Charlton House

The Charlton House is a former stately home in Greenwich, London, with active haunting phenomena. Now a municipal building, Charlton House has been the site of numerous investigations by paranormal researchers. Some unusual phenomena have been recorded there, including what may be the first “live” APPORT on film.

Charlton House was built in grand Renaissance style in the early 17th century by Adam Newton, a royal tutor. In 1680, Newton sold the house to Sir William Langhorne, who served as governor of Madras and wanted the house for his retirement. Langhorne lived there until his death in 1715 at age 85. Although he enjoyed women, he never produced an heir. His restless ghost is said to haunt the halls and turn bedroom doorknobs. Another ghost often seen walking on the grounds is that of a servant girl dressed in Jacobean clothing carrying a dead baby in her arms.

Charlton House was turned into a hospital during World War I. One room said by local lore to be the most haunted was left unoccupied until need required that it be opened. The house was severely damaged by bombs during World War II. Repairmen found the mummified body of a child walled in one of the house’s chimneys.

The Greenwich Borough Council owns Charlton House, which now serves as a public library and day center. Employees and visitors have reported haunting phenomena, primarily on the third floor, and especially in two rooms known as the Grand Salon and Long Gallery. Other ghosts are an Indian civil servant who likes to pinch the bottoms of women, and phantom rabbits, perhaps due to the fact that a rabbit hutch once was kept in the Long Gallery.

Investigators, including those from the Society for Psychical Research (SPR), the Association for the Scientific Study of Anomalous Phenomena (ASSAP) and the Ghost Club, have held vigils there. Unexplained, explosive noises have been recorded, as well as the sudden movement of objects, which appear to be thrown. Mysterious sighs and vague voices have been heard. Cold spots are felt.

Around the end of 1995, an apport manifested during a taping for a British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) television show on the paranormal. Participating in the vigil was Maurice Grosse, chairman of the Spontaneous Cases Committee of the SPR, and Les Herbert of the ASSAP. They sat in the Long Gallery with BBC assistant producer Amir Jamal. The room was searched, and the lights were turned off for the vigil. Jamal kept a flashlight in one hand and a camcorder in his other hand.

Sometime after 11 P.M., Grosse, who had closed his eyes, heard a police siren outside, which stopped suddenly. Then a tremendous explosion sounded in the room. Everyone leaped up, and the lights were turned on. In the center of the room was a blue and white teacup, broken into seven pieces that were arranged in a small, near circular fashion, as though someone had laid them out.

No one knew where the cup had come from. The Charlton House staff could not identify the china pattern—the house had only all-white teacups. More puzzling, however, was the manner in which the pieces were neatly arranged on the floor. If the cup had fallen from a height or been thrown, fragments would have been scattered about in wide disarray. Grosse and other investigators attempted to recreate the breakage by throwing teacups of similar size and thickness. They either could not break the cups or succeeded only in smashing them to bits.

The explosive sound was captured on the camcorder footage. An analysis by BBC experts determined that the sound was typical of an explosion, not just of a teacup breaking. No evidence of hoax was found. On July 30, 1999, during a vigil by members of the Ghost Club, a loud explosive noise was heard, and a test object, a carved wooden mushroom placed in the rooms by investigators, suddenly flew about 10 feet through the air. Some investigators have held Séances in the haunted rooms and said they made contact with various spirits present.

Further Reading:

  • Marsden, Simon. Phantoms of the Isles: Further Tales from the Haunted Realm. Exeter, England: Webb & Bower Ltd., 1990.
  • Playfair, Guy Lyon. “Mediawatch.” The Paranormal Review (May 2, 1997): 18.

The Encyclopedia of Ghosts and Spirits– Written by Rosemary Ellen Guiley – September 1, 2007

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