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Category Archives: Spooky London

Glimpse of the past…. Eerie Mannequins, a Halloween Special

In March 1925 a huge fire erupted at Madame Tussauds, the famous waxwork museum on Marylebone Road.

The fire at Madame Tussauds, March 1925 (image: Copyright London Illustrated News)

So intense was the blaze that flames leapt up to 5o feet into  the air and, according to a report in the Manchester Guardian, one eyewitness who lived opposite said the “wax models could be distinctly heard sizzling.

The two unsettling images below depict damaged dummies which were salvaged from the building’s smouldering ruins.

Sleep tight….

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The Devil and the Hackney Coachman

devil-and-hackney-coachman-colour

As it’s Halloween, I’d like to share an old ballad with you; the tale of the ‘Devil and Hackney Coachman.’

Published by J. Catnach of Monmouth Court, Seven Dials, Covent Garden sometime around the early 19th century, it tells the story of Ben, a Hackney carriage driver who happens to pick up the devil late one night….

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Ben was a Hackney coachman rare,
Crickeys! How he used to swear,
How he’d swear, and he’d drive;
Number three hundred and sixty five,
Rum tum, tiddle liddle hey gee wo.

Now Ben, he was one of that kind,
Who for the future, never mind,
One day he kept his horses smarting,
And never once thought on Mr Martin,
Rum tum, tiddle liddle hey gee wo.

cabman_fotor-colour

Just then a gentleman did approach,
All dressed in black, he called his coach,
And as I’ve heard old Benny tell,
His mouth breathed forth a sulphurous smell,
Rum tum, tiddle liddle hey gee wo.

He had a bag in his left claw,
To show that he was of the law,
But though he spoke so mighty civil,
Ben knew very well that he was the devil,
Rum tum, tiddle liddle hey gee wo.

devil

Now the devil jumped on the coach all alive,
Pray your honour where shall I drive,
The devil who wanted to cut a swell,
Said unto Ben- O drive to hell,
Rum tum, tiddle liddle hey gee wo.

Come tell me now, what is your fare;
Just twenty pounds to drive you there,
The devil he paid it with a grin,
For he though he’d taken poor Ben in,
Rum tum, tiddle liddle hey gee wo.

hackney-carriage-1820

Then off the horse flew pell-mell,
Nor stoped till they came to the gates of hell,
Ben wouldn’t go first in the gulf of sin,
So he turned and backed the devil in,
Rum tum, tiddle liddle hey gee wo.

Now Ben jumped up home to return,
If you don’t come back, your coach I’ll burn,
My coach and horses may go to pot,
‘Cause they’re insured, but I am not,
Rum tum, tiddle liddle hey gee wo.

backed-devil-in

Now Ben he drove away quite fast,
Until he reached his home at last,
Rum tum, tiddle liddle hey gee wo.

Now Ben’s grown rich he never swears,
And so for the devil he never cares,
Rum tum, tiddle liddle hey gee wo.

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Time Out blog: 12 Londoners that will give you nightmares

My latest article for the Time Out London website is a Halloween special looking at 12 characters from London-based films, legends and literature…including pig-faced hybrids, razor-wielding barbers and much more. Please click here to read.