Nine most gruesome and spooky spots in Camden

A view of Highgate Cemetery East in Highgate, north London.

Highgate Cemetery in Camden is said to be home to a vampire. - Credit: PA/Yui Mok

Lurking in Camden’s residential houses, pubs and theatres lies a dark history of twisted tales.

From infamous murders to vampires and witches, Camden has a long and grisly history that goes back to at least the 17th century.

Here are nine of the spookiest and most gruesome places to visit in Camden for locals and visitors with a penchant for the macabre.

9. A vampire at Highgate Cemetery 

Back in the 1970s, the Ham&High published a letter in its February 6 edition from a Highgate resident named David Farrant, now deceased, who later became president of the British Psychic and Occult Society.

He said he had seen “a ghost-like figure inside the gates on Swains Lane” at Highgate Cemetery. 

Later that month the Right Reverend Bishop Sean Manchester of the Old Catholic Church, then 25 and president of the British Occult Society, said the ghost at Highgate Cemetery was a vampire.

Both the police and the press investigated the claims as a series of bizarre incidents followed.

In March that year, the Ham&High reported David Farrant as saying he had seen dead foxes in the cemetery with no outward sign of how they died.

The Highgate vampire story featured on the front page of various editions of the Hampstead & Highgat

The Highgate vampire story featured on the front page of various editions of the Hampstead & Highgate Express - Credit: Archant

Most Read

8. Hauntings at Theatre Royal on Drury Lane

Theatre Royal on Catherine Street is said to be haunted by many ghosts including a man in grey, supposedly a nobleman from the 18th century. 

The remains of a skeleton were also found along with a dagger in a sealed passage in the theatre. Tour guides reckon there are up to 500 ghosts haunting the place, with many a tale of sightings from visiting actors and theatre patrons. 

7. An accused witch at The World's End pub

Camden's Worlds End pub at 174 Camden High Street in Camden Town, next to Camden Town tube station was once called Mother Red Cap or Mother Damnable's. 

The public house's former moniker reveals a former inhabitant who is said to have lived in a ramshackle cottage where the pub, or possibly where Camden Town station, now stands. 

Mother Red Cap, also known as Mother Damnable, is said to have lived in the location in the late 1600s. Back in the 17th century, Camden Town did not exist, the area between Kentish Town and the city of London became a hamlet and then a village.

Iuliana Tudos worked as a barmaid at the World's End pub in Camden. Picture: Emily Banks

Iuliana Tudos worked as a barmaid at the World's End pub in Camden. Picture: Emily Banks - Credit: Archant

Mother Damnable was an old woman who locals believed to be a witch and murderer who was an acquaintance of the devil. 

According to legend, the woman's real name was Jinney or Jenny Bingham and she was likely born around 1600. Her parents are said to have been hanged for causing a young girl's death by witchcraft and legend has it that many of her lovers vanished or perished in gruesome circumstances. 

The woman was often chastised by villagers for any misfortune they encountered but she was happy to return the favour with foul abuse. Mother Damnable is also said to have housed a female bandit called Moll Cutpurse at one time. 

The World's End pub is also said to have been a popular halfway house for highwaymen in the 1600s with stories claiming its basement was once home to torture chambers and gallows.

6. Mistaken identity at 30 Hawley Crescent, Camden

On January 3, 1933, the charred remains of a man sitting in a high chair were found by the fire brigade in a garden shed in Camden Town, where Poppies Fish and Chips now stands. 

The shed had been rented to a builder called Samuel Furnace and his was at first the body identified in the burnt down residence.

But upon further examination, a coroner determined that the body did not belong to Mr Furnace.

His post-mortem uncovered a bullet hole in the corpse's back and teeth belonging to a man younger than Furnace, who was 42 at the time. 

The coroner reported that the man, revealed to be Walter Spatchett, had been dead before the fire started. What was initially believed to be suicide was determined to be murder. 

Furnace did not get away with the crime however and was apprehended after sending a letter to his brother-in-law.

Furnace was taken to Kentish Town police station where he confessed to the killing but blamed an accidental discharge of a revolver, which he admitted throwing in the Regent's Canal. 

Before he could be brought to trial, Furnace took his own life in jail.

5. Beaten to death at St John's Wood High Street

On a Thursday afternoon in April 1949, Emily Armstrong was beaten to death in a dry-cleaning shop in High Street, St John's Wood. 

The 69-year-old woman who managed the shop was found after a queue of customers had turned up waiting for it to open. 

Emily had been beaten with a blunt instrument and her skull shattered by more than 20 blows. The murderer was never found.  

4. London Beer Flood where the Dominion Theatre now stands

In October 1814, eight people were killed after beer flooded an area of slum dwellings known then as the St Giles rookery.

Five of the people killed had been mourning at the wake of a two-year-old child. 

The accident was caused after a 22-foot-tall wooden vat of fermenting beer at Meux & Co's Horse Shoe Brewery burst, destroying multiple barrels and unleashing hundreds of thousands of gallons of beer on unsuspecting Londoners in the area of Camden borough. 

The brewery was located where Dominion Theatre now stands at 268-269 Tottenham Court Road.

Some claim the theatre is haunted. 

3. The Camden Murder on Agar Grove, formerly 29 St Paul's Road

On September 12, 1907, Emily Dimmock's naked body was found in her home in Camden Town. Her throat had been slit from ear to ear and the gruesome killing became known as The Camden Murder. 

Emily was a part-time sex-worker who had been murdered after visiting The Old Eagle Pub on Royal College Street.

Artist Robert Wood was made a suspect after his ex-girlfriend Ruby Young recognised his handwriting on a postcard in Emily's room, which had been published in newspapers nationwide. The postcard requested for Emily to meet the artist at a public house in Euston Road called the Rising Sun.

It was signed "Alice" so as to not arouse the suspicions of Emily's husband. 

Robert Wood was tried for the young woman's murder but was later acquitted. Emily's murder remains unsolved to this day. 

2. A gruesome double murder at 2 Ivor Street

2 Ivor Street. Picture: Fortean Times

2 Ivor Street. Picture: Fortean Times - Credit: Archant

More than a century ago in October, 1890, one of Camden's most grotesque crimes took place at 2 Ivor Street when a 24-year-old Mary Pearcey brutally murdered her lover’s wife and baby within the property’s four walls.

Pearcey’s crime stemmed from her relationship with a married man called Frank Hogg, who lived with his 32-year-old wife Phoebe and their 18-month-old daughter, also named Phoebe.

On the day of the murder, Pearcey invited Phoebe Hogg to her property and stated she should bring her baby.

After beating Mrs Hogg to death, Pearcey dismembered the corpse and placed the remains in the baby’s pram.

She then wheeled the pram through the streets all the way up to Belsize Park, where she tipped the mother’s corpse onto a heap of rubbish near the junction of Adamson Road and Crossfield Street.

The dead girl, who may have been smothered, but could have died from suffocation under her mother’s corpse, was found in Finchley.

When they visited 2 Ivor Street – though the street was then known as Priory Street – Pearcey claimed there was blood splattered on the walls because she had been killing mice.

She denied murder, but was convicted and then executed two months after the killing.

Illustration of Mary Pearcey. Picture: Fortean Times

Illustration of Mary Pearcey. Picture: Fortean Times - Credit: Archant

1. The Camden Ripper at No.4 Hartland House

Police were called to a block of flats in January 2002 and found the naked dead body of a woman lying on a bed at No.4 Hartland House on the College Place Estate in Royal College Street in Camden Town. 

The woman, who had cuts and bruises on her head, was identified as Sally White - a 38-year-old sex worker. 

The occupier of the Camden Town flat, Anthony John Hardy, became known as the Camden Ripper after an investigation revealed that he was responsible for at least three murders.

Though police believe the serial killer, who had dismembered some of his victims, may have killed up to six more people. 

He was sentenced to three life terms for murders in November 2003.

The remains of two of Hardy's victims, Bridgette MacClennan and Elizabeth Valad, were found by a homeless man in rubbish bins. Police determined that the two women had been killed at Hardy's flat.