Children’s book tells tale of Highgate ghost chicken and Sir Francis Bacon

PUBLISHED: 08:00 07 December 2015 | UPDATED: 12:09 07 December 2015

The ghost chicken flies above Highgate Village in a still from the short film

The ghost chicken flies above Highgate Village in a still from the short film


Highgate Village is home to more than its fair share of supernatural stories and paranormal ‘sightings’, but no tale is stranger than that of the ghostly chicken of Pond Square.

The ghost chicken haunts an ill Sir Francis Bacon in a still from the short filmThe ghost chicken haunts an ill Sir Francis Bacon in a still from the short film

The Ham&High first heard this odd urban legend years ago, but the story of how this corner of Highgate came to be haunted by the spectre of a bantam is always worth hearing again.

The farcical tale has now been turned into a children’s book and animated short film for the first time by digital media producer Brian Luff, just in time for Christmas. “I was sitting in the Prince of Wales pub in Pond Square with friends,” said the 58-year-old, of Ferme Park Road, Crouch End.

“We got into a conversation with the barman and he said to us, did you know Pond Square is haunted?

“We said, that’s quite interesting, but when he said it was haunted by a chicken, we fell about laughing. It stuck in my head, and as I’m a freelancer, and the run-up to Christmas is usually a little quiet, I thought it would be a nice project to keep me amused.”

In a spin on the urban legend, The Ghostly, Frozen Chicken of Highgate Hill tells the story of how 17th-century philosopher Sir Francis Bacon was eating a tough Christmas chicken dinner when, upon seeing the snow outside, he was suddenly inspired to try preserving meat by freezing it.

Killing a chicken in Pond Square and then stuffing its innards with snow, Sir Francis became unwell and died soon afterwards.

Up to this point, the tale is mostly true, as Sir Francis did indeed die in Highgate in 1626 of pneumonia after testing the pioneering freezing method.

But legend has it that the ghost of the chicken which died for science haunts Pond Square to this very day.

In Mr Luff’s book and film, a boy called Tom befriends the ghostly chicken and they play pranks on drinkers as they leave Highgate pubs at night.

The animation is similar in style to that of the South Park adult cartoon show – but the film itself is much more child-friendly.

Buy a copy of the book on Amazon or in Highgate bookshops. Watch the film online.

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