Halloween in Richmond

witch-on-broomstickHalloween seems to be becoming a bigger and bigger event every year, although it’s so close to Guy Fawkes night we still trail far behind the Americans in terms of celebrations.

As far as I can tell Halloween in the US is not just something you do for an hour in the evening, but a whole day event including going to work in full fancy dress.

Whilst that sounds utterly ridiculous, I’m sure we’ll end up adopting that custom at some point.

There are always local themed events around Richmond, and you can check our events calendar for info on those.   But this post covers general spookiness in and around Richmond.

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Ham House is well known for it’s ghostly vibes.  The ghost of the Duchess of Lauderdale and her dog have been known to walk the corridors and apparently the Duchess’s Bedchamber has a strangely oppressive atmosphere.

It’s said you can hear the sound of footsteps while her looking glass can have a reflection of a malevolent looking figure.  The House has been investigated by the Ghost Club who discovered a number of unexplained happenings.

And with a history as rich as Hampton Court Palace, it’s not surprising that there are plenty of ghost stories connected to its former residents.

The most famous is surely the ghost of Catherine Howard who has been seen screaming down the Haunted Gallery – and on one day in 1999 two visitors fainted on the same spot in the gallery,  half an hour apart.

And Dame Sybil Penn (the Grey Lady) has been haunting the state apartments and Clock Court since dying of smallpox in 1652.

And finally on the ghost front, we have just heard some spooky news from the Kew Bridge Steam Museum “While completing our refurbishment work it appears that we might have disturbed some of the museums past occupants! We have had a few unexplained happenings in the last 4 weeks so have called in the experts…”

(and yes we know that it’s not in Richmond, but maybe the ghosts could fly across the Thames?)

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Sir Richard Burton’s Tomb

One of the most interesting places in the Borough is in a graveyard, the Tomb of Sir Richard Burton.  Although we haven’t heard of hauntings,  I thought we could sneak it into this blog.

Sir Richard was a 19th Century adventurer.  Wikipedia describes him as a soldier, diplomat, explorer, translator, Arabist, and author.  Besides exploring the world he is best known for translating 1,001 Arabian Nights into English, as well as publishing the first English version of the Kama Sutra.

He is buried in the grounds of St Mary’s Church in Mortlake in a tomb that looks exactly like a Bedouin tent – which is why we think it’s fascinating.

And if you climb a ladder at the back of the tent you can look through a window to see the coffins of Sir Richard and Lady Burton.

But Halloween isn’t just about ghosts and tombs.  Let’s not forget the witches, pumpkins and bats.

We don’t have any good witch stories, but we do know that there are pumpkin carving demonstrations at Kew Gardens and all of the supermarkets and fruit and veg stalls will be selling them in the run up to the big night.

Bat-wise, the London Wetland Centre in Barnes has been conducting a ten year bat monitoring program, with special attention to its soprano pipistrelles.  And there’s also a council supported Bat Action Plan to reverse the current population declines of bats in the London Borough of Richmond upon Thames and to redress public misconceptions about bats and secure their status as culturally valued species!

And finally, we leave you with two Halloween facts that you can use to impress your friends.

– the tradition of carving pumpkins came from the Celts, as a way to ward off the evil spirits.  Originally they used turnips!
– trick or treating is believed to be connected to All Soul’s Day when the poor would visit the houses of wealthier families and receive pastries called soul cakes in exchange for a promise to pray for the souls of the homeowners’ dead relatives.

Oh and if you don’t want to be bothered by trick or treaters just shut the curtains, turn off the lights and pretend you’re not at home.  Bah Humbug!