This week we have our last  Salon for the City of the year at Westminster Library. We will be hearing all about Limehouse – the literary Limehouse and the literal Limehouse. Opium dens, criminal masterminds, the Yellow Peril and Edwardian Bogeymen.  It is a strange area and almost lost now as Thom Bolton, one of the speakers will relate. It was also one of the last known sites of another object on the London Arcana Hunters list. I have written about various of these before. There are currently ten – The Vestris Hams and Joanna Southcott’s box  being another two.

The object in question is the skull of the serial killer John Williams.

It was unearthed during excavations in 1862 by a gas company at the point where Cannon Street Road and Cable Street cross near Hawksmoor’s St George’s in the East.  The landlord of The Crown and Dolphin a local public house, fished it out as a souvenir and kept it displayed behind the bar. The pub has since become derelict and the whereabouts of the skull are unknown but it is thought that it was stolen or bought from the landlord a couple of years before by an occultist as John Williams was thought to be a vampire.

He had been buried at the crossroads as it was commonly held that such a location would confuse an evil ghost arising from the grave. In addition, and to ensure he could not rejoin the Limehouse living, a stake was driven though his heart.   His crime was the alleged infamous brutal spree killing of two local families – seven vicious and apparently motiveless crimes involving decapitation, mauling and dismemberment. I say ‘alleged’ because it is not completely certain that Williams perpetrated the crimes.  But is likely that even if he did not, the authorities wanted him out of the way as he was thought to be part of a wider vampiric cabal which included various members of the aristocracy

Some believe that the removal of the skull allowed William’s spirit to escape, move north to Whitechapel to become the force behind the later more famous Jack the Ripper murders. Who knows? But Limehouse itself continued to have a reputation for wrong doings, depravity and evil deeds – flowering in the exotic persona of the oriental villain  Doctor Fu Manchu who had his headquarters in  Lmehsoue opium den. Now of course it is the home and workplace of various city bankers..

Go figure.

On a lighter note, here are Fred Astaire and Lucille Bremner
dancing to a dream of Limehouse Blues