By Caitlin Fisher
Most BU students abroad in London spend their first day recuperating from jet lag or making plans for their inaugural Mahiki Monday.
What was I doing? Getting lost in Hyde Park while attempting to find a haunted pet cemetery, of course.
Hyde Park in early evening was certainly the right setting for locating a Victorian-era pet cemetery, complete with ominous gray clouds, abrupt gusts of wind and towering elms. Plus enough random ponds, land skiers and lost dogs to truly spook an out-of-their-element college student.
My friends and I stumbled around London’s most famous royal park for over an hour before spotting, between overgrown grass and wrought-iron fences, what we presumed to be Hyde Park’s hidden pet cemetery. Tucked behind the Victoria Gate Lodge, the pet cemetery is said to be haunted by the spirits of the over 300 interred canine companions that reside there.
Only adding to the creep factor is the fact that Tyburn Gallows, the section of Hyde Park where London had its hangings for centuries, is only steps away from the pet cemetery. We only discovered this because my friend, quite literally, tripped over the historical inscription on the ground.
But for all of the strangeness of the pet cemetery, there was a distinct lack of ghostly activity — though that could be because we couldn’t fully access the graveyard unless we booked a tour, which is unfortunately only open to the public one day a year.
Even so, the area simply wasn’t spooky. The only even quasi-supernatural event of the night was when, while standing at the foot of the Peter Pan statue, lost and arguing over whose Google Maps was more accurate, my friends and I heard something quite eerie: the solemn and desperate cry of some forlorn British woman, exclaiming “Peter!” over and over again. I froze, believing it to be the long-lost spirit of Wendy Darling searching for her immortal friend at his statue.
But a few moments later, a middle-aged woman (and decidedly not the fictional J.M. Barrie character) appeared in front of us, asking us if we had seen her missing dog, Peter. He always came when called, according to the woman.
We helped her search for a little while, calling for Peter high and low to no avail. The woman thanked us, but it seemed Peter was lost in Hyde Park.
Walking home, the terrible serendipity of it all — being unable to find a lost dog named Peter while searching for an abandoned Victorian-era pet cemetery — began to set in. It occurred to me that maybe I hadn’t misused my first day in London, with all its storied strangeness. Such a peculiar stroll around the park could, for me, be the only true welcome I could ever want or expect from a new home (though a nap and Mahiki Monday were certainly welcome additions).