Ghost Stories Make London Heart of Ghoul Britannia; London Is Reputed to Be the World's Most Haunted Capital. the Argument about the Existence of Ghosts Never Loses Its Fascination and, as Neil del Strother Reports, It Will Only Be Fuelled by a New Book - Haunted Britain and Ireland

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DEEP in the bowels of Bart's Hospital is a lift that strikes fear into the heart of even the most down-to-earth doctor or nurse. Set within a stairwell, it has an eerie feel about it even in daytime. At night, it is terrifying.

Many's the time a member of staff has entered it in the early hours and pressed for an upper floor, only to find the lights go out and it takes them slowly down to the dark basement.

And there it stays, unmoving and quiet, until they get out and start walking up the shadowy stairwell towards their destination.

That's the cue for the lift to crank back into terrifying action. Its doors shut and it silently trails the walker - often the runner by this time - up the stairwell, keeping just a couple of steps below them.

"It's incredibly eerie," says Richard Jones, author of Haunted Britain and Ireland. "The staff know all about it - they call it the 'coffin lift'. The story is that a nurse was murdered there and her spirit causes the problem."

According to Jones, London is overflowing with ghosts. "There are more ghosts per square foot here than anywhere else in the world," he says.

"There's barely a house, let alone a street, that doesn't have some sort of supernatural activity." Although usually, he adds reassuringly, it passes totally unnoticed.

But one place where it certainly doesn't pass unnoticed is the Viaduct Tavern, opposite the Old Bailey. This ancient pub has been plagued with poltergeist activity. There are many reports of objects moving on their own - such as beer mats rising off the bar - and of things going missing without explanation.

On one occasion, two labourers working upstairs were tapped smartly on their shoulders. Initially, each thought it was the other playing some kind of practical joke, but they soon realised that the tapping came from a far more spectral source. They finished their work in record time.

"All the problems seem to emanate from the pub's Victorian cellars," says Jones. "They have to be one of the scariest places in London. There's something very weird about them.

Even the landlord's Alsatian won't go anywhere near them."

It's possible, of course, to write these stories off as flights of fancy.

But a ghostly sighting at St Botolph's Church in Bishopsgate is harder to dismiss. It was captured on film.

"I was early for a wedding, so I asked if I could take a photo of the empty church," says photographer Chris Brackley. …


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