Haunted London

was another ‘first’…”

“There had previously been

no comprehensive survey

of London’s ghost population…”

“…the publicity it received…

including posters on London’s underground and buses

- resulted in good sales…”

“…the book was reprinted in hardback

the year after and…

in Collins paperback imprint…”


“Chris took all the photographs specially for the book…”

“...and he really captured something of the atmosphere and variety of London’s haunted houses...”

“One of the best-known haunted pubs in London is The Grenadier, Wilton Row…”

Underwood outside The Grenadier in Belgravia, London. Originally built in 1720 for senior officers of the British army, it is said to be haunted by the ghost of a soldier who was beaten to death for cheating at cards.

“...successive landlords have told me that...”

“…an ‘atmosphere’ builds up over the year…”

“...and reaches its climax during September…”

“It was a lovely book to research

and write…”

However an 'unfortunate incident' occurs after it is published...

“[It] concerned the unscrupulous Frank Smyth…”

“...who presented a ghost story...

in Man, Myth and Magic magazine, part 105...”

“The account as written gives every impression of having happened…”

It helped form part of chapter four,

‘The Haunted Thames and its Margins’.

It became part of the

“story of the wharfs of the Isle of Dogs”

in the East End of London...

“…[with its] long history of violence

 and sudden death…”

“Running east from Ratcliff Wharf is Ratcliff Highway...where prostitutes sold themselves for the price of a drink and murder was commonplace…”

“Mark Kitchener, a young lighterman from Islington,

recalls his grandfather talking to him about a former Vicar of Ratcliff Cross who was said to run a lodging house for seamen two hundred years ago…”

A lighterman is a worker who operates a lighter, a type of flat-bottomed barge, which may be powered or unpowered.

“The house run by the Vicar of Ratcliff

became known as a place to be avoided,

even by the toughest men…”

“...for there were stories of men

being murdered for their money,

and anyone that made trouble was never to be seen again…”

“John Denning… one Sunday morning in July

...was busy mixing cement on the empty quay

and looking forward to a break for a mug of tea.”

“He remembered hearing a clock chime

and checking his watch


“...as he bent down to continue his work…”

“…he became aware of an elderly man, dressed in black and leaning on a cane, standing about twenty yards away, looking at him...”

“[he] called out… to the stranger

but he received no reply.”

“The old man just stood there, his long white hair moving slightly in the breeze…”

“…then [he] realized that the visitor was not looking at him…”

“…but at something behind him…”

“Denning turned round to see…

but when he turned back

there was no sign of the old man!”

“…there was simply nowhere that the old man could have hidden in a few seconds…”

Further sightings were reported by three fellow workmen of an old man with “a high and close-fitting neckband; his clothes were black and sombre…”

Was it the ghost of the evil Vicar of Ratcliffe?

St Anne’s Church in Limehouse, where the ‘Vicar of Ratcliff' once presided.

“When I came to write Haunted London

I contacted Frank Smyth,

who assured me the story was true…”

“...and I therefore included it briefly…”

“If we accept the evidence of the four men the appearance of the Vicar of Ratcliff is convincing and puzzling...”

Extract from the 'Isle of Dogs’ section of ‘The Haunted Thames and its Margins’, chapter four of Haunted London.

“In due course Frank Smyth admitted that the story was entirely fraudulent;

he had made up the whole thing…”

“…the John Denning of the story was in fact John Philby, the son of the famous double-agent, who conspired with Smyth to invent the whole story, naming alleged witnesses.”

Kim Philby (1912-1988) was a high-ranking member of British intelligence who worked as a double agent before defecting to the Soviet Union in 1963.

“When The Sunday Times published his confession they included part of the above [mentioned] sentence…but they omitted the important first words,

‘If we accept the evidence of the four men...’

…with the implication that I said unreservedly that the appearance was ‘convincing and puzzling’.”

“Both my publishers and I complained

…that I had been quoted out of context,

and unfairly.”

“They did not even reply,

and I have never bought

a copy of the newspaper since…”

No Common Task
p.187; 160

Haunted London
p.9; pp.104-106