Wednesday, August 20, 2008

The Angel of the Thames

I’ve got an interest in both visions, be they angels or dragons or aliens and south London. I’ve read an awful lot, and written a little, on the Angels of Mons case, where angels were sighted during the first engagement of the First World War and keep a collection of angel sightings to add to that.

I hadn’t heard of the Angel of the Thames, a supposed angel seen on the water from and around Jubilee Gardens on the South Bank. The most significant sighting was in 2006:

Student Jemima Waterhouse, 16, from Sheen, spotted the angel in May as she wandered down the South Bank to meet a friend.She said: "I felt a sense of calm spreading over me."It was comforting and familiar - a kind of peace that lasted for a while after."It is really hard to put into words, but I guess you could describe it as peace of mind."She quickly snapped the apparition (circled) hovering close to the Queen Mary floating restaurant on her camera phone but when she showed her friend the quality was poor.She added: "My friend remained unconvinced until we got the photo onto a computer that evening when the image became clearer and the outline of what could only be described as an angel became distinct."

This is from the (usually rather stoned*) South London Press, 15 September 2006, it also says:

“Eerily so far this year four people claim to have seen the angel near the London Eye and an internet cult is growing.”

“These sightings have prompted much online chat about the so-called Angel of the Thames.Already angel walks are being offered along the waterside and Angel T-shirts are available.One angel obsessive - who meets up with other people who have spotted the ghostly figure to share their experiences - thinks it must date back to the fire.”

There are three sites, Friends of the Angel of the Thames, Angel on the Thames and Thames Angel: A History of the Angle of Promise.

There’s claims of historical evidence and interaction on each site, the ‘Friends’ site claims folk have taken coach trips to see the angel since 1963 (though the 'Friends' of the Angel seem to be taking it all a little less seriously, there's a Pug dressed-up as an angel on their site).

Thames Angel gives a long chronology of sightings , from 1666 onwards, including five illustrations of the angel, eleven photographs (from Daguerreotype to digital) and one CCTV capture in 2089, presumably 2008.

No sources, journals, newspapers or chapbooks are cited for any of the illustrations or photographs, this angel very much has snow on it’s boots.

The one ‘engraving’ presented is there, among other places.

The angel has a suspicious white line all the way around it. I’ve not been able to find this angel in Gustav Davidson’s ‘Dictionary of Angels’ but I’m convinced I’ll be able to find it in a verifiably old picture that doesn’t feature a grim riverside view. And the ‘grim riverside view’ is, surely, available without an angel dropped onto the corner on a warehouse with a white line all around it.

There’s also this supposed photograph of Londoners watching the angel after the declaration of war in 1914.

Now, even I, a scruffy and regularly hung-over atheist, would be gazing in wonder at an angel on the Thames if I saw one. Why aren’t they all watching the angel hovering over the Thames? They seem to be looking everywhere but there.

(Oh, by the way, do please let me know if these links somehow break in the next few days.)

If only I lived with someone whose work desk in next to the Port of London Authorities’ archivist, who’ll have a vast amount of illustrations and records about life on the Thames through time.

Oh, hang on, I do.

Hopefully this is just the start of this. While I research, you may be interested in knowing that the web master of Thames Angel is giving a walk on 20th September, 6pm from Temple Station.
No price quoted. It may be interesting to pop along.

See also: Angel of the Thames Hoax and the Brockley Connection

*It was the South London Press who brought us Brixton squirrels on crack.


Transpontine said...

Some possible explanations:

1. there really was an angel there - I don't really believe that, and surely many more people would have seen it.

2. New age angel believers are apt to see them everywhere, a case of credulity/will to see.

3. A trick of the light or some other anomalous phenomenon interpreted as an angel.

4. The whole thing is a prank/hoax. After all I could set up a couple of blogs tomorrow reporting sightings of a monster at Deptford Creek and the story would soon become established in internet folklore.

Transpontine said...

Hmmm having checked out I am leaning to the hoax angle - The video of David Grant supposedly having seen something is plausible-ish but the bit of him being chased by 'Slovakian TV' is really hammy. How would Slovakian TV know anything about David Grant's supposed sighting on the same day - or were they supposed to have chased him another day in which case it's odd he is wearing the same clothes and in more or less the same location. The whole thing could be some kind of viral marketing scam for a TV programme, or possibly they could just be jumping on the bandwagon of a newish urban legend.

eleanargh said...

I heard a weird noise down the Creek the other day. Could have been an rusty boat creaking or some bloody artist creating sonic art, but to be honest it was probably almost definitely a monster. RAH.

Anonymous said...

wasnt it the devil hovering over the Thames because of Cholera it brought to London

As with the Angel of Mons....others claimed

and of course we have the real Angel of Deptford
Beatrice Drapper -

Anonymous said...

I know there were many "visions" but don't know if you had heard of
this one

I was reading a report of a lecture by Lt Col G.S Hutchinson in 1930
about a vision that appeared on July 16th 1916 during the Battle for High Wood (the TA depot on Sydenham Wood is named High wood after the Battle)

He said a bright light in the sky about a mile in length like a picture of an
angel and yet from the centre appeared to be a cross

Lt-Col Hutchinson wrote of a return to the battlefields after the war
Called "Pilgrimage".

However, there has been some doubt cast on the reliability of
Hutchinson's story


Skitster said...

Is that lecture archived?

Gwil said...

Its a hoax the historic sightings do not exist so I suspect the new ones were equally made up. I looked into it in 2006 when the first reports were made as I edit Machenalia.. we have a regular column on unusual Angel sightings due to Arthur Machen's connection to the angels of Mons sightings.

Transpontine said...

Yes, think so too. The stuff about angel-spotting trips on the Thames since the 1960s is plainly bollocks, so I can only assume that the rest is too. There's different levels of 'truth' here. I don't think me or Skitser think for a minute that there were tangible/visible angels on the Thames or at Mons in WW1, but it's possible that other people might genuinely believe that they've seen something, and anyway the story can exist as interesting folklore even if it's origin is completely fictional. I think the deliberate faking of folklore is another matter - even though a dubious marketing scam could conceivably become genuine folklore if it becomes a story that people tell about a place.

Gwil said...

It is also fascinating. As is the Angels of Mons case part of that is a number of hoaxes helped sprad the rumours. All good stuff

h0ax_d3m0n said...

Its a promotion, When i realised "global angels" was in the source code i googled it, Its a childrens charity, And the logo has been used in every "ghostly picture or video" apparently there is going to be some sort of concert. also here is the original picture of the thames embankment, no angel:

a bad attempt at a viral video. Since its a childrens charity i do feel pretty bad about debunking it, but i think it's distasteful, playing on people hopes of angels and such.

Transpontine said...

Thanks, that's the final piece of the jigsaw as far as I am concerned. See new post (17 November) documenting the hoax.