24 September 2008, JellyBean @ 3:33 am

In 1955 an employee of the London Underground was working in the Covent Garden tube station. To his surprise he noticed a very distinguished looking man “wearing an old-fashioned grey suit with a funny looking old-style collar and light coloured gloves”.

When he moved towards the man to see what he wanted, the man vanished suddenly before his eyes. He had just seen one of the reputed ghosts to haunt the Covent Gardens station.

Sometime later, the employee saw a photograph of a man who looked identical to the ghost he had seen. The man in the photographed was identified as an actor who was born in February, 1847 named William Charles James Lewin.

William Lewin took up acting and changed his name to the more suitable William Terriss in 1867. Due to his distinguished looks and good talent he soon made a name for himself in Victorian London. William was particularly fond of playing the swashbuckling hero and theatre-goers were soon calling him by the nickname “Breezy Bill”.

Of course becoming famous also brought about jealousy from other actors – in particular one Richard Archer Prince, a former friend and colleague. Prince did not like seeing William’s success and he became obsessed with the actor.

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Prince had become known as ‘Mad Archer’, and was desperate for regular work. During the run of the play ‘Harbour Lights’, Terriss took offence to something that Prince had said about him and had the man dismissed. Terriss, however, was not without generosity and sent small sums of money to Prince, via the Actors’ Benevolent Fund. He also used his influence to get him small parts in touring productions. Prince was, however, frequently fired from the plays and became more and more unstable.

On December 16th, 1897, William was excited about the new play he was doing called “Secret Service”. The performance was to take place at the Adelphi Theatre on the Strand. The reviews were good and he was expecting another good show.

As he was about to enter the theatre he felt in his pocket for the key to the door. From the shadows a man ran out and stabbed him in the back with a knife. As William turned he was stabbed a second time in the side and a third in the back.

William’s lover and lead actress, Jessie Millward heard a noise and ran down to see what had happened. As she opened the door, William collapsed into her arms.

Legend has it that in his dying breath, he whispered “I’ll be back!”

Prince was caught as the scene and he told the police: “I did it for revenge. He had kept me out of employment for ten years, and I had either to die in the street or kill him.”

The employee positively identified William Terriss as the ghostly man he had encountered in the tube station.

But why does he haunt the tube station?

Covent Garden station stands on the site of an old bakery. It was well known that William frequented the bakery often and had a particular fondness for their cakes and breads.

He is also said to haunt the Lyceum Theatre as well as the old Adelphi Theatre. The last time he was seen in the Adelphi was in 1950 where a number of staff witnessed his apparition. Even today people refer to this ghost as ‘Charlie’.

The last reported sighting of William was in 1972 at the Covent Garden station. However that does not mean that William has vanished altogether. Staff to this very day still report hearing phantom footsteps on the platforms, strange noises in the station and sometimes faint whispers in the corridors.

Is Breezy Bill starting to fade? Is he finally moving on to the next realm? Or will he one day come back and reveal himself again to some weary traveller or station employee?

Reference:

Zip.com: Richard A Prince

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