During the Blitz people began to use Bethnal Green Station as an air raid shelter, at first unofficially but eventually the station became sanctioned for such use.
By 1943 the tide against the Axis had begun to turn and the shelter began to only be used after large bombings of Axis territory by the Allies. Why? Because there was a high likelihood that the Axis would retaliate with bombings of London.
On the night of the 1st of March 1943 the British launched a major air raid on Berlin and the press reported this on the 3rd of March 1943. So when the air raid siren sounded at 8:17pm, people were already prepared and began to file into the station in an orderly manner.
At 8:27pm a nearby anti-aircraft battery let loose a salvo of a new type of anti-aircraft rocket. The people at the station had never heard the sound of that sort of rocket before and panic gripped the people still filing into the station causing the crowd to surge forward desperate to seek shelter. One lady, perhaps with a baby in her arms, tripped on the stairs, causing others to fall and before anyone could stop it 300 people were crushed in one small stair well. 174 people would lose their lives in the incident (173 at the scene), 62 of them were children.
This was the worst loss of life ever on the Underground network, and the Government tried their hardest to censor information about it in order not to dampen the spirits of the already distressed citizens of London. A small plaque does now mark the spot.
In 1981 a station manager, John Graham, was working by himself in an office at the station when he began to hear the sounds of children crying softly. The crying grew louder and was joined by female voices which turned into the screams of women. The sounds grew louder and louder for nearly 15 minutes while the station manager attempted to ignore them as they couldn't possibly be real. Eventually he left the office at a run, terrified by the noises.
The office was not far from the ticket hall and when sound tests were done outside the ticket hall they found that the sounds were amplified inside however the sounds couldn't be heard from the office during the test. Given that we have no ability to go back and find out exactly what was going on at the station at the time we'll never know whether the station manager really heard the last screams of the victims of Bethnal Green or if there is a more logical answer.
Aldwych tube station is in fact a ghost station! What I mean is, it is one of the many abandoned stations on the tube network. If you want to know more about these relics of the past check out the rather excellent Underground History site. Prior to the closure of the station in 1994 many station staff reported seeing a ghost here.
The station itself is built on the site of the old Royal Strand Theatre, and the female ghost seen wandering the platforms and tunnels is presumed to be that of an actress. The Ghost-Story.co.uk site goes on to add:
A 15 strong camera crew from TV's Most Haunted spent 24 hours at Aldwych station in 2002. Derek Achorah managed to contact a ghost called Margaret, who could be the actress sighted many times before. During the investigation the crew walked through the tunnels in complete darkness. Yvette Fielding thought she saw someone or something in the tunnel. Meanwhile, over another platform, a motion detector was set off, yet nobody was near enough to trigger it.
The idea that the ghost is an actress has no real basis in fact as far as I can see and relies upon the idea that the previous building here was a theatre. It seems to me this ghost may be nothing more than an urban legend (sorry Derek Achorah but I don't hold much hope for your analysis) or a vision caused by other factors which I promised to go into in this post when I signed off my last Ghosts of the Underground post. Oops. Lies. I will do it next time, I promise! For now I've got one word for you: Infrasound.
No train system would be complete without a ghost train story. The London Underground manages to keep it's most haunted reputation by not settling for just the one...
South Kensington station - 1928
A passenger arrived at the station on the last westbound train one evening when he was bemused to hear a train whistle coming from the eastbound tunnel... a ghostly train shot past with a man wearing a reefer jacket and peaked cap hanging off the side. He, and the train, disappeared off to the east, never to be seen again. Now exactly how he knew it was a ghost train I don't know but hey speculation is welcome!
Highgate high level station
Highgate high level station was never actually completed and the sidings are now overgrown. Nevertheless local residents claim to occasionally hear the sounds of a steam train puffing down them.
So that's it for this post, I'm trying to keep them short where possible. Part 4 will hopefully conclude our visit to the darkest depths of London.