportedly killed herself in that house. Alli soon learns that evil infests the once-holy building. A sinister cabal controls it, as it has for centuries. Before long, her fate will be sealed, and she will learn about her role in the after-death of Caroline Rand.

It begins with a chilling greeting: "Welcome to The Columbine, Miss Sinclair. You are expected..."

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Nik Keevil and Flame Tree Studio


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