Is Mitcham haunted?
From phantom children cycling on top of water to faces appearing out of walls, Reporter BEN THOMPSON talks to one resident intent on uncovering Mitcham’s dark secrets.
Mitcham is so haunted that one resident has compiled a book, website and map charting the ghoulish going-ons in the area.
From a phantom child cycling silently across the Seven Island Pond on Mitcham Common, to tales of drowned factory workers walking through walls, 39-year-old James Clark has investigated dozens of hair-raising episodes.
And now the life-long Mitcham resident has put the town’s dark history online for all to see with an interactive map showing all the different haunted locations.
But James, who is now turning his attention to the haunted history of Lambeth and Wandsworth, claims he is no great believer in the paranormal.
He says: “I’d describe myself as an opened-minded sceptic. I’m certainly no great believer but as someone once said, you should keep an open mind, just not so open that your brains fall out!”
The new website contains updated stories first published in his book Haunted Mitcham, written in 2002 and free to look at for the first time.
He says: “I spent about five years going through local newspapers, asking around and checking all the local history books I could find. Generally, the stories that are the most striking are the ones with a fair bit of local history attached.
“People are saying there are stories about where they live which they’ve never heard before.
“I hope this map will help people find stories that interest them.
"Also, I’ll be honest, I hope that when people read the summaries they’ll be inspired to buy the books!”
To view the map and find out more, log onto james-clark.co.uk/map.shtml
Mitcham’s Haunted History
Mitcham Common: In 1990, computer operator Tony Dowe was walking home across Mitcham Common in the early hours having finished his night shift.
Out of the dark appeared the eerie apparition of a young boy riding a bicycle.
The boy and the bicycle were both entirely white and made no sound at all as they approached and then passed him, the boy turning to stare at Mr Dow with a unnaturally fixed gaze.
Still staring back at Mr Dow, the unnerving apparition cycled steadily on, closer and closer to Seven Islands pond - and then out onto the surface of the water.
Any lingering thoughts that the figure was simply a flesh-and-blood boy were dispelled when the apparition did not sink, but just continued cycling out across the surface of the water and on into the darkness beyond.
Rumour has it the figure was that of 10-year-old Leonard Lascelles who drowned in the pond 70 years ago.
Commonside East: In the early 1960s, the occupants of an old house on Commonside East were terrified by mysterious 'faces' which appeared on the walls.
The faces made their first appearance after some old wallpaper was taken off the living-room wall in the house. New plaster was put on the wall and as it dried, strange images became visible.
According to the occupants, Mr and Mrs Johnson, about a dozen faces - including images of cavaliers, grenadiers, women and young children - had manifested on various walls throughout the house by the beginning of February 1962.
Builders working on the house said they would not stay after one of them thought he saw his dead father's face on a wall. Another builder and decorator was taken aback by a powerful smell of perfume apparently coming from a wall.
Mr Johnson, a lorry driver, worked nights and Mrs Johnson was so scared to be alone in the house that she left to stay with her mother in Paddington. ”The faces looked at me all the time,” she said.
Fair Green: In 321 AD, the Roman emperor Constantine decreed that Sunday was to be observed as a special day of rest and Christian worship.
Over time, it became accepted that to work on a Sunday meant sinning against God but towards the end of the 19th century there were shopkeepers in Mitcham who were quite willing to risk annoying the parish priest if it meant increasing their profit margins.
One such man was Mr Currell of Currell's sweet and greengrocery store, which used to stand facing the Fair Green.
His attitude changed dramatically one Sunday afternoon though, when a particularly strong blast of wind uprooted a tree and sent it crashing violently into his shop.
It seems that Currell interpreted this 'Act of God' as a divine judgement against Sunday trading and from then on he was careful to observe his weekly day of rest.
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