Number 1 Avenue Road, on the borders of Hornsey, Highgate and Crouch End,will be familiar to many local residents who grew up in the area during the 1960s and 1970s because of its eerie reputation. The neo-gothic mansion was originally erected in 1876, and before the fire which devastated the house in 1969 it was occupied by an elderly Irish lady who some may recall.
There are many accounts on record of the house having an uneasy feel prior to the fire. People who actually spent time inside the house remember it having a creepy atmosphere and wanting to get out of there as soon as they could, despite the friendliness of their host. The house had a foreboding visage, and after the fire it’s reputation as the neighbourhood’s spookiest building increased. Strange flickering lights were seen at its darkened windows, the unmistakeable smell of incense wafted out into the darkened street and muffled chanting could be heard when the moon was full.
Interestingly the Cholmondley Brook runs very near the house, and Avenue Road has in common the presence of an underground water source and an attraction to those wishing to perform magical rituals with another house in Highgate which I will discuss in a future blog.
Post-fire the staircase had not been completely gutted, and it was certainly possible to access the upstairs rooms. Brave gangs of local boys ventured in and found the remains of ceremonial rituals, and the walls and floor daubed with mysterious symbols.
The house became known as a secret meeting place for witches and black magicians, who conducted weird rituals inside its walls at night, and a local newspaper, the Hornsey Journal, even dubbed 1 Avenue Road “The House of Dracula”.
Ironically, when later interviewed, the alleged black magicians (two members of a local occult society) confirmed that the house certainly was haunted – but not by them. They remembered the sound of footsteps and weird bangings when they were alone in the house, an overbearing sense of being watched, and a presence on the stairs. This is echoed by one juvenile explorer who reported that his friend was chased down the stairs by something invisible inside the house.
By the mid 1970s the house had become an eyesore and the neighbours were concerned about the interest it sparked in bored youths and occultists alike. A competition was suggested by the Avenue Road Residents Association, and eventually in 1977-78 the architects Morden and Knight were commissioned to execute the present block of sheltered flats, which retains the gothic arch and entrance of the 1876 house.
N.B :~ PLEASE do not harass the residents of the flats for paranormal stories – remember that the sheltered housing development which exists on the site today is private property, and respect the privacy of its residents.
Have you had a spooky experience at 1 Avenue Road? Share your story below!