Wednesday, 17 September 2008

Ghosts That Go!: The Old Lady Of Threadneedle Street

Continuing on my current theme of ghosts of London transport we head underground to Bank tube station. Bank station is so named as it is the tube station that serves the Bank of England and other city institutions. The Bank of England's nickname happens to be The Old Lady Of Threadneedle Street. Don't worry, Dear Reader, we shan't be dwelling upon the financial ups and downs of the day but instead looking at the real Old Lady Of Threadneedle Street, who is also known ominously as the Bank Nun.

That iconic tube sign turned 100 years old yesterday.

Her real name was Sarah Whitehead and, in 1811 or 1812 according to different sources, her brother Philip (a disgruntled employee of the Bank of England) was found guilty of forgery and was duly executed.

She didn't take this well. For the next few years (25 according to some sources, 40 in one source or until 1818 according to others) she made a daily trip to the Bank to ask to see her brother, asking passers by on the way as well. She became known as the Bank Nun because of her black mourning clothes which she wore constantly. Now some sources don't mention this but most do... in 1818 she was offered £50 by the Bank's Governor (about £42,000 in todays money!) to stay away. She might have been grieving but everyone has their price and she never returned to the bank in her lifetime. But sadly the Governor hadn't made any agreements with her about her afterlife.

People claim her ghost has approached them, in her mourning get up, to ask softly if they have seen her brother. If they start to respond she fades away. Not only has she been encountered above ground but she is also thought to roam the platforms of Bank station in her never ending search.

A worker once chased what he thought was an old lady locked in the station during the early hours of the morning, but she vanished down a corridor with no possible exit (which isn't unusual, the station is nicknamed the Warren by underground staff). In addition, at least one employee has reported something knocking on an empty lift door from the inside, way after normal closing time whilst on a late shift in 1982.

There are also possibly unrelated foul unexplained smells and feelings of sadness, grief and hopelessness that come upon staff and passengers at the station. This might be from the Bank Nun or it might be because supposedly when built the station went through an old plague pit. However foul smells, and feelings of hopelessness are also key features of a regular commute on any tube line so make of that what you will!

To be honest, after researching this case, I find it all highly suspect. The details change with each telling and there's not any concrete names of witnesses. It all sounds a lot like an urban myth or folklore. Don't get me wrong, there's plenty of place for that. But do I think the Bank Nun is really haunting Bank station and the surrounding area? Not yet I don't.

But if you've seen the Bank Nun or had any sort of otherworldly experience at Bank station (getting lost on the way to Monument station does not count, that's a daily occurrence!) let me know.

Further Reading

Haunted London Underground - David Brandon and Alan Brooke

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