Now it's time for one last "spooky history" update for this year's countdown.
On this day in 1618, Sir Walter Raleigh -- English aristocrat, author, poet, soldier, courtier, spy, and explorer -- was beheaded in the Old Palace Yard at the Palace of Westminster on the order of King James.
It was reported that he made a request of the executioner: "Let us dispatch. At this hour my ague comes upon me. I would not have my enemies think I quaked from fear." Upon seeing the axe that would behead him, he said, "This is a sharp Medicine, but it is a Physician for all diseases and miseries." According to many biographers, Raleigh's final words as he waited for the axe to fall were "Strike, man, strike!"
Raleigh's head was embalmed and given to his wife. "The Lords," she wrote, "have given me his dead body, though they have denied me his life. God hold me in my wits." According to legend, Lady Raleigh kept her husband's head in a velvet bag until her death 29 years later. Then it was returned to his tomb and interred with the rest of his body at St. Margaret's Church, Westminster.
Raleigh had been held in the Tower of London for 12 years, and claims that he haunts Byward Tower (shown above), Seven Tower Green, and other related areas are ubiquitous. He represents one of the most commonly reported Tower of London ghosts.
I can't say that I saw him when I visited, but the wonderful ravens ("the guardians of the Tower") made up for it!
For further reading:
* "History of the Tower" from the official Tower of London website (PDF)
* "Seven Tower Green" from "The Tower of London - Ghost Stories" at Camelot International (This is quite a detailed page! Well worth a look.)
* "Tower of London Ghosts" from Real British Ghosts
* "The Tower of London Ghosts and Legends" from ParanormalDatabase.com