Inexplicable noises, spectral sightings, sudden drops in temperature – something strange is going on at the British Museum. Are ghosts haunting the British Museum?
The 258-year-old museum in London is the most popular tourist attraction in Britain, ahead of Tate Modern and the National Gallery: more than 6.2m people visited in 2019, over 17,000 every day. But in the late evening, after the last members of the public have been ushered out of the building and the outer gates have been bolted shut, a swift and palpable change comes over the British Museum.
Every so often a guards’ patrol encounters a noise, a flash of movement, or simply a sudden lurch in the pit of the stomach, that stops even hardened veterans in their tracks.
On one occasion a guard bolted the double doors and moved on to the next room, only to be informed by a CCTV operator that the doors stood wide open again. Video footage of the gallery showed them moving spontaneously.
Sometimes it’s the sound of footsteps, or music, or crying, where no obvious source can be found.
And sometimes it might be the objects themselves. One night a security guard was passing through the African galleries in the basement and paused for a moment before the figure of a two-headed dog. The guard believed that this 19th-century wooden Congolese fetish, bristling with rough iron nails, possessed some mysterious power. On this particular night he felt an irresistible compulsion to point his finger at it. As he did so, the fire alarms in the gallery went off. A few days later the guard returned to the gallery with his brother, who also pointed at the two-headed dog. Again the alarms sounded.
These stories were all told, directly or indirectly, to Noah Angell, an American artist and storyteller who has been researching hauntings at the British Museum since 2016. There are many other tales too – of spectral figures cropping up in visitors’ photographs…