This unidentifiable monstrosity is said, by some, to be a vile, phantasmagorical killer from beyond the grave… though there is some evidence to suggest that it may be a bizarre, mutant cephalopod, which lurks in the filthy labyrinth of the London sewer system waiting to rise up and kill again.
Considered by most paranormal experts to fit more accurately into the realm of haunting, the Nameless Thing of Berkeley Square has left behind tantalizing shreds of evidence – and, unfortunately, more than one corpse – which suggests that the “ghost,” which inhabits the 4th floor (although some claim it’s the 2nd) of number 50 Berkeley Square, in what has been referred to as “the most haunted house in London,” may not really be a case of spiritual infestation at all, but rather a semi-aquatic, predatory, cryptid phenomenon.
Although no one is exactly sure when the first encounter with this beast occurred, the first known account of the “Thing” date as far back as the early 1840’s, when 20-year-old, Sir Robert Warboys, came across strange rumors surrounding the notorious Berkeley Square address while imbibing at a tavern in London’s Holborn district one evening. Evidently Warboys was a man not prone to superstitious claptrap as he derisively dismissed the legend as “unadulterated poppycock.”
Warboys’ barroom compatriots wholeheartedly disagreed with his assessment and, in what one can only assume was an effort to knock him down a peg or two, challenged the young noble to spend the night in the haunted 2nd floor room. Warboys, with what was no doubt the heady rush of alcohol fueled confidence, raised his pitcher of ale skyward and announced to his cohorts: “I wholeheartedly accept your preposterous harebrained challenge!”
Sir Robert then proceeded to the allegedly haunted dwelling, where he insisted the landlord allow him to spend the night in the “ghost-filled” quarters. After some debate, the landlord reluctantly agreed to Warboys request, but only with the caveat that the young man be armed with a pistol and that at the first sign of anything even remotely “out of the ordinary,” he would yank the cord that was attached to a bell in the landlord’s room below. Warboys apparently scoffed at the notion, but agreed to the terms.
As the clock chimed midnight, Warboys settled down at a table to await the “Thing’s” arrival. The landlord, with, what one must assume was a great lack of enthusiasm, left his temporary tenant alone in the dreaded room, save for his pistol and a single candle, but it wouldn’t be long before the two would meet again.
Less than an hour following the landlord’s departure, at precisely Forty-five minutes past the hour, the proprietor was startled from an unfit slumber by the violent clanging of the bell adjacent to his bed. Before he even had time to clear his thoughts and react, a gunshot echoed from above his room. With a burst of adrenaline, the landlord leapt from his bed, and climbed the stairs at a rapid pace. When he arrived at the door to the notorious room, he pushed it open to reveal a sight which he would never forget…
The room was apparently unchanged except for the notable fact that Sir Robert had left his perch at the table and was now wedged in the corner of the room, the still smoking pistol caught in his white-knuckled grip of his fear contorted corpse.
In the very short time the landlord spent in the room he noted that Warboys’ his lips were peeled back from his clenched teeth in a grimace of horror and eyes seemed to be literally bulging from his skull. The landlord followed Sir Robert’s gaze to a lone bullet hole in the opposite wall and speculated that Warboys had fired at the infamous “Thing,” but, for reasons he could not surmise, the bullet had had no effect on the beast.
There can be no doubt that 50 Berkeley Square can boast a horrific array of ostensibly paranormal encounters (ranging from strange sounds reported by neighbors to the confirmed deaths of guests and domestic servants,) but there is one confrontation which has become the benchmark of this legend.
Just three years following the horrific death of Sir Robert Warboys, 50 Berkeley Square became the sight of yet another gruesome demise. Although the details of this narrative have varied in minor degrees from one retelling to another, the core of the account has always remained the same:
In 1943, two sailors from Portsmouth, Robert Martin and Edward Blunden, after having squandered their lodging funds on an evening of drunken ribaldry, noticed a “To Let” on the then abandoned Berkeley Square abode and managed to break into a basement window of the dwelling in search of a night’s rest. Discovering that the lower level of the house was uncomfortably damp (not to mention rat infested,) the sailors migrated upwards, finally settling down in the now notorious room.
Blunden, presumably the more sober of the two, expressed the anxiety he felt upon entering the room. He claimed that he felt a “presence,” but these fears were promptly dismissed by his shipmate, who used his rifle to prop open a window to allow for a breeze and built a fire in the long unused hearth with bits of broken furniture and rotting floorboards. It wasn’t long before the two men were huddled on the relative warmth of floor, fast asleep.
Sometime after midnight Blunden awoke to see the door to the room creaking open. Little by little a sliver of dim, grayish light crept across the wooden floor. Too terrified to move, Blunden managed to wake his accomplice. The two men sat up as they heard a strange, moist, scraping sound slowly approach them. Later, Martin claimed that it sounded as if something were dragging itself across the floor.
Suddenly, the terrified men leapt to their feet and came face to face with the abhorrent visage of what could only describe as a hideous monstrosity. The creature undulated between the sailors and what was their only hope for escape; the open door. Then, just as the trembling Blunden began to reach toward the rifle, which was still wedged in the window frame, the creature suddenly lunged forward, wrapping itself around the young sailor’s throat.
Seizing the opportunity, the panic stricken Martin ran from the house, screaming for help. Soon enough he stumbled upon a patrolling police officer. Although skeptical of the young sailor’s frenzied tale (and no doubt attributing it to the almost overwhelming stench of alcohol which permeated his uniform) the officer dutifully followed Martin back to Berkeley Square.
According to the account, Martin and the officer ran up the stairs, but found no sign of Blunden in the room. Martin reclaimed his rifle as the two men continued to search the house. Their efforts seemed to prove fruitless however, until the men entered the basement and were greeted to a ghastly image that would haunt them for the remainder of their lives…
Lying at the base of the stairs in Berkeley Square’s moist, rock walled cellar was Blunden’s dismembered corpse. His body lay in a mangled heap, with his head wrenched viciously to the side. The officer reported that the young man’s eyes (much like those of Sir Robert Warboys) were wide with unimaginable horror.
This appalling tale, like so many legends of this ilk, has also been recounted with a decidedly more phantasmal twist. The most notable variation in this retelling is the description of the “Thing” as a shadowy man-like figure with a deformed face and body that burst in on the sailors and proceeded to strangle Blunden with “cold, misty looking hands.”
Yet another discrepancy has Blunden perishing not in the basement, but being hurled from the window and impaled on a spike on the wrought iron fence that surrounded Berkeley Square. It’s these incongruities that have led many investigators to file this case under the “paranormal” banner, assuming that it is just another ghost story, but there is intriguing (though admittedly scant) evidence to suggested that this may be a genuine, albeit exceedingly bizarre, corporeal entity.
While these shocking encounters leave more questions as to the “Thing’s” identity than answers, there are other alleged eyewitness accounts, which can help us to paint a more complete picture of this creature.
Some have described as an amorphous being, formless and slimy, which emits a “gruesome sloppy noise” when it moves; while others insist it is a dark, shapeless, spectral form, which was described as a “collection of shadows,” that attacks its victims with clawed feet and razor sharp, bird-like talons. Though accounts conflict regarding the actual shape and size of the beast, at least one eyewitness has included tentacles in his description of the creature, likening the fiend to a small, viciously deformed octopus, which pulls itself across the floor, leaving a viscous trail in its wake.
This description has led some researchers to speculate that the Thing may actually be some kind of mutated FRESHWATER OCTOPI or an unknown, amphibious, marine animal that managed to migrate from the Thames into London’s vast subterranean sewer system, where it was able to infiltrate the Berkeley Square home via the plumbing. It can also be speculated that this beast was looking to feed on the ample rat population that dwelt in the house, when it accidentally stumbled across the more “substantial” prey of the drunken sailors.
In the 1920s, eminent psychic investigator Harry Price revealed a plethora of data regarding earlier encounters with the “Thing.” While pouring over scads of newspaper articles, he came across a story from 1790 that claimed 50 Berkeley Square once housed the headquarters for a crew of counterfeiters. Price speculated (rather dubiously) that the counterfeiters — in a plot lifted right from Scooby-Doo — had concocted the spooky tale to frighten off curious onlookers and provide a “spectral” cover for the noisy processes that accompanied their illicit nocturnal activities.
Price also managed to turn up another 1840 account of bizarre noises (including bells, loud footsteps and heavy dragging sounds) emanating from the house that were so rambunctious a cadre of courageous neighbors felt obliged to search the abode, to no avail. He also came across an 1870 article published in the magazine “Notes and Queries,” by W. E. Howlett, which stated:
“The mystery of Berkeley Square still remains a mystery. The story of the haunted house in Mayfair can be recapitulated in a few words; the house contains at least one room of which the atmosphere is supernaturally fatal to body and mind. A girl saw, heard and felt such horror in it that she went mad, and never recovered sanity enough to tell how or why.”
“A gentleman, a disbeliever in ghosts, dared to sleep in number 50 and was found a corpse in the middle of the floor after frantically ringing for help in vain. Rumour suggests other cases of the same kind, all ending in death, madness, or both as a result of sleeping, or trying to sleep in that room. The very party walls of the house, when touched, are found saturated with electric horror. It is uninhabited save by an elderly man and his wife who act as caretakers; but even these have no access to the room. This is kept locked, the key being in the hands of a mysterious and seemingly nameless person who comes to the house once every six months, locks up the elderly couple in the basement, and then unlocks the room and occupies himself in it for hours.”
Price also noted that while 50 Berkeley Square was located on a piece real-estate wedged in one of London’s most enviable districts, it had remained vacant for inexplicably long stretches of time. His personal conclusion of the whole affair was that “a particularly nasty poltergeist had been active at number 50 in the 1840s, but doubted that the ‘thing’ was still at large”.
Since 1853, the ground floor of the house on Berkeley Square has played host to an antique bookshop known as Maggs Brothers. Although there have been no reported sightings of the creature in the 20th century, it has been noted that employees of the bookshop are not allowed to go up to the top floor. They say a police notice hangs on the wall inside the house that was put up in the 1950s. It states that the top floor of the house is not to be used, even for storage… No one is exactly sure why.
Although in a case like this it is difficult to separate truth from legend, one likely reason that there have been no recent encounters with this beast is the fact that (if this creature indeed has oceanic roots) it has, in all likelihood, returned to the fathomless depths of the sea, or — more chillingly — it and its offspring may still be lurking in the labyrinth of centuries old tunnels, which weave their way beneath Great Briton’s capitol city, feeding on rats, waiting to crawl back up from the sewer to claim more human victims.