Total Eclipse: A Once-in-a-Lifetime Festival of Science, Music, and Celestial Wonder. August 19–21, 2017 in Eastern Oregon.

London, England

The Morpeth Arms

A historic London pub with prison cells in the cellar and a "spy room" on the second floor. 

The Morpeth Arms is among the creepiest of old pubs in London. In addition to originally being used as a prison and transfer facility for the old Millbank penitentiary, the building was also a deportation holding centre for convicts being shipped off to Australia.  

Convicts would be led from their cells at Millbank through the tunnels below ground, where they would be locked up temporarily before being taken aboard a ship or a carriage. The tension of the space can still be felt in the air, which has a distinctly eerie vibe. Millbank Prison closed in 1890, but the underground cells remained. 

It’s now a typical London pub with beer, food, and loyal patrons, but the dark history of the cells in the basement hasn’t been forgotten. Bar staff have reported seeing movements or items replaced, and a general feeling of unease when closing up at the end of the night. The phantom feelings have gotten to the point there’s a closed-circuit TV with a camera fixed on the cells monitoring for spectral activity. 

The other notable feature of Morpeth Arms is its “Spying Room.” The room is on the second floor of the pub, decorated in a 1920s style and themed after Mata Hari, the infamous dancer and double agent. Its windows, which just so happen to look out upon the British Intelligence Service building across the street, are adorned with binoculars so pub patrons can spy on the spies. MI6 and FBI agents are said to stop by the bar for a pint from time to time.

Know Before You Go

If you're there to drink, after work is crowded but lively and fun. If you want to try and access the cellar, go late (or early). If you ask nicely and the bar backs are feeling accommodating, you might just be able to tour the cells below.

As of May 15, 2017, public access has sadly been severely limited due to Health & Safety issues. A CCTV screen is set up in the bar, but tours are no longer allowed. I don't know if this is always the case and will try again, (squeaky wheel syndrome). Watch this space.

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