Here Henry wooed both Anne and her sister Mary. The great oak under which he courted Anne
still stands, and they say that her ghost is seen there every Christmas-time.
The Rochford district of Essex is said to be haunted by the ghost of a headless witch, clad
in a rich silken gown, and no one would go near the grounds of Rochford Hall for twelve nights
after Christmas on account of a terrifying apparition in white which haunted the place. Witches
were burnt as a rule, not beheaded, and they did not usually wear silken apparel. Anne Boleyn
had lived at Rochford Hall when she was a girl, and this story may just have been put about by the superstitious country folk to add color to the accusation that she was a witch.
But Anne's most persisting haunting is in the Tower where she met her death with such
scornful courage. She was buried in the Church of St. Peter ad Vincular, which is within the
Tower itself. Many years later, it is said, her coffin was opened and she was identified by the
remains of the famous-or infamous-sixth finger.
She is said to haunt this little church in particular when a death is imminent. A ghostly
ritual is then held in the aisle.
This was witnessed by a nineteenth-century officer of the guard who noticed a light
shining inside the church and asked the sentry outside the church what it was. The soldier said he
did not know. Nor did he wish to investigate. Queer things took place inside that church, he said.
The officer decided to investigate himself. He ordered the sentry to fetch a ladder. The officer
mounted the ladder and peered into the window of the church.
The church was filled with an eerie glowing light, and the officer saw a procession of
people dressed in Elizabethan costume moving along the aisle. At the head of the procession was
a splendidly dressed and bejewelled woman whose face, the officer said, was like that of the
portrait of Anne Boleyn. This phantom procession passed along the aisle, then suddenly
vanished, together with the ghostly light by which it had been illuminated, leaving the little
church in utter dankness.
It was noted that Anne was seen this time unmutilated, and as she had been at the height of
her success and power. But her ghostly appearances as a rule are more horrific, and many
soldiers on guard at the Tower have been terrified when they encountered her. In 1817 a sentry
had a fatal heart attack after meeting her in a stairway, and in 1864 a soldier was court-martialled
for being found asleep on duty. He claimed to have been in a swoon after encountering Anne
The story was told to an incredulous, half-amused court-martial. The man said he was at
his post near the Lieutenant's Lodgings when he was suddenly confronted by a white figure. He
made the usual challenge, but, receiving no reply, he made a thrust with his fixed bayonet,
whereupon there was a 'fiery flash' which ran up his rifle and gave him such a burning shock that he dropped the weapon. After that he remembered no more. Further questioned about the
appearance of the figure in white, he said: 'It was the figure of a woman wearing a queer-looking
bonnet, but there wasn't no head inside the bonnet.'
This description was greeted with laughter in court, but the amusement ceased when the
offending soldier called evidence to corroborate what he said. Several witnesses told the court
that they had seen a headless woman in white near the Lieutenant's Lodgings that night.
An officer gave sensational evidence to the effect that he was in his room in the Bloody
Tower when he heard the challenge: 'Who goes there?' He looked out of the window and saw
the sentry confronted by a figure in white. He saw the sentry thrusting at the ghostly intruder with his bayonet. The figure, he said, not only walked through the bayonet, but through the sentry as well. He then saw the soldier collapse unconscious. The soldier was found in this position and accused of sleeping while on duty.
The court-martial found him not guilty and he was acquitted. Whether the court believed
the story is not recorded, but they must have come to the conclusion that something inexplicable
had been going on at the Tower that night.
Anne Boleyn's ghost apparently made another appearance at the Tower in 1933 when,
according to newspaper reports, she walked straight into the bayonet of a guard and scared him so
much that he dropped his rifle and fled from his post into the guardroom shouting for help.
Considering its grim history, there are relatively few ghosts at the Tower. One of them is
said to be the unfortunate Margaret, Countess of Salisbury, another of Henry VIII's numerous
victims. She was a niece of Edward IV, was the last of the Plantagenets, and had a better title to
the throne of England than Henry himself, his father Henry VII having usurped it from its lawful
The Countess of Salisbury's son, the famous Cardinal Pole, offended Henry by opposing
his political religious polices. Henry determined to exterminate the whole family, and the
Countess, who was sixty-eight, and certainly too near the throne for Henry's comfort, was executed at the Tower in 1541.
It was perhaps the most macabre beheading on record. The venerable lady, who had done
nothing to justify execution, was dragged, violently protesting, to the scaffold. Unlike most of
Henry's victims she not only refused to take the usual hypocritical declaration of loyalty to the
King, but she flatly refused to do anything which showed that she consented to her death. When
she was told to lay her head on the block, she replied: 'No, me head never committed treason. If
you want it, you must take it as you can.'
The executioner tried to grab her, but she darted round the block, tossing her head from
side to side, while he struck at her with his axe, as did the guards with their weapons.
At last, brutally wounded, covered with blood, she was forcibly held down crying out:
'Blessed are those who suffer persecution for righteousness's sake,' and the headsman hacked off her head.
There are those who claim to have seen this whole dreadful scene in a kind of spectral
tableau at the Tower, a remarkable effort indeed on the part of the spirit world which would seem
at times to have a decidedly theatrical bent.