There are cases out there in the realm of the paranormal that are really hard to classify. It is sometimes difficult to ascertain if we are dealing with a supposed ghost, a mysterious lifeforms of some sort, or something else altogether. Such accounts can baffle and confuse, often accompanied by a blurring of facts and historical records to the point that it is nearly impossible to disentangle fancy from reality. Among the truly strange stories of the unexplained we have that of a building situated right in the middle of London’s swankiest and most historical areas, which has long been said to be the lair of something not of this earth.
The whole very bizarre series of events begins first and foremost with a place called Berkeley Square, which lies at Mayfair, Central London, and was originally laid out in the mid 18th century by famed architect William Kent. It would go on to become a place for the wealthy to reside, a symbol of opulence and a marquee area to live in, with many rich, famous, and influential figures such as George Canning and Winston Churchill himself staying here over the years. Yet this place of wealth and eminent stature would go on to accrue a rather sinister reputation as the haunt of something beyond our understanding, and it begins at house number 50, a single four-story brick townhouse right in the middle of the square.
Although there have been rumors of something strange going on in the dwelling since it was erected, our story truly starts to take off in 1840, when 20-year-old Sir Robert Warboys was supposedly at his local watering hole one evening and talk turned to 50 Berkeley Square and the rumor that it was haunted by some sort of ghost or demon. The somewhat inebriated Warboys thought the story was a bunch of “poppycock,” and flatly let everyone know as much, completely dismissing any tales of ghosts and goblins.
His fellow bar patrons then dared Warboys to stay in the accursed place, telling him that if he really disbelieved that the place was haunted so much then he would agree to spend the night in the building’s most cursed and haunted 2nd floor. Warboys then immediately accepted, and that night trudged over to the house to arrange accommodations with the landlord to stay in the designated room. The landlord himself seemed to be quite sure that it was a bad idea to stay there, and apparently highly recommended keeping a pistol handy throughout the ordeal, also insisting on rigging a makeshift line attached to a bell so that the foolhardy young man could signal for help if he saw anything out of the ordinary. Still highly skeptical, Warboys settled down in the room for the night without much thought to all of this superstitious talk.
It was not even an hour later, just after midnight, that the landlord’s jury-rigged bell supposedly began to ring incessantly, waking him from his sleep. The landlord got out of bed and was thinking about what to do next when a single shot from the pistol echoed out through the building from the 2nd floor. This was enough to spur him into action, and he rushed up the stairs to see what was wrong with his patron, the whole way expecting the worst.
When he arrived at the room and forced his way in he found it to be mostly the way it had been, save for the body of Warboys slouched in the corner, the pistol still gripped tightly in his still hand. A closer look at the fallen man showed that he seemed to be dead, and that his pale, lifeless face was twisted and contorted into a grimace of terror, lips drawn back and eyes bulging, as if he had seen something that had literally scared him to death. Across from the corpse was a single bullet hole in the wall, but of any intruder or what had apparently had scared Warboys so much there was no sign, nor was there any trace of what the dead man had frantically fired at.
The legend of this evil place would only grow from there, with others reportedly seeing some sort of entity on the premises over the years, which varied in description from a amorphous blob of mist to a “collection of shadows,” to the humanoid form of a shadowy man, to a slimy ooze with claws and even tentacles, that made “sloppy noises” as it travelled. Whatever it was also apparently had the ability to drive whoever saw it absolutely mad if they gazed upon it long enough, such as was the case of a maid who had allegedly gone into the residence to clean and had later been found stark raving insane. In another case a nobleman purportedly spent the night there and was found the next day a blithering, drooling basket case, his mind shattered by some unseen force.
Similarly to Warboys, another young man by the name of Lord Lyttleton decided to try to bravely stay a night in the attic of the residence in 1859, where he supposedly encountered a strange apparition with tentacles, sort of like an octopus, which he had then fired upon with a rifle. When he went to see if he had killed it he found nothing there, just bullet holes and shells. This particular description would become common in many reports of the “thing,” that it looked like some sort of globular phantom octopus, although with twisted, deformed features, and which would leave a viscous trail of stinking ooze in its wake. Whatever it was, in 1870 an W. E. Howlett would write of this sinister place and its unearthly inhabitant:
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.
Interestingly, it is worth noting that although the place was located in one of the most affluent areas of London it would be often be abandoned for long stretches of time, sometimes for years on end. In 1887 we have perhaps one of the better known incidents at 50 Berkeley Square, when two sailors by the names of Robert Martin and Edward Blunden were enjoying some R & R in London as their ship, the Penelope, was docked there. During their stay they ended up rooming at 50 Berkeley Square, staying in exactly the same room that Warboys had died in.
They were allegedly awoken just after midnight by something moving in the room, creating “wet noises” and causing the wooden floorboards to creak and groan. When Blunden tried to investigate who the apparent trespasser could be he reportedly came across an amorphous, pulsating mass of grey blocking his way, which according to the report had leapt to attack him even as Martin woke up to join him. Upon seeing his friend fall to the ground, the thing attached to his throat, Martin supposedly ran out of the building and flagged down a police officer, yet when they arrived just a few minutes later the room seemed to be completely empty, with no sign of where Blunden had gone. Depending on the source, the policeman and Martin then eventually found the missing man either mauled and dismembered in the basement, or dead on the street, having jumped from the window to escape the mysterious assailant. In both versions the body is found to have a face contorted with terror.
Sightings and incidents were rather common for the building from then on as well, in particular the notorious 2nd floor, and this went on until the 1930s, when an Ed Maggs turned the place into a bookstore and antique shop called Maggs Brothers, which it remained until 2015. Apparently when Maggs moved in there was a lock placed on the 2nd floor and it has been totally off-limits, with whatever was up there gone or pacing about waiting for a victim that would never come. Although there have been no new spooky incidents, the building has never really lost its ominous reputation, and is still widely touted as one of the most haunted places in London.
There have been many theories of what has gone on to be called “The Nameless Thing of Berkeley Square” could be. One is that this was just a particularly intense haunting, and indeed the building’s history would fit in nicely with this, as there are legends that a little girl was once killed here by a servant and another that a previous tenant, a young woman, committed suicide by jumping from the top window after being physically abused by her uncle. Another tenant only known as Mr Myers was a reclusive hermit who apparently went insane and died within the house. Could the phenomena reported be the result of these restless spirits roaming about, some particularly intense poltergeist?
There is also the idea that some demon resides here or even that the house serves as some sort of doorway between dimensions, through which strange entities venture through. Still another wild idea is that this was not the result of a phantom, specter, or ghost, but rather some sort of mysterious octopoid cryptid that had managed to crawl up the pipes from London’s sprawling sewer system after coming up the Thames River from wherever it had been spawned. In other theories this was the doing of some sort of mutant or even an experiment gone awry, or even that it was just a fabricated rumor spread by counterfeiters holing up in the house in order to keep nosy people away.
Then again there is also the very distinct possibility that considering the variation between reports and the way some details have changed or been exaggerated over time we could simply be dealing with an urban legend. After all we have here a spooky old house that went for long stretches without occupants, so perhaps these stories just naturally congregated to it and were later embellished and retold until the legend took off. Indeed, skeptics have been quick to point out that many aspects of the tales from 50 Berkeley Square bear a strong resemblance to fictional works, such as the story of the sailors, which is thought to have likely come from a story by an author in the 1870s named Elliott O’Donnell.
Since many of the events that have supposedly happened at 50 Berkeley Square have not been corroborated or verified as historical fact, is there a chance that these are just eerie stories from the imagination? The story of the sailors, for example, is thought to be the creation of one writer named Elliott O’Donnell, with no evidence to support it being a real tale. So what is it? Is this a case of a ghost, spirit, demon, or poltergeist? Is it an inter dimensional interloper? Is it more cryptozoological in nature? Or is this just all distorted creepy tales pulled from fiction and sprung from the imagination? Whatever the case may be, the Nameless Thing of Berkeley Square still incites discussion and debate, and remains a very strange case indeed.