London’s 8 Weird & Wonderful Urban Legends ~ True…Or A Fantastic Tale?
Don’t you love a good mystery? London is literally overflowing with them. Filled with outrageous tales of venomous vampires, Coco Chanel’s personalized lampposts, rampant rodents and 60,000 parakeets that supposedly belong to legendary rocker Jimi Hendrix. So what is true and what is nothing more than weird and wonderful London folklore? I just had to go digging into London’s most infamous secrets, tales and myths and find out for myself.
Here are 8 of London’s Weird & Wonderful Urban Legends ~ True… or Just a Fantastic Tale?
1. There’s a Vampire In Highgate Cemetery
Beautiful overgrown Highgate Cemetery rich with history, famous dead people and deep, dark and disturbing tales. The Highgate Vampire story began in 1969 with the sighting of an eerie grey figure believed to be a vampire. Fuelled by rumours and media hysteria, panic swiftly ensued and soon a mob of locals were seen storming the cemetery, some armed with crucifixes and wooden stakes. Personally speaking that’s the absolute last thing I would be doing is charging a rumoured vampire infested cemetery armed with nothing but a cross and piece of wood. I have seen the Twilight Trilogy, I I know what can happen. Since the vampire was neither found or impounded on a wooden stake it is believed to be still in Highgate Cemetery to this very day.
2. An American Accidentally Bought London Bridge Mistaking It For The More Famous Tower Bridge
This is one of the most popular urban legends about London. In 1968, when the old London Bridge was in danger of ‘falling down” into the Thames, it was auctioned off to a wealthy American entrepreneur Robert P. McCulloch for £1million who shipped it to the States and had it rebuilt brick by brick in Arizona. End of story, right? Nope. Rumour has it that McCulloch actually thought he was buying Tower Bridge the famous London icon that is often mistakingly called London Bridge by many an American tourist. Thus nicely segueing into one of my favourite quotes of all time, “no one has ever gone broke underestimating the American public”.
3. There Are No Roads In The City of London
It’s one of those urban legends that’s so ridiculous it surely has be false, right? But this is true. This one relies on a technicality, as most of the streets in the City of London were named before the word ‘road’ entered the English language. Consequently it has streets, alleys, lanes and squares but until 1994, there was not a single “road” in the entirety of the square mile know as The City.
4. London’s Wild Parakeets Are Jimi Hendrix’s
Perhaps my favourite of the list and for that reason and that alone I deem it to be 100% true. If you visit Hyde Park or Kensington Gardens you will see thousands of wild yellow and green parakeets. Rumour says that legendary rocker Jimi Hendrix when living in a flat in Mayfair in the 60’s released two rose-ringed parakeets, the very breed that now roam wild in the park. As these birds are non-migratory, it is believed the London ones originated from Hendrix’s pets. If you bring an apple with you the parakeets will literally eat out of your hand.
5. The ‘Coco Chanel’ Lampposts
Around the Westminster council district, you may have seen lampposts with an interlinking CC, which looks remarkably similar to the Chanel logo. Legendary French fashion designer Gabrielle ‘Coco’ Chanel famously had an love affair with Hugh Grosvenor, the 2nd Duke of Westminster for around a decade in the 1920s-1930s. The story goes, the Duke attempted to prove his love for Coco by having her initials embossed in gold on lampposts around Westminster. Each lamppost features a stylized ‘W’ as well which many assumed were for the Duke. This, although a romantic story has been debunked as false. The W does stand for Westminster while CC stands for City Council. They only got installed in the 1950s – two decades after Chanel and the Duke’s romance was nothing but a faded fashion memory. Ok, I am just going to come out and say it, copyright infringement, non?
6. You’re Never More Than 6 feet Away From A Rat
This without question is the most disturbing of all the London legends and myths and thankfully is untrue, assuming we are not talking the human rat variety. London does has a large population of rats, but pest experts say it’s more likely you are an average of 164 ft away from a rat. Still too close for this girl. Note: I have purposely not included any photos for this one. Rats freak me out.
7. Trafalgar Square’s Lions Will Come To Life When Big Ben Strikes 13
According to the urban myth, should Big Ben ever strike 13, the four tall bronze lions at the foot of Nelson’s Column will come to life. Unlike the vampire hunting in the cemetery this I would turn up to see, camera in hand at a “just encase” safe distance of course. As Big Ben is currently going through conservation work that is not scheduled to be finished until 2021 the bell is currently silent. So that does buy us a little more time and some peace of mind. Phew!
8. First Baby Born On The Tube Has The Initials T.U.B.E.
Back in 1924 those riding the Bakerloo line in May could have seen the first baby born, a little girl who was rumoured to be called Thelma Ursula Beatrice Eleanor giving her the initials TUBE. Not so, she was actually called, Marie Cordery so it was unclear (to me) where that story came from. In fact with an estimated 1.35 billion riders each year it is surprising that there have only been three recorded births on the Tube since it opened in 1863. Guess taking the Tube is not the preferred mode of transportation for labouring mothers. Wise.
But what is true is confrontational American talk show host Jerry Springer was born in Highgate Tube station during World War ll when it was used as a bomb shelter. I think that explains a lot about Springer, don’t you?
As I further explore London I will continue to scratch at the city’s underbelly and report back the incredible secrets and tales she carries. London is mysterious, sexy and has many a secret just like any interesting woman of a certain age should…you just need to be smart enough to know where to look. London, you are forever fascinating.