The prospect of renting a room and being troubled by draughts, the scuttling of rats above and damp in the wardrobes are the usual things the world weary traveller considers when looking for somewhere to rest his head. The thought of his repose being disturbed by things that go bump in the night are rarely even mulled over. Troubled sleep mightn’t be a problem for a one-off stay but what happens if you find yourself moving into a property long-term? Would you stay? Most would spend little time deliberating and hightail it out of there. Others would relish the opportunity of being in the company of someone who’s struggling to pass over to the other side. Could this be you?
Amidst the flurry of horror films hitting silver screens since the last century you may be forgiven for thinking that the haunted house is a relatively new concept. The Amityville Horror, Paranormal, The House on Haunted Hill; the list goes on. Perhaps if you’re well read then the stories of M.R. James, H.P. Lovecraft, Bram Stoker or Dickens have opened your eyes to older supernatural fare. But would you consider going back over 2,000 years?
Athenodorus was a Greek philosopher who would resist emotion from clouding his thoughts about the world, once found himself renting a haunted property. Pliny the Younger records how Athenodorus came upon a large but cheap house in Athens. Surprised at the rate he stayed there but was startled by visitations from a chained phantom. The ghost led him to an unmarked grave where a manacled skeleton was interred. Once the skeleton had been laid to rest properly Athenodorus was never troubled again.
Renting rooms in supposedly haunted houses is actually big business and many holiday companies specialise in letting these possessed properties.
Clandon House, West Clandon, Surrey
In 1896, Ada Goodrich-Freer published an article about a house that had been built in 1735. What attracted her was the tale that a former tenant refused to stay there any longer because of a haunting. Reports confirmed that a lady in white was seen walking the grounds wielding a cruel hunting knife. When ordered, the servants shot at the spectre to no effect; the lady walked on regardless and vanished into the wall of the house. Despite testimony from 20 servants, Goodrich-Freer remained sceptical until she saw the ‘beautiful woman wearing a ball gown’. The lady is believed to have been the mistress of the house, Elizabeth Knight, who drowned herself in the lake. It remains a mystery to this day why she was stalking with a knife.
Charlton House, Greenwich, London
This Jacobean mansion has seen its fair share of occupants over the centuries. Travellers and staff have reported poltergeist activity of objects being moved and a grey lady carrying a swaddled baby. The cause of the disturbances is thought to be Sir William Langhorne who died in 1715 still never having sired an heir. His desperation for a child of his own keeps his spirit forever on the prowl for a fertile bride and mother. It’s a harrowing tale and one that makes most women wary of staying at the property.
The Ram Inn, Wotton-under-Edge, Gloucestershire
Featured on paranormal television programmes, The Ram Inn has long been a place of supernatural shenanigans believed to relate to the 12th Century pagan burial site on which it was built. As a residential property belonging to the Church, it served to house the local bishop, the now infamous ‘Bishop’s Room’ where nine different manifestations have been witnessed. It is thought that a malevolent incubus resides here and takes the forms of a 7 foot dark, thin shadow that preys on women.
Bronte Street, Gateshead
From incubi to poltergeist activity in the north of England: Bronte Street was a council terrace and the site of a haunting from 1963 to 1964. Things came to a head when the Coulthard family finally fled their rented house after continuing onslaughts of bottles and crockery being hurled and broken, chairs being flung around rooms and slippers leaping up from the floor became too serious. The family appealed for alternative accommodation and, today the chance to rent the property has gone. Bronte Street is one of many that have been demolished in the area.
The Ostrich Inn, Colnbrook, Berkshire
In years gone by The Ostrich Inn was once an important stopover for wealthy merchants on their way to Windsor. The landlord was a gentleman by the name of Jarman who would single out the lone travellers, ply them strong alcohol and usher them to his ‘best room’. Beneath the patron’s bed was a slide leading to a vat of boiling fat. Once the victim was asleep, Jarman would release the restraining bolts and murder the wealthy traveller. He would steal their belongings, sell their horse to gypsies and dump the body in the nearby river. The final victim, Thomas Cole, is said to haunt the inn. It was when his horse escaped that the authorities finally led to Jarman’s discovery and subsequent execution. If you choose to rent a room here you may expect to find lights being turned off and on, overwhelming feelings of despair and cold spots where the pantry used to be. The pantry served as Jarman’s temporary corpse-store.
Busby Stoop, Sand Hutton, Yorkshire
Unrepentant murderer, Thomas Busby was hanged on a gibbet opposite the Busby Stoop Inn in 1702. His crime was killing his father-in-law using a hammer during a drunken rage. When Busby was dragged of his chair from the inn he screamed that anyone who would take his seat would die just as violently as he was about to. For a period of 200 years following the hanging it is a matter of public record that a number of individuals died in horrific circumstances shortly after ignoring his curse. These included road accidents, unexpected heart attacks and injuries too frequent to be considered as coincidental. Today Busby Stoop seems free of phantoms and the chair is now displayed in the Thirsk museum.
Dobbins Inn Hotel, Carrickfergus, Co Antrim
During the 15th Century the 200 year old inn’s latest owner, Hugh Dobbins, the descendent of the original landowner Reginald d’Aubin lived with his beloved wife, Elizabeth. However, his wife fell in love with a soldier stationed at Carrickfergus Castle. A hidden passage at the back of the stone fireplace led her to her rendezvous with her new sweetheart, a lad known to posterity only as ‘Buttoncap’. The affair was discovered by an irate Hugh, who reportedly ran them both through with his sword. The spirit of Elizabeth is said to walk the corridors and enter rooms to stroke guests’ faces. This would be enough to spook the most hardened of cynics.
Tulloch Castle, Dingwall, Ross and Cromarty
Castles are expected to have paid witness to many a sudden and violent death. At Tulloch Castle in Scotland, many guests have been terrified by a range of supernatural happenings including visitations by the ‘Green Lady’, the daughter of the fourth laird, Duncan Davidson. She died from a fall down a spiral staircase. Rattling door handles, unexpected noises are at the bearable end of the supernatural spectrum but reports from a guest who work up with two ghostly girls sitting on his chest trying to suffocate him, would make anyone think twice about staying here.
If you’re keen to avoid the prospect of terror, disturbing evenings and the feeling of impending doom then you should avoid Pluckley in Kent – the most haunted village in England. There is a whole cast of spectral characters who are said to populate the area. The Guinness Book of Records puts the number at 12 but locals will specify up to 16. Watercress Woman was a pipe smoker and an alcoholic who accidentally set herself ablaze, a Screaming Man who fell to his death in a brickworks and a Highwayman who wound up run-through and pinned to a tree are just some of the phantoms you may encounter here. Read more. After reading some of these disturbing accounts you just have to ask yourself the question, ‘Would I really rent a room in a haunted house?’