Thousands Died From the Black Death in 1666, Leaving Behind Haunted Plague Pits in London

Thousands Died From the Black Death in 1666, Leaving Behind Haunted Plague Pits in London

By Shannon Quinn

From 1665 to 1666, London, England suffered an outbreak of the deadly Bubonic plague known as the Black Death. Over 100,000 people began to develop huge sores and black spots all over their body. They coughed up blood from their lungs, and died within just a few days. One-fifth of the city’s entire population had died, and there were so many bodies that piled up, they had to be picked up off the street and pushed in carts to be dumped in mass graves.

The citizens of London were terrified of getting sick, especially since no one knew where the disease came from. Red crosses were painted on the doors of the infected, and plague doctors wore masks that resembled some sort of hellish bird creature. Some people believed the plague was the work of the Devil, and that the sickness was a punishment for the world’s sins. It was, after all, the eve of the year 1666. Others thought the disease oozed from the gasses of the Earth itself. In reality, it came from fleas that were carried on rats, and it was spread through the air.

Hundreds of years later, construction workers in London still uncover clusters of plague pits beneath the city streets. In 2015, a particularly large grave was uncovered as workers were in the process of building a new subway station underneath the city. Some say that with these bodies dumped so carelessly into plague pits, the spirits of the Black Death victims still roam to this day. Even though these ghost stories are mostly likely figments of people’s imaginations, the legends still give us a look into just what happened during the Great Plague of London.

Bodies of plague victims were dumped into pits. Credit: BBC

The Haunted Catacombs Under London Bridge

During the 17th Century, London Bridge was used as a spot to display the severed heads of men who were executed as traitors to the crown after they had been tortured to death. One of the most famous executions on the bridge was Guy Fawkes, who is remembered for his attack against British Parliament, and the rhyme that remained: “Remember, remember, the fifth of November, the gunpowder treason and plot.”

The bodies of these criminals were dumped at the base of the bridge without receiving a proper Christian burial. During the Black Death, cemeteries were filling too rapidly, and they ran out of places to bury people. More bodies were added to this same pile, since it had already been used as a mass grave, anyway. However, the bodies of the victims of the plague were treated just like the criminals of the past, and they were never laid to rest with respect.

At least 30 bodies were found by construction workers doing maintenance on the London subway in 2015. Credit: BBC

In 2007, construction workers went into a tunnel under London Bridge to do some maintenance. They were shocked to find hundreds of human remains lining the walls. Concrete had been poured into the base of the bridge without any regard for the bodies that were there since the 17th Century. At first, they refused to go in the tunnel, because it gave them the creeps. However, they were reassured that they had nothing to worry about. One of the contractors, a man named Michael Buxton, said that he felt as if someone was watching him at all times, even when he was alone.

As the construction workers began to work on the project, their tools would mysteriously go missing while they went on their smoke or lunch breaks. This could be explained by a human thief, but over a dozen brand new light bulbs would also blow at random, plunging them into darkness at inconvenient times. They checked the electricity, and changed the light bulbs, and yet this kept happening over and over again. Imagine feeling as if someone is watching you as you stare at one of the man skulls encased in the wall, and suddenly, everything goes black.

After this story was reported to the BBC, curious ghost hunters started to visit these catacombs under London Bridge. Many people began to report far more extravagant ghost sightings like floating heads, and attacks from a poltergeists. After getting so much attention for this supposedly haunted plague pit, the tunnel is now a haunted Halloween attraction called “London Tombs”.