Coutts & Co., called the Queen’s Bank because of its royal patronage, was founded in 1692 and has always catered to a royal and genteel clientele. The headquarters has been at 440 Strand in London since the late 1970s. The building is part of a development carried out in the 1820s and 1830s.
The bank’s atmosphere of conservative decorum was disrupted in 1992 when several female employees complained of unusual phenomena. On multiple occasions they had witnessed a shadowy black figure lurking about. On one occasion, the lights and computers malfunctioned, and the temperature plummeted. Minutes later, a receptionist saw the figure crossing the stately atrium toward the door. After that, four women employees were too frightened to work.
Other employees reported seeing a “vague human shape lacking a head” near the bank entrance, accompanied by a drop in temperature. The APPARITION was seen during the day and early evening.
Ghosts were nothing new to Coutts & Co.; reports of apparitions had occurred at various other branch offices. But none matched the frequency of the apparition reported at headquarters. The bank contacted the College of Psychic Studies in Kensington in hopes of finding the source of the trouble. The college recommended that Eddie Burks be called in to investigate.
Burks visited the bank headquarters and interviewed several employees. While there, he was contacted by the ghost and described him as a tall and slim man with an aquiline nose, dressed in Elizabethan garb and wearing much jewelry. He was haughty and impatient and told Burks he had practiced law. He had refused to bend to the will of the queen and so was falsely charged with treason. He was beheaded on a summer’s day not far from the present bank. His execution, he said, left him bitter and loath to depart.
The ghost told Burks that he knew he had to let go of his bitterness in order to move on and asked for his help. Burks agreed and held his contact with the ghost until the man’s daughter arrived, also dressed in Elizabethan clothing of white and radiating bright light. She took the man’s hand, and together they walked into light.
The story broke in the media, and the search was on for the identity of the headless ghost. Father Francis Edwards, a Jesuit priest and member of the Royal Historical Society, identified him as Thomas Howard, the fourth duke of Norfolk. He had been married to the daughter of the 12th earl of Arundel and was widowed in 1557.
Howard then became involved in intrigues to overthrow Queen Elizabeth I in favour of Mary Stuart, daughter of King James V of Scotland. After the death of her husband, King Francis II of France, Mary returned to her native Scotland in 1561 and inherited the Scottish Crown.
She believed she was the rightful successor to Elizabeth, who was childless. The situation was further complicated by religious sensitivities: the struggle between Protestant England and Catholic Scotland.
Elizabeth had put forward Howard as a possible husband for Mary, but Mary chose another man who was murdered shortly after they wed. Elizabeth then appointed Howard to investigate the matter. When Howard discovered that Mary probably was involved in the murder, her advisers quickly encouraged a courtship between the two. Howard went along with it, thinking Elizabeth would approve.
Elizabeth, however, had decided by then that a marriage between Howard and Mary would be dangerous. In 1569 she had Mary imprisoned and arrested Howard and sent him to the Tower of London. He was released provided he persuade Mary not to participate in any plots against Elizabeth. Instead, a plot was hatched to kidnap Elizabeth and put Mary on the throne, with Howard as consort. Howard did not participate in it, but Mary did, naming Howard as the head of it.
In 1571, Elizabeth was informed about it and also the fact that Howard was sending money to Mary’s supporters in Scotland. He was arrested on September 7 and imprisoned again in the tower. His rival William Cecil sealed his fate. He was beheaded on June 2, 1572, at age 37.
The description of Howard matched the description of the man who came to Burks, and the details of his life and death also matched.
Burks was contacted again by the ghost of Howard. On January 12, 1993, he told Burks that he had come back to give his thanks for his releasement. He was now in a beautiful place with his daughter. On June 2, 1993, the anniversary of his execution, Howard came again and said he still felt sad about his execution but knew he could let go of those emotions.
Meanwhile, the descendants of Howard, the 17th duke of Norfolk and his family, including his son and heir, the earl of Arundel and his family, decided to hold a memorial service for him so that his soul could truly rest in peace. The Catholic service took place in Covent Garden on November 15, 1993. Burks participated in the service, telling everyone how he had met Thomas Howard.
The next day Burks was invited to Arundel Castle, the home of the Norfolks. The spirit of Thomas Howard again came to Burks, expressing thanks for the memorial service. Howard communicated one final time on December 23, 1993, when he relayed his thanks to Father Edwards for correctly identifying him.
- Burks, Eddie, and Gillian Cribbs. Ghosthunter: Investigating the World of Ghosts and Spirits. London: Headline Book Publishing, 1995.