Every great city has its secret places and mysteries, not all of them dating from the distant past. As you will see in this article, what makes these urban legends special is not so much the historical period they’re associated with, but how today’s inhabitants feel about them, and present them to those who visit their city. For it is the stories that the locals themselves keep-alive and hand down from generation to generation, with no expectation of ever explaining or understanding them, that retain their magic and contribute the city’s genius loci, the spirit of the place.
#9. The Walrus of St. Pancras
St. Pancras station. Once London’s most important burial ground, it has for the last 150 years been a busy train station. But beneath all the iron and concrete, many secrets lie hidden to this day. Of course, we expect nothing less from one of Europe’s oldest cities than layer upon layer of fascinating mysteries. One of the strangest is perhaps the two-ton, four-meter-long sea creature with enormous tusks found buried there during construction work. The marine mammal, which normally inhabits the Pacific Ocean, came to be known as the Walrus of St. Pancras. Its remains were found in a coffin along with eight human skeletons. So far, efforts by historians and archaeologists to explain how this exotic creature found its way into a mass grave in the middle of a large European capital have drawn a blank.
Was the walrus used in medical research? If so, why are there no written records documenting the experiments? Or was it kept as an exotic pet to assume some pampered aristocrat? And why are there references to walruses in two famous Beatles songs? Many questions and speculations surround this bizarre 19th-century discovery, but the truth about the St. Pancras walrus remains as elusive as ever.