Tuesday, 16 September 2008

Ghosts That Go!: The Ghost Bus Of Ladbroke Grove

Public transport is extremely important here in London. Very few Londoners make it through the week without using some form of public transport be it a train, a bus, the Tube, a tram, a riverboat or one of our iconic black cabs. The transport network is at the very heart of London and what it means to be a Londoner. Many lifetime Londoners take immense pride in being able to relate which bus goes where or what Tube line will get you to your destination just a little bit faster.

And in a city with such history as ours has, there are of course some spooky stories mixed up with the transport network.

Now for many years one story has stuck with me. I first heard it when I was a small child and none of the details stuck except for the central image: a ghost bus. So for you, Dear Reader, I have done a little research and can now finally put down the story of the Ghost Bus of Ladbroke Grove.

The number 7 bus is an old and well established bus route running through Ladbroke Grove. But during the 1930s an extra, and unusual number 7 bus began running out of hours. The junction of St Mark's Road and Cambridge Gardens was a blind corner and a known dangerous spot for drivers. Several accidents occurred and one thing perplexed investigators: the crashes occurred when no buses were running on that route yet witness reports mentioned the drivers having to swerve to avoid a speedy bus coming round the corner causing the accidents.

One typical report, taken from this site was as follows:

"I was turning the corner and saw a bus tearing towards me. The lights of the top and bottom decks and the headlights were full on but I could see no crew or passengers. I yanked my steering wheel hard over and mounted the pavement, scraping the roadside wall. The bus just vanished."

Things came to a head after one fatal accident, when a witness came forward to state they had seen the driver swerve to avoid a large red bus. The coroner felt this was a little fishy and expressed reservations about such a story.

This prompted hundreds of letters from members of the public. These letters weren't agreeing with the rather sensible coroner but instead were further eye witness accounts of the ghost bus of Ladbroke Grove!

One of these new witnesses was an employee of a transport company who saw the bus pull into a local bus depot, stand with it's engine idling for a second and then it disappeared! No information is available as to whether he saw any driver or passengers aboard the ghost bus.

Needless to say, given the high volume of accidents on this corner, a decision was made to straighten the road. I have no doubt that decision was made with a little influence from the more excitable stories of ghost buses and after the roadworks were completed the ghost bus was never seen again.

I'd be interested to do some work to see if there were any accidents prior to the sightings involving a real number 7 bus. If I do, I'll let you know. But for now rest assured that the ghost bus of Ladbroke Grove appears to be at rest (or at least running through a bunch of buildings not causing any harm to drivers!)

Further Reading

Ghosts and Poltergeists - Frank Smyth - This may have been the very book my friend had when I was younger, where I first heard the tale.


CasualChelsea said...

A number 7 bus did crash killing several passengers according to my friend who is Ladbroke Grove born and bred.
Apparently it is not uncommon to see investigation teams down St.Marks road trying to gather evidence of the ghost bus and locals have reported hearing sounds of a crash and screams from the at-the-time deserted road.
I cannot find any reports or information on the crash itself though.

Anonymous said...

That's rubbish CC. I have lived very near to that junction for many years. There has never been a crash and the investigation teams are figments of your friends imagination. Locals believed it was the reflection of a pillar box, reflecting on the wet road which caused the illusion. The junction was a dangerous one in the 1930s but part of a garden on a corner was removed, making it safer.