Category Archives: Spooky London

The Devil and the Hackney Coachman


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….


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.



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.

Monument to the Unknown Artist

Just around the corner from the new Tate Modern extensionyou’ll find a rather uncanny statue plonked upon a 6ft. plinth bearing the Latin inscription, “Non plaudite modo pecuniam jacite”- which translates as ‘Do not applaud, just throw money’ (an improvement on its original caption- “Quidquid Latine dictum sit altum videtur”- ‘Whatever is said in Latin sounds profound’!)

Monument to the Unkown Artist (image: copyright Andrew Shoben)

Monument to the Unkown Artist (image: copyright Andrew Shoben)

Known as the ‘Monument to the Unknown Artist’, the piece was installed by an art collective called Greyworld; a group of artists who’ve been creating intriguing urban art since the mid-1990s. Other projects of theirs include the Lake District’s ‘Clockwork Forest’ (2011) and Trafalgar Sun (2012).

To the uninitiated, the Monument to the Unknown Artist can often cause considerable alarm- due to the fact that it’s capable of movement.

Monument to the Unknown Artist

When it was first unveiled in 2007 a camera was linked to the artwork, the idea being that the statue could observe and mimic the actions of passersby. I’m not quite sure if this feature still functions- I certainly wasn’t attempting to dance like John Travolta in ‘Saturday Night Fever‘ when the above clip was filmed. Perhaps this mysterious figure is beginning to take on a mind of his own…

Unknown Artist