Strange Tales from the London Underground
by Nick Redfern
FATE Magazine :: July-August 2008
England’s famous London Underground railway system serves Greater London and parts of the counties of Essex, Hertfordshire, and Buckinghamshire. It’s also the world’s oldest underground network of its type: services began on January 10, 1863, on the Metropolitan Railway. Today, the London Underground has no fewer than 268 stations and approximately 250 miles of track, making it the longest sub-surface railway in the world. In 2007, over one billion passengers were recorded as having used the Underground since its creation.
According to some, however, the London Underground is home to much more than just tracks, trains and commuters. Deep within the maze of dark old tunnels, distinctly strange and diabolical things are said to lurk…
Tales of ghosts and monsters roaming the sinister depths of the London Underground have circulated for years. Some of these legends were incorporated into a 1972 film titled Death Line, starring horror-movie stalwarts Christopher Lee and Donald Pleasance. The movie tells the story of a cave-in at a station being built at Russell Square in the 1890s. When the accident occurs, several Irish laborers (both men and women) are presumed killed. The construction company subsequently goes bankrupt and cannot afford to dig out the bodies. As might be expected, the laborers don’t actually die, but instead they survive and reproduce. Eighty years later, their devolved offspring live deep within the underground tunnels, replenishing their food supply from the platform at Russell Square.
Michael Goss has studied legends of such devolved humans roaming the tunnels of London, and is skeptical that they have any basis in fact: “These troglodytes exist in that nebulous quasi-material form that is part-rumor, part-legend…the subterraneans seem a deceptively playful kind of London legend, the sort which narrators repeat with disparaging amusement, but which cries out to be believed… They probably eat the sandwiches and burgers we discard and it is ‘widely believed’ that they also eat tramps, drunks and other isolated late-night commuters. Now you have another good reason for avoiding the Northern Line after rush hour.”
But not everyone is quite so certain that the reports are the stuff of myth. Jon Downes is the director of the British-based Center for Fortean Zoology, dedicated to the investigation of mysterious animals such as Bigfoot, the Abominable Snowman, and the Loch Ness Monster. Between 1982 and 1985, Downes worked as a nurse at the Royal Counties Hospital, near the English city of Exeter. While employed there, Downes heard stories of how at some point in the 1940s, disturbing things occurred that had a direct link with the tales of strange goings-on beneath the London Underground.
According to a doctor Downes spoke with, the events began with a series of late-night phone calls to the hospital from the Lord Lieutenant of the County, from the then-Earl of Devon, and from elements of the Devonshire Police Force, all secretly informing senior personnel at the hospital that a highly dangerous patient was to be brought to the hospital within the hour, and would require specialist care in an isolated, locked room. KKK Around 45 minutes later, a police vehicle arrived at the hospital, reversing with a screech up to a side door. Several police officers tumbled out of the back door of the vehicle while trying to hang onto what the doctor said resembled a dirt-encrusted and hair-covered caveman.
The creature was reportedly around six feet in height and completely naked. It had a heavy brow, wide nose, and very muscular arms and legs. For three days, the man-beast was securely held at the hospital, Downes was advised, before it was transferred to an unspecified location far below the London Underground. Its fate remains unknown.
In some respects, this story eerily parallels that of a man named Colin Campbell, who maintains that while traveling home on the Underground in the mid-1960s, he had a nightmarish encounter with a very similar beast.
It was late at night and Campbell was the only person to get off the train at its scheduled stop on the Northern Line. As the train pulled away from the deserted platform and Campbell made his way towards the exit, he claims to have heard a “funny growl coming from behind me.”
Campbell quickly spun around and was shocked to see a large, hairy, ape-like animal lumbering across the platform towards the track. Most bizarre of all, the beast was seemingly spectral in nature, rather than flesh and blood.
Campbell says “it was like it was embedded in the concrete… About three-quarters of its body was above the platform, but its legs were in it, and [it was] walking right through it, like a ghost.”
As Campbell stood in awe, too shocked to move, the beast continued to walk through the concrete, right onto the tracks, and then straight through the wall directly behind the tunnel.
Could this have been the ghostly form of the hairy wild-man taken from Starcross Hospital all those years ago?