Shooter's Hill is the highest point in South London. The area was in use since the Roman times. In 1838, skeletons and roman coins were unearthed in the area belonging to Roman soldiers. The road that runs from Dover to London traverses Shooter's Hill, and it was a favorite place for highwaymen to rob the unwary traveler. It comes as no surprise that it has its fair share of ghost stories, including a white lady.
Reference to its name was recorded as far back as 1226, not only for its elevated height but for the use of archers, possibly connected to it being used by criminals even then.
The area was developed in the 18th century, and many fine houses were built there however few if any of them remain. In the 20th century the woodland was threatened by suburban housing developments fortunately the London County Council purchases several tracts to maintain them as public open spaces in the 1920s and 1930s.
The following stories predate the suburban sprawl, and it was still a thickly wooded, isolated spot. Elliott O'Donnell included it in his book Casebook of Ghosts.
"At Shooter's Hill in the late 1830s people passing by a certain spot in the neighborhood at night reported hearing unaccountable noises and occasionally seeing the phantom of a woman in white dress gliding about the ground. She was always spoken of as the White Lady. Not one of the witnesses was seriously believed".
This changed after the newspaper The Guardian ran the following article dated January 26, 1844.
A discovery was made on Blackheath on Saturday last, indicating the commission of the "deed of darkness", which will probably, from the long time that must have since elapsed, remains forever buried in oblivion. At about 30 yards from the high road leading to Shooter's Hill, a laborer employed upon some improvements making upon the heath by the resident gentlemen, came upon some bones; he made known the circumstance to some persons near, and proceeding cautiously in his search, discovered an entire skeleton, It was of the usual stature indicating a young person; but all doubt on this hand was speedily removed by finding the hair perfect, of a light gold color, of great length and beautifully braided. At the back of the head was a deep distinct fracture, of a circular form, though irregular; the skull being quite beaten in. These circumstances seem clearly to indicate a murder, particularly as the remains were at no greater depth than was committed must be considerable, as no the slightest remains except the bones and hair, could be discovered.
The mystery deepened even more several days later.
A few days ago the skeleton of a female about 25 years of age, with the hair beautifully braided and a large fracture in the back of the skull was discovered on Blackheath, near the foot of Shooter's Hill and that day, the skeleton of a child, about 10 years of age has been found on the same spot. The skull of the latter was much broken and decayed. A heavy piece of iron, apparently part of a mortar shell was also found. It was at first supposed that the bodies had been murdered by highwaymen; but from the depth of earth and regularity of interment it is now supposed that robbers would not have remained long enough to bury them in such a manner.
O'Donnell's story continues thus: "But the unfortunate woman's ghost still lingered on. While living in St. John's Park, Blackheath, in 1898 I met several people who remembered the subsequent reappearances of it. One was Mr. Eric Johnson, a man of independent means, then staying in Lewisham. As a boy, he told me he remembered the following incident being frequently narrated by his father, usually when they had friends to the house.
To be brief, Mr. Johnson, senior, on his way home one night was walking down Shooter's Hill, which at that time was still a very lonely and deserted locality after dusk, when he heard a cry of such terror and despair that he stopped at once. While he stood listening the cry was repeated, seeming to come from a spot close at hand. He called out, but there was no reply. Then, after an interval of a minute or so, the cry was repeated, and a woman in white dress rose from the ground, some little way ahead of him. The moonlight being, so it seemed, focused on her, he was able to see her very distinctly, and thinking she was ill and wanted assistance, he ran towards her. To his intense. however, when he was within a few yards of her, she vanished. There was nothing in sight to afford cover, so she could not have hidden.
Mr. Johnson, greatly wondering, resumed his walk home, but he had not covered many more yards before he heard the same cry again, this time very close at hand. Although by no means a timid man, he was now thoroughly frightened; being convinced that what he had heard and seen was nothing earthly and fearing that if he delayed he might see the figure again, he ran the rest of the way home. Mr. Johnson had not heard of the haunting prior to this, and so was very relieved to learn that the phantom he had seen had been seen by others. He never, his son added, passed the place again at night alone".
Almost thirty years later in April 1871, another story appeared in the local paper detailing a gruesome crime where the Lady in White haunted, and where the skeleton with the blonde braids was found.
The young woman who before daybreak on Wednesday morning was found barbarously wounded about the head, apparently with a hatchet on lonely Kidbrooke Lane on Eltham moor and in Guy's Hospital is sinking fast. The grassy road is a long, narrow, unfrequented by way, running from the back of Shooter's Hill, Woolwich Road to Blackheath, and there is not a house within a quarter of a mile from the place where she was found. The occurrence has now created immense excitement, inasmuch as she still remains unclaimed and unknown. When first found she appeared to be though unable to answer any questions, at intervals in a half-conscious state, sometimes shrieking out and crying, "Oh, Emily don't beat me so cruelly; don't kill me outright". At apparently lucid intervals she has been asked who so ill used her and she seems to breathe the word Emily. Another alarming circumstance has occurred. The body of another young woman was found dead on Thursday in a pond at Lee, not far from Eltham and in her pocket a number of letters were found, some it was stated addressed to Emily. The police were making inquiries to see if there was likely to have been any companionship between the two young women, but both cases still remain in mystery.
Within a few days the young lady died. She was later identified as 17-year-old as Jane Clemson. She had been employed as a domestic servant only two weeks before, and it was confirmed that she was pregnant. Scotland Yard arrested the son of a respected tradesman who had employed her for over a year. His name was Edmund Pook and he was 20 years old. Examination of Pook's clothing found blood on his trousers, and police found that he had bought a hammer shortly before the murder. Unfortunately Pook was able to produce an alibi that he was not at Kidbrooke Lane when the murder was estimated to have been committed, and he was eventually acquitted. The case remained unsolved.
The murder of these two women were similar not only in how close they were but that both of them had been killed with what seemed to be hammer or hatchet-like instrument.
After the murder Kidbrooke Lane was claimed to be haunted nightly by cries, groans and the apparition of the murdered girl. The stories were so persistent that for a long time the lane was shunned after dark.
Most of old Kidbrooke Lane—including the spot of the murder—is now a part of Rochester Way.
Stranger Than Fiction Stories by M.P. Pellicer