No doubt about it: there’s something spooky about the London Underground. From classic Doctor Who to An American Werewolf in London and the as-yet unaired series 3 opener of Sherlock, the Tube has featured as a backdrop to all sorts of spectacular and unnerving adventures. As the world’s first underground rail network, it has managed in the last 150 years to etch itself indelibly into the British psyche – a separate world running just underneath our own where seemingly anything can happen.
Perhaps nowhere typifies this sense of intangible possibility more than the abandoned stations. Silent, hidden and deeply spooky, they lurk out of sight around corners, below thrumming lines and behind steel doors. Out of sight and out of mind, they nonetheless exert an almost subconscious pull on visitors, thrilled by the peculiar creepiness of an empty platform. If you’re ever looking for a quick thrill in central London, be sure to check out these silent ghost stations:
Down Street Station
Neglected, unloved and fairly useless even in its own lifetime, Down Street opened its gates in 1907, only to promptly close them again in 1932 for lack of use. Situated between Green Park and Hyde Park on the Piccadilly line, it was intended to give the wealthy citizens of Mayfair easy access to the sprawling tube network – until someone realised that the Inter-War rich were exceptionally disdainful of travelling underground. When Down Street shut in the early thirties it was already in a state bordering on disuse. Today, the redbrick facade still stands – a curious utilitarian structure nestled among expensive hotels. In death, however, the station did attain some prominence: during the dark days of the Blitz, its sunken empty tunnels were home to Winston Churchill’s war cabinet.
The history of Embankment Station is long, torturous and would probably take up more space than it’s worth. Over the course of many years, a silly number of stations were all opened next to each other, only to be later combined when the tube was nationalised to create Embankment and Charing Cross. But this elimination of unwanted stations didn’t extend to filling up the old tunnels. Today, a few fragments of the interchange between Embankment and Charing Cross survive in the form of winding tunnels and stark concrete spaces. Access is difficult and strenuously discouraged, but the few intrepid explorers who have made their way inside have brought back some bleakly beautiful pictures of this interchange all but forgotten by time.
Holborn’s Abandoned Aldwych Platform
In 1994, TFL closed the door on one of London’s oldest and most-useless platforms: the Aldwych branch line at Holborn. For the best part of a century, an irregular shuttle service had ferried passengers between the two stations, despite them being within easy walking distance. It wasn’t until the nineties rolled round that TFL finally axed both the line and the useless station, gifting Holborn an empty platform that continues to intrigue people to this day. Part of this fascination comes from the station’s original policy of using grilled doors to close off the platform, allowing passengers to peek in on their way to work and marvel at the haunting emptiness – a tendency TFL capitalised upon by selling advertising space on the officially defunct line. Since the middle of the last decade though, the Aldwych line has been completely shut off. Now it’s the archetypal empty station: desolate, silent and with a heavy, apocalyptic atmosphere.