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Chelsea’s most haunted places

From friendly spirits to frightening ghosts, these are the neighbourhood’s spookiest places

The Cadogan, a Belmond Hotel
The Royal Hospital Chelsea from above

As Halloween approaches and the veil between the earthly realm and the spirit world grows thin, we asked author Lauren Jane Bartlett to tell us the spooky stories behind some of Chelsea’s most haunted sites…

Ghost of Lillie Langtry at The Cadogan

The Cadogan Hotel is known for its many famous visitors, including the glamourous ghost of Lillie Langtry. The actress and courtesan, who once sat for the artist Whistler, seems to have kept her love of The Cadogan Hotel long after her death, as her spirit is occasionally seen visiting the floors around Christmas Day. Langtry lived just around the corner on Pont Street, so perhaps her spirit simply wants to return home for Christmas?

The Cadogan, A Belmond Hotel, 75 Sloane Street, SW1X 9SG
The demonic spirit of Pond Terrace

In 1852, when Elystan Street was called Pond Terrace, number six was the site of a particularly disturbing haunting. A 17-year-old girl named Emma fainted when she saw a demon-like spirit floating above her bed. Hearing a scream, her brother James bounded up the stairs and was so shocked at the sight of the demon he collapsed into convulsions. The ghost next lunged at an elderly neighbour, who called the police. The ghost disappeared before the police arrived, but the haunting sent ripples through London society, even catching the eye of spiritualist and poet Elizabeth Barrett Browning.

6 Elystan Street, SW3 3NS (above the Chelsea Pharmacy)

“A member of staff was surprised to find that the pensioner with whom he had a friendly chat had died many years earlier”

Hauntings at The Royal Hospital

The Royal Hospital Chelsea has been around for more than 300 years and gathered its share of ghosts from across the decades, including a poltergeist and the shadowy spectre of a WWI soldier who hung himself in the West Lodge. More recently, a member of staff was surprised to find that the pensioner with whom he had a friendly chat had died many years earlier. Ghosts continue to make appearances, ensuring the Chelsea Pensioners often have a ghost story of their own to share.

The Royal Hospital Chelsea, Royal Hospital Road, SW3 4SR
A writer’s spirit on Cheyne Walk

If you find yourself by the Embankment, glance at the second floor of 4 Cheyne Walk, marked by a small blue plaque in honour of novelist George Eliot. This is the home Eliot died in, and though she only lived here for 19 days, her spirit periodically appears at the windows, looking out onto the Thames.

4 Cheyne Walk, SW3 5QZ
The phantom bear of Cheyne Walk

Further along Cheyne Walk, number 16 was once the house of poet and eccentric Gabriel Rossetti who, among other things, kept a menagerie of wild animals. They must have enjoyed it on the Embankment, because on winter nights the ghost of a large black bear wanders the road in search of its long-dead master. The ghost is said to be benign and perfectly calm, making it an ideal ghost for the kids to enjoy.

16 Cheyne Walk, SW3 5RA

Lauren Jane Barnett is a historian and horror writer best known for her short story, The Fog, which was shortlisted for the WriteHive Horror Fiction Prize, and leading London’s first horror cinema walks. Click here to find out more about her book Death Lines: Walking London Through Horror Cinema, which comes out with Strange Attractor Press in April 2022.

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