2. The Whitechapel Corpse Train – England
Throughout England there are whispers of a disused train line in the London Underground. It’s said that it runs from the Whitechapel Tube station to the Royal London Hospital – it’s known as the ‘dead body train’.
When the London Underground began construction in the latter half of the 19th century, morgues and hospitals were overflowing with dead bodies. It’s at this time that the urban legends suggest that the local council approved a secret train line that was to ferry dead bodies from the Royal London Hospital to a giant temporary morgue right next to Whitechapel station.
Of course this is all myth and heresay, however some stand by the claim.
On District Dave’s forum dedicated to the London Underground, there is a thread of people who claim they’ve seen a bricked up passageway in Whitechapel station. It’s thought that this is the entrance to the old abandoned rail line that allegedly transported thousands of corpses away from London’s busiest hospital all those years ago.
1. Hitobashira – Japan
The creepiest part of this urban legend from Japan is that there is historical evidence that it really happened.
Hitobashira is a ritual formerly practiced in Japan that involved human sacrifice. People would be buried alive in or near buildings of significant meaning, like dams, bridges and castles. The practice was thought to appease the gods to minimize harm caused by natural disasters like floods and storms.
Legends are divided as to who was used for the sacrifice. Some say that beautiful handmaidens were used as offerings others say that large numbers of peasants, who were kept in inhumane conditions, were killed in the ritual.
Traditionally, hitobashira is supposed to inspire the Japanese population with the spirit of self-sacrifice. Some speculate that this could be the reason why the rate of suicide is so high in Japan.
Historical landmarks that are thought to have had hitobashira instilled in their foundations are Maruoka Castle, one of Japan’s oldest fortifications. One of the pillars within the ancient building is said to be filled with bodies. Another is Matsue Ohashi Bridge, believed to have had human sacrifices built into its base. A nearby memorial called Gensuke is testament to the people who lost their lives during the bridge’s construction.
Historians say that the barbaric practice stopped many centuries ago however construction workers often, to this day, find human remains embedded in the walls of buildings. One terrifying example is the Jomon tunnel, located on the Sekihoku Main Line in Hokkaido. In 1968, after a terrible earthquake, several skeletons were found buried upright in the walls of the tunnel.
So next time you visit Japan, remember you might be just metres from sealed up corpses at any given time. And who knows, if you take a wrong turn down a dark alley you might just find yourself the target of hitobashira.