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Chislehurst Caves: the former air-raid shelter where Jimi Hendrix, The Rolling Stones, Pink Floyd and David Bowie played concerts

Nikola Petrovski

There the name Chislehurst Caves evokes many things in those who hear it. Some think of ghosts, for it is believed to be one of the most haunted places in the whole of the United Kingdom.

To others, this name represents the underground city that was built when bombs started falling from the sky. Chislehurst Caves is a collection of tunnels on the southeast side of London.

To the Chislehurst Caves. Author: Banalities CC BY 2.0

To the Chislehurst Caves. Author: Banalities CC BY 2.0

Even though they are known as “caves,” they are in fact a product of human determination and the mining industry. Here is where workers mined chalk and flint.

The name of this place can be found in writings that date back as far as 1250. More recent documents reveal that it was sometime during the 1830s when this mine was last exploited. In the 1900s these caves were often visited by tourists from London and the surrounding area.

A beautifully carved stone. Author: Eksley CC BY 2.0

A beautifully carved stone. Author: Eksley CC BY 2.0

And their role in history just kept changing. The fact that the caves are dark and spacious means that they are fit for any number of purposes. For instance, during the First World War, the cave was used as a storage for ammunition for the Royal Arsenal at Woolwich.

Between the two world wars, the caves proved to be the perfect ground for growing mushrooms. When the Second World War began, the caves became home to some 15,000 people who lost their homes, essentially converting this place to an underground village.

Another scene from underground life. Author: Jon’s pics CC BY 2.0

Another scene from underground life. Author: Jon’s pics CC BY 2.0

The caves’ new purpose was to be an air-raid shelter. Having thousands of people down there meant that this place needed to be organized. And so a series of lights was installed, a chapel was created, and a hospital was built. Even a baby was born down here, a baby girl named Rose Cavena Wakeman.

The underground chapel. Author: Jon’s pics CC BY 2.0

The underground chapel. Author: Jon’s pics CC BY 2.0

Once the Nazis surrendered and Europe was free, there was no need for these underground dwellings. The caves were abandoned and left empty by their former residents.

Depicting life as it once was down in the caves alternative view. Author: Ben Sutherland CC BY 2.0

Depicting life as it once was down in the caves alternative view. Author: Ben Sutherland CC BY 2.0

The myths, legends, and tales surrounding this place are countless and have even puzzled professionals whose job is to solve mysteries such as the Vice President of the BAA (the British Archaeological Association), William Nichols. William developed a theory in 1903 that this place was initially created by Romans, Saxons, and Druids.

Depicting life as it once was down in the caves. Author: Jon’s pics CC BY 2.0

Depicting life as it once was down in the caves. Author: Jon’s pics CC BY 2.0

But without much evidence to support it, the theory was downgraded to a mere speculation. During the 1960s this place saw a more modern use. Great musicians such as Jimi Hendrix, The Rolling Stones, Pink Floyd, Status Quo, and David Bowie, all gave performances down here.

Even Led Zeppelin performed here at the party celebrating the birth of Swan Song Records. The Chislehurst Caves were even featured on the long-running BBC program Doctor Who.

When it comes to the ghost stories surrounding the caves, they are meticulously collected in the book by James Wilkinson entitled The Ghosts of Chislehurst Caves. In stories spanning 50 years, people have reported having heard sounds and bizarre noises.

There was even a challenge, a wager made between two friends, Chris Perry and David Duker. They were supposed to stay in the cave one night, but things took a different turn when David found Chris crying out and injured in one of the tunnels.

In one of the tunnels. Author: Banalities CC BY 2.0

In one of the tunnels. Author: Banalities CC BY 2.0

He was immediately taken to hospital where the doctors found that Perry had a dislocated shoulder, although he could not remember a thing about how it happened.

Another story speaks of the ghost of a woman killed by her husband, yet another of a big black wolf with fire-red eyes, ghosts of dead soldiers and miners and pilots, shapeless figures, and sounds like screams that coming from the dark of the tunnels.

Soldiers and boxes of ammunition. Author: Jon’s pics CC BY 2.0

Soldiers and boxes of ammunition. Author: Jon’s pics CC BY 2.0

The list of what can be found down here is almost without an end. Today the mine is a tourist attraction bringing people from all four corners of the world.