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London - History
London's rich and sometimes bloody history has ensured its reputation among 'believers' as being one of the most haunted corners of Britain. Indeed, it is not at all rare to hear of spectral apparitions haunting old castles, churches and stately homes; and this has sometimes caused the more cynical to accuse greedy entrepreneurs of cashing-in on a good story. Nevertheless, after centuries of research into reported sightings, we are still no closer to proving or disproving the existence of ghosts - and it would seem from this handful of examples that there is definitely more to these eyewitness accounts than many of us would care to believe:
Clinging to the fabric of old buildings, the majority of haunting seem to occur around a spirits’ lingering association with a place they once lived or knew well; and this would seem to be the case with Anne Boleyne, the unfortunate wife of King Henry VIII and mother of Elizabeth I, who was beheaded after only three short years of marriage, in the year 1536. Since her death she has been sighted on numerous occasions at Blickling Hall , her family home in Norfolk. However, she is most often seen outside the chapel in the Tower of London, where Beefeaters have reported strange lights flickering in middle of the night, and one poor soul swore that he had witnessed a procession of Tudor courtiers gliding slowly up the aisle of the chapel, led by the headless figure of a woman, only to vanish as they reached the alter.
Westminster Abbey has undergone numerous renovations and modifications over the years, and this has caused the level of the floor to sink by at least two feet in depth. This significant detail would seem to be the reason why a ghostly Benedictine Monk has occasionally been reported hovering some distance above the ground. In 1932 he was sighted in his habit, his hands hidden inside his long sleeves and his cowl half off his head, before disappearing into a wall opposite the south transept.
Hampton Court Palace saw the death of Henry VIII third wife, Jane Seymour, while giving birth to a sickly baby boy, who would later become Edward VI. On the anniversary of his birth (12th October), it is said that his mother is seen clothed in white, floating up the stairs into the Silver Stick Gallery. One of her successors, Catherine Howard, has also been seen running screaming through this Gallery. Apparently, the situation became so dire during the 19th Century that the Gallery was forced to close for several years. In more recent years she has been seen walking in the gardens, but still occasionally frequents her old haunts.
During the 1960s, Sir Harry Secombe (best known for his appearances in The Goon Show) and his dresser saw "the figure of a tall man in a grey cloak" at the Theatre Royal in Drury Lane. On one occasion, after a performance of The Four Musketeers, Sir Harry said that "the whole ruddy cast saw him once".
Surely we cannot dismiss these, and hundreds of other well documented accounts, as being mere figments of overactive imaginations? Paranormal happenings are all too real to the people who experience them and it would be foolish to completely deny the existence of 'ghosties and ghoulies and things that go bump in the night'.
So, if you fancy a vacation with a difference, why not try out a spot of ghost hunting in Britain's ancient capital city.
Culture and Performing Arts
Britain's arts scene is the envy of the world; drama, music and ballet are alive and well, and you will have to queue for tickets to many attractions. Britain is also a breeding ground of light entertainment. The stand up comic, the TV soap, and the pop musician add their flavours to the healthy melting pot of British culture.
London's West End has a special magic and money-making mastery.
This is Theatreland where the glittering lights of more than forty theatres transform Soho and Covent Garden by night into a glamorous fantasy world. The curtains go up on new dramas and old standards, on lavish musicals and occasional variety shows in theatres whose very names are legendary - Her Majesty's, Drury Lane, Garrick, Lyric, Apollo, Palladium. In the world of show business, success breeds success, demonstrated most vividly in the case of the Mouse Trap, the longest running theatrical show in history. Cats, may yet challenge it. The Andrew Lloyd Webber musical, heading for its first decade, is the longest running musical show in the West End. One provincial theatre famous throughout the world is the Royal Shakespeare Theatre in Stratford-upon-Avon.
Sometimes the history of the theatre is an attraction in itself like the three-century-old Theatre Royal in Drury Lane where King Charles II first glimpsed the young actress Nell Gwyn. Sometimes the design of the theatre surpasses the most elaborate stage set. The London Palladium sets the scene for the annual Royal Command Performances. The spruiking barrow boys of Covent Garden have made way for the mellifluous voices of the Royal Opera.
The home of English ballet is also Covent Garden. The Royal Ballet ranks with the greatest in the world. Britain has Europe's busiest concert scene with five resident orchestras in London and many more of world class standard in other cities. Summer visitors are in the right place at the right time for the Henry Wood Promenade Concerts (The Proms) at Royal Albert Hall. The Last Night of the Proms in mid-September has become a musical tradition and patriotic pageant.The London Symphony's home is the Barbican Arts Centre in Silk Street. The Barbican fills a giant bomb crater left after the last war with a mixed residential and arts complex. London's South Bank is a thriving arts environment with theatres, restaurants, concert halls and conference facilities centred around Royal Festival Hall, one of the city's major concert halls.
Pop concerts are enthusiastically patronised at the Hammersmith Odeon in West London. However, when the mega stars of music perform (whether opera or contemporary) the venue moves to Wembley Stadium which can hold 78,000 people. At local level, theatre pubs, street busking and local halls keep the old British Music Hall tradition alive.
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