The Ghosts of Senate House is one part of a creative research project led by Sarah Sparkes. It serves as an archive for uncanny, apocryphal stories emanating from Senate House. These stories formed part of "a Magical library for the 21st Century" an archive of writings, recordings, artwork, artefacts, and other contributions, which was first shown at the University of London as part of The Bloomsbury Festival October 2011.

Thursday, 25 October 2012

"Helpful" ghost in the stack

The eighth floor on Senate House Library continues to be associated with some strange goings on and we have recorded several uncanny stories emanating from this level.
Here is the latest story, from an anonymous member of staff, proving that once again the lifts of Senate House live up to their other-worldly reputation.

"Members of staff in the Library routinely go to fetch books/periodicals from the closed stack.  The stack is the tower area of the Library occupying floors 8-19.  In order to reach the stack you have to get into an old lift with a slam door.  On this particular day I needed to fetch a book and a periodical on different floors.  I went to the floor for the book first and left the printout for the periodical inside the lift.  I then heard the sound of someone calling the lift so after I had got out on the 8th floor I closed the lift door so that the lift would be free for whoever called it.  After I had fetched the book I called the lift back and was astonished to find the periodical plus printout waiting in the lift.  This is not the sort of thing that another member of staff would do.  I questioned any likely members of staff and no one said they had done it.  I cannot offer any other explanation if this was not the case.   (There was nothing remarkable about either of the titles which were fetched incidentally and the date was not onerous in any way)".

more ghost stories from The Stack:
What's up on the eight floor?
More eight floor weirdness
Sudden temperature drop - utterly discomposed
8th floor ghost?

Monday, 22 October 2012

Adventures of a Séance Table

The Slade Table - not as innocent as it looks!

The Thanet Hotel stands at no 8 Great Bedford Street, just around the corner from Senate House. In 1876  a rather singular guest took up lodgings at this address - the notorious slate-writing medium Henry Slade.  
no. 8 Great Bedford Street, 2012
Slade had been a celebrated medium in America, his home country, for at least 15 years and had arrived in London to prove his psychic powers. He gave many sittings at his Great Bedford Street residence and was pronounced  by many of the notable Spirtualists of the day to be psychically gifted.  Sittings took place in bright sunlight around a smallish table. Slade would place a slate underneath this table, later pulling it out into the sunlight to reveal scrawly writing across its surface - alleged communication from spirits of the dead.

Unfortunately Slade was not able to convince everyone of his powers and was eventually put on trial accused of faking the phenomena. For want of a more appropriate law with which to prosecute him, he was sentenced under the Vagrancy Act to three months' imprisonment with hard labour.  After an appeal the conviction was overturned on a technical point and he was released on bail. 

Slade returned to America, but his séance table remained behind where it was later acquired by non other than psychical investigator Harry Price. 

Price describes how "the Slade table" was being used as an ordinary writing table at the offices of the London Spirtualist Alliance when he first came across it.  Price went on to use the table in a series of  so-called "controlled sittings" or séances on "the electric girl",  a young dental nurse and alleged medium named Stella Cranshaw.

In 1925, Price's book reporting the findings  - "Stella C. An Account of Some Original Experiments in Psychical Research"  - was published.  The Slade table's rather violent psychical activity at many of the sittings is documented in detail in this book.  

The table appears to take a particular dislike to a certain Colonel Hardwick, present at many of the sittings, physically attacking him to the point of actual bodily harm.
Here is the Colonel's own report of his encounter with the Slade Table:

"The table tipped towards me as usual...It began to hammer on my knees until the blows became painful and I consequently removed them, expecting the table to crash to the floor.  My knees were red from the blows...To my surprise the table did not go beyond the position where my knees would have been, but it made one or two smart blows as of to ensure that they had been removed."

If anyone knows the whereabouts of the Slade table today, please do get in touch - there are plenty of 'Colonels' in need of correcting!

Wednesday, 21 December 2011

Who called the lift?

Mick Lucette is the Building Services Manager at Senate House. 
Mick witnessed a mysterious, cloaked figure, moving on the stairs ahead of him, as he made his way towards  a lift in the building.
The same lift has been linked to sightings of what is assumed to be Sir Edwin Deller’s ghost. 

You can hear Mick recounting his story here: 

Saturday, 29 October 2011

Glowing figure in doorway of Senate Room

The photographer was sure that the room was empty at the time; subsequently - examining the resulting image - they realized that a mysterious luminous figure could be seen in the doorway at the far end of room.

Is this the Blue Lady? Or a reappearance of the Time Warrior from the Tom Baker-era Dr Who?

Tuesday, 6 September 2011

Enigmatic manifestation in Senate House lavatory

A Senate House member of staff reports the following anomalous experience; they were leaving work and descending a staircase one evening in mid-June 2011:

" ...there's a ladies loo on that floor so I decided to use it. The stairs were quite quiet but you could tell there was a function going on in the vicinity from distant chatter. Not too close like floor below but somewhere in the building or perhaps Stewart House.

When I entered the loo, standing by the window to put my rucksack down I could hear there was some that function going on again which confirmed it for me. Voices were a distant murmur. You could tell they were adjacent to the loo.

As I exited the loo there was a huge, long, loud belly laugh from something in front of me and directly in my face and very close to me like someone standing immediately in front of me. The voice was far louder than the distant voices I heard by the window and far above the flushing sound of the loo as well. I couldn't see anything. It was almost deliberate as if having waited for me to exit the loo. I froze to the spot and was gripped with confusion.

There was clearly an invisible woman laughing loudly. I could even detect an accent as there intermittent mumbling (I feared curses actually). It was accented like the Gypsies that used to sell me flowers as a child. I became very hot as my face was quite red and sweaty from the panic of trying to work out where the voice was coming from and my stomach was in knots. The sound lasted no longer than 15 seconds and died away. I could then only hear the din from the party/conference by the window.

I convinced myself it was just a sound from the party/conference and began to wash my hands. As I was washing my hands the voice started laughing again behind me and then echoed around the room up to the ceiling and into the other toilet. There are two toilet cubicles. The door was open in the other loo so no one can hide in there. It was like someone using the Tannoy system to laugh but not that microphone sound just loudly projecting their voice.

The laugh started with huge volume and died down to tittering echoing around. I ran outside the loo to see if it was one of the cleaners and down to 2nd Floor toilet to see it there were any women or a single woman in there, there was no one around so no one was playing a trick on me. Was definitely odd as it was so close it could only be coming from inside the room.

The next evening around 5.30pm I used the same toilet again and heard a woman laughing. At first I thought it was the same thing happening again but this time I heard a second voice and could tell voices were coming from the floor below. I was then able to compare the sounds which convinces me that the first experience was closer and louder, almost in my ear and the 2nd was distant."

Question: Do Romany spirits haunt the building? And - if so - why?

Sunday, 24 July 2011

More 8th floor weirdness

Regular readers of this blog may recall previous posts click here and here outlining some Library staff's odd experiences on the 8th floor of Senate House.

There have recently been reports of further incidents, although of a rather indeterminate nature. The current writer was, a few weeks ago, fetching books from the same room. As the only person in the stacks at the time, all was quiet. Even the famous Senate House howling wind was absent. Upon exiting the room, a very slight but definite touch of the hair on top of the head was felt, akin to walking through a cobweb. Upon re-examination of the doorway, no cobwebs were to be found. The 'presence' (if that is what it was) did not give an impression of being threatening or sinister, merely curious.

Another staff member reports fetching books on an adjacent floor recently, and hearing a loud, repeated clicking sound coming from this same 8th floor room. Again, there was no one else present - the person concerned had verified this to be the case.

Riddle: What makes a clicking sound and touches peoples' hair?

Monday, 18 July 2011

Who is the Blue lady?

The Senate Room during a presentation by Blue Firth at Hostings 4
Of all the ghosts stories from Senate House, the story of the Blue Lady is perhaps the most intriguing and mysterious.  She is said to appear in the Senate room, one of a suit of rooms  which once served as a meeting place for the governing bodies of the University -  the Court and the Senate. These wood panelled rooms are heavy with a smell that could be described as academic incense.  Paintings of notable academics  line the walls. Interestingly the portraits are all of men apart from one solitary painting of Queen Victoria in a pale blue dress!
The Senate room has been used as a venue for the GHost Project (led by Sarah Sparkes and Ricarda Vidal) for the Hostings events - interdisciplinary presentations and performances exploring the roles of ghosts in contemporary society.

The following account of the Blue lady was sent to us by Ricarda Vidal: 

The Blue Lady
"A member of staff of UoL conferences told me that when you walk into the Senate Room coming from the Jessel Room and look towards the far left corner you can make out the shape of a lady clad in blue sitting in one of the booths. When approached the apparition would dissolve. She had never seen the blue lady but colleagues of hers had and she herself had experienced a sudden drop in temperature when passing by close to the spot where the lady had appeared. I decided to investigate the room which I had planned to book for a workshop. It was a cold day in November and by the time I’d made it to the room it was already dark outside. The heating was turned to its maximum and the old wood panelling creaked and groaned. I looked to the far left corner, but couldn’t see anything, just rows of empty seats. As I walked towards the spot I found myself looking forward to the promised sudden drop in temperature: despite the high ceilings and the spaciousness of the room it was stuffy and I would have been grateful for a gust of cold air. But nothing happened. I took a photograph of the corner, which I’m sending you. I can’t see anything on it, but perhaps you can."
The Blue Lady's corner - Photograph by Ricarda Vidal