Tuesday, October 4, 2016
HGB Ep. 152 - Tower of London
Moment in Oddity - Painting with Dead Hands
Suggested by: Bob Sherfield
Norwegian artist Morten Viskum is holding his first solo exhibition in the UK, November 18th to December 18th 2016. Viskum is a unique artist and he sees himself as a performance artist. What makes Viskum unique is the tool he uses to create his artwork. He uses the hands of dead people. He doesn't think of the hands as just tools. He believes the hands are a link to an immortal personality. He owns several hands and each has its own style. He creates the artwork with spontaneous and vigorous sweeps and drips of paint. The paintings will be joined by another piece in this exhibition. The "Hand with the Golden Ring" is a dead hand with a golden ring on its ring finger. Viskum won't reveal who this hand once belonged to, just as he won't reveal the former owner's of any of his dead hands. Painting with dead hands, certainly is odd!
This Day in History - Soviet Union Launches Sputnik into Space
On this day, October 4th, in 1957, the Soviet Union successfully launched the first satellite Sputnik into space. Sputnik was the world's first artificial satellite and measured about the same size as the average beach ball. This event would forever change the space race between the Soviet Union and the United States. Sputnik got its name from the Russian word for satellite. It circled earth once every hour and thirty-six minutes. The satellite transmitted radio signals back to earth as it traveled 18,000 miles an hour. Amateur radio operators could pick up the signal and Sputnik could be seen with binoculars at sunrise and sunset. All of this came to a halt in January of 1958, when Sputnik's orbit fell apart and the spacecraft burned up. The United States would launch its first satellite Explorer in January as well. The Soviets had already launched a dog into space and they would continue to beat America in the Space Race until the US landed astronauts on the surface of the moon in 1969.
Tower of London (Suggested by Bob Sherfield)
In London, located on the north bank of the River Thames, stands a tower that the mere mention of the name inspires feelings of dread and the macabre and that is because this structure’s thousand-year-old history is full of imprisonment, torture and execution. Many famous names in history met their final demise at the Tower of London. The Great Tower was not always a prison. It served as a royal residence for a time and is officially known as Her Majesty’s Royal Palace and Fortress of the Tower of London. Control of this piece of property usually signified control of the country. Because so much mystery, intrigue and death is associated with the structure, it is reputed to be quite haunted. Our infamous Lady in White is only one of the many spooks people claim to have seen or felt. Join us as we explore the history and haunting of the Tower of London.
In September of 1066, William the Conquerer and his Normans were invading England and as we have discussed in other episodes, the Normans built castles in areas that they conquered. The typical castle was built from wood in the Motte and Bailey style. As a refresher, these are the castles that had a keep built up on a tall dirt hill that was manmade known as a motte and then a fence-enclosed area was below the keep with various buildings and this was called the bailey. Originally on the area where the Tower of London now stands, the Normans built one of their castles. William the Conquerer decided to build a more substantial structure from stone in 1078. He called it the Great Tower and it would come to be known as the White Tower. It was completed in 1097.
The Tower would serve as a prison for the first time in 1100. The first prisoner was Ranulf Flambard who was the Bishop of Durham. The name Flambard means torchbearer. He was the son of a priest. He helped compile the Domesday Book we discussed with Alana in the Haunted Pluckley episode. He was imprisoned after the death of King Rufus under whom he served. Rufus extorted many funds and Flambard was arrested for that and thrown into the Tower. He not only was the first prisoner, but he also became the first escapee. The Tower would suffer its first siege in 1191. William Longchamp had become Bishop of Ely and he served as regent to Richard the Lionheart when he left to conduct the Crusades. Prince John, who was Richard’s brother, opposed the rule of Bishop Longchamp and attacked the Tower. Longchamp had been ruling from there and had expanded the Tower after seizing land. John drove Longchamp into exile.
In 1210, King John took up residence in the Tower. He ordered that a moat be dug outside the city of London’s wall. The Crown Jewels had not been brought to the Tower yet and were kept at Westminster Abbey at this time. It is believed that King John lost the Crown Jewels to quicksand. King John has long been thought the worst Monarch of England and this debacle is only one reason. The loss of Normandy being a major one. Anyway, apparently John loaded the jewels and some of his belongings on a baggage train, which then got caught up in a tidal estuary somehow, and the jewels were sucked in by a whirlpool of quicksand. He died of dysentery shortly thereafter. King Henry III took over in 1216 and he reinforced the Tower. The White Tower was heavily rebuilt at this time and a new Great Hall was added along with kitchens. By 1236, ten new towers were added as were drawbridges and gateways. The moat was extended and flooded with water from the River Thames. The Welsh Prince Gruffydd was imprisoned in the Tower from 1241 – 1244. He would attempt an escape in 1244 and fall to his death. King Edward I would become monarch and he would move the Crown Jewels to the Tower of London.
King Edward II began his reign in 1307 and he used the Tower as his point of authority. He had a bad relationship with the barons who would stage a rebellion against him in 1324 led by Roger Mortimer, the first Earl of March. One of the main reasons the barons disliked Edward was because of his relationship with Piers Gaveston, a man who joined his household and was given leadership and preferential treatment. The rumor was that the men were lovers. Gaveston was exiled for a while two separate times. After returning from the second exile, Gaveston was executed by the barons. Mortimer, who led the rebellion, was imprisoned at the Tower. He escaped and fled to France with his lover, who just happened to be the Queen, Edward II’s wife. Eventually, Mortimer was caught and hanged at Tyburn. As the 1300s moved into the years of the Black Death, the Tower was further fortified with new towers and a gatehouse. Whitewash was added to the Tower and it officially came to be known as "La Blanche Tour" or the White Tower. The Tower came under siege from peasants in 1381 under the rule of fourteen year old King Richard. The peasant leaders Wat Tyler and John Ball were killed.
King Henry VI ruled in the 1400s. He was literally nuts and a vile man who eventually ended up imprisoned in the Tower with wife Margaret of Anjou from 1465 until 1470. He was restored to power for a time in 1470 and he then resided in the non-prison part of the Tower. He was murdered in the Wakefield Tower, while he was praying. Most historians believe that Edward IV ordered the assassination. This ushered in the War of the Roses, which was a period of civil unrest and political instability. Edward IV was a bad guy himself. He liked the women and got many of them pregnant. There were claims of illegitimacy of his sons and eventually the princes were murdered in the Tower. The princes were 9 and 12 and under the care of their uncle, Richard III. He seized the throne in 1483 and the boys disappeared. Most historians believe that Richard murdered the boys to keep them from the throne and it is believed he smothered them to death right there in the Tower. It’s a murder mystery to this day. The bones of two small boys were unearthed on the grounds in 1674 by workmen.
King Henry VIII comes to power in the 1500s and he decides to add gun emplacements to the roof of the White Tower, which had to be reinforced to take the weight. The Royal Lodgings were refurbished under him and he added the onion-shaped domes on the turrets along with weather vanes. The Tower would come to be known as the Bloody Tower under King Henry VIII. During this time, Henry would break from the Church and declare himself the head of the Church of England, so that he could divorce his wife, Catherine of Aragon, and marry his mistress Anne Boleyn. Henry wanted a son that Catherine had not given him. The divorce happened in January 1533 and shortly thereafter, Anne was married to the King. Her coronation would come in May of that year, but the male heir would never come. In 1536, Anne was arrested on trumped up charges of heresy, adultery and treason. She was thrown into the Tower to await execution. She was executed on Tower Hill. Henry VIII also imprisons Sir Thomas Moore and Bishop Fisher of Rochester in the Tower and they are executed because they refused to acknowledge him as the head of the Church of England. Many people are arrested under his monarchy due to religious and political reasons. One of those more famous prisoners would be Thomas Cromwell who is also executed on Tower Hill in 1540.
The Tower also had a torture dungeon and Anne Askew was tortured here on the rack for heresy. She was an English poet and is the only woman on record that was tortured at the Tower and then burned at the stake. She had to be carried on a chair to her execution because her body was destroyed by the torture. She was chained to the stake on a chair and burned slowly. Usually burning at the stake was done quickly and sometimes the condemned were strangled first. Not Anne. She died a slow painful death. What was her heresy? She was a Protestant and she would not give up the names of other Protestants. Henry VIII died in 1547, but his son Edward V would keep the blood flowing. Thomas Seymour is imprisoned in the Tower and later beheaded on Tower Hill by Edward. The young king’s protector and his men meet their end at the Tower as well. Edward dies of tuberculosis and Lady Jane Grey becomes Queen. Her reign lasts for just nine days and she is imprisoned and executed. Princess Elizabeth, Bishop Latimer, Bishop Ridley and Archbishop Cranmer are all imprisoned in the Tower, condemned to die for heresy and burned at the stake in 1556. Queen Elizabeth I takes the throne and the Earl of Essex, Robert Devereux is executed on Tower Green by decapitation. He had been accused of plotting to overthrow and kill the Queen. It was more than likely a falsehood put forward by the Catholic Church because the Earl supported religious dissent.
The imprisonments and deaths would continue into the 1600s. In 1613, Sir Thomas Overbury, who was a poet and courtier, was poisoned in the Tower by his political rivals. Sir Walter Raleigh was beheaded in Old Palace Yard in 1618 after being held in the Tower. Raleigh was a soldier, poet and explorer. *Fun fact: He is also well known for popularizing tobacco in England.* Before his beheading, he told the executioner, “Let us dispatch. At this hour, my ague (fever) comes upon me. I would not have my enemies think I quaked from fear.” He also added after inspecting the axe, “This is a sharp medicine, but it is a physician for all diseases and miseries.” He also yelled, “Strike, man, strike,” after he put his neck out for the axe. In 1625, Charles I becomes King, but Parliament rebelled and they take the Tower during the Civil War that ensued from 1642 to 1649. A permanent garrison was installed at the Tower during this time and Charles was beheaded on a scaffold outside the Banqueting House in Whitehall, London in 1649. In the late 1600s, the Tower would be used less as a prison. But there were still deaths. In 1689, Hanging Judge Jeffreys died in the Tower. They called him the Hanging Judge because he had sentenced 320 to be executed or transported to the Penal colonies.
The Tower lost its importance as a royal residence in the 1700s. The Tower would have its only American prisoner in 1780, Henry Laurens, former President of the Continental Congress. Laurens was imprisoned for treason. He had been captured aboard the ship Mercury after negotiating with the Dutch to get support during the Revolutionary War. He had the evidence in dispatches that he had thrown overboard, but the British retrieved them. He was released in 1781 in exchange for the freedom of General Lord Cornwallis.
The Tower also had a section called the Lion Tower and it held The Royal Menagerie. It left in 1834 to become the London Zoo. The Lion Tower was then demolished, but the Lion Gate still remains. In October of 1841, a sentinel noticed a fire break out near the Jewell Office. The Grand Storehouse burned down and much of the armoury was lost. The fire reached the Clock Tower as well and there was fear that the Crown Jewels would be lost. A main issue that hampered the taming of the fire is that the tanks below the Tower had very little water in them. The fire ended at 4am on Halloween of all days. The Tower was repaired and later refortified during the 1848 Revolution of the Chartist Movement. The Movement asserted the rights of ordinary people and the Crown feared that a mob would attack the Tower. A Victorian architect named Anthony Salvin was appointed in 1851 to 'restore' the Tower to a pseudo-medieval form. It was then opened to the public.
World War I brought more damage and death. A bomb fell into the moat of the Tower. Eleven German spies were shot in the Tower. World War II would bring even more damage to the Tower and several buildings were destroyed. Corporal Josef Jakobs who was a German spy was held at the Tower and he was executed in 1941. Hitler's Deputy Fuhrer of Nazi Germany, Rudolf Hess, was imprisoned in the Kings's House for 4 days in 1942. And some of the last prisoners at the Tower were the Kray twins in 1952 because they failed to report for national service. The Tower then stopped serving as a place of imprisonment. Today, the Tower of London is a popular tourist spot and is managed by the charity Historic Royal Palaces. It is classified as a World Heritage Site under the charge of the Constable of the Tower. Tours of the Tower include visiting the Crown Jewels, an interactive exhibit of the Royal Mint, Yeoman Warder (Beefeaters) guided tours, visiting the White Tower, visiting the Ravens and exploring the history of the tower as a fortress.
The peculiar legend of the ravens in regards to the Tower began during the reign of Charles II. He insisted that the ravens be protected because he believed that if the six ravens that lived there were to die or leave, then the castle would fall. And he believed that even the kingdom would fall. The Royal Astronomer, John Flamsteed, was not keen on this idea as he believed the ravens were in the way of his observances of the cosmos. But the ravens have always been protected. Today, there are seven ravens at the Tower, one is referred to as a spare. They live in the Wakefield Tower and are fed 170 grams of raw meat a day and bird biscuits soaked in blood.
With all the death and misery associated with the Tower over one thousand years, there is little doubt that it would be a breeding ground for spectral activity. The Tower of London is one of the most haunted locations in the UK. Many of the spirits seen and felt here are famous people in the history of England. They were tortured, imprisoned and executed, usually for reasons that we would not consider punishable today. That means innocent blood was shed. Emotions soaked into the stones of the Tower as did blood. It seems to cry out from the past. Only seven people met their end via execution within the walls of the Tower, but countless others were executed on Tower Hill, just outside the Tower of London. Those seven people executed inside were all beheaded, explaining why so many ghosts here are seen minus their heads.
Five of the more famous people held and executed are reputed to haunt the property. The ghost of Lady Jane Grey is one of them. She was executed at the age of 16 after watching her husband's decapitated body being carried away. Her full-bodied apparition is seen on the anniversary of this event. The last recorded time she was seen was by two guardsmen on the 403rd anniversary of her death in 1957. Many people claim to have caught a glimpse of the ghost of Anne Boleyn. She appears close to the site where she was executed. She likes to appear in the chapel as well and is usually leading a procession in a residual type of haunting. Her headless apparition has been seen walking the corridors of the Tower. One guard even attempted to run her through with a bayonet when he saw her figure walking towards him with a bonnet on her shoulders that was empty, meaning the figure had no head. He was quite shaken.
The Countess of Salisbury was sentenced to death in 1541 for criminal activity. The Countess professed her innocence and ran from the butcher block. The executioner chased her down and hacked her to death with his axe. This event is re-enacted in a residual and gruesome way on the Tower Green. Those who witness it are greatly disturbed. Both the ghosts of Henry VIII"s wife Catherine Howard and her Lady in Waiting Jane Rochford are seen at the Tower. Catherine was executed for adultery and Jane was executed for helping Catherine commit adultery. Jane had been driven insane by the torture she underwent as she was interrogated about the affair of Catherine. Henry VIII had a special law passed, so that he could execute people deemed insane because he wanted Jane executed. It would seem the injustice done to these women within the walls of the Tower has left them walking the corridors in the afterlife.
There are those who were murdered in the Tower and their ghosts are reportedly seen. These include Thomas Becket, King Henry VI and the two little Princes in the Tower. Becket was one of the first ghosts seen in the Tower. He had been very unhappy about the construction of the Inner Curtain Wall. He made appearances on two consecutive St. George Days and both times he touched the wall with his cross and the wall was reduced to rubble. A chapel was built in the Tower to appease Becket and it was said that he must have been pleased because he did not disrupt any more construction.
Arbella Stuart married the nephew of Lady Jame Grey without the permission of King James I. Arbella was put under house arrested and her husband was imprisoned at the Tower for this infraction. She plotted to help her husband escape, but her husband never made it to their rendevous point. She was captured and sent to the Tower. She was murdered in the castle in 1615 in the Queen's House. Her ghost is seen at the Queen's House.
The Tower also has its Lady in White and there is the Gray Lady as well. The Lady in White has been seen standing at a window of the foreboding White Tower waving to little children at the building on the opposite side. There is also the scent of her cheap perfume near the entrance to St. John’s Chapel on occasion. The Gray Lady is described as a woman who is wearing mourning clothes, but no one can see if she is crying because her face is a black void. A garrison of ghost soldiers is seen occasionally marching on the grounds. The rattling of chains and disembodied groans are heard in the corridors. Smoky apparitions are seen amongst the battlements. Spectral animals from the former Royal Menagerie have been seen and sometimes animal sounds are heard. The Salt Tower has what seems to be an evil presence inside of it. Dogs refuse to enter.
Henry VIII’s armor is on display in the Gallery and many security guards are reluctant to go in the room because of a crushing sensation they feel in there sometimes, The horrible feeling leaves them when they exit the Gallery. One stormy night, a guard was patrolling through the room when he claimed to feel as though someone had thrown a heavy cloak over him. He struggled to free himself from the unseen garment only to feel it close around him tighter. It tightened around his throat. He managed to break free and run to the guard room where he showed the other guards the marks on his neck. Henry VI haunts the area near the Clock Tower and he usually appears around midnight. His specter is reported to appear to be quite sad.
Sir Walter Raleigh haunts the Queen's House near to where he was held as a prisoner. According to legend, he has been seen looking exactly as he does in his portrait hanging in the Bloody Tower where he was kept. The ghosts of the missing and more than likely murdered princes have been seen as spirits wearing nightgowns clutching each other in terror in the rooms of the castle. They are also heard throughout the Tower playing, running and giggling. Particularly around the battlements. Lily Power reported on the Tudor Book Blog, "Me and my sister have heard the children's laughter that is supposed to be of the princes. A few years ago I was visiting the tower. There was only me and a random guy reading the plaque and my sister was standing just behind me, waiting to read it. There were no children at all. I don't really trust my ears, so I didn't believe it until a couple of mins went by...and I asked my sister if she "had heard that" and she said 'yes.' I asked one of the staff at the Tower if they had any motion detected sound effects like I'd heard at the wax works at the Isle of Wight and told her why and she looked very nervous and said 'no.'"
The stories of hauntings at the Tower are numerous. Many of them seem to be residual in nature as though the emotions and energy of that past time have been caught in this space. Do these people who were imprisoned and executed here, still walk the corridors? Is the Tower of London haunted? That is for you to decide!