This Halloween the London Paranormal Society is returning to Harrow to search for ghosts at Headstone Manor. The Observer's very own spectre reporter, TARA BRADY, goes in search of the mysteries and legends that haunt the borough.
THERE is an autumn chill in the air and creatively carved pumpkins are taking centre stage in people's porches.
Children are terrifying each other with tales of ghosts, witches, demons and monsters. And believe me, Harrow has its fair share of things that go bump in the night.
For many of the borough's spookiest stories we only have to take a trip to the hill itself. It is the sort of place probably best avoided at night - and those who use the footpath at the top of Roxborough Park should take the greatest care. Not only does it pass St Mary's graveyard but it is said to be haunted by a phantom nun.
In nearby Byron Hill Road, a night nurse with a difference is rumoured to haunt a home left to her by the former owner for caring for her son.
And not too far away it is believed a ghostly ginger cat once lapped up the attention of pupils at Roxeth First and Middle Schools in Roxeth Hill.
The ghost cat story is a curious one. In an interview with the Observer in 1986 a former teacher at the school, Jennifer May, recalled how in the mid-60s a little house used as a staff building was attached to the infants' section. Both the secretary and the welfare worker claimed to have seen a ginger cat there and they believed the feline was the ghost of a teacher who had lived there many years before.
Harrow on the Hill has always had a reputation for weird goings-on and was reputed to be a centre for pagan worship in the days before St Mary's was built, some 900 years ago.
Throughout southern England churches were traditionally built on pagan sites in a bid to stamp out all signs of the 'old religion'.
But some evidence of the Hill's darker side was discovered in the 1960s when an archeological dig unearthed an arrangement of oxen heads that was interpreted to be some sort of Anglo-Saxon animalistic shrine.
Not too far away, the ghost of Dr Layton, former rector of Harrow, has reportedly been seen near the entrance to The Grove, which used to be the rectory and is now part of Harrow School.
According to records, when the riches and powers of the monasteries were being taken away during the reign of Henry VIII, Layton played his part in the plundering and murdering.
And the Victorian urban legend Spring-Heeled Jack, a man-like apparition who could jump extraordinarily high and was said to attack women, made an appearance in West Street early last century, terrifying a Harrow schoolmaster.
Despite all this, Harrow on the Hill does not have sole claim to all of the borough's ghost stories.
At the Royal National Orthopaedic Hospital in Stanmore a grey lady is reputed to appear every November 13.
Bentley Priory dates from about 1790 and has a striking aura of splen-dour, so it is no surprise to discover there have been reports of ghostly wailings heard at the former RAF headquaters.
A chilling howl heard in the dead of the night was just the beginning of a 14-year supernatural nightmare for 86-year-old Kathleen Murray back in 1993. She told the Observer she experienced strange noises, infestations of black beetles and even a visit from a ghost at her home in Roe Lane, Kingsbury.
In her interview she said: "The worst noise is like a wolf howling far away and it lasts for about 15 minutes. It is horrible but I have got used to it. What I can't get used to are the other noises - the crashing and the banging in my house. Things have gone missing and my clock was smashed to pieces on the floor."
Visitors to Pinner Memorial Park have reported seeing a black beast, feline in shape but the size of a small horse, with burning red eyes.
Sightings in the area date as far back as 1881 and the creature is thought to be the ghost of a panther which originally belonged to Lionel Cranfield Sackville, the 2nd Earl of Middlesex.
The beast was part of a menagerie of exotic animals which Earl Sackville kept in the grounds of his manor house, but in 1674 it turned on its owner, tearing out his throat and savaging two groundskeepers before escaping into the countryside.
The wild cat was eventually hunted down and shot dead by a mob of villagers before being burned on a giant bonfire.
Legend has it that as the flames reached their highest a piercing growl was heard from the fire and two bright red eyes could be seen staring out of the inferno.
The last reported sighting of the Beast of Pinner was in 1996, when an early morning dog walker saw what he thought was huge labrador drinking from the park's lake.
As he approached the creature looked up and the walker was met with burning red eyes embedded in a jet-black panther's face, before it disappeared into the mist. The area has also been a hotspot for pet disappearances.
And as if ghosts and black magic were not enough, Harrow can also claim to have been visited by UFOs.
In 1980 Lucy Simmons of Kenton Lane, Harrow Weald, looked out of her bedroom window and saw a bright object travelling at great speed in the sky. She claimed it turned fluorescent green, had six portholes and made two sudden right-hand turns.
Ian John Shillito, London Paranormal Society founder, is hopeful there will be ghost sightings at
Headstone Manor tomorrow night (Friday). He said: "Headstone Manor is an awe-inspiring location, full of history, myths and legends.
"Recent reports include slamming doors, full bodied apparitions, phantom monks singing and disembodied baby cries.
"Halloween is when the veil between the two worlds is at its thinnest, so it is an appropriate time to hold the event."
So, ghosts, witches, flying saucers - Harrow has seen them all. But if you are brave enough to venture out on Halloween night, take care. You never know what you might bump into.
If you would like to take part in the ghost hunt tomorrow please contact London Paranormal Direct on 07982 230208. * Do you know of any strange tales about Harrow? Perhaps you live in a haunted house? If so email firstname.lastname@example.org