One morning last week I spent a couple of hours at the Camden Local Studies & Archives Centre looking through the Holborn & City Guardian newspaper for 1933 and 1935. Fortunately, the newspaper came in bound volumes, rather than on microfilm, so it was easier to scan whole pages quite quickly. I was looking for any mention of British Museum station and, in particular, any references to ghost stories - later accounts say that 'shortly' before it closed there were rumours of its being haunted by the ghost of an ancient Egyptian (see posts below). The newspaper included weekly columns devoted to 'unusual' stories and local oddities, but I found only a couple of surprisingly brief pieces that mentioned the station and both were to do with its closure when the expanded Holborn station reopened in September 1933.
I also checked from July, the month in which the film Bulldog Jack was released, up to the end of October 1935 to see if there were any news stories about mysterious disappearances of women in the borough, especially at Holborn station. I found nothing. As noted in the previous post I had already checked digital files of major newspapers and the British Library online newspaper archive, to no avail. One source claims that a newspaper had offered a reward to anyone who would spend the night in the closed station - although it is highly unlikely that the London Passenger Transport Board would have agreed to this arrangement.
However, in my searches I did find a few interesting snippets gleaned from the British Library's online newspaper archive. There were two incidents of suicide at British Museum station, in February 1930 and May 1933 (curiously, not mentioned in the Holborn & City Guardian), both males, a traditional explanation for some hauntings, but not in this instance. After the closure of the station, a young traveller had a disconcerting experience, as reported in the Lancashire Evening Post 22 Sept 1934 p.4:
'Marooned Underground in London: Burnley Student's Ordeal' by 'North Westerner'
'A Burnley young man, while a student in London, had a quite remarkable experience recently through being marooned in a disused station on the underground railway.
The incident occurred soon after the closing of the British Museum station, whereby by some mischance a tube train stopped and swing-gates at the carriage entrance opened. At that moment the Burnley student who had been ready to alight at the next stopping place stepped from the train onto a station pitched almost in inky darkness. Then he had the more horrifying feeling when he heard the gates of the carriage close and the tube train restart. By the light of matches he felt his way towards the station exit to find that it was boarded up.
Minutes that seemed hours passed and the traveller marooned in the tube had, so he said later on, the sickly feeling creeping over him when first one and then other trains swept along. Ultimately, a train stopped and the guard, having received a message about the stranded passenger, alighted to hail the young man and take him aboard.'
In what seems to have been some pre-publicity for Bulldog Jack, a number of newspapers carried reports of the filming at Gaumont-British Lime Grove Studios in Shepherds Bush. According to the Birmingham Daily Gazette 19 Dec 1934: 'They have had to construct in the Gaumont-British studio a replica of a tube station, a tube tunnel, and a tube train. And the station which has been made is one that is no longer in existence. It is the British Museum station, which has been merged with Holborn. The Hastings & St Leonards Observer 29 December 1934 also noted 'The Gaumont-British studio at Shepherd's Bush now has its own 'tube' station - dubbed 'Gaumont Station' another set represents the British Museum', while the Daily Herald 21 December 1934 added 'Shepherd's Bush studio replica of the former British Museum station has been built together with live rail and train', which must have been rather hazardous.
Addendum 07/08/18 Today my nine-year-old son showed me his copy of Horrible Histories: Loathsome London (Scholastic Children's Books, 2005) p.121 which has a cartoon of a terrified man fleeing a male in ancient Egyptian garb who says 'I haunted the British Museum station. Because your trains disturb my mummy. I'm a pharaoh way from home.'
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