London’s Craziest Urban Legends

Dec 21, 2017

One of the oldest cities in the world, it’s no surprise London has picked up a few urban legends along its journey through history.

The mighty city of London is something of a myth in itself. From the hard grind of Dickens’ streets to the illuminated spires of Canary Wharf; images of the city have passed into cultural legend since the first brick was laid.

Here are a few of the wackiest and weirdest:

You’re never more than six feet from a rat

Greater London is 1569km². There just isn’t enough rats to cover that much ground. Populous they may be, but the truth is you’re more likely to be 164ft away from one of these rodent citizens.

The Whitechapel Corpse Ride

The story goes that during the early 20th century, an underground train was used to shuffle the deceased from Royal London Hospital to Whitechapel station for disposal.

The tunnel is allegedly bricked up nowadays but no real trace of the ghostly route can be found.

Not one that can be totally ruled out, but chances are you won’t be seeing any ghostly folk on your morning commute, pale-faced Londoners aside.

The Thames, home of Polar Bears

Dogs and cats were boring back in the 13th century. If you wanted a pet, you kept a polar bear. Or, at least you did if you were Henry III.

Photo: Shutterstock

Photo: Shutterstock

The King kept his cuddly companion at the Tower of London and allowed the bear to fish along the riverside.

We can only imagine that it was slim pickings for the poor bear in the murky waters of the Thames.

Spring-Heeled Jack is still springing, somewhere

One of the more explainable of London’s urban legends here. Old Jack terrorised the streets of London before his more famous Ripper namesake. A naked bloke, with a cape and a penchant for bouncing around.

Back in the 19th century, London residents assumed the spring-heeled terror was a relation to the Devil. Though, in hindsight, Jack was probably just a crazy local.

Sightings have continued to this day, with Mad Jack still supposedly bouncing naked through the streets of the capital.

Old Jack, or Spring-heeled Jack as he is often known.

Photo: Shutterstock

Guitar legend unleashes immigrants on unsuspecting public

It may read like a headline from one of the city’s tabloids, but for years Jimi Hendrix has been blamed for the city’s resident parakeet population.

Numbers of the exotic birds have soared in recent years and the population stems from a group of parakeets that were released when their owner could no longer care for them.

London's Urban Legends

Photo: Shutterstock

Said owner is supposedly the late rock god Jimi Hendrix. Though there have recorded sightings of the green-winged passerines dating back to 1855.

Hitler had plans for a Nazi HQ

A more modern member of London’s urban legends club now. It looks the part, but the rumours that the University of London‘s Senate House was earmarked as Hitler’s potential Nazi HQ are quite false.

For many years after WWII, word spread that the imposing library was purposefully avoided by Luftwaffe bombers as Hitler was keen on setting up shop should he conquer Britain.

Of course, not only did that not happen, but Senate House was hit by a number of bombs during the Blitz and suffered heavy damage.

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Britain’s future is tied to a bunch of ravens

Speaking of birds, the future of the entire nation rests solely on the feathered shoulders of a bunch of ravens. Or, it would if you believed the legends regarding the flying residents of the Tower of London.

London's Urban Legends

Photo: Shutterstock

Should the flock ever decide to leave their lofty home, then England is due to fall. Seven are required to man (or bird) the battlements at all times and are cared for by the official Ravenmaster.

At least we know the future is generally out of the hands of the British Government.

The streets are haunted by phantom poultry

London clearly has an avian fixation. If it isn’t parakeets and ravens, it’s headless ghost chickens.

This one of London’s urban legends stretches back to the 17th century when Sir Francis Bacon created the world’s first frozen chicken by packing his dinner into the snow.

There was life in the old bird yet though, and the icy hen has since been spotted haunting the Highgate area in the winter months.

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